10 p.m. Friday, Feb. 4
Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center, 1618 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., 827-5858; www.zeitgeistinc.net
Tickets $7 general admission, $6 students/seniors, $5 members
"We're starting something where we're giving back to the community," says Executive Minister of Dis-Information Elizabeth Zibilich. "One of the things we want to promote is protection of your hearing, especially musicians and people who work in clubs. It's really important to remember to protect your hearing. In the long run, that's your money. That's where you make your living."
Given its appearance (A Clockwork Orange milk-drinkers overthrowing the Red Army) and origins (October 2005 in anarchic, post-K New Orleans), you might take NoiseCo — the loosely configured, post-apocalyptic French Quarter marching band (heavy on the marching, light on the band) led by Grand Emperor Kakophonos MattVaughan Black and his Dali-mustachioed Archduke of the Ceaseless Noize, Robert Starnes — for nihilists. In fact, the 30-deep krewe has many causes it champions, says Director of Discordance (and official videographer) David S. White, whose Vimeo channel is an online repository for the group's public service announcements.
There's fire safety, for which NoiseCo members bravely traveled to the surface of the moon to underscore the importance of snuffing out oxygen. And GMOs, represented by evil monsters chasing the group down. ("Genetic engineering is no laughing matter," yells Starnes, laughing.) And then there's Cell Phone Psycho, White's short film starring Billy Slaughter as a chatterbox moviegoer and NoiseCo as Batesian avengers. "It's sort of our PSA for 'silence is golden,'" Zibilich says.
The spots are outtakes from green-screen sessions during the filming of Cell Phone Psycho, which kicks off an exhibition of steampunk culture on Friday night at Zeitgeist. NoiseCo, with its retro-futurist garb and Frankenstein instruments, are no-brainer musical guests. "Many of our members have that sort of aesthetic," Zibilich says. "It's certainly a visual thing, whether ours is a little more alien."
Like their titles, NoiseCo members play — or, more often, bang on — bastardized versions of traditional band gear, modified with pedals and processors. "I'm sort of in the drum corps," White says. "My instrument is generally a metal washtub that I've built out with pots and pans. It's sort of a tom set. ... The drum instruments you can play the same way every time, but the electronic instruments are all circuit-bent. Rarely will those instruments produce the same sound twice in exactly the same way. You're never quite sure what you're going to get. It's kind of a roll of the dice."
The group comes out of hiding several times a year to storm the French Quarter, connecting — however unwittingly or incongruously — New Orleans' history of second lines to its current noise movement. "It wasn't any real statement or anything," says White, a founding member. "It was just something to do."
Mardi Gras and Halloween are now staples, as is a noise ball held in April. Immediately following the Zeitgeist gig, the krewe will head loudly over to One Eyed Jacks to play the Krewe Delusion fundraiser. "We're trying to do more community outreach now," White says. "We're starting a campaign to make people aware of battery recycling, which is near and dear to us. We go through so many batteries on these parades with the electronic instruments. Then the hearing protection too, because we're just so loud. Most of the members wear ear protection while we're marching. We're just this cacophony of noise."
Despite a polyrhythmic showdown at the 2009 Voodoo Experience with its Pacific Northwest doppelganger, the Portland, Ore.-based MarchFourth Marching Band, NoiseCo doesn't pretend to attempt anything as subtle as melody or harmony. "I couldn't say musical ability is one of our strong suits," White says. "It's not a prerequisite for our marching club at all. There are some talented musicians that are members. That's not exactly showcased when they march with us."