When: Fri., May 16, 5 p.m. 2014
In our age of pervasive lifestyle branding, when even Red Bull sponsors experimental music events internationally, the staunchly independent core of Chapel Hill's Savage Weekend festival reaffirms that fringe culture can thrive without financial support from fizzy energy drinks. The brainchild of Carrboro musician, label head and show promoter Ryan Martin, the two-day melee revels in sonic obscurity and anarchy while testing the limits of human endurance. During 48 sometimes-grueling hours, more than 70 weirdos, freaks and outsiders will transform the Nightlight into a high-decibel hotbox by unleashing 15-minute sets in marathon succession. Savage Weekend is loud, chaotic and sweaty—very sweaty.
The festival is unsettled in presentation but not in programming: Martin possesses a sharp ear and an encyclopedic knowledge of experimental micro-scenes dotting the United States. His expansive lineups double as finely detailed snapshots of the latest currents sweeping through the American underground. Savage Weekend IV is no exception.
This year's festival, for instance, boasts a wide selection of musicians making vital contributions to "technoise" or "mutant techno," a marriage of techno-inspired groove research and cacophonous tactics derived from noise. Unicorn Hard-On, Asheville's Housefire, Pure Matrix, Pro Bro Gold and Mincemeat or Tenspeed fit that bill. Philadelphia's Drums Like Machine Guns loosely stick here, too, but their devotion to unpredictability means one can never be too sure what they might deliver.
Savage Weekend IV also surveys the variety of artists interested in tearing apart and piecing back together the more outré manifestations of vintage synth-pop, sequencer-era industrial music and avant-rock. Though often indebted to the past, much of this music is keenly 21st-century in its composite, post-everything approach. Farewell My Concubine, the solo guise of Mark Iosifescu, suggests a crusty art punk who's somehow in love with the electronic spunk of Portion Control and the pop of Dion; his recent Insaniac In A Living Hell is a surprisingly hook-filled affair for an artist barely known outside noise circles. During the last two years, the cryptic Sofia Reta has released a string of noggin-bending titles, each of which breeds ambient art-pop with unlikely mates like black metal, contemporary R&B and modern classical.
Given the size of Savage Weekend IV's roster, the potential highlights are almost too numerous to mention, from Tether and Carrboro's own Sagan Youth to C. Lavender and Tampa's I_like_dog_face. In fact, there's something to be said about forgoing the cherry-pick method and simply experiencing the festival as a single, solid whole. It's demanding, yes, but the sheer amount of no-holds-barred experimentation Martin's vision offers begs such a brutal approach. Friday, 5 p.m.–2:30 a.m.; Saturday, 4 p.m.–2:30 a.m., $ —Justin Farrar