NYC Noise’s Jessica Hallock Wants You to Embrace Experimental Shows
"Nobody I know has ever seen a July like this," she said of this month's upcoming shows.
6:08 PM EDT on July 14, 2023
Jessica Hallock runs NYC Noise, the go-to listings website for experimental and avant-garde music in the city. "The original thing was just not wanting to be reliant on social media to know about shows," she told me of why she started the site. "It sucks to have to be reliant on these major, centralized corporate platforms to find out what's going on. People will tell me all the time that they didn't get invited to shows because people forget that not everyone is on social media. It fucks our ability to engage with our communities and to organize in general."
Hallock grew up in the small town of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, where she and her little brother would organize experimental music shows in her parents's basement. "I was always into weird music, avant-garde and experimental stuff," Hallock said. "I think especially in small towns, you can get weirdly tight and solid music scenes, just because there's nothing else going on at all. Because there was so little going on, the idea of driving to, like, West Virginia or Maryland or whatever was not unusual."
Eventually, a few bands started making stops in her town, in part because the scene she and her brother were involved in started getting audiences to consistently come out. She expanded into doing event round-ups, via email and printed flyers. "Part of the reason I would send those emails is because it would just depress the shit out of me to be in a place where there's not a lot of music going on. And then when there's a show, and not many people show up, it just feels extra tragic."
She moved to New York for graduate school, but dropped out of her program. In 2018, she started NYC Noise out of a desire to bring more people to sparsely attended shows. "There are a lot of people playing this music who are not making much cash from the gigs," she said, noting that she would often goes to shows where she's one of only a few people in the audience, which she thinks is a travesty.
Hallock is the kind of enthusiast that every arts community needs—if NYC Noise's listings aren't a comprehensive overview of the city's experimental music scene, they certainly always encompass a huge chunk of it, and they always include notes on venue accessibility. "For the first while, I ran NYC Noise very uncritically," she admitted. "I was aware of gentrification and that the city is a bitch for disabled people. I was talking about those things, but I was treating them as unfortunately inevitable and not trying to intervene in any real way. I'm now working on tackling those things. I'm talking to some people about making a venue accessibility database that's publicly available."
"I'm kind of a fucking zealot, and I'm happy to champion lost causes," Hallock said. "Like rent rollback, or helping to build art communities that slow gentrification." She especially wanted to emphasize that July is a great time to check this world out: "Nobody I know has ever seen a July like this."
Saturday, July 15: Speak Easy at Public Records, 233 Butler Street, Brooklyn ($25.75)
"It's like an all-day, like afternoon into evening thing. And it's both in the soundroom and in the nursery. It's got a fucking trillion people, like Centennial Gardens and everybody, it's wild. Centennial Gardens is the duo of Dreamcrusher—who is an amazing performer—and King Vision Ultra, who is an iconic experimental music figure. These are people who are total genre exploders with a palpable love for the music that preceded them. Highly recommend it if you want to get heavy or dance, or both."
Saturday, July 15: Quantum Piñata: A Deranged Talent Show of Doom at Pioneer Works, 159 Pioneer Street, Brooklyn ($33.78 to $40.96)
"I sure do wish Pioneer Works would stop publicly partnering with Nasdaq, but that aside, this will be an aggressively all-ages stunner. You could bring a baby and a surly teenager and they would both do a double take. Poncili Creación, twin siblings Pablo & Efrain Del Hierro, do this experimental puppetry. It is incredible. They are amazing. Nu Jazz are total shredders. It's just a really wicked line-up of people who make and dismantle stuff."
Saturday, July 15: Many Many Girls, Dreamcrusher, Persona, Material Support, Datura, DJ Sodomahigomorra at Project Reach, 39 Eldridge Street, Manhattan (Price TBA)
"I'm trying to get a little bit more tapped into what's going on in punk and hardcore in New York, because I think in terms of the stuff I'd give a shit about—community engagement and willingness to do things—I think there's a lot more that's there. Project Reach is a community center during the day, and they have shows there at night. This show has Many Many Girls who were all involved in Chaos Computer. Local legend Dreamcrusher’s playing–strobe warning there–and Persona brings this violently optimistic school of deep-crunch hard/queercore–there’s lots of really great stuff there."
Sunday, July 16: Seraphina Violet Cueller, Shara Lunon, Samira Mendoza, Isabel Crespo Pardo, Anka Raczyńska, Ben Bennett, Kamau Patton, Saturn Lavender, Oya Arcana, presented by the Center for Psychic Technology at Concert Grove Pavilion, Prospect Park, Brooklyn (Free)
"Center for Psychic Technology (a.k.a. John Pugh) presents shows all over town, but my favorites are when he rents a U-Haul and does these Prospect Park hangs. They're super informal but people bring it. It's always something bizarre and special and this lineup has some real beauts, highly recommended. The 'afterparty' to the afternoon show is for the birthday of Kwami Winfield and will almost definitely involve more strange & possibly ritualistic sound stuff!"
Mondays, July 17 to August 14: Cooler Nights at Center for Art, Research and Alliances, 225 West 13th Street, Manhattan (Free)
"The brainchild of Gavilán Rayna Russom, legendary noiser & heart of Voluminous Arts, a trans-led community resource hub, record label, & experimental arts performance series. Nights are co-curated by Rayna and CARA’s curatorial team members Rahul Gudipudi and Emmy Catedral, with artist pairs Yvonne LeBien and Mercury Symbol on July 24, Omari Love and Ris Gumpert on July 31, and Rat Porridge and Anka Raczynska on August 7. Expect heavy queer noise."
Tuesdays, July 18 to August 8: "32nd ANNIVERSARY IN-STORE FREE MUSIC SERIES" at Downtown Music Gallery, 13 Monroe Street, Manhattan (Free)
"Every Tuesday they'll have free shredding avant-jazz and more in a cozy basement record shop run by devoted enthusiast Bruce Lee Gallanter. I don’t know as many names as usual in this one, but every week’s a solid bet and Michael Foster is a beast."
Wednesday July 19: True Love Presents: Johnnascus with Kill Alters and Gyna Bootleg and Tamio Shiraishi Duo at The Broadway, 1272 Broadway, Brooklyn ($12 advance, $15 at the door)
"I talk a lot about how Wednesdays are the best night in weird music, and it isn't slowing down for summer. True freak Gyna Bootleg (of Harpy, SIRE, Vomitatrix) plays in a duo with subway sax legend Tamio Shiraishi; Kill Alters and experimental noise rap artist Johnnascus, whom I've never heard live but whose Sitting At The End Of The World made me think maybe I'm not too old for 2020s breakcore."
Saturday July 22: Moten/López/Cleaver on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan (Free with museum admission)
"I adore this trio––Fred Moten, Brandon López, and Gerald Cleaver, exploring––and it’s the only reason anyone will see me on the roof of the Met."
Sunday, July 23: Still/Moving with Chelsea Reject and T’nah, Dntwatchtv, Semiratruth, Marc Andre, RMZI, BLINGG at Purgatory, 675 Central Avenue, Brooklyn ($11.33)
"Still/Moving is curated by Amani, and their lineups have been wide-ranging and compelling with genuinely unexpected pairings and voices––so even though I don't know most of these artists, I bet you will catch something great."
Friday and Saturday, July 28 to July 29: Summer Scum 8 at TV Eye, 1647 Weirfield Street, Queens ($50 plus fees for a two-day pass)
"Tape Lords Thousands of Dead Gods are bringing you a grade-A noise fest. Bring earplugs."
Quotes from this interview have been edited and condensed.
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