Noise Fest

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Not to be confused with Noisefest
Noise Fest
GenreExperimental music, no wave noise music
DatesJune 1981
Location(s)New York City art space White Columns
Founded byThurston Moore

Noise Fest was an influential festival of no wave noise music performances curated by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth at the New York City art space White Columns in June 1981. Sonic Youth made their first live appearances at this show.[1]

In mid 1981 Kim Gordon and Josh Baer convinced Thurston Moore to organize this nine-day noise festival to accommodate underemployed experimental performers in the downtown scene. The festival was held in the White Columns gallery, which had a capacity of 60 people. Each night three to five acts performed, including Glenn Branca, Rhys Chatham, Jeffrey Lohn, Built on Guilt, Rudolph Grey, the Avant Squares, Off Beach, Mofungo, Red Decade, NNB, Robin Crutchfield's Dark Day, Ad Hoc Rock, Smoking Section, Chinese Puzzle, Avoidance Behaviour, and Sonic Youth.[2]

Recording history[edit]

In 1978 a similar series of punk rock influenced loud noise music mixed with performance art was held at New York’s Artists’ Space that led to the Brian Eno-produced recording No New York. This recording was seen by many as the first attempt to define the no wave sound, as it documented The Contortions, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Mars and DNA.

Music from the Noise Festival was first released as a cassette titled Noise Fest on ZG Music in 1981; the music label of the legendary ZG magazine organized by Rosetta Brookes. All material was recorded live at White Columns. This included the music of John Rehnberger, Off Beach, Ut, Lee Ranaldo, Mofungo, Khmer Rouge, The Problem, Smoking Section, Sonic Youth, Jeff Lohn, Ima, Jules Baptiste Red Decade, EQ'D, Avant Squares, Don King, Primivites, Ad Hoc Rock, Y Pants, Barbotemagus (as it is spelled on the cover), Economical Animal, Chinese Puzzle, Glorious Strangers, Built On Guilt, Fakir, Lampshades. In 1982 the Noise Festival Tape was released by White Columns.


Noise Fest inspired the Speed Trials noise rock series organized by Live Skull members in May 1983 at White Columns. Among an art installation created by David Wojnarowicz and Joseph Nechvatal, various performance artists such as Ilona Granet and Emily XYZ did their acts intermixing with the music of The Fall, Beastie Boys, Live Skull, Sonic Youth, Lydia Lunch, Elliott Sharp, Swans and Arto Lindsay.

Speed Trials was eventually released as a live album recorded by Mark Roule and became one of the best-selling independent records of its time.[3]


  • Noise Festival Tape (1982) TSoWC White Columns
  • Noise Fest (1981) cassette tape, ZG Music
  • Speed Trials (1984) Homestead Records HMS-011


  • Marc Masters, (2007) "No Wave", Black Dog Publishing, London
  • Paul Hegarty, Noise/Music: A History (2007) Continuum International Publishing Group
  • RoseLee Goldberg, Performance: Live Art Since 1960 (1998) Harry N. Abrams, NY NY
  • Thurston Moore, Mix Tape: The Art of Cassette Culture (2004) Universe


  1. ^ Simon Reynolds, Rip It Up and Start Again: Post-punk 1978-1984 (2006) Penguin
  2. ^ Marc Masters, (2007) No Wave London, Black Dog Publishing, pp. 170-171
  3. ^ Carlo McCormick, The Downtown Book: The New York Art Scene, 1974–1984, Princeton University Press, 2006

See also[edit]