Jeb Ebben

Freaks Come Out at the Borg Ward Collective

By - May 28th, 2010 12:24 am
Sign-up for the Urban Milwaukee daily email

For the second year running, Nathan Riddle (of BzyBodies, Cartilage Party and Dear Astronaut) has curated the Freaks Come Out festival, collecting some of the Midwest’s most idiosyncratic acts. It makes perfect sense then that this festival should take place at the Borg Ward, the base of operations for the city’s weirdest, noisiest projects.

On any given night at the Borg, you’ll be assaulted by wild bursts of feedback and fuzz tone; this past weekend, that assault came in a super-concentrated form: twenty-one bands in three days—everything from the mathy post-rock of Coelacanth to the amphetamine psych of Sonic J and the danceable rock of Madison’s one-man band Trin Tran.

It’d be difficult to recount each performance, and there’s neither time nor space here—but pretty much all the bands were amazing, if not mind-blowing. In fact, there were only two bands that I didn’t like, which is pretty fucking impressive. Some highlights were Cartilage Party, whose set was nothing short of transcendent; Holy Shit! holding a press conference rather than actually, y’know, playing songs; Fahri, who I’ve somehow overlooked for the last couple years, were fucking stellar; Beau Devereaux’s entrancing, beautiful droning; Owlscry scaring the pants off pretty much everyone; Wabeno Rock Farm’s sloppy tardcore.

My favorite was Chicago mathrockers Paper Mice. In fact, I feel like I can’t do their set justice, as I still haven’t fully digested it. Insane time changes, gorgeous tone, the bass weaving itself through sharp, angular guitar lines and manic shouts. (Their LP, by the way, is slightly underwhelming—but it can be hard to capture that kind of energy on tape. Regardless, I hope they come back to Milwaukee soon.)

With a festival this big taking place in such a small space, it’s easy for things to go wrong. Things get off schedule—bands are late, or they take forever to set up; something always happens to throw everything off. So it is to Riddle’s credit that the fest went off so seamlessly. Everyone played when and for how long they were supposed to. It helped having bands play on two different sides of the room—mimicking the two stage setup of bigger fests—so one could set up while the other played. This also had the side effect of making an already small venue even smaller, though those who frequent basement shows know that that’s not always a bad thing—it’s much easier to feel a sense of community when you’re crowded into a tiny ass room,

Peter J Woods Free Jazz Ensemble courtesy Kelsey Schoenknecht

dripping with one another’s sweat. That’s doubly true when you’re sharing a love for music that’s often overlooked or misunderstood, even in the underground.

If anything, that’s the common thread uniting these disparate bands, and what this fest provides a home for—outcasts, trying to build a community. In the end, it’s less about the freaks coming out for an aural onslaught on the squares, as it is them getting together and celebrating themselves.

0 thoughts on “Freaks Come Out at the Borg Ward Collective”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the kind words Jeb! We agree, the whole weekend was an awesome time!- Sarah(fahri)

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us