Duluth rock experimenters Low performed a drone-fueled version of "Do You Know How to Waltz?" at Rock the Garden last year, and simultaneously sparked a new discussion about peace-minded thinking within music. The divisive 28-minute rendition was unusual, but get a load of what Drone Not Drones founder Luke Heiken and company have planned for 28 straight hours of live drone at the Cedar Cultural Center on Friday and Saturday.
Low, Paul Metzger, Zak Sally, Martin Dosh, and dozens more will take part to raise awareness for Heiken's nonviolent cause as well as money for Doctors Without Borders. The show will be one continuous drone, with a succession of artists adding to the minimalist, sustained tone-clusters while others wrap up.
"I knew I had to do something so that people knew [Drone Not Drones] was about more than just something Alan Sparhawk said once," explains Heiken -- a high school buddy of Actual Wolf's Eric Pollard and Trampled By Turtles' Tim Saxhaug -- from his Minneapolis home during a frigid winter day. "I made the T-shirts, and that was the first step."
Then he started planning a double LP compilation and a concert. The latter ended up taking precedence, and most of his free time.
"A lot of people contacted me ahead of time, telling me that they liked what I was doing, and if I did anything else they would like to participate," he explains. "So, I came up with a dream list... and as I talked to musicians who wanted to play, they had suggestions of other guys I could ask, and it kind of grew from there."
BNLX's Ed Ackerson immediately got in touch with Heiken to pledge his musical support. "I have a real affinity for minimalist/nontraditional music, and there are surprisingly few contexts to present that sort of thing around here," he says. "I love the idea of a disparate range of musicians all participating in a single, massive improvised composition."
Omnipresent Twin Cities drummer JT Bates connected with Heiken through Pollard, and is excited about the unpredictability that the performance holds -- as well as the sheer length of the show itself. "Personally, I like drones more and more the longer they last," Bates admits. "I'm not sure yet how long I'll play, but I'd be happy to play a long set. Maybe I'll be able to grab some sounds of whoever is playing right before me and use that as my main source of drone, we'll have to see what happens."
The Cedar was more than accommodating to help Heiken host this unique event, and the city of Minneapolis had to give special permission for the club to admit concertgoers in the wee morning hours.
"It took us months to be able to get this to happen, where we could let people in overnight," Heiken says. "It was so convoluted, but they are going to end up having to change their laws to make room for things like this. If the city wouldn't have been behind [it], there's no way this could have happened."
As for how Heiken sees the performance playing out, he's trying to keep things loosely organized to encourage the type of unplanned experimentalism that best fosters drone music. The rough set times will feature Low during primetime on Friday night.
"It works out nicely, because it's timed to when a concert would start one night to when a show would typically let out the next night," he says. "You wouldn't want a concert that has been going on a whole day to get off at 7, and then people are like, 'Well, now what?' And that way, people who can just go on Saturday night will still feel like they got their money's worth as well."
There will also be various on-call musicians with gear already set up onstage who can bridge any gaps between bands if need be. The audio of the entire 28-hour performance is expected to be streamed online.
"I don't want to micromanage too much," explains Heiken with a laugh. "But I have let the bands know that I'd like the performance to go nonstop. There might be moments where there will be silence, but that will just be part of the piece. Twenty-eight hours is a long time to have everyone do everything perfectly."
DRONE NOT DRONES: THE 28-HOUR DRONE will feature Low, Martin Dosh, Paul Metzger, Flavor Crystals, BNLX, Sativa Flats, Prairie Fire Lady Choir, and many more on Friday, February 7, and Saturday, February 8, at the Cedar Cultural Center; 612-338-2674