Drone Not Drones: The New Protest Music

Drone Not Drones: Another 28-Hour Drone
Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis
Friday, January 30 & Saturday, January 31

Drones break into the White House, they distribute meth, they may or may not deliver Amazon products, and -- most importantly -- they may or may not kill innocent people in countries we're ostensibly not at war with. It's hard to know how to feel. We know they exist, but we don't quite know how to interact with them. In this respect they're not all that different from drone music.

Drone Not Drones, the second 28-hour drone concert featuring over 50 groups sustaining one continuous drone in support of humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders, forced its audience to contemplate the connection between "drones" and "drone" this past weekend at the Cedar Cultural Center. Drones Not Drones demonstrated -- sometimes triumphantly, sometimes maddeningly -- that the relationship between the two extends far beyond their phonetic similarities.
It was not possible for me to witness 28 hours of Drone Not Drones, but I experienced a whole lot in the few hours that I did see. It spanned meditative acoustic gamelan, aggressive electric guitar feedback, multilayered Animal Collective-style sound collages, dragged out dream pop (hey, that was Alan Sparhawk from Low). A lot happened, or nothing happened, depending on how you see it. The 28 active hours of the same essential note forces you to take a new perspective on progress.

Because Drone Not Drones is such a community endeavor, it makes more sense to look at it sound by sound and feeling by feeling rather than group by group.

The best sound I heard was noise collective Food Pyramid's heavily affected flute, which sounded like something between Elizabeth Fraser, a train whistle, and the sound my cat makes when I step on him. Sometimes it would float at the top, sometimes it would sink to the bottom, sometimes it would be rhythmic backing or pure distortion or sometimes maybe not even flute at all. It's hard to say. If you focused on the arpeggios, the rest of the music sped up to match it. If you let them fall into the background they sped up to match the rhythm of the bass wobbles. The relationships mattered more than the motion. I imagine this would all be easier to process if I'd been on drugs.

The best feeling I experienced came during post-punk BNLX's set, when, sort of out of nowhere, I felt a sense of ascendent bliss and geographical content after 20 minutes of what was essentially a very slowly resolving major sequence. Any sense of boredom or sonic pain washed away, and for a minute I had the feeling that I'd been experiencing the same transcendent chord for the entire night.

There were bleaker moments, too. At one point during Jesse Peterson's set, a guitar flange dropped in. It sounded just like an old-school, not remotely manned fighter jet that was too loud and layered for me to know if the ringing was the frequencies or just my poor, messed-up ears. For a minute I wished it would stop so I could get a moment of rest. But then I remembered of course that I was only an hour in and that there was still an entire day of noise to go. Better to find the beauty and the peace and the calm in what was for or all intents and purposes a never-ending string of noise.
There's an analogy in this -- about new realities, technologies, drones.  I don't know what's ending or what's going to come, whether it's good or bad or ruining my body or just the way things are going to be. There was a little kid on Friday night running around with his hands up, smiling. I wonder what I would have been like if my parents had taken me to a show like this when I was his age. But I can't even imagine. I can't imagine growing up in a world with drones any more than my parents can imagine growing up in a world with cell phones and the internet.

It's a good metaphor, but it might only work if you're able to take in all of it -- it's a shame that the only people who could do that were the devoted few who chose to stick around for all 28 hours of it. Maybe it would have been better if we didn't have a choice. This is the kind of art that's best shoved down people's throats.

Imagine if, instead of happening inside, "Drone Not Drones" went down outside the Capitol, or the Minneapolis police headquarters, or in the middle of Nicollet Mall at Christmastime. Or if the Current played the entire recording live on 89.3. It would get noise complaints and disrupt morning commutes and generally ruin peoples' days. And maybe that would be kind of awesome. It would be a protest, not just a charity event. Or not a protest, but a forced presence. A statement that says, "This is something -- this is here. Experience it, learn from  it, know it."

07:00p: International Novelty Gamelan

07:30p: Jesse Petersen

08:00p: Food Pyramid

08:45p: BNLX

09:15p: Flavor Crystals + BNLX

09:30p: Flavor Crystals

10:00p: Drone Man Winter

10:45p: Alan Sparhawk

11:30p: Michael Lewis

12:15p: Pagoda ov Thunderboldt

01:00a: Jet Legs

01:30a: Chatham Rise

02:00a: Old Moon 

02:30a: Dead Gurus

03:00a: Dosh

03:30a: Comb Boats

04:00a: Transitional Species

04:45a: Andy Nuebauer

05:30a: Ghostband

06:00a: Three Snake Leaves

06:30a: Pandemonium Defender

07:00a: Nightingale #3

07:30a: Paul Metzger (sunrise)

08:00a: John Zuma Saint-Plyvin

08:30a: HOLDING HANDS / MQ-1

09:00a: Jeremy Ylvisaker

09:30a: TYTE JEFF
10:00a: Finger Pressure

10:30a: Sativa Flats

11:00a: Ventures Cover Band

11:30a: DKO
12:00n: DT Phone Drone

12:30p: Drone Strike Mike & the Bates Bombers

01:00p: Sagitta Gone
01:30p: Les Trembleurs

02:00p: The Hand
02:30p: (ALANS)

03:00p: Roy Orb, D.MT.
03:30p: 555

04:00p: Solar Pawn
04:30p: Tim Kaiser

05:00p: P.O.S

05:30p: Robot Rickshaw (drone robots)

06:00p: Noise Quean Ant

06:30p: StoLyette

07:00p: Invisible Boy

07:30p: Paris 1919

08:15p: Tiny Deaths

08:45p: American Cream

09:30p: Brokeback

10:15p: Moss Folk

Random Notebook Dump: Fuck a notebook -- gonna try to create a mindful state or something for the next half hour [. . .] ugh nvm my shoulders are too tense for this

The Crowd: Babies, yuppies, hippies, cool kids, kids on drugs -- a wide array of white people.

Personal Bias: Anti-, but excited by drones, pro- but put to sleep by drone music.

Overheard: Crying baby - "Not music!"


The 10 Most Underrated Guitarists in the History of Rock
The Best New Minnesota Musicians of 2014
53 things you might not know about Prince
73 things you might not know about Bob Dylan