Voice of the Valley Noise Rally VII

Posted by on July 15, 2015

VoV 7

Even being from the state, if all you knew about Voice of the Valley Noise Rally was that it took place in Millstone, WV, you might wonder — how unusual is a gathering of noiseniks in the backwoods? I’ve been writing about weirdo music for a bit now, but I only came across the event a little after last year’s iteration thanks to a barebones Blogspot, which I was surprised to find filled with enough  familiar faces to make me seriously regret the near miss: Khaki Blazer, Headboggle, Brett Naucke, Machine Listener, and the list went on. This year’s line-up seems even more pointed, with Quicksails, Marc McGuire, Angela Sawyer, Long Distance Poison, and Fletcher Pratt joining a slew of returning acts.

The festival owes itself in large part to Ben and Elizabeth Osborne, of Cleveland, OH art and noise outpost Tusco/Embassy Press. According to Ben, VoV is partially intended to give an accessible option for touring artists in between other urban complexes, with parts of West Virginia being a relatively short drive from a lot of major eastern, southern, and mid-western cities. Though it’s shifted locations (slightly) and is only slowly developing the infrastructure necessary to sustain itself, the commitment of the people involved have made it a reliable fixture — this year’s event was also supported by partnerships with Experimedia, 905 Tapes, and Rubber City Noise. Lightly coordinated with some volunteers and pre-sales, pictures and previews from bands have flooded a packed Facebook event this year, instead of the old Blogspot. Before we head down to check out the event — which takes place from July 23rd to 26th — Ben Osborne was nice enough to talk a little about the fest’s history, logistics, and the universe of people that make it possible. Get tickets for the fest here.

Dwight: Can you talk about the first Voice of the Valley and the original location?
Ben: 2008 was the first Voice of the Valley. We had it on Aaron Hibbs‘ (of Sword Heaven) father’s family property called Hibbs Hollar, on 3/4 acre next to a creek in Pentress, WV. Just the acts were invited. Aaron’s cousin, Dan Snider, came that year and offered to put us up at his campground down the road. VoV took up residence at the campground, Indian Meadows, for the next few years. In 2010 VoV didn’t happen because Dan died in a small plane crash 7 weeks before our set date, but t year after Dan’s wife Liz offered to have us back. She said Dan had really enjoyed what we were doing and Liz wanted to try to carry on running Indian Meadows and some of his other projects. After the 2012 event she decided not to keep negotiating for ownership of the property and moved to NC with their son Lee.

Were you based in Ohio at that point? Why start a noise festival in West Virginia?
We were based out of Cleveland, OH, yea (East 72nd and St. Claire, Embassy space), and we just wanted to throw a party in the woods with friends. We felt WV was sorta a meeting place in between states since artists come from all over US, and we knew there were already plenty of noise fests in major metropolitan areas. The International Noise Conference in Miami, No Fun in NYC, other various two day noise fests in well populated scenes across US was the norm. We were driving back from INC when I got the idea. No Fun and INC were definitely a huge inspiration in the way that we imagined VoV.

How did you end up in Millstone?
So after leaving Indian Meadows, it was time to find a new venue… I started to type in a web search and before I hit enter the engine pulled up Alderwood event campground, like it thought that was what I was about to type. Looking into Alderwood I realized it was only a couple hours down the road from Indian Meadows. This to me seemed like a sign, so we went and checked it out, talked to owner Mark Edwards for an hour and a half on the phone and made plans to go down. When we went to visit the place, seemed perfect, except Mark seemed to be trying to talk us out of it, saying ” why don’t you just find a campground in Ohio?” We said we’re committed to throwing VoV in the foothills of WV. He said okay but said he would need money for various things to have the event at his place. Adding everything up, it was more expensive than the first 3 years combined, but figuring it was worth it for the extra stuff he claimed he would take care of — event insurance, porta johns, run the gate, etc. When the time came he didn’t do anything except open the doors for us.

We showed up a couple days before to find none of the moving/weed eating had been, or even cleaning up from the last big event (a couple years before), so I worked as hard as I could to get the grounds prepped. The first day of 2013 I was so tired I missed a third of the acts. 90% of our volunteers had cancelled day before. My wife was 5 months pregnant with our second child, so there was only so much she was able to help with. It was a tough year,but we met Joshua Stough, and he was into the music and gang so much he offered to let us use his farm. He said even though there is no infrastructure for it, you are welcome to give it a shot. So last year we had it on the farm, the same location it is this year.

What are some of your favorite things about the current site?
I really like how far off the beaten path the farm is compared to the where we have had it in the past. The farm is on a ridge and really improves the view of the sky. There’s very little light pollution, so the area is great star gazing. There’s also a pond to take a cool dip in and an old barn we can do some day-time acoustic stuff in. The owner Josh Stough is a great guy and has been a big help building up the farm to accommodate everyone. It really feels like the perfect location found us.

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How did you assemble line-ups for the early iterations of the festival? Acquaintances from Tusco/Embassy?
VoV is really just a big reunion of artists/friends in different underground music scenes. the lineup has always been made up of mostly friends. Acts that have played that I didn’t know personally were always friends of friends. An alum would be like “so and so should play,” “they would really be into this,” or “they wood sound amazing in the woods.” Mostly these days alum crew will hit me up or I ask if they are coming, then I fill in the blanks with a handful of acts I meet and take a liking to on the road or friends of friends that I hear about from online stuff. I try to keep a full dynamic of sounds and a strong reunion vibe.

What are some of the biggest changes you guys have had to cope with, as far as execution, infrastructure, etc?
The production and infrastructure have come a long way. The first year we rented a small generator and I built a 10 x 10 ft the stage from rough cut lumber. There was one outhouse an Hibbs Hollar… Indian Meadows had a stage and electric running to it, along with a showerhouse and a couple portajohns with their own pumper. Alderwood had a stage and electric to it, and porta johns on the property so there again there was not that much infrastructure to build. Now that we are on the farm however, there is and was a lot to overcome. We have to rent a 20Kw generator, we have to get our own portajohns, we had to build a stage last year and improve the canopy this year. We have to clear out woods for camping sites, and landscape around the pond… there’s fresh water access to address. Still working out little details about how this year will go down. Lots of work and brainstorming, nothings been super easy, but I am really optimistic that it will be just as good as previous years if not better. We’re still building from scratch in our second year but this location is a truly magical farm.

Can you speak a little to this year’s lineup?
This year is exciting, there are more than a few acts that I have been trying to get to the fest for a couple years. I feel like the dynamic is greater this year than ever before… ranging from harsh electronics to post techno EDM to acoustic folk/jazz to the down rite weird.

[Check out Voice of the Valley’s well-trafficked (and updated) Facebook event for pictures of the fest’s preparations and other information, or hop over here for gobs more fest video.]