As Purchase students come back to campus, noise musicians continue to carve out spaces for the underbelly of alternative music communities on campus.
By Grace Wenner
It's the beginning of the semester, and as Purchase students eagerly try to reunite with one another, noise musicians are already one step ahead at the Free Store.
The Free Store is a student-organized donation space where Purchase students can drop off unwanted clothes and home goods for other students to take for themselves. Compared to the Stood, which has not only a stage but also sound and lighting technicians, the Free Store has had a tradition of hosting DIY shows among the housewares, and the new Free Store director, Maura Vanderputten, has carried the torch into this semester.
Saturday, September 9, the Free Store hosted Eroneko, a hardcore band who experimented with noise after collaborating with cyber-grind duo Grav3s, who played next, both acts being from Long Island. Then came Purchase's own hardcore band, Blouse. Untitled Noise Night, a Brooklyn-based noise duo who both attended Purchase, closed off the night.
"The Stood has a role," said Vanderputten, "I think what I want for the Free Store is things that wouldn't necessarily fit into that kind of social climate. I just think that alternative space is for people to organize and gather and make the most bizarre music I've ever heard. It's extremely important."
"Specifically for this first show, and hopefully the idea going forward," said Vanderputten, "is I want it to emulate the experience of seeing avante-garde harsh noise in the music building freshman year," referencing the series of DIY shows held in room 0081 in the music building in the 2021 autumn semester.
Since there was no stage, the musicians performed on the ground, scattered with boards of synthesizers and guitar pedals laced among tangled wires. When the music started, limbs flew, and bodies skidded across the green linoleum floor. It was a blur of tattoos, dyed hair, and baggy camo shorts in every color. The crowd squeezed between racks of clothes. A few perched on the backs of couches to take pictures with quirky digicams and vintage film cameras. A projector shot a glitchy Free Store logo intercut with videos of car accidents onto the ceiling.
Emerson Borokave of Untitled Noise Night performing (photo by Grace Wenner).
Mike Flanaghan of Grav3s DJing between sets (photo by Grace Wenner).
The music throughout the night was just noise. Bright synthesizers screeched over thick, distorted bass and thrashing drums—fuzzy and squealing amplifier frequencies cut between notes. The guitars barely sounded like guitars anymore as vocalists screamed and howled. The mosh pit slammed their sweaty bodies against everything in sight. Two girls held hands and spun each other until they fell into the ankles of the audience members while a girl walked around trying to find her friend with a concussion.
"Purchase probably gave us, like, the best reactions we've ever gotten," said Johnnie Carlisi, the vocalist of Eroneko. "I feel like I have two homes."
Crowd moshing to Grav3s (photo by Grace Wenner).
Camaraderie was ever-present. Grav3s supplied the first sound system for the night before it got blown out and has often done so in the past.
"It's funny, we were literally listening to Blouse in the car on the way here!" said Mike Flanagan, Grav3s producer.
At the climax of Untitled Noise Night's set, drummer Emerson Borokave got duct-taped to a chair and thrown to the ground.
Finale of Untitled Noise Nights Set (photo by Grace Wenner).
Elliott Nemec of Blouse turned to me and said, "My jaw is on the floor." "Crazy," was quietly repeated to one another until attendees trickled out and went back to their dorms.
"I never feel more confident than when I'm playing at Purchase," said Borokave after headlining the Free Store set alongside Shiloh Blue. "Playing at Purchase means people want to interact with what you're doing. Part of it's because we've played here so much, but part of it's like, at the Free Store, there's no stage. I can be on the floor next to you guys. I can reach out and grab you if I want to."
And Borokave did. She jumped on top of tables, rolled on the ground, shoved a microphone at the crowd for them to scream into, or encouraged them to come up and hit her drums.
The energy in the crowd wasn't just a release from the show but from the hard work that came before the gig, as the bands were responsible for turning the Free Store into a functioning venue.
"The rewarding part for me is the people who are sweating from putting the stuff together and from moving it are also the same people who are sweating from also dancing at the event," said Amanda Crosby, a Free Store intern.
Vanderputten and Crosby, who started putting the show together at 6 that evening, spent the night fixing the projector, finding a replacement for the P.A. when it got blown out, lugging around amplifiers and guitars, and throwing themselves into the mosh pit. They danced and thrashed until everyone left, then turned the Free Store back into a donation center for the next day.
"The community is sharing what happens here. The community is putting together what happens here," said Vanderputten. "I don't have all the necessary equipment to put these shows on. It requires a bunch of people who maybe aren't involved in the Free Store but become involved. It invites people. There's less pressure. Stood employees get a lot of shit when things go wrong- but if things go wrong at the Free Store,what did you expect to happen?"