For over 20 years, Darren Bergstein has chronicled and espoused the virtues of the music in the ambient, electronic, experimental and free jazz worlds. That’s a mouthful to swallow, so perhaps the easier way to put it is that the man embraces the eclectic; similar to myself although often more underground in tastes. My first writing gig ever was actually as contributor to his former magazine i/e, which explored the types of music that the mainstream press routinely ignores. Even though I grew up as a metal child, I became drawn into the world of electronic and experimental music in college through the likes of Brian Eno, Jeff Greinke and Jon Hassell, and my mind has remained open ever since. This music is often the antithesis to the raging rock I was weened on, and I have enjoyed attending various ambient concerts, for example, because I can close my eyes, be swept away by the music and create movies in my eyelids. It’s not about overkill but often about chill, and that offers its own rewards.
Last year, Bergstein started a series of concerts in his home that he called One Thousand Pulses, which has since featured artists as diverse as Robert Rich, Chuck van Zyl and Rapoon. Now he has launched the Equinoxygen Festival, which debuts on Saturday at the Wilson Auditorium at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Hackensack, New Jersey. The event runs from 11 AM to 9 PM and costs $25 in advance, $35 at the door.
Equinoxygen features a wide array of unusual artists, many of whom rarely play out. For those in the underground, many of the names will be familiar. To those above in the mainstream, perhaps not, but A.D.D. has provided some music links below so you can hear what you’re missing. It’s an intense array of audio sorcerors that includes guitarists Jon Durant and Neil Nappe, ambient-techno purveyor Vic Hennegan, the organic-electronic husband and wife team of Mem1, psychedelic sound shapers The Electric Golem and many others. (Check the website for full details.)
“The name Equinoxygen arose as I have always liked the word ‘equinox’,” explains Bergstein of his festival idea. “I wanted something to reflect the idea of ‘the fresh breath of fall’ — a derivation which is somewhat ambiguous as the actual term to connote a phase of fall is ‘autumnal equinox’ — and also a title that would be interesting, unique, catchy and not easy to forget. Just as One Thousand Pulses covers a broad range of electronic and experimental artists, the idea behind Equinoxygen is to have a full day of varied individuals plying their aural trade under one roof — to bring these musics out to a wider audience and demonstrate how vital all of this work is across so many colorful disciplines.”While Bergstein believes that smaller settings “compliment the inherent nature of the music in a more visceral way,” the Wilson Auditorium is a larger, more formal setting needed because of the size and scope of the event, not to mention audience capacity. But he believes this venue is still an ideal environment for this music because it still retains the comfort and intimacy level that he achieves in his home concerts.
Given the volatile nature of the music industry, one could reasonably assume that many independent artists are having a hell of a time surviving, but Bergstein is not so pessimistic in his assessment of the situation. “Album sales are not dying as rapidly as the mainstream press would like you to think,” he asserts. “Despite the whole download issue in totem — don’t get me started — CD sales are not dropping as precipitously as you might think, although they certainly have declined. Blame lack of sales on other reasons — a dysfunctional economy and a glut of similarly ‘dysfunctional’ or feckless soft media that constantly distracts people from exploring the validity of other, truer art forms. One of Equinoxygen’s and OTP’s goals is to provide such exposure for both ‘marginal’ and established artists — to get them in front of appreciative audiences curious and hungry for new experiences.”
Adventurous music lovers will get their chance this weekend. Equinoxygen 2011 will also be followed by a similar event in Philadelphia in March 2012, and then EQ2012 will take place in New Jersey next fall.