Savage Weekend maintains a brutal schedule. In its fifth year, the Chapel Hill extravaganza of noise, dance and bedlam will rip through sets from more than 80 acts in about 21 hours. To do that, the action starts early both days (4:30 p.m. on Friday and 4 p.m. on Saturday), continues after last call and switches acts about every 15 minutes. If one brand of synthesizer madness, busted beats or abrasive electronics doesn't suit you, just hang tight: Some baseball players spend more time in the on-deck circle than acts do at Savage Weekend.
The panoply aggregates some of North Carolina's best experimental outfits, touring troupes that depend on inclusive spaces such as Nightlight throughout the year and a select set of acts that don't come this way often. This year, local highlights range from the religious self-flagellation of Clang Quartet Friday afternoon to the oblong abstractions of Savage Weekend founder Ryan Martin as Secret Boyfriend early Saturday. The great pop duo VVAQRT will play its supposed last show later that night, not long after Cantwell, Gomez & Jordan see just how many spasms and songs they can cram into a quarter-hour set.
One highlight of Friday night arrives just after 1 a.m., when Ohio's Liz Gomez, who performs under the name Dromez, takes the microphone—into which she screams, incants or does both as sheets of static and throbs of bass form sonic sculptures around her. Earlier in the night, Davey Harms—better but formerly known as Mincemeat or Tenspeed—supplies his own demented techno, where beats refuse to succumb to a fusillade of dissonance. After years as Mincemeat or Tenspeed, his new material under the new handle, released as the four-track EP This Loop is Gonna be the Death of Me, hits harder than much of his old work.
Not long after VVAQRT bids farewell on Saturday, Savage Weekend enters an incredible final stretch after midnight, with the action running from wicked rhythms to noise rock. During the last decade, Rhode Island's Humanbeast has upped both the melodic and menacing elements of its music, until it has become glorious pop that takes unapologetic dips into darkness. Rat Bastard fittingly closes the festival: A South Florida experimental staple and an essential impresario of this kind of madness for decades, Rat Bastard is also an incredible guitar player, perfectly capable of navigating the lane between pure chaos and riff control. But after the marathon of melees that precedes him, will he (or the venue) even have the power left to pull it off?