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"The Outside Presents," an experimental music performance series has its final show of the first season on Monday, June 10, at the Antioch College Foundry Theater. The series is hosted by Evan Miller, shown here at a performance from earlier this year. (Photo courtesy of Ruthie Herman)

‘The Outside Presents’ wraps up first season of free experimental music shows

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Experimental music performance series “The Outside Presents,” which has found its home in the Foundry Theater’s black box space, will go live with the final show of its first season Monday, June 10.

The series — a kind of off-shoot of WYSO 91.3’s late-Sunday-night show “The Outside” — held its first event last December, and aims to expose audiences to experimental music acts from both the Southwest Ohio region and beyond.

The News spoke last week with Evan Miller, host of “The Outside” and organizer of “The Outside Presents.” Noting that “experimental” as a broad descriptor includes a wide range of music acts, Miller — himself a creator and performer of experimental music — said it’s long been a personal goal to foster a regular space for such acts to congregate.

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“As someone who’s played a lot of gigs out of town and on the road and has booked some things around town sparingly in the past, I really wanted to have something that was consistent [for other artists],” Miller said.

Miller added that, thanks to a grant from the Ohio Arts Council, “The Outside Presents” is able to both pay its slated performers and keep shows free for audiences, whether they’re familiar with the acts or deciding to wade into the experimental music world for the first time.

“Especially with this kind of music where it’s not exactly selling out arenas, knowing that, no matter what, whoever’s coming to town would be taken care of was important to me,” Miller said. “And from an audience standpoint, the shows being free encourages people to give [the music] a try — the financial barrier could be prohibitive to some people if they have no idea what it is they’re about to walk into.”

The past three installments of the series have featured artists Rob Funkhouser, Equipment Pointed Ankh, Fritz Pape, Mike Collino and Stravaig. Thus far, Miller said, the series has attracted both experimental music die-hards from the Miami Valley region and the broader Midwest, as well as newbies, according to audience surveys taken after shows.

“It’s been a really pleasant mixture of people who this is their thing and I’d expect them to be here, and people who have given it a shot and come away intrigued, which I am really happy about,” he said.

The final installment of this season will feature a pair of duos: Cincinnati’s Wasteland Jazz Unit, and Tongue Depressor, out of New Haven, Connecticut, both of whom will be performing in Yellow Springs for the first time. Miller said it’s his goal for each installment of the series to book one act from the Southwest Ohio region and another from “out-of-town.” At the same time, he said, he aims to pair acts that complement one another in some way, whether it be in terms of sound, approach or general ethos.

Wasteland Jazz Unit — Jon Lorenz and John Rich — performs “highly amplified and effected clarinet and saxophone noise utilizing contact mics, effects pedals and intense volume and feedback,” Lorenz told the News via email this week.

“We’ve been a band for 17 years now, and occasionally perform as an extended ensemble,” Lorenz wrote. “Our latest release, which came out last year, was a [double LP] of recordings we did as a seven-piece ensemble with two drummers, bass, guitar, electronics, clarinet and saxophone.”

Tongue Depressor — Henry Birdsey and Zach Rowden — is currently on tour, and will fill the Foundry’s black box theater with sounds on double bass and bagpipes.

“Which, I can guarantee you, will be the first time bagpipes have appeared in that room,” Miller said.

Via email, Rowden told the News the duo’s vibe is the same no matter where they play — to try to “make a space for people to drop out of their minds and/or sink into the zone that we are carving out.”

“The music in this project, regardless of instruments, mostly deals with memory (aural and otherwise), psychoacoustics, tuning systems, letting drone music have some edges to it,” Rowden wrote, adding that audiences should keep in mind that they are “a vital part of this being made live.”

“Outside of that, the music will deal with the rest,” Rowden wrote.

In addition to the two music acts, SOS Lightshow — an effort of Miami Valley musician Billy Gruber — will be on hand to add a visual element to the show, as he has in past installments.

“[Gruber] has been building a distinctive psychedelic visual style in Dayton and elsewhere for a number of years, and I think adding a visual element on top of the live music core of the series really enhances it,” Miller said.

Moving forward into the second season of “The Outside Presents,” which Miller said he’s already begun planning, shows will be hosted quarterly, which was always Miller’s intention. For the first season, shows had to be scheduled about every two months around an already-in-process season of programming at the Foundry, but the first season’s success and funding will allow for a regular pace next season.

Miller said he hopes the second season will explore corners of experimental music — of which there are many — that have yet to be represented in the series.

“[The series] takes the guiding principle of ‘The Outside’ radio show, which is that ‘experimental’ doesn’t really mean anything — for me, it’s kind of like a spirit and not a sound, necessarily,” Miller said. “There’s still plenty more that I haven’t brought in yet — it’s a never-ending thing of, ‘How do I highlight as many different little nooks and crannies of this thing for as long as I can?’”

Though “The Outside Presents” is only funded by The Ohio Arts Council through the end of this year, Miller said he’s confident the series has what it needs to make the next season happen — though he added that support from individuals and local businesses is always welcome. At the same time, Miller noted that it’s in the nature of the experimental music scene to be ephemeral.

“There have been plenty of little DIY venues and house spots over the years in Dayton that have come and gone for one reason or another, so now that I have a place with some security attached to it, I’m going to try my best to hold on to that as long as I can,” Miller said. “It’s not going to last forever — because it never does — but for as long as I can, I want to show as much of this music as I can.”

“The Outside Presents” featuring Wasteland Jazz Unit and Tongue Depressor will be held in the Foundry Theater’s black box Monday, June 10, 9–11 p.m. Admission is free.

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