Festival an amalgamation of experimental sights and sounds

February 18, 2009
Athens Banner-Herald

Festival an amalgamation of experimental sights and sounds
By Julie Phillips

To be sure, experimental music is just a part of the vast spectrum of genres that interests Athens musician Heather McIntosh.

This weekend, for instance, she’s organized the third annual Aux Music Festival – Aux being short for auxiliary, meaning solo music projects her friends do outside their membership in local bands.

These projects tend to be experimental and decidedly outside the mainstream.

At the same time, McIntosh won’t be able to attend the festival because she’ll be playing music of an altogether different tune – of mass appeal. She’s touring with Lil’ Wayne – a gig that landed her on stage at the Grammys earlier this month.

She got the word this week that she’d be back on tour and would miss Aux, but knew it was a possibility and was ready for it.

She says thanks to the University of Georgia’s Ideas for Creative Exploration (ICE) program, she has helpers for Aux as well.

“I’ve had a pretty firm grip on the curatorial level and organization – (but) it’s nice to know it can function without me,” McIntosh says. “And the Internet and cell phones are awesome,” she adds of both planning and pulling off the event.

As for the Grammys, celebrity spotting has become a fixture considering McIntosh also recently did a tour with Gnarls Barkley. But, she says, the event certainly offered some highlights.

“The best person I got to meet was Charlie Haden, who was bass player for Ornette Coleman, and I got to totally geek out on him. I got to tell him ‘Liberation Music Orchestra’ was my favorite record on Earth.”

McIntosh, who graduated from the UGA music school, also is a cellist and has lent her talents to numerous bands around town over the years, while also heading up her own, The Instruments.

She says AUX is an important festival to her because of its experimental and often improvisational nature.

“I’ve always been a huge fan of collaborative and experimental arts – that’s sort of where my heart is,” she says. “And I know that can be sort of distancing to a lot of people who like music. They kind of get a little nervous when you say ‘experimental.’ But I’ve been so lucky to play with so many people where experimental music can really lead to a great party. Deonna Mann, who’s going to be coming this year and is one of our headliners – she’s one of the first people I ever played with in town. … And the Melted Men, that was sort of my first scene in town. And so, that stuff is just my favorite – and it can really blow your mind.”

The festival takes place from 3 p.m. Saturday into the wee hours of Sunday, and will include kids and adult modern dance performances, video and an arts market, all for the affordable price of $5.

McIntosh says she hopes to add in coming years an outreach element for children to have an opportunity to experiment with electronic music.

In the meantime, she’s filling her schedule with touring the country with Lil’ Wayne and hoping there’ll be more to come.

And lucky for Athens, her ties to the town remain.

“I was living out of my suitcase pretty much from the time I moved to New York four years ago,” she says, adding for that reason, it didn’t make sense to be paying rent there – especially when she was coming through Athens to visit friends, too. “It’s good to be able to come home to Athens,” she says.