Damage Assessment: New book documents events at DIY Experimental music space Art Damage Lodge

Proceeds from 'Art Damage Lodge: Flyers 2007-2010' go to help fund this year's No Response music festival.

Mar 19, 2018 at 5:32 pm

When I asked Jon Lorenz and John Rich what the Art Damage Lodge was, they both replied, in tandem, “Umm.” Then Rich volunteered, “It’s a long story.” After all, how do you describe an art space inspired by old-school Cincinnati Experimental music artists and aficionados that housed shows ranging from ecstatic psycho improv heroes Wolf Eyes to Lexington, Ky. Noise merchants Hair Police to the local experimentalists living down the block?

“It was an alternative space that we ran from 2007 to 2010,” Rich says of the venue, which was located on the third floor of Northside’s historic Masonic Hoffner Lodge. It closed a month shy of 2011. “We started it primarily to put on Experimental music shows, outside of bars, outside of galleries, so it was just a performance space for music. We wanted to start a space because we wanted to put on shows we wanted to see.”

“Being into weird music, it’s the kinda thing where you can’t expect bars to open their doors to it,” Lorenz says.

“With alternative spaces, you create your own world,” Rich adds. “For bars, the bottom line is that they make money. It’s not about anything else. So you gotta do it yourself.”

Northside’s own Maureen Wood owned the Lodge when Rich and Lorenz approached her with the concept. Wood, who passed away unexpectedly last year, was a champion of community arts in Northside, and the Lodge was no exception.

“She was a Northside saint,” Rich says. “She was totally oddly supportive of what we were doing.”

If Wood was the saint of Northside, then Art Damage — the radio show — played the same role for local Experimental music.

Founded in 1985 by Dan Williams and airing on community radio station WAIF, it played music that many couldn’t find anywhere else on the radio in Cincinnati. Rich was involved with Art Damage for several years, so he and Lorenz decided to pay tribute via the name of their venue.

“We’re both fans of local music history,” Lorenz says. “We were following in the footsteps of our past elders.”

“To a certain generation, Art Damage was the entry point to weird shit,” Rich adds.

Being into weird shit brought the two together. Their paths crossed one night while Rich was DJing an Art Damage event, and the two have collaborated ever since. Now, over a decade later, they’re memorializing Art Damage Lodge in the form of a book, Art Damage Lodge: Flyers 2007-2010.

The limited-edition book is a collection of almost every flyer produced to advertise Art Damage Lodge’s years of shows. There are show posters that obviously took the creator days of labor, and flyers that suggest the rushed hand of a musician 24 hours before a show. All different styles of art are represented: collage, illustration, lewd, simple. The flyer artists credited in the book include several musicians, such as Pete Fosco, Nebula Girl and C. Spencer Yeh.

“It’s a document of a time in a place,” Rich says. “Jon and I have a fascination with flyers. There’s a fetishistic enjoyment of ephemera, you know?”

“We like looking at old books or zines that show (things like) flyers of Black Flag playing with Beat Happening. Seeing bills that happened and saying, ‘Whoa, that’s crazy,’” Lorenz says.

“And history separates it in a way so that a show could have been terrible, but you see that gig flyer and it’s great to you,” Rich continues. “I wish all alternative spaces would do books of flyers. It says this show existed at this time with this band, that these people were here. It’s emotional. Or you could not care at all. And that’s fine, too.”

Each book will have a DVD of select performances at the Lodge. And all of Art Damage Lodge: Flyers proceeds go to Rich and Lorenz’s latest Experimental art endeavor, the annual No Response Festival.

Started in 2016, last year’s No Response Festival at the Woodward Theater featured powerhouse performers like the legendary Genesis Breyer P-Orridge of Psychic TV and Throbbing Gristle, influential veteran Japanese Noise ensemble Hijokaidan and pioneering Noise/Free Jazz band Borbetomagus, just to name a few.

When the Lodge met its end, Rich and Lorenz couldn’t just stay still. “I don’t feel inclined to rest on my laurels,” Rich says with a smirk. “Because, like, who cares?”

With this year’s No Response Fest just a few months away (June 21-22), the proceeds of the book’s sale will be lifeblood for the fest. After all, both the Lodge and the festival haven’t padded anyone’s pockets. They are acts of love for a music that’s not often celebrated.

“Nothing we’ve ever done has made money for ourselves,” Rich says with a laugh.

Most importantly, the book release on March 31 will be at the Hoffner Lodge in the first-floor art space, Anytime Dept. The flyers in the book will be on display at the event.

The book release party will, naturally, also include Experimental music, with performances from Don Dietrich, Ben Hall and Iovae. Dietrich — saxophonist of Borbetomagus — will pair up with rapid-fire percussionist Ben Hall of Free Jazz band Graveyards. Cincinnati’s Iovae is an “Art Damage elder statesman,” according to Lorenz and Rich, and a maestro of oscillators.

Walking around the block that once housed Art Damage Lodge, it’s difficult to imagine squealing harsh Noise music pouring into the streets where $1,000-a-month apartments now occupy the surrounding buildings.

“We joke that if we were doing (Art Damage Lodge) now, people in Northside on Facebook would be like, ‘What is this? Does anybody know what this noise is?’ Because you could hear it like a block away,” Lorenz says, laughing.

The book release party for Art Damage Lodge: Flyers 2007-2010 is March 31 at The Hoffner Lodge (4120 Hamilton Ave., Northside). It is also available at noresponsefestival.bigcartel.com.