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Reviews human noises festival at maxim rock, august 19, 2023. Human Noises Fest, held at Maxim Rock, on August 19, 2023. Photo credit: @dakucore.

Human Noises Fest: the rock of the degenerates

They do not reach 24 years of age, produce their music among themselves and organize a fest in a month. Their live sound is chaotic, unabashedly amateur, and they attract more than a hundred people even though they are hardly known in Havana. They call themselves Genders, Handrail, Hana, El Joel, Breed, and Land Whalesand its mixture of punk with grungyand of indie with shoegazeseems to sprout out of nowhere and capture new followers. 

They call their joint noise Human Noises, and that's how they appear on Saturday's bill at Maxim Rock. They are dressed in gowns, wigs and tighteners, as if defying the label that Cuban rock doesn't do shows, and are accompanied by two torsos of mannequins sexualized with nails and chains. 

Some sound green, because they are still green, and others pretend to break the guitars. One cuts himself unintentionally and bleeds on the strings, others scream and deafen the audience, and from below, to the beat of the alternative rock, a hardcore suitable for teenagers. People are there because they want to be, because they like it and even by chance. There are the girlfriends and friends, the parents and acquaintances, the curious, the sneaks. 

Human Noises Fest, held at Maxim Rock, on August 19, 2023. Photo: Junior Hernández Castro.

Human Noises Fest, held at Maxim Rock, on August 19, 2023. Photo: Junior Hernández Castro.

Days later, the offended, the "hey, but what is this", the "and they call that rock and roll? The debate follows, the mutt and the polemic. Why do they do it, what's the need, if they are homosexuals, if other bands did it, if, if, if... And one questions, or at least, it calls one's attention, how part of a historically marginalized scene ends up perpetuating behaviors for which they were once excluded. 

It's clear that wearing a skirt in 2023 is not something new in rock/metal. They have done it from Queen to Iggy Pop, from Nirvana to Corey Taylor. It's not new, but it is uncommon, in a scene that is at times schematic, where metal and classic rock rule, and performance barely exists. Some users demanded to maintain good manners, act respectful and look "masculine", as if rock was something static and sanctimonious, and not the rebellious and transgressive music that today is classic, but yesterday was just as judged. 

¿What were the bands of glam metal, with their glitter and leopard coats, if not a great mockery of the male stereotype? What was the Sex Pistols debut album if not a form of protest to the monarchy? What is the black metal What is punk, if not rebellion against Christian morality? grungythe alternative, if not an opposite (not necessarily an enemy) path of metal and hard rock? But amnesia seems to wreak havoc, memory is too selective, or the rock culture that once existed in Cuba is going down the drain. 

Human Noises Fest, held at Maxim Rock, on August 19, 2023. Photo: Junior Hernández Castro.

Human Noises Fest, held at Maxim Rock, on August 19, 2023. Photo: Junior Hernández Castro.

"Respect" some demand, and these guys might respond: Respect is going on stage for more than just doing the usual. Respect is creating a lineup that looks appealing to the audience. Respect is recording a product that is true to yourself. Respect is making an event that is worth going to. Respect is to understand once and for all that in Cuba not everything is extreme metal, not everything is classic rock, not everything should be the same. 

Our lives in this world have been spent under the shadow of the word "scene" or "movement" when those terms describe a single mass that does not really exist and that is far from being homogeneous. The "scene" of extreme metal, punk, alternative, classic rock and pop rock, if they exist as scenes (that's another discussion), are not the same, nor do they have to be. Each musical style is what it is because of its forms of expression, its ideology, its codes, and everyone is free to create artistically as they understand and with the boundaries that their own limits decide. 

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What was the point of dressing as a woman in the Cuba of 2023? Perhaps a call to reflection, an anti-sexist discourse in a country of entrenched machismo, a denunciation of violence in a year of rising femicides. Or maybe, just maybe, they have done it for the simple fact of provoking and we are complexifying something very simple. "I'm 20 years old, I'm tired of seeing the same thing and I feel like calling attention to myself", any of them could answer -although if one analyzes the performance and even the scenography, you will notice, at least, an idea behind it. And if there wasn't, would it be less valid? Pathetic? Ridiculous? 

Human Noises Fest, held at Maxim Rock, on August 19, 2023. Photo: Junior Hernández Castro.

Human Noises Fest, held at Maxim Rock, on August 19, 2023. Photo: Junior Hernández Castro.

Perhaps for some it might seem so, but under that logic half of the classics that are so adored today and that in their time appealed to actions out of the ordinary would also fall into pathos. What did the thrashers of the 1980s in the United States in the face of the glam metal from Los Angeles? Thrash metalWhat did the punks do? Punk rock. Nobody died because the other existed, and although the rivalry was latent, each one constituted its scene, formed its public and in any case, avoided to walk next to the other. Whatever there was to prove, in music. 

These Cuban guys did what they did -with the organizational support of Nemesis, a metal band-, and beyond tastes and shortcomings, they achieved their purpose. The reality is that, dressed like this, noisy, green as a soursop and with barely recorded music, they brought together more than a hundred people in a room where most of the "conventional" bands have a hard time getting half of them. 

I wish there had been a debate about this festival and not a chicken coop, but we lack that culture, the one of debating. For now, this wave of alternative has scored its first goal and will have to polish its proposal even more if it wants to keep up the pace. Perhaps tomorrow it will not be there, because the future is uncertain and life is short. But at least for that night -in the three and a bit hours that Human Noise lasts-, Genders, Handrail, Hana, El Joel, Breed and Land Whales exist, and one has the feeling that a scene has been born. A small, atypical, immature and noisy scene. Someone called them degenerates, and they probably like it. I don't dislike it. Welcome to the rock of chaos, noise and degenerates. Something new was needed.


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Junior Hernández Castro Junior Hernández Castro Freak and journalist. Reader and sleepyhead. Loves the sound of the keys, but finds it hard to write on demand. More posts

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  1. King Diamond says:

    I've been out of the Cuban rock scene for a while now, but if I remember correctly the frikis knew a lot about music, and supported Cuban rock because they wanted a diverse and quality scene. Now I see freaks scandalized by seeing people playing dressed as women, the truth, what do you guys like? evangelical metal? You never saw Dee Snider? you never knew Glam? We will have to create a little school of rock n roll in the Maxim soon.

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