High Zero is the anti-Virgin Mobile FreeFest.
Although the experimental music festival is older by seven years (it began in 1999), it coincides this year with one of the area's biggest music festivals. For every Dan Deacon at High Zero, there is a Ludacris at FreeFest. The FreeFest might have M.I.A., but High Zero has bassoonist Karen Borca.
But that's just how High Zero organizers, the High Zero Foundation, like it. They feel they are going after different audiences. It's unlikely, for instance, that there'll be noise installations at the corporate gig as there will be at this DIY festival.
"I hadn't paid attention to that one," says one of the organizers, Shelly Blake-Plock, who was surprised at the overlap. "Maybe they formed their schedule around us?"
The main series of concerts lasts five days, but the festival stretches out over two weeks. That's because it's not just concerts; there also workshops, guerrilla street performances and gallery exhibits.
Top that, LCD Soundsystem.
Over all, 28 different artists will perform at the festival, half of them from the Baltimore area, such as schlubby heartthrob Dan Deacon.
These are three other performers to watch:
Drew Daniel: Drew Daniel is one half of the avant-garde electronic duo Matmos. He and partner M.C. Schmidt have collaborated with musicians including minimalist composer Terry Riley and Bjork. The new Baltimore resident will perform by himself today.
Karl Ekdahl: Born in Sweden, Karl Ekdahl could very well have been from Charm City. He's a do-it-yourself man. He makes his own analog electronic instruments, and at the festival he'll install an interactive noise-making "laser pentagram," which will generate unconventional sound when people interact with it. The installation will be featured at the Electronic Petting Zoo on the fourth floor of 405 W. Franklin St. Sept. 21-26. Tickets are free.
Karen Borca — Karen Borca is probably the oldest person performing at High Zero. She's a classically trained bassoonist who's been a veteran of the experimental music scene for decades, and a her set should be a master class for up-and-comers. She performs Sept. 23.
The major High Zero concerts take place through Sunday at the Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St. Daily tickets are $13 online, $12 at the door and $10 for students. Tickets are on a $5-10 sliding scale. Festival passes are also available for $41.