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Dismal Niche brings big city sounds to Columbia

The Columbia experimental music festival is underway; mark your calendars and meet some of the artists taking front stage.

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Fall Arts Guide Dismal Niche ONO

After a 21-year break from performing, ONO returned to the music scene in 2007. The group rotates members for every performance, making it a surprise for the group and the audience.

When it comes to the boundaries of sound, don’t rule anything out for the 2018 Columbia Experimental Music Festival. Dismal Niche has curated a captivating experience for curious listeners, with well-known experimental genre artists and mid-Missouri pioneers alike.

Although Dismal Niche Director Matt Crook says experimental music is often better received in larger cities like Los Angeles or New York, plenty of interest exists in Columbia. “We’re trying to pull from a pretty large demographic that falls within the experimental music community,” Crook says about the cross-section of performers in the lineup. “It’s really taken hold and people ... are receptive to being challenged by some more adventurous music.”

Forming originally as a local tape label in 2013, Dismal Niche became a nonprofit in 2015 and has since transitioned its focus to being a platform for bringing new music to Columbia through this annual event. This year’s festival will take place Oct. 5-7 and will live through the veins of the city with performances in favored local watering holes such as Cafe Berlin, Hitt Records and Eastside Tavern. The festival will also feature a number of workshops and art installations.

Tickets for the festival can be purchased on the Eventbrite page. Prices for the festival starts at $10 for an individual Friday pass, $20 for a Saturday or Sunday pass and $50 for a full weekend pass.

“I think [festivalgoers] can expect the same thing that we’ve kind of developed a reputation for every year, which is there will be really challenging music,” Crook says. “And there will be really calm, restorative, relaxing, meditative music.”

Whether you prefer to hold to a specific taste or are looking to confront exactly that, here are a few artists to scope out.


Dubbed by the Village Voice as “one of the most influential bands you’ve never heard of,” this Chicago-based avant-gospel group will be bringing its sound to Cafe Berlin Friday evening.

Founder of the group and performer Michael Ono describes their sound as an expression of emotion. “It’s all about about gospel spiritual in combination with afro-futurist noise,” he says. “Sound, spoken word, a little bit of free jazz, somewhat. It’s all about catching the holy ghost and getting the feeling.”

The rotation of group members is now different for nearly each performance, so each outcome is a surprise.


If you’re into dance textures, composer Ryan McRyhew, known on stage as Entancer, has something fresh for you on Saturday at Eastside Tavern. “I’ll go from ambient spaces — things that are really sparse and minimal — to really rapid, 160 bpm rhythms. Polyrhythms. Really complex dance music.”

McRyhew has been releasing mixes since 2014 but says that his performances aren’t based on anything he’s previously put out, and they teeter on improvisation. “It’s kind of just like grabbing all these different genres, like techno and free jazz and ambient music and then trying to like throw them into one sort of digestible performance or not digestible.”

Jennifer Simone

Jennifer Simone is a festival veteran making this year her fourth consecutive appearance. Although she hails from Cincinnati, her performance is craved in Columbia for a reason.

“I don’t use the word ‘transcendent’ very often to describe music, but her music...I would use that word to describe it,” Crook says of Simone. “It’s an amazing experience.”

Glenn Jones

American luminary Glenn Jones will bring divine acoustic skills to Senior Hall on Saturday. And if you can’t pay to make it to the main act, Jones will also be playing a bonus show free for the public at the Daniel Boone Regional Library on Sunday.

“The guitarist Glenn Jones, who is also at the forefront of American folk guitar, he’s going to be playing a really intimate show at the Columbia Public Library,” Crook says.

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