The ODrone Festival presents the best in Orlando-born enveloping ambience for a full day

Bliss out Friday at Uncle Lou's and Saturday at the Nook on Robinson

The ODrone Festival presents the best in Orlando-born enveloping ambience for a full day
courtesy image

"Drones can be calming, soothing, unnerving or anything at all," explains Orlando musician and ODrone organizer Phil Penley.

While this may sound vague on the surface, it's a fairly succinct explanation of the endless sonic vistas possible in drone music — a form of sound practice that can take the form of gentle background hums or ear-bleeding walls of sound, and all points in between. From Pauline Oliveros to Terry Riley, from Sunn 0))) to Earth, from Nocturnal Emissions to Éliane Radigue — and going way further back into classical and raga traditions — musicians and composers have been exploring the powers of sustained and hypnotic drone sounds stretching back decades, if not centuries.

Orlando sound enthusiasts can soon avail themselves of every monochromatic color and flavor of this subgenre during the inaugural, free ODrone Festival this weekend.

Coinciding with the worldwide head-nodding of Drone Day — and it's worth noting this is the only city in Florida participating in this international bliss-out — Saturday's event brings together a legion of area soundscapers, all exploring the "infinite possibilities" of minimal, sustained tones. Organized by electronic musicians and members of the Circuit Church collective Derek Morton, Phil Penley and Mac Rutan, this is a first for Orlando.

Each organizer first experienced drone in a musical context in a completely different way — which speaks to the dynamism hidden in these sounds. Rutan remembers encountering the drones hidden in the Beatles' dalliances with Indian music in "Tomorrow Never Knows" and "Within You Without You"; Morton recalls experimenting endlessly with pedals and Casios and his old band opening for space-case Sonic Boom; Penley speaks of inspiration found after encountering the music of local ambient artists like Glass Hive right here in Orlando Weekly.

Confirmed for the Saturday fest are Pothole Skinny, Jahari Medina, danielfuzztone, Bikini Oracle, She Droned in Pixels, Dan Reaves, Black Wick, Terrapin, Aarons Home and many more, with one or two surprise additions inevitable. Musicians will be accompanied visually by projections from a handful of promising local video artists.

"I have already seen quite a few of the bands and projects perform but I know folks are catering their sets to 'celebrate the drone,' so to speak," says Morton. "We are setting up the outdoor stage performances so that they overlap, which means it's going to be one continuous block of music and encourage a bit more improvisation during the overlapping sections."

ODrone happens both inside and outside at the Nook, and if those logistics sound familiar, then you've probably attended one of the Circuit Church events that have been happening monthly at that Milk District bar since the pandemic year of 2020. ODrone's organizers are all Circuit Church alumni, headed up by Morton, and all-in on the Church mission of encouraging new performers and creating musical communities.

"The 17-band lineup was mainly organized through word of mouth," says Morton. "I have been playing Circuit Church since 2019, so I had some idea of the folks that might want to participate, and combined with recommendations from Phil and Mac it was quite easy to fill up the bill quickly. I think all of us wanted to keep the focus local to Central Florida."

The trio of organizers are also doing double duty as performers. Morton will play as Berz3rkr, an ambient-noise duo with Kit Wray ("he was the guitarist in a technical-metal band released on Metal Blade called Into the Moat") and as half of Salty Jazz Crabs. Rutan throws down solo as Pulzwav, and performs as a member of the ODrone Multimedia Orchestra. Penley is set to perform as Left the Chat: "part experimentation in ambience and field recording and part personal study of orchestral music inspired by film and video game composers."

The three are good-natured and surprisingly relaxed when talking to Orlando Weekly about the work they're putting into ODrone, despite the speeding Brightline train of logistics headed their way — perhaps regular drone intake does have curative properties, after all.

"It is a lot of work but I am thrilled that artists and the Circuit Church members are so excited to contribute their time and effort to making this happen," says Morton.

"Derek is leading logistics, organizing artist and partner outreach, schedules, resources, volunteers, press, running the main ODrone show at the Nook, all while creating new music and being a husband and dad," explains Rutan. "I'm doing outreach to future partners, artists, venues, workshops, social media and running the ODrone Eve event at Uncle Lou's. Phil is on outreach, research, legal, workshops and more."

ODrone is indeed not confined to just a one-and-done Saturday at the Nook. A pre-show ("ODrone Eve") on Friday at Uncle Lou's has been added, featuring seven performers and the ODrone Multimedia Orchestra. Additionally, Morton and company promise a continuing series of workshops and educational events that will foster more awareness and participation with an eye toward a sequel next year.

"Workshops and events will continue after the main event [this week]. Community performances will continue to be nurtured by Circuit Church. For me, ODrone provides a community to serve my workshops to. I'm also a course director at Full Sail University for a course named Live Event Design in the Digital Arts and Design program," says Rutan. "My 'outside' workshops and projects are an outlet for me to work irresponsibly. To be free and wild without the absolute need to meet the 'standards of excellence' required at work. I love both worlds, especially due to the interaction with people. If not for teaching, I would not have had the desire to organize these other community projects."

There is some irony to the fact that drone music — in the Western tradition, a type of music often composed by artists working alone that conveys sensations of isolation and separation — will here be a catalyst to gather people together for a day, and perhaps many days, courtesy of this ever-growing community.

"Drone in the context of this music festival led me unexpectedly to a community that I didn't know I needed, and friendships that have enriched my life immensely over the past few months," concludes Penley. "The drone is working some kind of magic in my life. The more I listen to the drone, the more I think it might be listening back."

Location Details

The Nook on Robinson

2432 E. Robinson St., Orlando Milk District

Location Details

Uncle Lou's Entertainment Hall

1016 N. Mills Ave., Orlando Mills 50


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