Baltimore is a special place. Known for its eccentricity, unusual creativity, and stimulating grassroots cultural scene. The character of the city is extremely distinctive.
Since the mid 90's, Baltimore has also suprisingly joined cities like Chicago, New York, Seattle, San Fransisco, and Montreal as a rare center for avant-garde musical activity in North America.
Baltimore has actually always had strong underground cultural scenes for experimental music, film, and performance, which has drifted in and out of public visibility. However, these days, things have dramatically changed... fueled partially by an intense group of original players and inventors organizing a concert series at The Red Room, the Baltimore scene has received continual praise and critical attention since a sort of renaissance which began in 1996. At this time, the Red Room has organized over 400+ concerts on a volunteer basis. Baltimore now also has had a number of large festivals of "out" music (High Zero, Harmonic Baltimore, Once.Twice, and Unfold), as well as quite a number of venues where experimental music can be heard throughout the year (The Red Room, The True Vine, Tarantula Hill, The Ottobar, Talking Head, and others).
HIGH ZERO is an outgrowth of this cultural momentum, forming musical bonds between experimental players from different cities and subcultures and focusing the attentions of a broad audience for four days on this art form which is, at base, all about inspiration.
If you are visiting Baltimore for the festival, here are some recommendations:
Hotels and other places to stay : A list of relatively raw contact information for people visiting from out of town, hopefully helpful.
The American Visionary Arts Museum : A great, stimulating museum by any standard. Similar to Jean Dubuffet's Art Brut museum in Switzerland, this is a highly stimulating museum dedicated to the creativity of the untrained, marginalized, and highly singular. Well worth a visit. It was also the site of the opening night of High Zero 2000.
The Brewers Art Restaraunt : The official restaraunt of High Zero 2001 has amazing food, a formal dining room, a noisy grotto pub below, and a huge selection of European and microbrew beers. A few blocks to the South from the Theater Project at Charles and Chase Streets and highly recommended.
Normals Books and Records : Home of The Red Room performance space, this is a sixteen-year-old, collectively-run store which has won either "best used book store" or "best used record store" for ten years running in the City Paper. Prices are usually considered extraordinarily cheap by out-of-towners, and the selection is vast and weighted towards the obscure.
The Baltimore City Paper : A big slice of listings of things you can do in town while you are here, and a media sponsor of High Zero.
The True Vine Record Store : Another great record store, specializing in exotic vinyl and experimental cds, located in Hampden at 1100 W block of 36th street, right across from Atomic Books and next to Golden West.
The Golden West : Amazing, friendly, no-cell-phones allowed restaraunt (southwest meets trans-asian) in Hampden again on the 1100 W. Block of 36th St. 410 889 8891.
Atomic Books : Great underground comics/bookstore, again on the 1100 W. Block of 36th St.