Lightning Bolt and Sun Ra Arkestra Play Trippy Free Shows in a Times Square Theater

Crossroads of the Weird?

Times Square is always a trek, but tonight and tomorrow, it’ll be really far out. Some of the best live acts of the avant garde, Lightning Bolt and the Sun Ra Arkestra, are taking over the AMC Empire theater for a truly trippy audiovisual festival. Best part: Aside from the subway fare it’ll cost you to get up to 42nd Street, it’s free.

Tonight, noise veterans Lightning Bolt will bring their spastic, ear-shattering improv to a theater on the cinema’s fourth floor, playing in front of live projections by video artists from Undervolt & Co, a collective that has previously VJed events like Moogfest. Opening for them will be Irreversible Entanglements, a free jazz band with politically-minded vocals that originally came together for a Musicians Against Police Brutality event in 2015.

Lightning Bolt, one of the last bands to play Death By Audio, is no stranger to unconventional venues. In fact, they’re in the running for weirdest band in the world thanks to their history of playing in the thick of the audience. True to the band’s name, drummer Brian Chippendale is lightning fast, and he’s been known to bark vocals through a microphone that’s built into a luchador-style mask.

Lightning Bolt has cited Sun Ra as an inspiration, so it’s fitting that the late cosmonaut/composer’s Arkestra, now led by his longtime saxman Marshall Allen, will take the “stage” at AMC Empire tomorrow, Feb. 21. The Arkestra is a fixture at jazz and new-music festivals around the world; seeing them for free, in this unique environment, will be a real treat. Opening for them is Yatta, a Sierra Leonian-American songstress whose fusion of traditional creole stylings and Bjork-esque digital exploration is much in keeping with Sun Ra’s brand of afrofuturism.

The Interference AV fest is being put on by Times Square Arts, the public art program of the Times Square Alliance, and Clocktower Productions, the long-running non-profit behind Clocktower Radio. To make this even more of a draw, there’ll be zines for a sale in the lobby. RSVPs for the 8pm shows are said to be “essential.”

Here’s a look at last night’s action, featuring electronic musician Jlin and violinist-vocalist Sadaf.

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