All Tomorrow’s Parties: Day 1
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Today, part one of Ian Weinberger’s three-part series on this weekend’s All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in upstate New York. Stay tuned tomorrow and Thursday for more photographs, videos, audio and stories!
I want to begin with a few general comments. First, I have been to Kutsher’s once before. I was there with my family when I was two years old. I don’t remember anything about it, but am sure there weren’t any underground bands performing loud rock music. This time, obviously, was much more memorable. It was surreal to see possibly the best collection of artists ever assembled perform in the Catskills this weekend. At first I was skeptical of the site itself, but I can say now definitively—after experiencing my first (of hopefully many) All Tomorrow’s Parties festivals to come—that Kutsher’s was a terrific choice to host the event. Second (that was a very long “First…”), I cannot quite explain this, but…Why the hell were people this weekend literally farting left and right during every band’s set? From Bardo Pond to My Bloody Valentine, the stench of weed and cigarettes was equaled, if not surpassed, by a massive volume of stink-ass being emitted by the concertgoers. Maybe it was the amount of alcohol consumed combined with the slacker/geek crowd attending the event, but…don’t people have enough decency to not rip rotten egg farts during a show? Maybe I don’t get it because I was raised properly…
Day 1 began with a drive from New Jersey after a half-day of work. It took slightly longer than an hour and a half. My friend Jon and I stopped at a condo belonging to my aunt, who was gracious enough to let us stay there for the weekend. The condo was located a mere 15 minutes from Kutsher’s, and the short traveling distance enabled us to get seriously toasted all weekend without the stress of having to make a long drive while under the influence. Truthfully, the only regret I had from this weekend was that I didn’t stay at Kutsher’s. There were at least 5 different bars there, and an Executive Card Room where Steve Albini ran a poker game featuring $20 buy-ins for No-Limit Texas Hold ‘Em. The security was great for the event as well; people brought six-packs into the venue and were never hassled by bouncers. For next year’s festival I’ll definitely be bringing my own beer to enjoy during the event.
So, after stopping at my aunt’s place, Jon and I proceeded to the venue. Roughly halfway there, I heard a loud thumping noise and quickly determined that we had a flat tire. We removed the bad tire, replaced it with the donut, and continued on our way. We finally arrived ten minutes before five o’clock in the afternoon. Bardo Pond’s set (a live performance of their album Lapsed) had begun at 4:30. Lapsed happens to be my favorite Bardo Pond album, and—outside Tortoise’s performance of Millions Now Living Will Never Die—it was the “Don’t Look Back” performance that most excited me. After checking and picking up our wristbands and cool “weekend passport,” we proceeded over to Stage-1, where Bardo Pond was playing their last song, “Aldrin.” We caught about half of the 15-minute long tune. It was awesome, both in volume and in quality.
Following a brief set change, The Meat Puppets took the stage and proceeded to trek through their influential release II, which features three songs that uninformed music fans would quickly (and wrongly) to attribute to Nirvana: “Oh Me,” “Plateau,” and “Lake of Fire.” The Puppets looked much older than I had expected. Curt has gained a lot of weight over the years, and I guess at some point he’d finally given up on life because he was wearing sweatpants. Yikes. Cris looked kind of like Keith Richards, except he wasn’t snorting lines of his father’s ashes anywhere that I could see. The songs were faithful to the original recording, and the group’s tightness was really impressive. [Watch Video Of “Lake Of Fire”]
Tortoise followed the Meat Puppets, and and performed what is in my opinion (as a published journalist) the seminal “Post -Rock” album, Millions Now Living Will Die. I think outside of seeing Om and My Bloody Valentine, I was most excited about this set. Tortoise certainly did not disappoint; Doug Scharin’s incredible bass and baritone guitar playing beautified each number, and John McEntire’s drumming and electric glockenspiel flourishes brought the music to an entirely new stratosphere. They blew me away. After the final track of the album, “Along The Banks Of Rivers,” the band went so far as to play “Gamera,” a track that was only available on the Tokuma Japan Communications CD release of Millions Now Living…amazing.
From soaring highs to crushing lows. What followed was probably my least favorite set of the weekend: Thurston Moore playing Psychic Hearts. Don’t get me wrong—I love Sonic Youth—but this set quickly made me realize that what I like about the band is the presence of Kim Gordon and Lee Ranaldo. It was cool to watch Chris Brokaw (of Come/Codeine fame [and don’t forget that stint as G.G. Allin’s drummer – Ed.]), the bass player from No Neck Blues Band, and Steve Shelley perform with Thurston, but what bothered me about his set was that he had chords and lyrics written out on big cue cards, and at one point when he forgot the chords to a song, he said to the crowd “Give me a break here, I wrote this album in one day and recorded it the next day.” Why the hell was he performing, then? Why would the organizers of this event choose an admittedly casual recording—and a mediocre album to boot—to be played alongside classics from Built to Spill, The Meet Puppets, Bardo Pond and Tortoise? Sonic Youth performing Evol or Sister would have been far more entertaining, and maybe Thurston wouldn’t have been so annoyingly nonchalant about the whole thing.
The final set of the first night was Built to Spill performing Perfect From Now On. I was into their set, as it is my favorite album of theirs and one of the best guitar-driven records of the modern Indie era. It is darker than their first two records. There’s a weird undercurrent that runs through the songs, an overwhelming feeling of sadness and unease that makes it a very complicated listen. All those difficult subjects were poured into the show, and it sounded great. Even better, the band returned after “Untrustable/Part 2 (About Someone Else)” to play an encore that included “Going Against Your Mind” (from You In Reverse), “Car,” and “Stab” (from There’s Nothing Wrong With Love). In all, the first day set the bar very high, but it was merely a precursor for what was to follow.
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