MAGNET’s Matt Siblo reports from the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in the Catskill Mountains.
Not much has changed in the 360-ish days since ATP last left Kushters, the delightfully grodey resort that it calls home. Perhaps that’s not entirely true. The sundries shop now offers tie-dyed T-shirts, while a small group of masseuses offer sliding-scale services in the main hall. Thankfully, hair-coloring services are still available in the lobby.
Friday night’s happiest surprise was the presence of a wandering Nick Cave, who earlier in the evening joined the Dirty Three while I begrudgingly bought snacks at Walmart. No matter, Mr. Cave has been lurching around the hotel ever since, leading to unfounded rumors that he’ll play a set sometime this weekend. It should be noted that Cave’s entourage looks exactly how you’d think they would: stylish Australian pallbearers from 1972.
After missing the Feelies matinee performance (they took the stage at 4:45, the Drones even earlier), I caught Suicide’s Don’t Look Back rendering of its self-titled debut. A band undeniably remarkable in the epoch to which it belongs, Suicide’s abrasion of the senses couldn’t help but dull in the years and bands that have followed it. Onstage, Alan Vega and Martin Rev had the presence of a museum instillation. At the risk of sounding insolent, once it’s necessary to perform with a music stand with lyrics, it’s hard to come across as a provocateur.
Animal Collective’s Panda Bear faced similar difficulties in engaging a room filled with people while staring at a synthesizer. Whereas Suicide furiously pounded, Panda’s ethereal soundscapes filled the cavernous auditorium with Rorschach-like projections pounding beats. Making a bigger racket than one man with a keyboard ought to make, he reworked much of 2007’s Person Pitch along with assorted Animal Collective favorites that may or may not be rehashed tomorrow.
Favoring laughter over a good cry, I caught Eugene Mirman and David Cross, while Iron And Wine lulled the main room. Mirman’s mix of video comedy and deadpan delivery was sharply on point (insight of the evening: “Religion is not a leap of faith but a boy with high-functioning autism”) whereas Cross’ set was, er, looser. After declaring his intoxication, Cross seemed to unravel before everyone’s eyes. Note to comedians: Drunk people don’t find the antics of the Senate Finance Committee very funny; poop and Jewish jokes go over much better.
Closing the evening was the Jesus Lizard (pictured), rounding out a victory lap that began earlier this year. I never saw the band in its gloriously drunken heyday, but tonight, the band was shockingly sprightly and precise. David Yow prowled the stage with a maniacal glean and a feral (manchild) intensity. Its hour-long, career-spanning set held its intensity throughout in a rare act of non-nostalgia-inciting glory.
For those still standing, the Criterion Collection offered a rare screening of Nobuhiko Obayashi’s House, a bizarre horror/comedy that defied physics, logic and narrative storytelling.