Monday, October 6, 2008

Whither Festivus: All Tomorrow’s Parties 2008 Review

Somewhere, deep within New York’s Catskill Mountains, time has stopped. There, as the sun beats down golden and tranquil, among the idyll of leafy trees and quiet, clear air, it is not 2008, but more akin to 1975. The glory of nature is matched only by the sheer surreality of the once-yearly spectacle known as All Tomorrow’s Parties, a Rock’n’Roll summer camp unlike anything I’ve ever encountered, or are likely to encounter again (until next year, that is!). I’m here to tell you that ATP08 was by far the best show of 2008, and might just be the best show I’ve ever been to.

All Tomorrow’s Parties is not a new concert concept. While most of us probably first think of the Velvet Underground song, ATP has been putting on festivals for years and years now. ATP08 was the initial foray into New York, and what a first time it was. Between the lineup, the setting, and the time warp of venue/hotel, it was as close to perfect as a festival could ever hope to be.

We started the day (night, more accurately, as it was pretty late by the time we got to the site at Kutsher’s) in a giant ballroom with spectacular houndstooth wallpaper, celestial themed walls, and oh yes, Thurston Moore. The most incredible thing (if I had to choose one) about the festival is that in such a small space, such great acts were gathered, and you could wander to and fro and see amazing act after amazing act. So after a few Thurston numbers, we ventured to the smaller Stage Two and took in some of Patton Oswalt’s hilarity. After some drinking and some strolling around the site, we hopped on our chariot (the big yellow bus, oh yes) and went back to the Raleigh, our home sweet home for the weekend. Several hours of drinking followed.

Days Two and Three were equally as ridiculous. I’m still, a couple weeks out, rendered into stunned speechlessness about the quality of the bands, so instead, here’s who I saw…Day Two: Growing, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Orchestra, Wooden Shjips, Harmonia, Alexander Tucker, Les Savy Fav; Day Three: My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr., Lilys, Mercury Rev, Mogwai, Spectrum, The Wounded Knees. All were beyond fantastic. I’d say that the two winners of the weekend, for me, were My Bloody Valentine (as if there was any doubt), and Mercury Rev. It had been about ten years since I had seen the Rev, and they rocked my world something fierce. And what can you say about MBV? I lost count of how many times my jaw dropped, and despite wearing earplugs, my hearing was off for days after returning to Richmond.

It was a mad, mad, mad, mad weekend. The music was non-stop and top-notch. The festival-goers were the cream of the crop, the best patrons I’ve ever seen at a rock show. Hell, we even ran into some fellow Richmonders. The site defies explanation, the madcap wallpaper and the Deep End bar and the playground…it was the most fun you will possibly have at a festival. No rushing to stages seemingly on opposite ends of the Earth, instead you need merely glide from one end of the hotel to another. No excessive heat causing copious amounts of sweat as you sunburn the day away outdoors, instead the fresh mountain air is there when you choose to venture outside. And the bands, o, the bands. It would take a miracle to come up with a more impressive roster of bands, especially given the size of the festival.

In short, my hat is off the to wonderful people who put together such a killer festival. I can’t wait to see what ATPNY09 will bring. If you're interested, and you really ought to be, tickets are already on sale for next year. Sure, there's been no bands announced yet, but trust me, it'll be the best concert of next year no matter who's on the bill.

[photos of Kutsher's, Wooden Shjips, and Mercury Rev. All by Megan Petty]

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