How can one go about reviewing an entire festival in one post? Especially one where I saw so much wonderful music! It's just not possible, so I am going to talk about the highlights of the festival in this post, will post an article on Portishead later this week, after tomorrow's show, and one on Thought Forms around the same time. And I have enough additional writing material to last me for a year too... So many silly, goofy, funny, serious, entertaining and slightly surreal occurrences to divulge!
As an introduction I have to say that the organisation and location of ATP/I'll Be Your Mirror was wonderful. Asbury Park, right by the ocean, 3 venues within literally a few minutes of each other, great security and staff, amazing bands and music, and a hotel right next door. There was honestly nothing to complain about. This was my first ATP, and I know a lot of veterans were upset that it wasn't in the previous location in the Catskills, but I honestly think that they did a great job. I didn't feel like I was at a festival, but more like part of a community. One of the "rules" in the ATP booklet was listed twice: "Don't be an asshole", and I really feel that everyone abided by that - I didn't meet anyone who wasn't friendly. I shall definitely be returning next year!
My friend Dana gave me her 3-day pass, as she had a photo pass for the festival, as well as a hotel room (lucky me!!). There was so much that I wanted to see (and that she needed to shoot), that I made lists for each day so that I wouldn't miss anything. I actually did really well - I saw everyone I wanted to except or Battles. I am sure I will catch them over here soon though, so I am not really disappointed. So... The highlights...
Shellac. Not JUST Shellac, but a front row right in front of Todd the drummer Shellac experience. Mind-blowing. However minimalist they are, their sound still fills an entire room... A few fun pieces of information: I had forgotten my earplugs, so the sound guy went to find some for me, and apparently gave me some (clean) ones that the drummer found in his pocket. So I just have to say that Todd Trainer saved my ears for the whole festival. Todd's bass drum contains some interesting fillers: a toy squirrel and women's underwear (I wonder if it belonged to the woman on the front row who kept yelling out how she had shagged him multiple times?). Anyway, if you haven't seen Shellac yet, do it. And go with a bunch of questions for their Question & Answer sessions (we got 2 during the set).
Beak> : the one band I absolutely could NOT miss, so even though they were on first on the Saturday, I was there, well in advance, front row, and they blew me away. Can Geoff Barrow do anything wrong? That guy is a musical genius: runs a record label (Invada), produces amazing bands, is a founding member of Portishead, and one part of Beak>. He probably does a million other things too, all the more for me to discover. Great beat, great vocals, kind of surreal, the kind of music I love listening to when I am outside walking for miles and want to disappear into another world. Seeing Beak> live was definitely a major festival highlight for me. I keep reading comments about people wanting to compare them to Portishead... They don't sound anything like Portishead, and that's a good thing. What would be the point in having a side project that sounds like your main band?! Anyway, listen to them.
The Pop Group: yes!!! Back after THIRTY years!!! They were a huge influence on many bands that are popular today, so seeing them was really a treat. It's just a pity that they played at the sit-down Paramount Theater instead of the Convention Hall, but I still had a great time up front with the mega fans. I hope they are going to go on tour now - I know there are many people who would love to see them live.
Jeff Mangum: I went to see him after Shellac on the Friday, but he was already halfway through his set, and I was still completely hyped up from seeing Shellac a couple of minutes before, so the contrast was just too much. I went back again on Sunday with the friend who had actually introduced me to Jeff Mangum a few years before, and watched the whole set. I love the guy, he is just a wonderful artist. Anyone who complained about how strict the security was about switching cell phones off should have read all the signs that were posted. Jeff Mangum didn't want any type of recording or photography, amateur or professional, during his sets. It was actually kind of refreshing to actually enjoy some excellent music without seeing a hundred arms holding cell phones and cameras in the air.
Swans: my first Swans live performance, and I wasn't disappointed. Two solid hours of pure NOISE. Thankfully I still had Todd Trainer's earplugs on me to save my ears again. I knew they were supposed to be loud, but this was beyond loud. PURE WALL OF NOISE. Again, I wish it had been at the Convention Hall, and not in the sit down theater area. It was confusing for everyone who wanted to get up and move to the front and they kept getting pushed back to the seats again, but other than that, what a great performance!
Thought Forms: I know they are my friends but they are one of my favourite bands around right now. they played the last set of the weekend at Asbury Lanes, and apart from there being too much feedback played a good solid set - they are on tour with Portishead this month, so if you haven't heard them already you should definitely check them out.
Oneida: they played a TEN HOUR SET on Saturday. YES TEN HOURS. I stayed there for a while, and just wanted to lie on the ground and dream. Geoff Barrow joined them on the drums for a while (that guy can seriously do no wrong in my book), but Kid, the drummer, is one of the best drummers out there and he seriously stole the show for me. I wish I could have stayed longer, but there was so much to see and do at ATP that I couldn't stop running around.
There was so much more that happened, that I saw, that I heard, that I felt and that I experienced. I just can't get it all down in words, and in a way, don't really feel like it either. I'm sure different things will be used in different pieces of writing over the next few months...
These were only MY highlights, I am sure that other people had other highlights, but this is my personal opinion. You can of course feel free to disagree... Can't wait til next year!!