So I went to ATP Asbury Park a.k.a. All Tomorrow's Parties a.k.a. I'll Be Your Mirror a.k.a. whatever on Saturday. It was unbelievable. Best festival I've attended. I don't want to write much on account of I'm currently taking a break from an Iliad essay I'm writing, and I don't want to start, you know, like, typing "Geoff Barrow" instead of "Achilleus"... Okay, so here were my favorite acts. (You'll notice I saw a ton of people; this is because ATP makes it easy to at least see, like, twenty minutes of almost everyone, which is awesome. (Also, I'd like to state that everyone I saw was good, so the rankings are a little arbitrary.))
1. Portishead (pictured above)
I mean, it was their first East Coast show since 1998--their mere presence was going to make this the best set of the day. But they also sounded really freakin' great: heavy, dark, soulful, and with plenty of turntable breaks and a truly goosebump-inducing rendering of "Wandering Star." Beth Gibbons sounded great and looked like she was having a ball of a time, which was pleasant to see. The fact that they curated the amazing lineup earns the band another handful of bonus points.
Unfortunately I had to cut out after an hour of Swans to get ready for, well, Portishead--but an hour of Swans is an hour well spent. This is assuming your definition of "well spent" involves getting blasted with a wall of distortion and chimes by a band that looks as ugly as it sounds (seriously, the band members all look like escaped convicts, Gira (wearing a cowboy hat) included). Truly, though, they just sound so damn good.
3. The Pop Group
I had kind of forgotten how much I love The Pop Group until about ten minutes before their set. And then I was like, "The band that made Y is about to play their first show in thirty years..." Play a show, they did. They were manic and angry and fun and LOUD. Mark Stewart is one of the most imposing--he's humongous!--and awesome frontmen I've seen, and the band was able to recreate the dub-punk-jazz sound they helped pioneer very well live.
Battles is only this low because I'd seen them before. Even without Ty Braxton, though (who was present last time I saw them), the band was absolutely incredible. They're able to be more precise than everyone while still being heavier than everyone (except, well, Swans). The energy emanating from a Battles show could power my computer, which, coincidentally is in dire need of power right now...
5. Colin Stetson
Like I said, my computer's running low on battery, and I need to write at least a little more of this essay--so I'll keep it short. Colin Stetson plays a mean saxophone, but what struck me about his show was it felt more like a Steve Reich thing than a Peter Brotzmann thing.
6. Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog
Ribot is one of the best guitarists I've ever seen live, and Shazad Ismaily is in his band--and that dude just rules.
I also saw Beak>, The Horrors, Silver-Qluster, and Ultramagnetic MC's--all of whom were quite good. Mazel Tov, Portishead and the creators of ATP. I'll be back next year.
Oh yeah! I also met Jim Jarmusch on the train ride there. Damn!