The All Tomorrow’s Parties music marathon continued into day three on Sunday. The line-up for the third day of ATP NY is always hand-picked by an invited curator. In years past the curators of ATP NY have been My Bloody Valentine and The Flaming Lips. Being a DJ, I think this is one of the most unique and cool festival traditions ever; the curator basically gets to program their own music festival, sharing and sometimes inflicting their eclectic tastes with/on the world. This year ATP invited Jim Jarmusch to curate day three of ATP NY. Jarmusch is known as an guiding light in indie film making with films like “Mystery Train” and “Dead Man”, but he also has strong musical connections that make him an inspired choice to curate. Jarmusch’s films are chock full of great music and he has employed a host of great musicians as actors over the years ranging from Joe Strummer to GZA. Perhaps the most interesting and little known Jim Jarmusch music factoid is that the man himself was in a No Wave band in the early 80’s called The Del-Byzanteens. He even did a secret jam with No Age in a hotel room at ATP NY 2009.
Jarmusch did not disappoint as curator. His hand-picked programming featured a wide-range of styles including hip-hop, lo-fi, heavy psych, hardcore punk, blues, and doom metal. Attending ATP on Sunday was like living inside Jim Jarmusch’s iPod for a day. I spent most of the day hanging out at the second stage, which is set up in a large dining hall where one could imagine wedding receptions and bar mitzvah parties taking place for the last 50 years. ATP transforms this room into a bunker nightclub by blocking all outside light with blackout curtains which adds a weird London Blitz vibe to the place too. Second stage makes for a very odd setting to see live music performed and watching a day full of guitar freak-outs and psychedelic melt-downs there seemed like a perfect fit. Adding to the surreal nature of my second stage day, I kept seeing Jim Jarmusch everywhere!*
Saturday in the Catskills ushered in a chilly preview of fall weather along with Day Two of All Tomorrow’s Parties. On deck were two stages full of bands hand-picked by the All Tomorrow’s Parties staff to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of their festival series (which began in the UK with the Bowlie Weekender curated by Belle & Sebastian in 1999). In addition to the two stages full of premium indie rock, there were also trivia games, a cinema organized by the Criterion Collection, a book club, a film discussion with Thurston Moore and Jim Jarmusch, and various other fun distractions peppered through-out the Kutshers Resort.
Kutshers is an aged relic of the Borscht Belt and serves as the perfect spot for ATP NY every year. Imagine the hotel from Dirty Dancing gone the way of The Shining and you get a good idea of what this sprawling complex looks and feels like. The years of wear and tear show on every surface in the place, including in the Starlight Ballroom (main stage) and the Dining Room (second stage). The whole place feels like ATP found this former Class-A resort in a thrift shop somewhere. It has got the perfect level of funkiness and seclusion to make the whole ATP weekend feel like you are one of the castaways in an indie-music version of LOST. I staked my camp in the Starlight Ballroom all-day on Saturday to take in an unbelievably cool array of quality acts.
Once a year the music geek Illuminati meet in their secret headquarters tucked deep in the Catskill Mountains of New York to revel in an orgy of booze, obscure band t-shirts, and unbelievable live music performances by the best-of-the-best in underground music past and present. They call their yearly gathering All Tomorrow’s Parties New York (ATP NY); this weekend the Catskills played host to the third such meeting of the music-minded with a phenomenal three day festival that is really unlike any other. Only at ATP NY could I be dancing at 2AM on a Sunday in a microscopic hotel lounge to the live DJ skills of Kool Herc (the undisputed father of Hip-Hop), spot Jim Jarmusch and GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan across the room, and get high-fived by a group of complete strangers because I am wearing a t-shirt for the obscure noise-rock band The God Bullies. For a music geek the trip to ATP NY is a pilgrimage that must be made at least once before you die. This weekend was my second time attending this spectacular celebration of live music and the international music-geek community.* It was one of the most pleasant and enjoyable weekends of live music I’ve ever had.
Each year ATP NY opens with an evening of full album sets as part of their Don’t Look Back series.** This year’s festival opened with the ridiculous Friday night line-up of The Scientists, Mudhoney, Iggy & The Stooges, and Sleep. Each would perform at the highest level and raise the bar for the band to follow. After watching the legendary Australian post-punk rockers The Scientists play their first ever US-show, Mudhoney time-warp us all back to the dirty and dangerous Grunge emergence, and The Stooges whip the crowd into a sweaty inferno fueled by their own mashed human bodies, Sleep emerged to crush us with two-hours of ultra-heavy stoner-doom metal. How any of us survived the first night to continue rocking for another two full-schedule days is a miracle.