After about 45 minutes, I arrived at Kutschers “Resort,” which was a cross between the Shining and what you would expect from a ’60s era Borscht-Belt hotel that had not been invested in for over 40 years. It looked cool at first with its kitschy sign out front, but after a few minutes, it was obvious this spot had been moth-balled in the ’80s and probably should have been torn down about 15 or 20 years ago. Most of the comedians performing later that evening used the hotel & its shabby, creepy environs as the bulk of their material–good stuff, but an easy target all around. Memo to ATP: if you are charging such ginormous ticket prices–easily the most I have ever paid for a concert or weekend of concerts–and you do not mail the tickets to the customer–instead of making the customers wait in a 1/2 hour line to pick up their tickets once they arrive at the venue, you should have a butler at the door of the hotel handing over the tickets in a gold-leafed envelope with a small mound of cocaine to share with Kevin Shields in the back of a limo, or, at the very least, less than 5 minute waiting lines. After waiting for 1/2 hour line to pick up my ticket, I then had to get in a line to get a bracelet to buy drinks. By then the Meat Puppets had already begun their 6:00 set. Poor planning, indeed!
However, once the music started, things went much smoother and the fun began. The Meat Puppets were awesome, and it was particularly funny hearing them play songs they had either never played live or hadn’t played live in over 20 years.
But they did a great job and then played a couple of encores. I then bounced over to hear some great comedy at the smaller ballroom–shows ran remarkably on time at this fest, with the exception of the headliner Sunday night/Monday morning. I caught funnyman Joe DeRosa, who started things off pretty well but, surprisingly, toldMcDonald’s jokes, which I would not have expected with this transplanted batch of Williamsburg hipsters (I think I was one of the oldest there and definitely one of the few not wearing unbelievably tight jeans and all black) making the bulk of the audience with a few Europeans mixed in. Then Eugene Mirman, who I had not noticed as landlord in Flight of the Conchords, followed. He was really good but seemed to have not done a lot of live comedy–so far so good. (At this point, I was skipping Tortoise, who are super-duper incredibly boring live–kind of like watching their cd spin in a cd player–as well asThurston Moore’s playing of Psychic Hearts, which would have been nice to hear, but good live comedy is so hard to encounter these days so I rolled with that). Maria Bamford followed and she was the equivalent of a female Emo Phillips to me. Most of her humor bordered on the uncomfortably neurotic for my tastes, but I’m sure she has her fans. Patton Oswalt headlined this great evening of comedy & really killed with plenty of sweaty, fat jokes about himself as well as numerous jabs at the hotel and its unique ambiance. I was not familiar with his work, but I am definitely a fan now.
Then most folks headed over to catch a stellar set of Built to Spill and, as usual, they were amazing and high energy.
So, the 1st night I had a blast and caught 4 1/2 great acts in one night. I headed back to the cabin and spent Saturday with my brother and his family. I was surprised how much fun the Catskills were, all jokes aside. Saturday’s line-up didn’t do too much for me–lots of noize–Lightning Bolt/Shellac (yawn!); a few bands I always liked but have seen before & weren’t must-sees like Polvo & Low, but most were bands/acts I’d heard nothing about–(plus I didn’t get to play poker with legendary music biz curmudgeon Steve Albini, bummer!).
So, I passed on Saturday, and Sunday was very excitement, as Boratwould say. (By the way, these festivals that begin at noon and end at 2:00 a.m. the next day require some planning in terms of energy, beverages, & food. The food at this festival sucked donkey dicks. They had some mediocre Mexican food and really shitty dorm burgersfor sale outside by what looked like the local cheerleader fundraising group or possibly the local shriners–yep, the kind you get for weekend cookouts from the college cafeteria–and hotdogs that had been cooked a couple hours earlier and wrapped in tinfoil. This quality level of food at a festival that is so isolated and expensive was really poorly planned and totally unacceptable). I didn’t get there in time for Gemma Hayes, who sounded fine on myspace, but I started with EPMD, who had a high energy but fairly rote performance with maximum hip-hop cliches. They were pimpin’ a new album and might as well have been at a high school dance for their lack of awareness of where they were playing. I think they even gave a shout out to being in Albany (! No shit!), which was about an hour and a half away. The much-anticipated Mercury Rev followed. This is a band I have been a fan of since Rough Tradewent out of business in 1991 and Grasshopper and David Baker were going cross country selling their lps and dropped by Shangri-la Recordsand sold us a few colored vinyl copies of Yerself is Steam. Since they rarely tour the deep South, this was my first chance to see them. Well, most of the folks who created their early ’90s gems I love are no longer in this outfit, and they were the cat’s ass. Total suckage. The few songs I endured would have been more appropriate in a Broadway musical and the lead guy should have joined the Smiths for all his artsy-fartsy movements. “Mercury Rev” was the biggest disappointment of the weekend, especially since they were the local boys done good from just around the corner. Oh, well.
Yo La Tengo was running late because of airline difficulties and played their unsettling, hurried set as if they had to catch a flight. Ira’s rushing through the set was uncomfortable to watch & hard to enjoy. Not their best day. Bob Mould was playing in the comedy ballroom so I checked that out. The irony of the weekend was that Bob Mould’s band Husker Du had really trailblazed the music world and set the stage for many of these bands playing ATP25 years earlier, but most of them had bypassed Mould in their use of noise and modern effects to squeeze the best, edgiest sounds from guitars & pedals & computers. Watching Mould play through his set of his solo stuff (with Jon from Superchunk on drums) as well as Sugar songs was like watching a band that time had passed by in slow motion. These new bands had supplanted the groundbreaking work he had done 25 years earlier with far more vivacious efforts. Such is life.
The lately omnipresent Dinosaur Jr. was cranking up their sound in the big room so I caught a couple of their really loud songs. I’ve seen them a couple times lately so even though Lou actually looked like he was having fun on this occasion, I left them to check out Brian Jonestown Massacre’s set in the smaller room. Having seen Dig! a couple years back, I knew that this Anton from BJM came off as a self-absorbed, drug-addled asshole, and his band, who has some great songs on record, could be really bad or really good. Suffice to say that their set was the best of the weekend. The only way I can describe it would be if you were really high around 1982 and caught the Dream Syndicate in a small club for one of their perfect shows. All three guitars meshed perfectly and Anton was nowhere near a douchebag. Much success. This band was awesome and the definitely the highlight of the weekend. In fact, their performance is the raison d’etre for this post. You, dear reader, have the chance to catch them thisSaturday night, April 11th, at the Hi Tone here in Memphis. I would encourage music fans to attend.
Ending up the ATP weekend several hours later, My Bloody Valentine was set to hit the stage to much anticipation around midnight. Pretty much the whole crowd was there to see them by 11:30 p.m. & 1500 gathered in the big room to hear this band. Every other band ran on time this weekend except MBV so it was really unusual for everyone to wait until about 12:35 Monday morning for them to finally come on stage. Most people had been waiting in that room for over an hour. They finally began and were excrutiatingly loud. Even with earplugs. All five of the songs I heard sounded the same since they were all so loud. The wierdest thing was that Kevin Shields has been out of rock ‘n roll for so long that he had to have a roadie come out after each song and step on his effects pedals to reset them. What a total wanker! Can’t even press his own foot pedals. I left after 5 songs, fully sated with the Brian Jonestown Massacre and totally disappointed by MBV.
(If you plan on going to this year’s ATP, do not stay at Kutscher’s as all of the hotel rooms had nasty, roach-infested Motel Hell like experiences. Most of the people staying there went to Wal-Mart to buy something like a sleeping bag or rubber raft to put on the beds in order to sleep in that hotel. Also, bring your own food and plan on cooking out as there are few restaurants around there you would want to eat in. Camping is definitely cheaper and more convenient and most likely a better experience than the hotel). Kudos to ATP for an outstanding line-up, but, ATP, work on the food & hotel location! It can definitely be improved &, for that much money, the experience should have been much better.