What's At Stake:
This is the first ATP in New York City proper. After three years at the beloved, crumbling Kutsher's upstate and last year's Portishead-curated incarnation at Asbury Park, ATP has made the move to the big city (this has been in the works for some time: as early as 2003, plans were in the works for a Stephen Malkmus-curated event in NYC). Missing will be the insular, community-oriented sleepaway camp atmosphere of previous ATPs, instead they are taking over the new and largely unproven Pier 36 complex in downtown. This means that ATP is no longer a destination festival, but is betting on capturing some of NYC's massive audience. Recent reports from the ATP camp suggest that many of the unique traits that define the ATP brand will be out in force: Criterion Collection film screenings (on a boat no less), a book club (curated by Lapham's Quarterly) and even a Scotch tasting. When it's all over, ATP will have shown whether they can compete in the crowded and hyper-competitive NYC festival market.
We get fed better, and paid better...I had my own room last time. We're playing rooms the same size we did before we were reunited but now we play festivals. We didn't play festivals before, now we are. We were asked by Barry this time and Les Savvy Fav the first. We are very grateful to have been asked.”
- Froberg on the festival circuit and being asked to play ATP
The belated addition of Frank Ocean to the bill and his subsequent elevation to headliner status must have some longtime ATPers (myself included) scratching their heads. Ocean is a deliriously hyped major label R&B artist whose ATP warm-up show was playing the season premiere of Saturday Night Live. It's hard to read this move as anything but an overt bid to entice trend-conscious New Yorkers to give ATP a shot. On the other hand, Ocean is an idiosyncratic talent and ATP curator Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs) is a confessed superfan – its adventurous programming like this that elevated ATP above generic festivals in the first place.
Players To Watch:
ATP perennials Godspeed! You Black Emperor, Dirty Three and Lee Ranaldo (playing a full band song-oriented set in addition to an experimental set) ground the lineup, and Greg Dulli's influence has the potential to turn Saturday into a wall-to-wall dance party with Charles Bradley, The Dirtbombs and The Roots in the mix. Watch for Scrawl, old Dulli associates and underserved also-rans of the late 80s/early 90s who took the raw components of post-punk and rebuilt them as a template for the explosive Riot Grrl scene.
Sunday's lineup, chosen by ATP, will feature a rare appearance by Hot Snakes, beloved San Diego punk stalwarts formed by John Reis (Rocket from the Crypt) and Rick Froberg, who previously played together in Drive Like Jehu. The group's snotty vocals with pitch-black lyrical content provided by Froberg and primal guitar sound by Reis combined with a pounding rhythm section left a strong impression during their initial six-year run. This is evident in the enthusiasm attending the reunion shows, as new and old fans alike can soak the group in all over again for the first time.
Everybody, including us, made a concerted and conscious effort to change San Diego from a second rung independent music city, and it has. We all cared. It's tough to care about Brooklyn. It certainly doesn't care. You get your people here for sure, and we have that, but you can't really connect with the whole thing here. It's too big.”
- Froberg on the fertile San Diego music scene of the 1990s versus the overheated Brooklyn scene of now
For some, a chance to see The Make-Up live is the weekend's top attraction. The Ian Svenious-led garage-soul pioneers were renowned for their live shows, that energy never translated to their studio LPs. Triumphant reports from their show at ATP London this Summer bode well for an unforgettable Sunday night send-off.
There's no getting around the fact that this year's ATP comes with legitimate questions. A new venue, significant line-up changes and general uncertainties surrounding the ATP organization have all dogged the build up to the main event. However, ATP have proven time and again that betting against them is a bad gambit. This is because the core values that define the ATP experience – zero corporate sponsorship, a commitment to artist-focused lineups and an unparalleled dedication to their fans – have remained intact for over a decade. It's particularly easy for the hyper-specialist music fanatics that ATP courts to speculate and naysay, but a successful stateside ATP is good news for New York and adventurous punters anywhere. Longtime ATP attendees are prone to using the nebulous term “vibe” to describe what makes the experience so unique, and this cannot be discounted. When everything comes together at ATP – a rare performance by a talented band in a relaxed, music-focused environment surrounded by a dedicated crowd of veteran music enthusiasts – there's nothing better in the world.
We talk now and again. He's hanging in there. I don't think he's touched his drums in awhile. I wish he would.”
- Froberg on Mark Trombino, drummer for the legendary Drive Like Jehu