The third annual edition of All Tomorrow’s Parties New York is just around the corner, taking place Labor Day weekend at Kutsher’s Country Club in the sleepy Catskills town of Monticello, N.Y. The setting is as distinct and intimate as they come, guaranteeing once-in-a-lifetime sets from headliners like Iggy & The Stooges (performing Raw Power with James Williamson on guitar), Sonic Youth, Shellac, The Breeders, and Hope Sandoval.
In addition to the well-known names, ATP can always be counted on to present an internationally diverse roster of up-and-comers as well as rare appearances by lesser known cult acts. And if you burn out on the music, there’s a world-class cinema curated by Criterion, as well as trivia, art exhibits and a poker room hosted by Steve Albini. Yes, that Steve Albini. The intimate setting and music nerd’s wet dream lineup combine to make ATP the premiere enthusiast music festival in North America. As usual, Prefix will be on-site and delivering interviews, set reviews, and photographs from this year’s ATP. But before we headed upstate, we wanted to point out five acts you can’t afford to miss at Kutsher’s this Labor Day weekend.
Music Snob Credibility Factor: Along with bands such as Earth, Sleep defined the “stoner doom” sound in the 1990s, and their epic swan song, Dopesmoker, spawned whole sub-genres full of imitators. At ATP they’ll be performing 1992’s definitive statement, Holy Mountain, in its entirety.
Why It’s A Must-See: Since disbanding nearly 15 years ago and splitting into the hypnotic minimalist stoner duo Om and progressive thrash-metal outfit High on Fire, the members of Sleep have reformed only once, to play an ATP even in England last year. They’ll be playing some scattered dates and festivals around their ATP performance, but the intimacy and sound quality of the now famous Stardust Ballroom at Kutsher’s all but ensures that this will be the definitive performance of the current reunion, which has Neurosis‘s Jason Roeder replacing Chris Haikus on drums.
Band: Hallogallo 2010
Music Snob Credibility Factor: Michael Rother is one of the living legends of Krautrock, a wide-ranging and oft-misunderstood genre comprising a diverse array of German experimental rock and electronic acts that proliferated in the 1970s. The most widely known were Kraftwerk (whom Rother played with in one of their earliest incarnations) and Can, but Rother’s Neu! — a duo with the late drummer Klaus Dinger — is considered just as influential by aficionados. Hallogallo 2010 is a Rother-led trio that includes Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley on drums and ATP house sound engineer, Tall Firs frontman and long time Sonic Youth sound engineer Aaron Mullan, recruited to perform and expand upon the musical legacy of Neu!.
Why It’s A Must-See: Even in its heyday, Neu! rarely played live. Rother has convened Hallogallo 2010 not as merely a tribute act but as living interpreters of Neu!’s music. Early reports from international festival dates have been ecstatic, and the proprietary soundsystem that ATP brings in, as well as Mullan’s mixing expertise, should ensure a sonically profound experience for long-time Neu! adherents and recent converts alike.
Music Snob Credibility Factor: Although listed rather low on the bill for Saturday, Fursaxa (the nom d’artiste of Tara Burke, formerly of ’90s Siltbreeze bedroom psychedelia wizards UN) has spent most of the last decade putting out releases on the underground’s most notable labels, such as Time-Lag, Ecstatic Peace and Eclipse. Although loosely associated with the New Weird America/freak-folk movement of the mid-’00s, Burke has forged her own path as an artist, her work having as much in common with more traditional revivalists like Espers (with whose members she has collaborated frequently) as with the dronier side of the American underground, such as the effects-pedal-fueled drone epics of the late, lamented Double Leopards.
Why It’s A Must-See: ATP’s appeal is as much about seeing huge acts in intimate venues as it is about seeing smaller acts on big stages with massive sound systems. The chance to see Fursaxa’s complex, layered hybrid of folk and electronic music should not be missed. No word on whether frequent collaborator Helena Espvall will be joining Burke, but their recent performance together at an Important Records showcase in Brooklyn was tremendous.
Band: White Hills
Music Snob Credibility Factor: Groove-oriented, thoroughly fried psychedelic rock music is back in a big way, and ATP’s Sunday lineup is indicative of this trend, sporting not only Brooklyn trio White Hills but also San Francisco’s Wooden Shjips and Austin’s Black Angels. Although White Hills appear to have a steady following in Europe, their stateside visibility is unclear. Kindred spirits with neo-psychedelic forefathers Oneida, with whom they share a studio space and occasionally a drummer, and signed to Chicago’s venerable Thrill Jockey, at ATP the band may find the stage it needs to fully break out after delivering one of 2010’s most thoroughly enjoyable records.
Why It’s A Must-See: White Hills’ sound is big, full of space and dynamic range, but most of the venues the band plays are small. Cramped clubs and bars can’t do justice to such an expansive vision, so the chance to catch them at full volume with a perfectly balanced mix on a stage as big as ATP’s might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. On the other hand, if the band catapults to the much-deserved upper echelons of success, you can say you saw them when.
Band: Sunn0))) & Boris
Music Snob Credibility Factor: Although it may be cliché to pick a headliner as one of the band’s to watch, the team-up of arguably the two biggest names in experimental metal, whose differing styles define the aesthetic of the hugely influential Southern Lord label, is too big an event to ignore. The group will be performing their 2006 collaboration, Altar, in its entirety. On record, spread over three LPs, Altar was almost too unwieldy to appreciate, its lumbering slow-burn approach resulting in a record that was monumental and impenetrable to a fault. Live, and presumably pushing the reds on the ATP soundsystem to their legal and ethical limits, Altar promises to open up and reveal itself.
Why It’s A Must-See: Although Boris‘s greatest records may be behind them, their live show is firing on all cylinders, and they presumably will be joined not so secret weapon, touring guitarist Michio Kurihara (of Ghost). Sunn0))) are on the critical rebound. After a few years of lackluster releases and growing resentment from the doom-metal community, the band released Monoliths & Dimensions in 2009 to great acclaim, refining their sound even further away from anything resembling traditional metal and into a wilderness of dark ambient and bewildering low frequencies. Sunn0))) will be joined by Jesse Sykes and Phil Wandscher for this special one-off performance, a repeat of a 2007 gig in London.