Day 2 dawned earlier than most probably wanted it to...once the vein-in-the-temple pounding of the utterly amazing Jesus Lizard set had subsided, it was time to hang out with friends over a beer and a smoke, then slowly shuffle off to bed (or in my case, the ~10 minute drive to the Raleigh, which had a chain-link entrance fence manned 24 hours a day...I am still trying to figure out the need for such vigilant security for a dilapidated hotel complex). Today would mark the first day of bands on both stages, and the absence of a photo pit for either room would make decisions on when to leave for either location a bit of a critical undertaking, and as a result I only saw fragments of most sets. And that's just talking about the bands...aside from basic human necessities like nutrition, hydration, and digestion, there were movie screenings all day long, two sessions of interviews (King Buzzo and Jon Spencer) hosted by Ian Svenonius for Soft Focus, and the poker table manned by Steve Albini. Personally, the toughest decision to be made loomed for later on in the evening, but let's not get ahead ourselves quite yet; there will be plenty of time for brain overload. Which is actually one of the best parts of the festival. You know that no one can possibly experience everything they'd like to check out without access to a doppelganger machine, but plan B is never a letdown if Plan A can't work for whatever reason.
The day started off on a quiet note, as Sufjan Stevens played a beautifully-rendered performance of Seven Swans in front of a hushed crowd. There were no feathered wing props adorning Sufjan's back, just his gentle voice and a full band which knew when to step back and fade in the shadows, or come forward and lend a warm, sympathetic sound to the reverent tones of Sufjan's gently plucked banjo and guitar. After catching a really brief glimpse of the lovely lasses of Bridezilla and their unusual take on chamber pop, unfortunately I missed Grouper's set but heard from a friend that it was the sort of lovely low-murk creepiness that defines Liz's sound. If that sounds like a back-handed compliment, it's not. Circulatory System was next on the second stage and leader Will Hart's collection of Elephant Six Collective veterans filled the stage with people and instruments, and filled the air with the sort of off-kilter/fractured prism glimpse of '60s psych and folk sounds that he began with Olivia Tremor Control. After catching a lot of the King Buzzo interview (who by the way should run his own comedy hour on some network...the man has a very sharp wit and is hilarious) and some of the Jon Spencer interview, I rushed over to the second stage for Bradford Cox's set as Atlas Sound. He made a somewhat poor decision to play sitting, since that meant anyone who wasn't right at the barricade rail could see anything, but perhaps he's not comfortable playing acoustic guitar while standing. Wayne Coyne was noticeably present at side stage, taking in the performance which opened with an Elizabeth Cotton cover; perhaps the good folks of fIREHOSE turned him onto her. I'd left the room but a friend reported that Bradford was having considerable technical difficulties with his gear and spent a fair chunk of time troubleshooting rather than moving on to something else, which killed a lot of the momentum. Despite the held-out hopes of the throngs, Panda Bear/Noah Lennox didn't join the stage for "Walkabout," the collaboration they did on the forthcoming Logos record.
The mosiac of underground sounds that ATP organizers are interested in displaying isn't restricted to skinny white guys with guitars or laptops, and today's hip-hop contingent was represented by Antipop Consortium and El-P. Compared to last year's offerings (Edan and EPMD) these were full-fledged offerings from a performer perspective; instead of a DJ, both acts brought a multitude of people on stage. The bass in the main room was boomin' and El-P traded some razor-sharp rhymes with his foil, working the edges of the stage constantly. A quick shuffle over to the second room found Akron/Family playing to a very full room. This was the first time I've seen them as a three piece, and in a contrary manner they seemed to get jammier with less personnel. Can a Jambase-sponsored tour be far behind? A quick meal later (the food was improved from last year, though beer was more expensive) and I was at the front for the Autolux set. They were a last-minute scratch from last year, but more than made up for it with a scintillating mix of Mary Chain bass, Moore/Ranaldo guitar scrape/slash/smudge, and propulsive drumming from the Greek goddess look of Carla Azar. Great set, one of the bands I'd not seen before who really impressed.
Now the tough part of the evening. There was substantial overlap between some sets I really wanted to see all of, and in the end Boss Hog and the Melvins won out, at the expense of Deerhunter and part of Dead Meadow. Apparently Bradford made an announcement from the stage that the band was going on an unspecified hiatus, but I'd seen them a couple of times already and had never seen Boss Hog. And the Melvins make most bands redundant. Dead Meadow sounded really good. For a very loud three piece they have a really warm, almost amniotic sound to them, one like drowning in honey. It was not easy to leave their set, but when Shellac is on stage about one thousand feet away, it's pretty obvious choice to make. Shellac has never been about pretensions, and their no-nonsense approach to life in general was on full display. No fancy stage kit, just bright white light, three guys across the stage in a horizontal fashion, and gritty, abrasive, energetic rock that swings heavier than a woolly mammoth's ball sack. The Q&A that Bob Weston enlists with the audience between songs is also worth a few laughs, proving that they are not just stern-faced humorless men who play serious music.
It was tough to only stay for a few songs, but I wanted to get up front for Boss Hog, who I'd never seen play. Managing to somehow lose a lens hood on my way out of Shellac, I nevertheless got a prime spot for the suddenly re-emergent Boss Hog, and they blasted a b-side ("Dedicated") right out of the gate. Hopes for the earlier, grungier side of Boss Hog when they were a going concern with Pussy Galore went unfulfilled but we did get to hear "Fix Me" from their infamous debut LP. Otherwise, it was mostly material from the last two records but it sounded great, especially the swampy riffs of "Jaguar." Jon was looking dapper in his vest and tailored pants while playing his battered guitar, and Christina prowled around the stage in full command, black feathers flying off her v neck shirt as she whipped the mic cord around like a leather-clad lion tamer. Drummer Hollis Queens has lost her dreads but not her time-keeping style nor vocal prowess, on display during "Whiteout."
Staying in the same spot for the last set of the second stage from Melvins meant forgoing Deerhunter's set, but I'd made peace with that decision, and the ultra-brutal and precise double-drum pounding of Dale Crover and Coady Willis would prove to be prophetic of things to come the next day. Seriously these guys are the Swiss watch of rock percussion, amazing to see people who hit with such power on every beat, but never veer from course. With their massive, conjoined kit at the very back of the stage, Buzzo had plenty of space to move around and he was more mobile than I'd seen him, prowling around while slashing out ultra-heavy and tight riffs on his polished Travis Bean. They played a lot of the newer stuff but like a turbo-charged steam roller; no long grind outs, this was like getting flattened by Adrian Peterson in full-stride. I think in typical Melvins' style, their sly sense of humor (and potential jab at Sunday's headliners/curators the Flaming Lips) was present in Jared's choice of clothing (a zebra robe) and the last song "Okie From Muskogee," where Jared dove from the stage ("Don't drop me!") and sang from the floor amongst the crowd.
The day was capped by the dense throbs of Animal Collective, who filled the main stage room with tyro ravers. I know everyone's tripping all over themselves to place another flowered laurel around the collective neck of the band and their Merriweather Post Pavilion release, and I suppose I cannot begrudge their movement from inscrutable sound sculptors to post-ecstasy dance floor fillers, but their sound really doesn't captivate me. Perhaps it was the conclusion of a long day, but I didn't hear anything that grabbed me. Of course, a set filled with material from Here Comes The Indian would have sank like last year's stock market and most people appeared to be really into Animal Collective's set, so it's probably just me.
|Hanne Hukkelberg, HIGHLIFE, Sian Alice Group, Vorhees - Sian Alice Group, Hanne Hukkelberg @ Mercury Lounge (Pics)||Autolux, Sleepy Sun Autolux, Sleepy Sun @ MHOW (Pics)|