All Tomorrow’s Parties at Pier 36, Manhattan on Sunday, September 23, 2012. Text by Max Burke, photos by Tim Bugbee.
Photos & Post-Game Analysis
All Tomorrow’s Parties first foray in New York City took place this weekend. We’ve already brought you pics from Day 1 and Day 2, and to accompany the final set of Day 3 pics, we present a quick wrap-up of the event to complement our pregame report from last week.
When The Game Turned: Although Friday night offered a few memorable performances, it couldn’t help but feel sparse. After the last minute cancellation of Lee Ranaldo’s “hanging guitar” performance (“replaced” by a ninety minute Edan DJ set), there was only a thirty minutes set aside for Philip Glass & Tyondai Braxton, and then headliner Frank Ocean closed the night. The lack of a late-night DJ set or central gathering area meant that the party was over just when it was about to get started. For me, the game turned early on Saturday during Emeralds’ performance. Performing as a duo of Mark McGuire and Steve Hauschlidt (third Emerald John Elliott was absent). they were the first proper band to play on the outdoor, under-the-FDR stage. An unbroken 45-minute plus piece was a showcase for the patient, focused aesthetic and the result was a perfect marriage between McGuire’s beguiling looped guitar tone and Hauschlidt’s calculated synth maneuvers. The duo’s efforts would inaugurate a Saturday that was mostly a high-energy succession of peaks, including Charles Bradley, Dirty Three and a madcap finale from The Roots. As a band, they are as organic, pulsing, and seamless as a ?uestlove DJ set, a perfect amalgam of all the odds and ends that makes music great, emitted into reality as pure joy.
Highlight Moments: The final set of the festival was from Demdike Stare, the UK post-dubstep electronic duo who take inspiration from esoteric film soundtracks and other aural ephemera.Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s two hour ritual that resulted in an actual room-clearing by the end of Sunday night, leaving behind the surreal scene of just a sparse crowd sprawled out on the floor of Pier 36, absorbing a transfixing mélange of sample-based thinking man’s dance music.
Lee Ranaldo’s frenzied take on “Revolution Blues,” a Neil Young tirade from the early 70s, certainly appealed to the rockist portion of the crowd, and the spilled petrol/smouldering match combo of Hot Snakes likely made the cars travelling above on FDR drive feel it through the floorboards. Lastly, the word ‘dervish’ could not be more well-matched to the psyclone with kicking legs, Warren Ellis of The Dirty Three, as he led his fellow Aussie rhythm section through a wind storm that can cut stone like high velocity wind or slowly dripping water.
Going Forward: The first ATP at the Pier 36 location wasn’t the disaster that many naysayers predicted. Lineups on both Saturday and Sunday were exceptionally strong, offering the perfect mix of acts that the ATP audience demands. Friday was weak, and a few more acts and activities would have been greatly welcome. The lack of Don’t Look Back sets (an ATP innovation where bands are invited to play classic albums in their entirety) was also an issue. The Dirtbombs were originally scheduled to play Ultraglide In Black, by consensus their best album, but ended up with a standard setlist – by no means bad, but an example of that lack of ATP magic. For myself and others I spoke with, the main issue was simply the lack of an all-inclusive festival site. Pier 36 is isolated for Manhattan, and there are very few amenities within walking distance, especially after dark. The inexplicable decision to site the festival’s after-hours activities at the Ace Hotel – nearly fifty blocks uptown – contributed to this problem. Nostalgia for Kutsher’s was much more pronounced than at last year’s Asbury Park event.
The Bottom Line: ATP in New York City was an exceptionally well-executed festival for the discerning fan, but some key thoughtful improvements could make it something much more.