Every fantasy you ever had of exploring the resort hotel from Dirty Dancing, every furtive wish that you’d someday get the chance to say hi to J Mascis face-to-face, and every hope that you could wander through a surreal reality for days sans chemical assistance came to life this weekend at Kutsher’s Country Club, the once-thriving Catskills resort that hasn’t seen a coat of paint since its 1980’s decline from fashion. While, in Patton Oswalt’s words, “The rooms smell like a fart that just gave up,” Kutshers’ endless hallways, hidden lounges, Steve Albini-helmed poker games, and playground of broken and possibly illegal (read: awesome) swings and other kiddie-fare made All Tomorrow’s Parties’ first American event an unforgettable end to the summer festival season.
Here, SPIN.com’s still-in-awe Abigail Everdell hands out awards to the festival’s best, worst, and everything noteworthy in between.
LEAST PREPARED MUSICIAN: THURSTON MOOREWhile the Meat Puppets may not have hit every note during their otherwise fantastic performance of Meat Puppets II (1984), and Tortoise’s Jeff Parker frowned through a few difficult riffs before hitting a wide-smiling stride, Thurston Moore’s shuffling through a stack of sheet music between every song of 1995’s Psychic Hearts showed a level of unpreparedness one can only expect from a perpetually-teenaged label owner who’s still promoting his new book. With perfect charm, Moore admitted, “This album was written in a day, recorded the same day, and mixed that evening.” So, I guess it took that long to practice, too?
MOST LIKELY TO CALL YOU A “BABY BURNER”: BUILT TO SPILLAfter the ecstatic completion of his head-bobbling performance of Perfect From Now On (1997), band leader Doug Martsch launched into an epic encore, but not before announcing to the crowd, “Not to bum you out, but all my friends in Europe think us Americans are a bunch of baby burners.” It didn’t make sense, but it did bum us out.
MOST LIKELY TO MAKE FUCK BUTTONS FEEL BAD ABOUT THEMSELVES: HARMONIA Fuck Buttons make noise by today’s 8-bit standards, but the young British duo’s animal yelps paled next to Lightning Bolt’s screaming drum torrent, while their fuzz-and-bells sounded haphazard and trivial after Growing’s delicate and thunderous industrial psyche. But the real one-uppers of the night were Harmonia, the trio of ex-Neu!/Cluster Krautrock heavyweights, who constructed cavernous crystalline chambers of sound before tearing them down with growls as rough and raw as any lo-fi whiteout. Take that, Fuck Buttons.
MOST POTENTIAL FOR INJURY:LES SAVY FAV After a riotous set that saw red wine spat into the crowd, Les Savy Fav frontman Tim Harrington invited the pit onstage, balancing a ladder in the middle of them, and climbing up to the precariously swaying top steps, adding 10-feet of extra danger to his punk delirium. “I caught a few minutes of the set,” said 30-year-old Kutsher’s employee Hedy, “It’s great the way they interact with their audience.” If by “great” you mean insane, we agree.
MOST HEART-TUGGING PERFORMANCE: YO LA TENGO Even if you’d never heard of the been-around-forever New Jersey-based indie rockers, their set’s juxtapostion of nostalgic beach-mist melodies and chaotic guitar catharses would have broken down your defenses like the most merciless good cop/bad cop team, leaving you an emotional mess, begging to tell them your deepest secrets.
BEST USE OF FREE EARPLUGS: MY BLOODY VALENTINEA friend once said that the ultimate goal of a “loud” band should be to create a show so deafening that you can’t stay in the room, and when you go outside it’s still the loudest show you’ve ever heard. Outside the venue ballroom, in the bathrooms, wherever, My Bloody Valentine’s cacophony vibrated the walls and floors, and buzzed the feet and clothes of slack-jawed observers and no-rhythm dancers. The 20-minute final barrage of “You Made Me Realize” beat at our bones, leaving us dazed and wandering through the cotton clouds of our own heads, nursing the bruises of a sonic beating so severe that I’m still sore. Congratulations My Bloody Valentine, you win.
MOST VENUE-APPROPRIATE SET: TORTOISETortoise’s instrumental noodling on their performance of Millions Now Living Will Never Die(1996) incorporated enough lounge-y jazz that even random vacationerslike Marlene and Sid Thompson, visiting Kutsher’s for the summer fromFlorida, wandered into the Stardust Ballroom and gave them a chance.”Our 40-year-old sons love these bands, but they couldn’t make it here,”said Marlene. “I used to work in the industry, for Steinway, and I sawmuch stranger things than this at trade shows. There are some greatmusicians up there. Why shouldn’t we stay to watch?” Marlene, we couldn’t have said it better.
Check out pictures from All Tomorrow’s Parties on page 2.