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Best & Worst of All Points West: Day 2


Watch Tool. It doesn’t matter what you think about their bombastic hard rock, or their oft-meatheaded fans, or Maynard James Keenan’s anti-frontman tactics, or their strange, semi-Masonic iconography, or their disturbing music videos. Tool’s All Points West set on Saturday was a come-to-Jesus sort of moment, where a band that too many folks pigeonhole as a niche act completely owned their top-billed status. The opening grooves of “Jambi,” off 2006’s 10,000 Days, brought previously unconverted onlookers to their feet, and the familiar throb of “Stinkfist,” from 1996’s Ænima, coaxed many to stomp around in the field’s mushy sludge. It was self-important, passionate rock, complete with stunning lights, engrossing video screens, air-tight execution, and a touch of the bizarre, thanks to Maynard’s decision to strip down to his skivvies later in the set. Compared to bastions of hipster bands, some of whom can barely play their instruments, Tool is a juggernaut, and any fan of rock’n’roll should be required to experience them, if only once.

Click here for more APW photos of Tool, Jay-Z, and others.

While Tool pretty much dominated the day, there was one speed bump for Tool Nation: My Bloody Valentine, who took the stage immediately before Keenan & Co., performed their shocking 15-minute uppercut of brain-bruising guitar and effects noise known as “the Holocaust section.” It’s the sound you might imagine the universe making before turning itself inside out, or what you might experience if you stuck your head inside a booster rocket that’s propelling the Space Shuttle into orbit. While its arrival elicited unprintable slurs and hundreds of raised middle fingers from those camped out to worship at the altar of Tool, the “section” was welcomed by many more, and was best enjoyed seated on any remaining dry sections of the soggy Liberty State Park terrain, which provided a chance to absorb the sonic vibrations through the ground, eyelids closed, and contemplate life.

Courtney Love’s backstage coverage of yesterday’s All Points West action was insatiable, and leads me to believe she has a full-time employee to whom she dictates tweets throughout the day. Roaming the grounds in a golf cart with friends and new Hole guitarist Micko Larkin, the spindly Love, a weathered but genial version of her glamtastic Larry Flynt-era self, fired off tweet after tweet, and TwitPic after TwitPic, chronicling her superfandom for My Bloody Valentine — and envy of Kevin Shields’ collection of effects pedals. Her 36,000 Twitter followers could see her watching Arctic Monkeys, posing like the Statue of Liberty near the Statue of Liberty, and poking fun at the hacks in the media tent. Hey, Courtney, what are you doing for Lollapalooza? Come blog for us!

She might be demure in interviews, but when St. Vincent’s Annie Clark has a guitar in her slender hands, she’s utterly transformed, transfixed on her instrument and how she can coax the most clever sounds from it. And it’s not always the kinds of sounds you’d expect from listening to her albums, including this year’s stellar Actor. What’s mixed down to a slick, Starbucks-friendly vibe on her recordings turns into gritty and, at times, nearly violent bursts of six-string squonk, particularly on the skittish “Marrow.” Later, she turned coy, launching into a brief, highly electric tease of “The Star-Spangled Banner” — she said she was inspired by the patriotic setting, in the shadow of Lady Liberty — before crushing a taut cover of the Beatles’ “Dig a Pony” that didn’t need a spectacular light show, unnatural amounts of decibels, or synthesizers to induce awe.

The All Points West grounds were not ready to function first thing Saturday afternoon. With the sun blazing down and the field still completely oversaturated by Friday’s epic downpours, pub crawling Brooklynites White Rabbits had the esteemed dishonor of kicking off the main stage’s bill. But with a small but engaged group watching attentively, packed in between swampy patches of standing water and piles of poo-smelling mud, the sextet diligently pushed through their piano-led urban blues without a single frill, sweating as hard as the crowd was. The skin-pounding workout on It’s Frightening single “Percussion Gun” provided a much-needed kick in the ass to help fans overcome their stagnant surroundings.

Down by the festival entrance, a good stroll from the “Blue Comet” main stage, was the Queen of the Valley tent, a venue that split its time between comedy acts in the early afternoon and indie bands for the rest of the day. Up first was NYC quartet the Postelles, whose pretty, Motown-influenced jangle rock has been referred to, quite brilliantly, as “Diet Strokes.” They were followed by the Honey Brothers and their more-famous-than-the-band drummer, Entourage‘s Adrian Grenier, for whom young ladies gathered to watch whether he was onstage or hanging out sidestage. Next came Chairlift, and doe-eyed, leggy singer Caroline Polachek, who pumped her fists to her group’s drum loops as she cooed succulent, shoulda-been-bigger-hits like “Bruises” and “Evident Utensil.” And finally, as Tool throbbed at the other end of the grounds, the Ting Tings provided bouncy dance rock anthems for the party hearty, with sassy blond singer Katie White cheerleading up front.