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ATP: The Best of the Rest of the Eclectic Fest


The annual American version of All Tomorrow’s Parties typically boasts one of the most interesting and eclectic lineups of all music festivals, and that was certainly the case last weekend as Portishead co-curated a bill that featured Public Enemy, Swans, Jeff Mangum, and others at the Boss’ original stomping grounds of Asbury Park, NJ. SPIN contributors Andy Beta and Brandon Soderberg picked the event’s 10 Best Sets — and here add their Best of the Rest of ATP weekend:

• I’m not sure what was more heart-warming: The Saturday wedding on the beach or that 3 year-old kid in a Swans T-shirt.

• “Welcome to the jungle, we got fun and games” takes on a different meaning when it blares out of the Guns N’ Roses machine at Asbury Park’s Silverball Pinball Museum. Skeeball and other early video games are here, but it’s the hundreds of kitschy, antique pinball machines, all in fine, flipping shape, that rule the game room. ATP attendees had free access to the Museum, so from the corny Rock Star machine to the glam flames of the Kiss game (placed right next to Elton John‘s Captain Fantastic, naturally), the Silverball Museum gave rock’n’roll to you-one silver ball at a time.

• An always welcome part of a Shellac show is the Q&A session. Usually when either Steve Albini or Bob Weston are tuning their instrument, the other will answer a succession of shouted-out questions from the crowd. At one point, someone asked Albini what he thought of Odd Future, undoubtedly in reference to this rant about them, but he just quipped, “I’ve never heard their music.” A little while later, a cute little girl, probably 7 or so, asked Albini what was his “favorite” instrument and the controversy-monger responded, with a devilish grin on his face, that it was an S&M device called “the Seven Gates Of Hell,” which he made sure to describe in detail to the kid. Pretty sure she meant musical instrument….

Hannibal Buress, in the unenviable position of performing jokes in the Berkeley Hotel as a lead-up to Jeff Mangum‘s highly-anticipated gig at the Paramount, handled it all nonchalantly. In addition to making jokes about Odd Future and on-site food vendor Asia Dogs, Buress said that he most anticipated watching thousands of people sing along with Public Enemy‘s “Fight the Power” on Sunday night. And then watching those same people immediately drive back home to be at work on time Monday morning.

• Shout out to the hard rock dude performing in the boardwalk of the Asbury Park Casino on Saturday night. He was just sitting there noodling on a guitar, occasionally grinding out a solo. It sounded like he was covering Steely Dan and Mountain at the same time and the whole thing was even more tripped out because of the reverb from the concrete structure surrounding him and the waves crashing in the distance. Give him a cool mysterious name (Steely Mountain) and he’s playing a future ATP, I think.

• If I told you I saw a very Sopranos-looking guy tearing up during Bonnie Prince Billy‘s set, would you even believe me?!

Christopher R. Weingarten, author of the 33 1/3 book about Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back album, and frequent SPIN contributor, was pulled up onstage by the band to deliver the “Media Assassin” part of “Don’t Believe the Hype” as a sub for Harry Allen. Weingarten then leaped into the crowd.

• A bro gripping a sealed vinyl copy of Edan’s Beauty & The Beat exclaims to his friends, “This record was college for me!” Really dude?

• All weekend, the Criterion Collection hosted a series of movie screenings including one for Robert Downey Sr.‘s 1969 absurdist, anti-corporate race comedy Putney Swope. After the film, Downey Sr. did a Q&A and was refreshingly candid. Particularly funny was his explanation that he prefers his son’sIron Man to Iron Man 2 because the first one was “about something.” He added that his son told him pretty much the same thing before the Iron Man 2 premiere, though I doubt his superstar son wanted that divulged in public. Though the details were a little thin (Criterion loves to tease their future releases this way), it did sound like the prestigious company is going to release Putney Swope along with at least one of Downey Sr.’s earliest shorts, Babo 73. Let’s hope Greaser’s Palace, Downey’s 70s Jesus western gets a re-release as well.

Public Enemy performs at ATP 2011 / Photo by Rebecca Smeyne

The Asbury Park Casino / Photo by Rebecca Smeyne

Bonfire on the Asbury beach / Photo by Rebecca Smeyne

Shepard Fairey’s artwork adorns the festival grounds / Photo by Rebecca Smeyne