The greatest indie festival of them all kicks off Friday in New York. And while it’s not last year’s model, which heralded the mighty return of My Bloody Valentine, it’s still a doozy. I broke down the killer acts to catch, whether you’re going or not, for Wired.
Mammoth package festivals like Coachella, Lollapalooza and Outside Lands routinely dilute their indie acts with chart-busting big shots. But not All Tomorrow’s Parties, the highly regarded music festival that got its start in England in 1999.
Named for the famous Velvet Underground song and founded by Barry Hogan, All Tomorrow’s Parties has defiantly offered bleeding-edge music, comedy and more since its inception.
This year’s slate of concerts is equally daring, especially ATP New York, which was curated by The Flaming Lips and features some of the best bands you might have never heard. The festival runs Friday through Sunday in Catskills, New York.
To orient yourself, whether you’re going to ATP or not, I drafted up a day-by-day guide (complete with free MP3s) to the fest’s finest acts, starting with its loudest mouth.
Who: David Cross
What: I Drink for a Reason, released August 2009
Where: Stage 2
When: 11:15 p.m. to 11:45 p.m.
Why: From Mr. Show and Arrested Development to Halo 2 and I’m Not There, professional smartass David Cross has left his taint, pun intended, upon pop culture without fear. This is a guy who nabbed a Grammy nomination for a comedy double-album called Shut Up, You Fucking Baby, from which the unapologetic rant “My Wife’s Crazy,” embedded left, proudly hails. That takes skill, and evidently alcohol, as his debut book I Drink for a Reason explains. Whatever it takes, dude. Whatever it takes.
Who: The Jesus Lizard
What: Back-catalog reissue bonanza, beginning in October
Where: Stage 1
When: 11:45 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Why: One of the most underrated bands of the ’80s and ’90s, this visceral art-punk outfit is finally getting the love it deserved. Touch and Go is reissuing its standout releases Pure, Head, Goat, Liar and Down on Oct. 6, giving fans of unclassifiable rock a head-trip down memory lane. Each remastered release features bonus tracks, gatefold and digipak packaging, pull-out posters, liner notes, comments from the band and more. Fans of Slint, Three Mile Pilot, and Ministry, please apply.
What: Definitive Jux Presents IV, released Sept. 1
Where: Stage 1
When: 6:45 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Why: It’s safe to say that El-P is the most wired rapper alive, if not the smartest. Whether it’s labyrinthine rhymes leaning heavily on the subcultural crutches of Star Trek, THX-1138, Blade Runner and The Twilight Zone or his dense digital soundtracking, the Definitive Jux mogul is plugged-in and proud of it. He’s also enriched with something that the majority of today’s hip-hop sadly lacks: unbridled passion. From his machine-gun delivery to his literate lyricism, El-P expects his listeners to know a thing or two. Those who dismiss hip-hop as materialistic crap need only listen to El-P’s stunning full-lengths Fantastic Damage and I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead to have their faith in the form rewarded. Give his dizzying confessional “To Serve Man” a listen, and don’t miss him live.
Who: The Melvins
What: Chicken Switch, due Sept. 29
Where: Stage 2
When: 11:15 p.m. to 12:15 a.m.
Why: An unhinged rock monster from the deep recesses of time and the Pacific Northwest, The Melvins make your eardrums ache in a good way. The four-piece’s 2009 effort, Nude With Boots, was an unhealthy dose of unforgiving riffage that would give emo bands nightmares (if they had any imagination). The Melvins’ newest effort is the twisted remix experiment Chicken Switch, which hands over the band’s reins to Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo, Matmos and more. If you’re looking for a quiet place at ATP to gather your thoughts, this is definitely not it.
What: Transit Transit, due January 2010
Where: Stage 1
When: 8 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
Why: Yes, we know: Wired.com can’t get enough of this Los Angeles-based power trio, which feeds pop through so many pedals and banks that its music is probably on its way to sentience as we speak. But the band is worthy, from its mesmerizing, underrated 2004 debut Future Perfect to its long-awaited sophomore slasher Transit Transit, scheduled to drop next year. It’s been too long a wait for the envelope-pusher, but only because the envelope has been pushing back.
“That envelope gets heavier the older you get,” drummer Carla Azar told Wired.com in August. “You try to outdo yourself, and at some point you realize that you’ve pushed quite a bit. But then it gets heavier again.”
Speaking of heavy, Autolux’s incendiary live shows weigh a ton. Catch one at a theater near you.
Who: Deerhunter, Atlas Sound
What: Rainwater Cassette Exchange EP, released June 2009; Logos, due Oct. 20
Where: Stage 1, Stage 2
When: 10:45 p.m. to 11:45 p.m., 5 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.
Why: Pardon the confusion, but Bradford Cox inspires that in listeners. But make no mistake, it’s a gorgeous disorientation. The multitasking Cox has made deserved waves with his psych-pop outfit Deerhunter, whose 2008 full-length Microcastle was one of last year’s finest efforts. Meanwhile, his solo incarnation Atlas Sound is just as hypnotic, as you will see when Logos drops close to Halloween. If you haven’t picked up any of Cox’s music yet, check out his ATP set. That ought to seal the deal. Enjoy your trip!
Who: No Age
What: Losing Feeling EP, due Oct. 6
Where: Stage 2
When: 10:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Why: It’s hard to believe that two skinny skateboarders from downtown Los Angeles can make so much beautiful noise. But drummer/vocalist Dean Spunt and guitarist Randy Randall have transformed No Age into one of those bands that is proud to not only wear its influences (Sonic Youth, Crass) on its sleeves, but also shred them into ribbons. Its 2008 full-length Nouns was one of the best releases of the year, and its 2009 EP Losing Feeling is shaping up to be a worthy complement.
This article appeared at WIRED