If you had just glanced at the flyer for this weekend's iteration of All Tomorrow's Parties you might have (wrongly) assumed that the lineup consisted of Sexy New Artist + '90s Marquee Reunion + The Roots in a more convenient location so that Normals wouldn't be bothered with catching a ride to New Jersey or the Catskills. But Sunday's lineup for I'll Be Your Mirror was more than worth the cost of admission, as ATP turned the manic, miserable, cliche of the overcrowded city festival into a relaxing, punk rock gondola ride.
That sea-faring vibe was no doubt enhanced by the new location at Pier 36, which boasts stunning views of Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, and those were made even better by the fact that you could drink and watch the sunset from the deck of a friggin' boat docked outside.
While the indoor stage was but a tiny part of a massive, carpeted warehouse, the outdoor stage sat snug underneath the FDR. "Thank you, parking lot," John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees told the crowd, which was an ideal mix of parents holding their earplugged children, college students violently tossing their bangs to the bass and bearded men in their late thirties exhaling pungent smoke into the crisp autumn air.
What ATP lacked in intimacy (the proper way to see Thee Oh Sees is in a club, pressed up against 300 other people) it made up for in comfort: unlike pretty much every other festival, walking from one stage to the other wasn't a chore. Neither was buying a $5 beer, or ordering a taco, or using the bathroom, or any of the other tasks that shouldn't be made more difficult after you pay $80 to see bands. Also gloriously simple: sidling your way up to the front of the stage to have Ian Svenonius collapse into a sweaty heap atop your writhing arms.
Svenonius is equal parts James Brown, Iggy Pop, and Mick Jagger, and The Make-Up's performance (perhaps their last one, ever) was the only rock show we've seen in recent memory that demanded your full attention. Look away and you'll miss Svenonius working the crowd during "Here Comes The Judge" like a revivalist peddling acid. Take that phone call and you'll break the sonic trance of the creeping guitar lick on "Walking On The Dune." It was a show that your friends who didn't go will hate you for seeing, which is exactly what ATP was gunning for.
Hot Snakes' singer Rick Froberg clearly has the Fogerty gene, and his sustained, jet engine yelp sounded magnificent bouncing off the concrete supports of the FDR's overpass. After exceeding their time slot by 10 minutes, a burly festival employee jumped onstage and demanded the band stop playing. Various members of the band shot him pleading looks. The crowd wanted one more song. Too late: the mics were cut, and the band walked sheepishly offstage. The crowd shrugged, knowing it still had two hours of Godspeed You! Black Emperor to listen to.