But for now---
There I was, flying over the Grand Canyon (not quite lucky enough to actually see it...), listening to "Metals", and thinking to myself..."Man, you are one lucky piece of..." Something catches my attention. It's our plane's shadow, silhouetted and encircled in a rainbow on the clouds. I'd never seen something like it before. This was an omen. A shadowy indication of what I now know as the beginning...of All Tomorrow's Parties. The moment we arrived at ATP in Asbury Park, I could only describe what I saw at first glance--and then felt--with fragmented statements. "Adult Summer Camp," "Barista Haven/Heaven," and "this looks like this is gonna be the best time EVER." It was Friday, and pouring rain from the moment we stepped out of the car and onto the boardwalk. It was a complete change from sunny Los Angeles...and none of us expected the expected--but, then again--we didn't expect what we got either.
I didn't catch the moment as quickly as I had hoped to.
OK. This time around I'll be reliving ATP the same way I relived FYF earlier in the year-- only a bit tardier-- get ready for an emotionally charged and slightly scholarly recap.
We ran through a rainstorm straight to the Asbury Park Convention Hall. It felt so cinematic, like an Americana version of "BANDE A PART." Especially because the two males that I'm running with look like a walking, talking, J.CREW catalog. Once we got under some Asbury Boardwalk Convention Hall coverage, we realized we had just stepped onto...
The Asbury Park boardwalk is a haunted, abandoned beauty. It's remaining buildings, proudly standing (some barely) on the edge of the Atlantic, possess genuine secrets. Defeated in the under reported race-riot of the 60s, this particular slab of Jersey boardwalk has since been undergoing a slow but steady revitalization. It's a complete dichotomy of itself, both fragile and weathered, yet, withholding it's expected demise from the storms, both natural and human. To it's chagrin, the boardwalk has garnered such character and yet holds a maintained mystery. It is a secret that only those who frequent it can be telephoned in on. Bonfires on the beach, Criterion films on repeat in the hotel, and bowling while listening to your favorite band play--all of this and everyone, and I mean everyone, artists included, eat where your eating, sleep where you're sleeping, and frequent the shows that you're going to. It's the best. Period.
Both bigger venues, the Convention Hall and Paramount Theatre are conjoined by an arched enclave of 20's-era glass. Vendors for what we came to realize was incredibly inventive and delicious food were outside braving the rain, and the alcohol pushers (just kidding) vendors, were lined up against the walls and punched smack dab in the middle of the hall. Drinks were cheap and our wallets completely appreciated the break, and our brain's appreciated the pick -me-up.
6:30-7:30 pm -FRIDAY
Back to Chavez.
They didn't play songs off "the album" my boyfriend was dying to see them play. Isn't that just the worst...for him. It was really loud in the Convention Hall--the worst--for my eardrums. The acoustics weren't tuned for 90's indie noise. If you'd like to hear their performance, click here.
Next on the itinerary...at Asbury Lanes...yes, a bowling alley with disco balls hung from the ceiling.
THINKING FELLARS UNION LOCAL 282
|Photo courtesy of npr.org|
After the slight, blisteringly loud, disappointment of Chavez, my boyfriend was a bit more demur about dragging us through his next bout of 1990s nostalgia – as we traversed the rain soaked streets, he promised us with nothing but his own hope that the Thinking Fellers would be a much more enriching experience.
As we arrived at Asbury Lanes, even more doubt set in; a line stretching out the door was much to all of our chagrin, and was truly one of the only moments of disappointment during our jaunt at ATP. As he began to overhear some of his favorite songs from the line, I could see a genuine fear set in as he realized that not only did they sound great but that we may not get in to see them.
But, the fear subsided as the line picked up. Genuine conversation with people in the same boat eased and nullified our dismay and any trace of anxiety was lifted once we entered the Asbury Lanes. A vintage bowling alley opened in 1962, Asbury Lanes now airs to a rockabilly/burlesque crowd, but in this moment it was the most consummate backdrop for Thinking Fellers Union Local 282.
Apparently, apart from their recent stint with ATP, they haven’t been very active as a band since 2001 – which was not at all apparent from their set. Musically tight and wonderfully weird, it’s easy to see why Animal Collective chose them as a featuring act at their curated ATP in the UK. If you'd like to hear their performance click here.
|Photo courtesy of npr.org|
NO PHOTOS OR VIDEO ALLOWED. That is the first thing you see when entering the theatre. I felt a kind of privilege, because although it felt like a part of our freedom as "every-man journalists" was being taken away from us (I hope you can read the irony), it allowed for complete enjoyment and utter focus, respect for the artist and your fellow concert-goer. No inconspicuous light or phone distracting you from the reason you're there in the first place. I would continue in attempting to describe Mangum's performance, but Andrew Flanagan over there at the Rolling Stone captured the moment succinctly and exactly (objectively, at least) the way it happened. I would've added in a few, "I totally cried during his encore of "Naomi." But that tidbit and the tear shedding, which only occurred haphazardly due to my boyfriend screaming out the request and then quietly whispering a dedication in my ear. OK. Enough of the sappy stuff. I'm sorry.Valentine's Day was yesterday. Regaining homeostasis now. Or actually, let's move on to the actual journalist.We grabbed a drink and headed to the Paramount. We were damp and the auditorium was musty, but all that stimuli lent itself to the show. You could hear the gossip all over the festival, "...recluse,""I can't believe he is playing..."--
"Without a word, Neutral Milk Hotel front man Jeff Mangum walked onto the stage of Asbury Park's gilded, enveloping Paramount Theatre last night and eased into "Oh Comely," staring straight ahead, singing "soft silly music is meaningful, magical." In the recorded version of that song, at the end, you can hear someone far off exclaim "holy shit!" as if startled – which is just about right.
Over an hour and 15 minutes, Mangum – performing as part of the three-day ATP I'll Be Your Mirror Festival – was focused and relaxed, sitting on a chair mid-stage. He was flanked by four guitars, bathed in autumn orange lighting and looking especially solitary in the theatre's expanse. Where Bon Iver has traded up in touring accompaniment, Mangum is more at home alone – except, of course, for the rapt, capacity crowd of around 1500.
"EVERYONE LOVES YOU!"
"I'll have to disagree with you, my friend."
Mangum's noticeable lack of between-song charisma ("I don't have anything to say, so I'll just keep singing") seems to be a very real part of his personality, not a cash-grab or a reticence on his part to return to his music; since his Netural Milk Hotel Days, he had only played in public a handful of times until last December, when he performed a set in a loft apartment in Brooklyn. In an elevator later in the evening (yes, this is ATP, where you can run into Jeff Magnum in an elevator) he was quiet, bashful and humble, thanking myself and a friend through the closing double-doors.
His voice is an off-kilter instrument, always flat-lunged and stark, distinctly Celtic in his pinched high register. It's an Irish caterwaul made for the woods, put into motion by starkly late-American poetry. (See video below.) The Paramount's acoustics are tailored for a performance like this, where each breath and rattling string can ricochet and bloom, the space opening and closing in parallel.
It's an odd thing, to play folk music in the new century, unaccompanied and adored, to play it to a crowd so enamored and hanging on each strum of the right hand and glint of the eye, singing out songs roundaboutly romantic, in a theatre near the sea."
Verbatim. Ok, back to moi.
There are (obviously...) not any truly exceptional videos of the performance. But here are a couple of songs that were included in the set list.
After the show ended, I told Jeff Mangum...I told him tears were shed. After that, my ears burned so much, I don't really remember what actually transpired, well other than getting an autograph, and seeing him later behind me at the Public Enemy show. That's the kool-aid they sell you at ATP. One second you're a fan, the next...well, you're still a fan, but now, you're a fellow fan and that definitely makes things surreal. Or real. Whatever.
That is what Day 1 of ATP looks and sounds like and that's completely subjective, coming from a relatively positive person! As you can see from the lovely itinerary's they printed out for us, it's a long day jam packed with awesome music and... oh the food. After our first day was audibly over, we ate, and ate, and ate. The vendors were the tastiest and had great demeanors considering they were left to fend for themselves out in the rain. ASIADOGS, Pizza Moto, corn on the cob and this bloody brilliant "Bloody Mary Pork Belly BLT" from I8NY (fucking genius, I think), were (and still are most likely) the best. I sat alone in the rain on a wet bench to eat this lovely concoction; and I loved every wet and messy minute of it. A lot of people were complaining about the rain and the lines, but I didn't wait in more than one line, nor was I bothered by the rain. I'm from L.A. I crave this shit.
After eating we drank from the beer garden and headed to the Criterion theatre. Watched "Island of lost souls" and then crashed. At the hotel. Duh.
Good. Niiiiight. Day 2 was on the horizon...
**Island of Lost Souls Film Stills via DVD Beaver. The rest are miiiiine.