Tomorrow's Parties Music Festival
of freewilliamsburg.com watch out - All
Tomorrow's Parties Music Festival starts March 14, 2002
in Los Angles.
Even if you can't attend, watch this site for daily updates,
reviews and sorted tales directly from this meta-music festival.
The four-day fest, curated by New York's own Sonic Youth,
will run the gamut of new music styles from the avant garde
piano of jazz legend Cecil Taylor, to the loop-driven pop
of Stereolab, to the unmistakable sounds of 70's rock icons
Indeed, just when the proclamations about the death of new
music seem to bubble from every crevice, along comes a giant
all-encompassing forward-thinking musical celebration. Stay
tuned for tomorrow's update as the festival kicks off with
special coverage from freewilliamsburg's own columnist Charles
Waters on assignment in LA.
This year APM will feature:
and many more.
Installment 1 - - March 15
Before we heard one note of music we met the alien hospital
Social Security Dancer with the white serum alien pod stories.
He was on a verbal rampage early in the morning of yet another
sunny day in LA. Sometimes the one-way conversation got
heated. We backed off until my man Memory broke the schizophrenic
"Are you certified?" asked Memory.
well, I'm legitimate," responded alien
That was good enough for us, off to the All Tomorrow's Parties
festival at UCLA.
First off at Royce Hall was the improvisational quartet
of Kim Gordon, Ikue Mori, Jim O'Rourke, and DJ Olive. These
are all downtown NYC noise provocateurs, generating heat
and sound from within their manipulated soundscape. It is
a new type of concert music caught somewhere between art
rock and noisy pyrotechnics. It was a refreshing set and
the group played with skill and actually communicated some
interesting music to the audience.
Next, we took a quick walk over campus to catch the Bardo
Pond set in Ackerman Grand Ballroom, a room with a very
barn-like quality. I want to enjoy Bardo Pond's Sabbath-rock
meets jam band aesthetic, but it's not really a moving set.
But its a festival - there is always something simultaneously
happening elsewhere. Back to Royce Hall.
Now the crowds for Eddie Vedder have grown out the door
and the line has a mean look in its eyes. They want Vedder
now. Finally wiggling my way back into the concert room,
I settle in for the set. Vedder plays solo with the mandolin
and miniature guitar love ballads. His voice is still a
powerful, albeit overplayed, baritone. It is the sound of
alternative radio rock from Christmas past. But his confidence
is striking and seeing him solo was a rare peak into pre-Pearl
Jam days when Vedder must have played a lot of solo singer-songwriter
Following, Vedder was a chilling solo set by Catpower, aka
Chan Marshall. Marshall explained in her typically unsettling
manner that her recently broken finger caused her problems
in playing guitar. But damn if she didn't play. The audience
was remarkably silent, awkwardly spellbound by the pathos
of Marshall's beleaguered agonizing performance. Backstage,
I overheard someone whisper during the strained silence
of Marshall's set, "Yea, Chan makes Will Oldham sound
like party music."
Two solo sets back to back, Vedder v. Catpower, revealed
the essence of "legitimate" music that pod-man
informed us about earlier. The overground and the underground
meet onstage in LA, like a classical concert for the aging
alterna-nation. But the party continues tonight with a full
round of psycho-noise and rock underbelly to jump-start
a new minimalist decadence of rock.
Installment 2 - March 16
The Noise at Jericho
Chris Lee Band from Brooklyn opened up Day Two of the All
Tomorrow's Parties Festival here in LA. The trio consists
of Lee on vocals and guitar, Jeremy Wilms on bass, and the
ever-present Steve Shelley doing drum duty. This band rocked
through a short set of light but bright music with clarity
and focus. Lee sounded relaxed and comfortable in his growing
role as new soul sensation. His voice has grown in depth
and girth over the last few months of solo concerts. But
today there is much to be heard so I'm off to Ackerman Hall.
NEW GRASS RISING
Thurston Moore and Nels Cline, guitar gladiators from opposite
coasts, played the early set with William Winant on percussion
and the searing Swedish tenor saxophonist Mats Gustaffson.
Mats showed the LA crowds what it sounds like to be THE
saxophone idol in the best (to quote Boston critic Stu Vandermark)
"Post-Ayler" sense. The group, which will hopefully
last longer than this festival, sounds like a new flower
blossoming into the promise of music played by great saxophonist
Albert Alyer (a heavy influence on all of these musicians)
on his much maligned 1968 album "New Grass". Instead
of backbeat funk rock though the palette today is all metal
Moore and Cline unleashed a torrent of guitar feedback filled
with distorted, angular geometry while Winant punched the
sonic blasts with staccato vibraphone attacks. Thurston
especially contoured the set with his high energy playing,
creating an almost arco bass-toned field of noise. After
a few minutes of two-guitar and drums buildup, Gustoffson
raged into the center of the sound-wall blazing a path of
machine gun articulations and explosions. The blend of avant
jazz directions fused with the guitar smashing discord brought
the ATP crowd to its feet. After about 40 minutes of ecstatic
wave vector music, the four improvisers clamped the ending
with rock and roll style - boom, off. The crowd was totally
Now back to Royce Hall (I'm getting my college glow back
on campus in this sunshine) to catch Chicago maverick Kevin
Drumm with another Sonic Youth member Lee Rinaldo. Royce
is a concert stage, so the rock-show feel of the earlier
set is lost. But Drumm and Rinaldo, both definitely excellent
improvisers, have a plan. Drumm is a prepared (in a Cage
way) guitar player. The origins of his sound experience
come from tweaking guitars into otherworldly sound generators
by using modulators, effects and computer sampling.
Rinaldo was responsive, fueling and directing the music
that accompanied the beautiful images of Leah Singer projected
on the black wall of the stage. At the very end of their
set, surprise guest Mats Gustoffson joined the duo and manipulated
his horn into a growling, halting stutter box of sound .
Now back to Ackerman Grand Ballroom where I see Acidman
is still standing with his back to the crowd. When I left
earlier he was frozen with his hand inside a box of popcorn.
I think he was a one-man protest against
He was my constant reminder of the power of dissent. Even
at an alternative, underground music festival people must
More to come, but the highlight of ATP fest is at hand,
Before the Boredoms took the stage, Sleater-Kinney showed
the kids how to rock. Their set was fast and fun and full
of new songs. S-K is amazingly tight with their material
showing real dedication to the craft and to just plain rocking
in general. Corin Tucker has an amazing voice and the three
really pumped up the energy level of the ATP crowd, especially
after the dark noise vortex created by Merzbow left everyone
aching for harmony.
But now the Boredoms are on stage. From my (highly) informal
survey most of the audience members were at the festival
to see the Boredoms. I admit I have not kept up with their
work over the years, but when I first heard the Boredoms,
about ten years ago, I was blown away by their speedy, Japanese
noise freak-out rock. Their new (to me) line-up consists
of three drummers and front man EYE on organ and vocals.
Their show is an absolutely mind-blowing amalgamation of
pshychedelia sometimes reminiscent of Piper at the Gates
of Dawn. EYE burns his organ, vamping up and down leaving
everyone with some kind of chromatic vertigo while the three
drummers move from avant garde20th Century percussion ensemble
music ala Lou Harrison, to Butoh dance music, to full throttle
drum and bass beats. And when their velocity heats up, the
Boredoms dissolve all fears about the future of music.
Tonight the sun burned bright at midnight for the sounds
of unbridled ecstasy
long live the avant electro-acoustic
Installment 2 - March 17
The big news today in LA - it rained! For your typical
East Coaster, rain is part of life, but in Southern California
it's an event. But the rain did not deter the spirit or
the energy of the music at the All Tomorrow's Parties final
day of shows. For many in the crowd, Day Three was the big-ticket
item of the whole festival.
First off, early in the afternoon was the Brooklyn noise-rockers
Black Dice. The band played a screeching drug-addled set
of freak-rock burning through the haze of the previous nights
New Zealand rockers Dead C filtered the festival's noisy
common denominator through the slow-jam rock backbeat and
walking bass. The nebulas guitar driven cap of Dead C's
sound is different than the pure noise of some improvisations
of Black Dice or German sound manipulator Pita's wall of
floating noise. It's the beat, a very important element,
which keeps the music moving forward even when the static
overdrive of guitar hum deadens the ear. Dead C was very
polite, thanking the audience for coming to hear their music.
Sometimes noise can be nice.
The highly anticipated set by Berlin-based singer/dancer/(anti)
porn-rocker Peaches did not fail to pump up the crowd. The
energy came more from matching the unseen sound to the seen
face of Peaches the singer, live versus the record of the
Peaches is a very strange conceptual-art project taken to
the extreme. Peaches the singer meshes trashy Euro-house
music with dogmatic, slogan-like one-line riffs. The opening
track and essential Peaches theme music "Fuck the Pain
Away" is in-your-face porn-glam. Peaches is sexy, but
the deconstructionist tendencies and the lack of real musicians
(all of the music is piped in, like a Madonna or Cher concert)
deter from any real impact. Though her cover of Berlin's
"Metro" was flashback ecstasy.
The most interesting aspect of the show was the blending
of the music with the art of illustrator Shary Boyle that
was projected behind Peaches during the set. Boyle uses
dark water-soluble inks on the overhead project to dress
the singer out in a variety of sets and within a series
of conflicting visual dioramas. The combination of the music
and the projection art tried to strike a blow at the testosterone
driven-noise rock that dominated this festival (and most
of rock in general), but it was only momentarily arresting.
Peaches is fun to see, briefly titillating, but ultimately
lacking in some essential ingredient.
Sound has it's own weariness and the look of sonic fatigue
surrounded me by 9PM on Sunday night. The enthusiastic crowd
worked hard to stay focused after three days of noise blasting
at stadium volumes. Thankfully Sonic Youth, veterans of
innumerable festivals, wisely programmed Stereolab as the
grand respite and preamble to their own set.
"Everything Stereolab does is cool."
This overheard comment from the people in front of me at
Ackerman Grand Ballroom expresses the general feeling of
Stereolab's music -it's cool, very cool. Stereolab put on
a great live show. They don't really dance around or wear
flashy rock and roll garb, but their subdued stage presence
is compensated by the tight rhythm and control maintained
by the band throughout the set. The only drawback was the
lack of new material. Stereolab played through a mostly
"hits" set, resting on the originality of their
looped cool beats. But the opening number might offer a
clue. It was a slightly up-tempo tune with a western twang
and a lot of Mama's and Papa's tambourine. We'll have to
wait and see if Stereolab goes country.
"Why be a writer when you could be a fucking rock star?"
The last act of the festival was of course Sonic Youth.
After three days of noise and rock, where each member of
this band played their own sets of improvised mayhem, the
band converged to rock the house down. Everyone was betting
- rock set or noise set? The way Sonic Youth plays these
days in terms of improvisation and longevity is oddly reminiscent
of the Grateful Dead though with a different vocabulary.
I can't stretch the comparison too long, but even with fan
loyalty, people love Sonic Youth because what they play
is different every time and that is what the audience expects.
It's a great place to have contoured a group after playing
for twenty plus years together.
Sonic Youth gave us the rock set and it was rock and roll
to live for. Raging through some crowd-pleasing Dirty-era
hits, the Youth slammed the Ballroom with all they had in
them. Some of the new material is excellent with each member
singing and playing, including a new Lee Rinaldo song layered
in moody and thick jazz guitar harmonies. Thurston's new
song "Disconnection Notice" is a spooky departure
from the wall of noise.
But the best part of this set was the addition of Jim O'Rourke.
I don't buy all of the "fifth-Beatle" nonsense;
he is a member of the fucking band. Jim has been in the
mix since his early work with Sonic Youth on SY3 (the Dutch
language-covered record from the self-released Sonic Youth
improvisational albums series). O'Rourke has done excellent
work as a composer, sound manipulator, DJ, re-mixer, film
composer, whatever seems to strike his fancy, and its great
to hear him back rocking the guitar and bass. It's easy
to forget that O'Rourke was one-third of the Chicago vanguard
rock trio Gastr del Sol, a band that even through its super-intellectual
stance never forgot how to rock the house. So when Sonic
Youth hit it the stage, Jim was right there in rock star
heaven and he deserves it.
In the end Sonic Youth was a great end to a dynamic, complex
festival of underground new music. The post-festival fallout
has been thoroughly provocative from both local radio and
press. Everyone seems to have strong opinions about some
aspect of the festival with plenty of suggestions about
the future of All Tomorrow's Parties.
The 2003 date for the next LA festival seems surely poised
for continued exploration of every possible realm of music.
Let's hope they continue the party and this time try and
accommodate the 9,960 bands left off the bill this year.
And please, no more writers trying to be rock stars!