Disclaimer: almost all of the photos contained herein were lifted from the web. Flickr and the like. My apologies to the anonymous photographers.

All Tomorrow’s Parties is a 3-day indie rock/underground music festival that takes place at an old Catskills resort in upstate New York every September. It began in England about 10 years ago, and has since begun branching out around the globe. This was second year it was held in the states. Each year the festival organizers choose one band to curate the entire weekend. Last year it was My Bloody Valentine. This year the monumental task was given to The Flaming Lips.

My boy Jesse has been raving about The Flaming Lips to me and anybody else who cares to listen for years and years. I do believe he has even gone so far as to call them one of the greatest Rock n Roll bands on the planet. A bold statement, for sure, but this dude knows his music. So when Jesse sent the word out to my extended crew about a boy’s weekend upstate to hear his favorite band, and all of the favorite bands of his favorite band, I couldn’t really say no. Most of us knew almost nothing about the lineup at all. We just figured it was worth a leap of faith. I am also always eager to hear brand new music without any preconceived opinions, and this festival was chock full of just that.

Jim Jarmusch, when interviewed at the very same ATP, said something to the effect of

“whenever I get depressed, I just think of all the great music I have yet to hear.”

Words to live by.

The event is held at Kutsher’s Resort, but that was all booked up, so we camped out at The Raleigh Hotel. The Raleigh is an old relic of a resort from the Borscht Belt heyday of the 40s, 50s, and 60s, when middle and upper class New York jews had to drive all the way up to The Catskills just to be let in to a country club.

The outside looks like an abandoned hospital, and the interior looks eerily similar to the hotel in The Shining. Long, runway-length hallways with hideous, worn-out casino carpeting. Weirdly-fancy 1950s living room furniture that seemed borrowed from that end scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It appeared that it had been all but abandoned for the last forty years, frequented these days only by groups of Hassidic Jews who, viewing the art of suffering as a divine mandate of sorts, don’t seem to mind one bit that absolutely nothing has been fixed, painted, cleaned, or replaced in the last thirty years. Hassidim, it is my understanding, believe it is God’s will that they still be wandering in the desert, paying for the chosen people’s lack of piety, which motivated God to bring down the temple of Jerusalem in 586 BC. That’s a long fucking time to still be waiting for room service. But it will be pretty sweet when it arrives.

The Raleigh in its heyday (left). Bob Hope performs in 1970(middle). Pool postcard (right).


The Raleigh had almost no staff to speak of. There was nobody to carry your bags. Nobody answering any phones. Nobody taking massage appointments. There was no smooth jazz playing in the lobby. There was no busy hotel bar with live jazz trio. There were no brochures listing hotel amenities. There were no other guests in sight.

The security guard pointed us in the direction of our rooms, way down in “The Kennedy Wing”. What little signage might have lead us there was in Hebrew, and withering away, just like everything else. Along the way, down long dim hallways, there were glass cases against the walls containing dusty golfing trophies and vases of plastic flowers. It felt a little like exploring the hull of some old sunken cruise ship.


Jesse had reserved two rooms for the seven of us. Each room had two narrow double beds big enough for two small children, if they tucked their feet in and had an incestuous relationship. These beds had one fitted sheet each, two wafer-thin pillows, and a small rectangular comforter just big enough to cover the surface of the mattress. Apparently top sheets and comforters hanging over the side of the bed were another luxury Yahweh was not too fond of. The carpet was old and soiled. The TV was broken. Most of the lights didn’t work. Nor did the heat. The towel rack in the bathroom was rusted and bent. The place was such a dump, they should have been paying us to stay there.

We dropped off our bags, had a quick drink or two, and headed back to the lobby to catch a 10-minute bus over to the other resort, Kutsher’s, where the actual ATP Festival was already underway. Our Venezuelan crew (Alfred / Fabiana / Marcus / Laura / Anabella) had booked tickets early enough to get a room at Kutsher’s, so our first order of business was to meet up with them and get some tequila flowing while the night was still young.


Kutsher’s was quite a different scene. It’s an old resort, from the exact same era as the Raleigh I would guess, but it seems to have maintained just enough steady flow of nostalgic vacationers over the years to feel slightly better up-kept, and not nearly as haunted. They even appeared to have bought all new furniture in about 1979 or so, putting them at least two decades ahead of The Raleigh in the interior decoration department.

The lobby was crawling with garden variety hipsters and a deluge of mostly music nerds transplanted directly from Williamsburg and many other Williamsburgy locales around the globe. Dark-rimmed-glasses-wearing-misfits with a penchant for tight black jeans and Converse All Stars. These are not annoying fashion hipsters, though. These are white music nerds, who are really quite tolerable, I assure you.

We only made it to one show that night, which was The Jesus Lizard. I thought the band was tight but David Yow just sucked. Plenty of kids were stage diving and carrying on, so the crowd seemed in to it. I was bummed that we had missed both Iron & Wine and David Cross earlier in the evening.

I was, however, very excited to see the main venue, “Stage One”, where we would be spending so much time for the next few days. Stage One was a semi-circular arena, with several elevated tiers. There were no seats, so everybody stands, which is fine by me. Looking around the room, you could easily imagine these tiers filled with a maze of cocktail tables with little lamps, like that scene at the Copa Cabana in “Goodfellas”. The room must hold about 2500 people comfortably. You could get a good gander of the stage from anywhere. The acoustics were solid, and the sound system was excellent.

The show ended at around 1:30am. We explored the hotel for a bit afterwards. There were a few different lounges that were somewhat lively, filled with nothing but nerds talking about music. DJs played old school Hip Hop and dancey rock n roll. A piece of blue-cake-frosting asbestos ceiling fell in to Serge’s drink. Like I said, this place was totally falling apart. The complex is surrounding a small man-made lake, so lots of people were outside smoking and milling around. It was kind of bizarre to see this crowd of music nerds transported from a dive bar on Bedford Ave straight to the edge of a lake in the Catskills.

We returned to Kutsher’s at about 1:30pm the next day. After a quick rendezvous with the Venezweirdos, we rushed down to Stage One to catch the last half of Sufjan Stevens. To my amazement, the auditorium that had been filled with loud punk fans slam dancing to Jesus Lizard was now completely silent. I swear you could hear a pin drop. We walked in and made our way silently through the crowd.


I had never heard Sufjan Stevens before. He played the banjo and the acoustic guitar and sung in this beautiful whisper voice that probably got him beat up a lot as a kid. He had a small band with him and they seemed to play just the perfect amount of minimal accompaniment to keep the sound quiet and keep the audience in a state of hushed awe.

It was magical. It felt more like a church service than a concert. It only took a few songs for me to think “wow, this is some really beautiful music I’m witnessing”. He was performing his 2004 album “Seven Swans” in its entirety. There is a running theme of religious hallucinations in the lyrics that I picked up on immediately. This just endeared me to him even more. After the show I went out to the lobby and bought the album on vinyl. I’ve been listening to it almost daily ever since. His new album is all about the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, which I can see from my doorstep.

As soon as Sufjan finished we headed over to Stage Two, where Bridezilla was about two songs in to their set. We waltzed in and found a good vantage point with no trouble at all.

One of the greatest thing about this whole festival is the size of the crowd. They keep the tickets limited, so there is never too many people in any show. Hence, there is never a line to wait in, never a rush to get there. There’s always plenty of room. Such a simple idea, but a great one nonetheless.

Another wonderful aspect is the lack of corporate sponsorship. No teams of promotional flunkies handing out free samples or trying to sign you up for The Discover Card. No tables of cell phone accessories or nasty energy drinks. Such a shunning of corporatism is almost unheard of in this day in age. Actually, I’m quite certain it is completely unheard of for a festival of this magnitude. Bravo ATP. Bravo.

We left the Bridezilla show a few songs early and headed back to Stage One for Grouper, who is basically just a chick on a stool playing this weird, dreamy, droning ambient noise on a guitar and sort of singing here and there. It was interesting but not really grabbing me. Maybe if I was on 6 vicodin or something, but my 3pm sober was not cutting it. She did have cool projections behind her.

After Grouper it was back to Stage Two for a guy who calls himself Atlas Sound. He was sitting in a chair, playing guitar, and working some kind of sampler or keyboard. He’s a very funky looking dude. Tall and lanky and kind of caved-in, like he’s been badly photoshopped. Somebody said he was born with a form of gigantism. He’s also the singer for this band Deer Hunter, who were playing later that day.


By late afternoon I had a pretty good read on the crowd that was in attendance. It’s really pretty remarkable. It’s as if they take all of the douchebags that you hate from any concert experience and remove them, leaving just true music nerds like yourself. No fashionistas. No shirtless suburbanites pumping their fists. No chicks up on dudes’ shoulders flashing their tits. No wall street assholes with box seats. NONE of that. Just people who are like “holy shit this is my favorite fucking band and I’m so fucking happy to be here”. It’s really, really cool.

At some point in the day, well in to our respective altered states, The Venezweirdos and my crew came across an entire hallway filled with plastic colored balls about the size of an orange. It was like the Chuck E Cheese ball pit for adults. You can imagine my excitement. Like somebody magical wizard had dumped them all over the hallway, just for us!

The next show we attended was Anti-Pop Consortium. I was never a fan, really, but they put on a decent show and one of their MCs does have relatively mad skillz. El P played on the same stage about an hour later. He was actually pretty damn good, but he just never did it for me as an MC.

Dead Meadow was awesome. They play this Black Sabbathy bluesy rock, and manage to get a really nice, heavy, slow groove going out of just a simple three piece. It’s stripped down and honest and just kinda kicks ass though you’re not exactly sure why. I’ve downloaded a bunch of their albums in the past few weeks but none of them seem to live up to how good they sounded live.


The Melvins were surprisingly great. I never really got in to any post-85 punk rock, and the kind of people I know who have told me that they dig The Melvins have always been a bit suspect to me. Turns out I was totally wrong and they actually kick ass for dayz. Their singer/guitarist wears a ridiculous Satanic robe and looks like a cross between sideshow bob and shleprock from the Flintstones. They had two Bonham-esque drummers and the whole outfit was tight as a mother fucker.

After the Melvins we ran over to Stage One to catch Shellac – one of Steve Albini‘s side projects. I hadn’t seen Albini since about 1985, when I went to see Big Black & Squirrel Bait. After that show we all went back to some chick’s apartment and shot off fireworks until 3am. Maybe it ws July 4th or something. Not sure. Shellac’s set was off-key and abrasive and challenging, just like Big Black. Short bursts of noise followed by wise-ass spoken word shit over repetitive riffs that seemed to be trying to test the audience’s tolerance for enduring them.


Their drummer Todd Trainer is the most rock n roll mother fucker on planet earth. Like Keith Richards and Iggy Pop and the tall skinny creature from The Gorillaz had a baby. We were all in awe of him. He’s a fucking BEAST.


Animal Collective closed out the day late Saturday night. Two guys with samplers and keyboards and one guy with a guitar. They totally blew me away. It sounded like nothing I have ever heard in my life. Abstract electronica that throws out just about all rules of conventional music that I know of. Layers upon layers of sound. Endless loops and delays. Sounds weirdly chaotic, yet still has just enough form to keep you engaged, with occasional tremendous crescendos that reach a rave-like frenzy. Their latest album has been widely compared to “Pet Sounds” by more than a few critics. Imagine early Pink Floyd, and Phillip Glass, and The Beach Boys, filtered through rave culture, but with little if any recognizable structure. It was cool. I have no idea if their records could live up to what they did live, cuz every song just blended in to the next in this seamless layered way. It was hard to comprehend how even the members of the band could be keeping track what they were doing.


After the last show we all ran around the lake in the dark and found a deserted playground with swingsets and one of those big giant hanging discs that can fit ten people on it. It was rusty and made a horribly loud creaking sound as it revolved. The stars were intensely abundant and looked like they were painted on a high ceiling overhead, Out of nowhere, a little gnome-shaped hippie appeared and started spinning these glowing balls around. He barely said two words. It was so fucking bizarre and yet perfect at the same time. We gave him a joint for both his impressive spinning light show performance and his perfect timing. We got back to the hotel around 3am and made margaritas in the room for an hour or so before listening to “No Quarter” in lullaby form and falling asleep. I’m telling you, this Led Zeppelin Lullaby album is like taking 3 Ambien.

So that was Saturday, and it was fucking EPIC. I kept saying to Ben and Serge and anybody who would listen

“This is our real life! We are actually having this much fun!”

I was truly beside myself with joy.

Sunday was more of the same magic. A never ending plastic ball war between the two rival camps kept us on our toes at all times. The bands were diverse and interesting and occasionally fantastic.

We stopped by Walmart in the morning, to buy some ammo for a final assault on the Venezweirdos. The plastic ball ammunition was growing thin, and we needed a decisive strike. That was my first time inside a Walmart. Holy mother of GOD is that place gigantic. You could have parked seven 747s in there. They were oddly devoid of plastic colored balls, but we did find twelve cans of silly string and one of those super loud air-horns. Now all we needed was the perfect moment to strike.

The Boredoms played first on Sunday. Holy fucking shit. INSANE. Nine drummers beating the fuck out of drumkits while that crazy dreadlocked japanese guy screams like a banshee and bangs on a wall full of guitars with metal pipes. It was outta this world. Talk about a wake up. I’ve been told they sometime perform this same show with 77 drummers. Bananas.


Boris played mid-afternoon on stage two. Before the show I ran in to Peter Aaron, the bass player from my old band Sluggo. He later went on to form the Chrome Cranks, who are old enough to be doing reunion shows these days. We hadn’t seen each other in about 15 years. He told me he was a music writer living upstate and was still playing in several bands. It was amazing to see him.

Good lord, Boris was the some of the slowest heaviest music I have ever witnessed. Like somebody playing a heavy metal album in a black hole where time has been slowed down to 1/25th the original speed. People call it sludge rock or drone metal or god knows what. They were unbelievably loud. Like being hit in the chest with 40 sledgehammers for an hour. I had only heard them once before, on the soundtrack to the Jarmusch movie “The Limits of Control” (which I highly recommend – both soundtrack and film).



The icing on the cake treat for me on Sunday was the No Age show of all Husker Du songs, with fucking Bob Mould on guitar and vocals – one of my all time musical heroes. Husker Du was one of the greatest American hardcore bands of my era. I saw them several times as a kid. This show was the first time Bob Mould had played any of their material in decades. I felt like I was 15 again. “Makes No Sense At All” was the standout for me, but “New Day Rising” and a cover of Johnny Thunders’ “Chinese Rock” also brought the house down.


Black Moth Super Rainbow‘s AIR-esque groovy electronica made for the perfect find-a-chair and wait out this fucking brownie moment. And I really do love the name of this band.

The Flaming Lips closed out the weekend late Sunday night. You can only imagine the energy in the room. Everyone in attendance had just had the coolest three days of their lives. Playing to three thousand people who are so grateful to you for curating this epic weekend of awesome music meant they couldn’t have had a more willing and excited crowd.


They had a big LED curtain behind the stage. The show began with solarized 60s-lookin video of some naked chick dancing around. She then laid down and spread her legs, revealing a pulsating strobe light vagina. The Vagina grew and grew until it filled the whole screen. Then, to the crowd’s delight, a door opened in the middle of the vagina, and the band emerged, one by one, stepping out on to a ramp that lead down to the stage. All but the singer, who appeared from behind the ramp, encased in a plastic cocoon. This cocoon soon inflated to a big atlas-sphere size bubble.


When the band started, the singer started rolling around in the big bubble on the heads of the crowd. Then 100 giant plastic balls feel from the ceiling and confetti cannons exploded and people lost their damn minds. Somebody told me this is how all Flaming Lips shows start. All I know is that it was hilarious.

Once the giant plastic balls fell from the ceiling all over the venue, it was abundantly clear that the small plastic balls that we had been beaning each other with all weekend were a subtle, guerilla foreshadowing of the Flaming Lips manic live show. Kinda cool, no?


After the Lips did their last encore, we gathered the troops at the Venezweirdos door for the long-awaited silly string assault. I rushed in first, letting loose with the air horn with everybody two-fisted silly stringing the fuck out of the place like a John Woo movie.

To our surprise, they were all lying on the ground on their backs, with their legs and feet in the air, like turtles, with one of them CROWD-SURFING on the hands and feet of the others. There was no music on. They were just singing some Flaming lips chorus at the top of their lungs. Fucking degenerates.


All in all, three of the most epic days of my life.
Thanks Jesse!
I owe you a beer (and $500 – call me)

If any of this sounds like fun to you, I strongly encourage that you attend in 2010.

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