Monday, September 21, 2009
All Tomorrow's Parties - Friday
New York has been getting monotonous. Working, drinking, living in a loud, fast-paced hive - it's getting to be too much. Central Park, the simulation of nature, is preened and controlled and catered to satiate the city's desire for trees and grass. It's just not the same when you look up and see the CNN Tower. I need to get out.
Music festivals have had some pretty poor lineups this summer. I had no desire to attend the big festivals: Lollapalooza, Pitchfork, All Points West, they didn't impress me. I saw the lineup for All Tomorrow's Parties, however, it seemed too good to be true. Curated by The Flaming Lips? At a resort in upstate New York? Paradise. I bought a ticket immediately, without anyone to accompany me.
The plan is to get a ticket to the festival but no accommodations. I'd camp discreetly in the nearby forest and cook all of my meals over the campfire with rice and beans. It looks pretty foolproof. Now I just have to find someone crazy enough to join me.
Last year, when I decided to have a spur of the moment trip to Montreal, I ran into my friend Nick at a bar in Pittston, PA. I said I was leaving in the afternoon. He said he'd call off work the next morning and have everything ready to leave by then. So this summer, I was glad to know Nicky would drop everything and come camping on this crazy adventure. We get our supplies together in Wilkes-Barre, including a tent, sleeping bags, cooking pots and pans, some rice and beans, a loaf of bread, peanut butter and jelly. We're ready for three days in the wilderness. The night before, we spend a crazy night in Brooklyn exploring the Maze and getting some last minute supplies, and then take off the next morning for Monticello, New York.
The day before, I answered an ad on Craigslist for two people that needed a ride to the festival. So we pick up Eric and Jamie in the Lower East Side on the way out. Eric has been putting together an independent film and was working with one of the guys from The Jesus Lizard. He is also a former minor league baseball pitcher. Jamie is an actress in one of his films. They have flown in from Austin, Texas and are going to the festival for free as guests of the Jesus Lizard. They also have no place to stay, so we invite them to our camp, or whatever happens that night.
We arrive at the resort and are blown away. This is a literal country club - indoor pool, sauna, massages, a huge lake with patios all around. There are artist installations, an independent cinema, and a little gift shop that servs amazing coffee (Sufjan Stevens would later play a show sponsored by the gift shop - all of them wearing tye-dyed Kutsher's Country Club T-Shirts).
We meet three people from Washington D.C. and start talking about camping. They tell us to check out the meadow beyond the parking lot. There are some old houses out there that are abandoned, and tons of room to pitch a tent. So we decide to scope out the area.
Growing up in Wilkes-Barre, I have an affinity for urban exploration. Abandoned houses sounded way better than the early acts of the festival we find the open gate in the parking lot and wander into a surreal scene, like something out of a Rob Zombie movie:
The houses have been abandoned for at least 15 years. Some beds and dressers remain inside, but it's mostly plywood and rotting carpet. One of the houses even has a dripping faucet, into a sink filled with black water. Right out of a horror movie. We find our new friends' tent behind a house and pitch ours next to it.
Back at the festival, we decide to check out The Dirty Three. I had never heard of them, but Jamie insists we check them out. They turn out to be spectacular, with Nick Cave turning up to play piano. This is one of the most memorable acts of the day.
We explore a bit more and run into a guy named Zac who knows one of our mutual friends in Wilkes-Barre. We invite him to stay at our camp that night, since he also arrived without a place to go. If you've been checking out Brooklyn Vegan, this is around the time that photo was taken. Lots of reading and sleeping. Of course, we were just waiting around for Panda Bear.
Noah Lennox is one of the most talented musicians out there. Even solo, his angelic voice floats over his bizarre samples, locking you into some strange trance that is half primitive percussion and half futuristic electronica. The video screen behind him seems to convey a mood that matches each song. This is one of the best performances of the weekend:
Afterward, Nick leaves and I stick around to watch Iron and Wine. Alone, Sam Beam plays an amazing show and has me close to tears with nostalgia. The stage is set up like a ballroom. There is a large hardwood floor, and a few tiers that extend back, presumably for dining tables. I go back to the first tier and jump up on the divider. From my perch, I take in the entire set wistfully, drinking in the beautiful lyrics.
The Jesus Lizard are rocking, but we are exhausted. Eric would later reprimand me for not staying for the entire set. He and Jamie are soaked with sweat. We all retire to our tent for the evening. Nick, Eric, Jamie, Zac, and I all cram side by side in our tiny tent. Later, we hear our D.C. compadres come back, saying "They're asleep? What about a tent party?" Friday was just a warm-up. Tomorrow is going to be even better