Highlights From All Tomorrow's Parties, the Perfect Rock Festival

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Nobody puts Iggy in a corner! There’s no other rock & roll experience quite like seeing the Stooges do “Raw Power” in the cozy confines of Kutsher’s Country Club in Monticello, New York, the old-school Catskills resort that inspired Dirty Dancing. The setting is part of what makes All Tomorrow’s Parties the perfect rock festival. When you’re not flame-broiling your cortex to Sonic Youth, Sleep, or Explosions in the Sky, you can try your hand at shuffleboard or air hockey; while waiting for DJ Kool Herc to rock the Deep End Bar by the swimming pool, you can row a boat on the pond or try to guess the last time that shag carpet got cleaned.

For the third straight year, ATP was the festival that makes all others seem like a trip to the dentist. There’s no outdoor toilets, no trudge to the parking lot, no booths of hucksters trying to sell you something, no VIP corrals. Everybody showed up because they’re a hardcore music freak, so the borscht-belt vibe is almost bizarrely friendly. The bands hang out to watch one another’s sets, and nobody rubbernecks or eyefucks or bugs them for pictures. The guest curator was indie director Jim Jarmusch, who seemed to show up for every band that played. Even the food is great, thanks to the Asia Dog stand. It’s rare to see a festival where people are so sad to leave — in “Gimme Danger,” when Iggy sang, “There’s nothing left of life but a pair of glassy eyes,” he could have been describing how you feel after three days of ATP.

Bonus: the only wi-fi reception is in the lobby, which cuts down on the glowing screens that flash in your face while you’re trying to rock. It was hilarious watching people desperately try to check their email anyway. Jesus, if you can’t get through a rock show without playing with your phone, you need a more demanding drug habit. And if you sincerely plan on looking at all those Tortoise photos you’re taking, consider a busier masturbation schedule.

The only catch? No way you could absorb everything you wanted to Hear — not with a schedule this packed. But that’s the nature of a festival where you can catch Hannibal Burress on the comedy stage, play poker with Steve Albini or see Ron Jeremy introduce Raekwon. A quick highlight loop:

SONIC YOUTH

They closed Saturday night with the crowd-butchering climax of the weekend. They were down to a four-piece (bassist Mark Ibold is off touring with Pavement) and so they reached back to classics like “Catholic Block,” “Shaking Hell” and “Hey Joni,” despite the fact that they’re one of the few veteran bands still making their finest records. I’ve now heard Sonic Youth do “Eric’s Trip” in the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and 2010s, but this one was the best ever, because the song — and the band — have never sounded more passionate, more intense. Also, I loved how the hippie dude in front of me ran his hands through his hair every time in Thurston sang the line (from “Candle”), “The wind is ripping through my stupid mop.”

SUNN O))) & BORIS

I forgot music could get loud enough to make a man sneeze, which hasn’t happened to me since Boris’s ATP gig last year. This time Boris teamed up with the American doom-metal band Sunn O))) to perform (for the second time ever) their 2006 collaboration, Altar. The musicians wore hooded robes, looming over their instruments in the purple lights, along with the most out-of-control smoke machine I’ve ever seen. It looked like a Viking funeral, except with a cosmic trombone solo. The feedback rumbles grew so loud, my pancreas exited my body via my nostrils, so I had to take it home in a paper bag. Gesundheit, Thor!

SLEEP

The stoner metal legends did their underground classics Dopesmoker and Holy Mountain for a rabid audience that had every riff memorized. Of course, it's hard not to memorize the riffs when they go on for twenty minutes. When they sang the epic "From Beyond," and uttered the line, "Shockwaves rattle the earth below with hymns of doom," it was a simple statement of fact. And when guitarist Matt Pike said, "This is one of the fuckin' best days of my life," he wasn't kidding. (Judging from the crowd response, he wasn't alone.) Awesome.

IGGY AND THE STOOGES

How the hell do Iggy’s pants stay up, anyway? His waistband never rose above his hipbones, but never fell down — there must be some kind of magic Iggy glue that keeps them in place, even when the 63-year-old madman inside them is shaking his shake appeal all over the room. The Stooges slammed through their classic Raw Power, along with tracks like “1970” and “No Fun,” with long-lost guitarist James Williamson in startling form. Iggy exhorted the fans (“I want dancers! I want spazzers! I want freaks!”), worked the show-biz stage patter (“You’re very, very pretty ... but your pretty face is going to hell!”) and kept stage-diving even after the other Stooges had left. That’s entertainment.

MOST THE SHINING-LIKE MOMENT

The lounge singer in the lobby on Saturday afternoon, making love to his Casio and crooning Neil Sedaka’s “Laughter in the Rain” to hung-over punters too zonked to roll off the couch and crawl away. When he hit the high notes in “Crying,” it would have made anyone’s blood run cold. And that was before he got to “Love Is In The Air.”

EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY

The Texas noise-mongerers were so stunning, the crowd stuck around after the set just to applaud the band when they came out to break down their gear.

LE DOULOS

Director Jim Jarmusch, the curator of Sunday’s lineup, also selected the “Criterion Crimewave” in the movie room, with a slate of film noir classics. This 1963 French gangster flick with Jean-Paul Belmondo raises a question: how many times did Bob Dylan watch this movie when it came out? It seems like Zimmy learned a few of his cold-blooded stares right here.

T MODEL FORD

The Mississippi bluesman is celebrating his 90th birthday, and just had a stroke in April, yet he hung out all weekend, plugging in to play guitar practically anywhere he could find an open electric socket. Can’t knock the hustle!

HOPE SANDOVAL

I just dropped by for old times’ sake, but the Mazzy Star mumble-duchess was surprisingly impressive, playing a mean xylophone. She also told the Sunday afternoon crowd, “You all look tired.” Dudes, when you’ve had your energy level critiqued by Hope Sandoval, maybe it’s time for a disco nap.

THE BREEDERS

The Deal twins are a sloppy shambles on principle — it takes real artistic integrity to play “Divine Hammer” for all these years without figuring out how it goes. But that’s how they get that off-the-cuff charm, resulting in fantastic romps through “I Am Decided” and “Drivin’ on 9.” I could go on about this set, plus Shellac, GZA, Wooden Shjips, Black Angels, the Vivian Girls, Papa M, Northampton Wools and Hallogallo. But I have to reserve a very special round of applause for ...

THE COUPLE IN THE NEXT ROOM

Did they even leave the fourth floor? Every time I stopped by my room to brush my teeth, these two were at Sunn O))) & Boris-levels of audio togetherness, demonstrating how thin the walls are at Kutshers. I didn’t get the young lady’s name, but the gentleman apparently goes by Oh God God God. Mazel tov, you crazy kids! You give us all hope for the hipster youth of today. The lobby lounge singer was right — love is in the air!

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Video: Sonic Youth, the Breeders

Video: Stooges, Mudhoney

Video: Greenhornes, Girls

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