The third and final day of All Tomorrow’s Parties New York started with a mighty bang that didn’t stop banging for an hour and a half: The Japanese noise troupe Boredoms dominated the early afternoon with their “Boadrum 9” performance. The Boadrum series began in earnest in July of 2007 — 7/7/07, precisely — with 77 drummers arrayed in a snaking spiral on the Brooklyn, New York, waterfront, bashing away in a constantly morphing pattern. They wrote a fresh piece for 88 drummers and performed it in Los Angeles on August 8, 2008. For the 2009 version of Boadrum, as so much of the world has been forced to do in these lean times, they downsized: nine drummers only, hammering away in a club. (On September 9, 2009, they performed the piece in Manhattan; Sunday’s show came with no apparent numerological significance.)
That reduction in workforce was just one of the ways you could read the fraught economy and general global anxiety into the performance. The first two Boadrums have been beefed-up drum circles not just in form but in spirit: hippie-ish odes to participation and communal experience, monuments to breathtaking, gradual change. Boadrum 9 was fiercer and more unsettled — when drums fell into a groove (which they rarely seemed to do for long), it was a brutal, shoving one. Frontman Eye shrieked and grunted constantly. This seemed less drum circle and more exorcism, riddled with jagged peaks and suddenly plummeting valleys.
At the opposite end of the events-per-minute spectrum was another heavy Japanese act, Boris. The trio proceeded at an almost unbearably slow pace. Songs moved forward not by increasing in complexity — one two-note riff tolled out for the better part of a half-hour — but by gaining in feedback and ear-bleeding volume. On hand in the crowd was Jim Jarmusch, who used Boris’ glacial version of metal in his most recent movie, The Limits of Control. Dead Man. Here, we got a taste of ATP at its most intimate: a movie director shooting the breeze with his fans, one of whom happened to be a rock star.
L.A. punk duo No Age’s evening performance also thrived on a collision of the (indie) stars. They were joined on stage by Bob Mould, the former frontman of Minnesota punks Hüsker Dü, for a set that alternated between No Age songs and those from Hüsker Dü’s ’80s heyday, like “New Day Rising” and “Makes No Sense At All.” The songs came fast and ecstatic, and where many bands delivered crisply articulated sound this weekend, the threesome made a gloriously blown-out racket. With its interest in “heritage” acts and “classic” albums, ATP is a festival that keeps one foot firmly in the past. This cross-generational team-up was a vibrant way to make sure that “classic” doesn’t translate to “dusty old museum piece.”
Finally, there was a giant naked woman, glowing fluorescent yellow and traipsing across the main stage. The Flaming Lips were starting their headlining, weekend-closing set, and a video screen towards the back of the stage played what you might call psychedelic porn. The woman slithered and shook, and finally lay down and spread her legs — the screen opened up and members of the band emerged from behind it one at a time, as though they’d just been born into the world. Coyne began the set rolling across the surface of the crowd in a giant plastic bubble that has been something of a Flaming Lips trademark for several years. The set, which plotted an effusive, psych-bathed course from “Silver Trembling Hands” to “Fight Test” to the clanking, Silver Apples-indebted “Convinced of the Hex,” a highlight of the band’s forthcoming album, Embryonic.
There were dancers in furry animal costumes. There were balloons, confetti cannons, and balloons filled with confetti. An explosion of euphoria in a creaky old Catskills resort, it was a perfect capstone to the weekend: a riotous indie-rock bar mitzvah that worked in reverse, not celebrating the approach of adulthood, but rather a return to one’s jubilant inner child.