BUST has returned from its pilgrimage to ATP’s I’ll be Your Mirror Festival and our ears are still (gloriously) ringing from the brain-rattling sounds of some of renegade music culture’s best in show.
Similar to the original venue for this ATP festival (Pontin’s Holiday Camp in the U.K.), Asbury Park is a once prosperous seashore vacation capital turned economically (but photogenically!) desolate (perfect scenery for nerding out with your hipstamatic). Many of the buildings haunting the boardwalk’s vicinity are fossils of Gilded Age era amusement facilities (think gutted casino arena, horseless carousel house, convention hall and adjacent professional theater bedecked in time worn beaux arts architectural extravagances).
ATP’s musical guests put on performances that could have echoed the mood swings of many a down-on-its-luck near ghost town. Musical aesthetics ran the gamut from groovy and spooky to feral and ear-splitting to shiftless and forlorn. Though numerically speaking ATP’s bands were largely gentleman-staffed, many of them featured strong lady rockers who, if not at the helm, held down undeniably commandeering presences in other zones of the stage. Madeline Follin, leading lady of Cults, transported the audience to the vintage zombie prom of its dreams with diva-quality vocals set to ominously reverberating Motown generation instrumentals. In the spirit of what Deerhoof describes as their new “coming of age album,” all five feet of Satomi Matsuzaki bounced around the stage (though she kept her tiny voice signaturely controlled and understated) playing her bass (likely taller than she) with more bubblegum verve than a cheerleader at a punk rock pep rally. Tribal noise rock band Foot Village’s Grace Lee stood barefoot on a drum stool and fired up the inner neanderthal in her audience members by out sing-screaming (and, on occasion, out timber wolf howling) her four zealously percussing band mates. Drummer Adrienne Davies of Earth was impossible to look away from as she soldiered her band mates through emotionally swampy soundscapes at a pace no less profoundly patient than that at which planet earth rotates. Throughout an orchestral set of “guitar abusing and pedal worshiping,” Thought Forms bassist Deej Dhairwal let her bass feedback ring at organ-imploding volumes without ever coming close to breaking the majestic serenity of her composure. And of course Portishead’s Beth Gibbons' ethereal, sometimes borderline extraterrestrial vocals kept her audiences heart strings pulled snapping-point taut amongst the heavy trip-hopping machinery of Geoff Barrow’s auditory tinkering.
Regarding the gentleman talent of the festival (all legitimate contenders for BUST’s “Boy du Jour” column), Neutral Milk Hotel’s founding father Jeff Mangum did not let the idea of an acoustic set relax his delivery. He strummed and sang through a studio-quality set of fan favorites with a steely eyed keenness (literally, he blinked maybe twice throughout the duration of his performance) that more than made up for the absent three quarters of Neutral Milk Hotel, leaving his adoring audience plenty teared up and throat-cramped. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy took us out of Jersey and into the bed of a pick-up parked under the stars in Nashville for a welcome sunken country heart interlude. Swans pumped audience bodies with what the festival program warned would be “punishing, brutal, and repetitive onslaughts of sound” until they either transcended the agony or had to leave the venue. Flava Flav got the plaid-clad nerds shaking what their NPR-listening mamas gave them. Awesome Tapes From Africa did work in a similar vein, but threw some lute into the mix.
All in all, ATP was a formidable force of eargasming and BUST is ready to buy its ticket for next year.
--Maggie Beauvais, BUST's Girl in the Field, reporting from ATP in Asbury Park
Photo Credits: Maggie Beauvais
ATP is not for the weak