Volume: All Tomorrow’s Parties, Kutshers Country Club, Monticello, NY 09/03-05/2010 by Becca Skaparas (Special Guest of The Synaptic)

I‘d forgotten the smell, but it definitely came rushing back when we walked into Kutsher‘s Country Club last Friday. It’s a combination of dust and mildew; not overwhelmingly strong, but certainly noticeable. I suspect Kutsher’s hasn’t been updated (or thoroughly cleaned) since 1975. And that’s why I like it. It’s like walking into a time warp.

My adventure with All Tomorrow’s Parties in upstate New York began last year. The husband and I decided on the first day of ATP NY 2009 that we would definitely be coming back for 2010. The festival is unlike what a person normally thinks of as a festival. No obvious corporate sponsorship. No baking in the sun, waiting to watch your favorite band’s best songs be overpowered by the sound bleed from the next stage over. Actual bathrooms with sinks scattered throughout. No families parked in the same spot all day, blocking a walkway (*cough*ACL*cough*). No LA hipsters just wanting to be seen (*cough*Coachella*cough*). No VIP versus commoners vibe. (There is a VIP area somewhere in Kutsher’s, but supposedly it stays empty the entire weekend. Probably because nobody can find it.) This is a festival for the nerdiest of music nerds. My heaven.

I’d equate the ATP experience to spending an entire weekend going to club shows. Aside from the food court (more on that in a bit), everything is indoors. The most proactive attendees score rooms onsite. If you are staying onsite, you don’t smoke, and you can live on granola bars or whatever else you can store in your room, you could theoretically not step outside from the time you arrive at Kutsher’s to the time you have to leave. It may be light outside, but you wouldn’t know that from stepping into the Stardust Ballroom at 2 p.m. It’s dark, the stage lights are flashing, and there are kids crowd-surfing. It twists your brain into Vegas mode. Is it daytime? Nighttime? Who cares. Let’s have a drink.

ATP promised better food this year, and they honored that promise…sort of. I could really live without the catch-all Greek/American/Italian/non-descript booth that dominates the food court outdoors, but the other options made up for the greasy mystery food. Want hot dogs covered in pork belly or kimchi? Asia Dog is for you. There were also food vendors in for the weekend from the Brooklyn Flea Market. I enjoyed the fish tacos, but I want to have babies with Steve’s Craft Ice Cream. Ever had spicy saffron pistachio ice cream with cardamom? You should.

The festival officially gets started late Friday afternoon. Friday consists of Don’t Look Back sets on Stage 1 (the Stardust Ballroom) and comedy acts on Stage 2 (the Dining Room). For those unfamiliar with the term, Don’t Look Back sets consist of bands performing one classic record in its entirety, with occasional extra material to follow. My personal Friday highlight was Iggy and the Stooges performing Raw Power, plus a few other songs. I spent most of the set reminding myself that Iggy Pop is 63 YEARS OLD. The man spent the entire set gyrating and stage-diving and tossing mic stands around, while security looked on nervously. I seriously think he is a cyborg custom-built for rock and roll. It was exhilarating to witness.

We skipped Sleep (sorry, stoner metal fans) and finished out the night at the comedy stage with Todd Barry and Hannibal Buress. While Hannibal cracked me up with his act Friday night, the conversation we had when we both abandoned Text and Light’s Saturday set of squealing feedback was the most I laughed all weekend. This being a family-friendly website, I cannot share the exact word he used to describe the set…but it rhymed with “truckery.” I think Hannibal wins the award for performer I saw wandering around the most that weekend.

This brings me to another comment on the festival. Aside from the artists on a tight schedule, all the performers stay onsite for the weekend, in the same dingy rooms as everyone else. It is not uncommon to see people such as Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore stopping in the Deep End Bar for a Bloody Mary on a Sunday afternoon, or Jim Jarmusch hanging out in the lobby. T Model Ford was scheduled to play on Sunday night, but I saw him plugging his guitar and tiny amp into any available outlet and playing all weekend for whomever happened to be hanging around. Last year I saw Nick Cave playing Area 51 in the arcade with a little girl, and I shared an elevator with Sufjan Stevens…twice. Since the festival is limited to under 3000 people, you see the same people multiple times all weekend…including the artists.

Saturday was curated by ATP. The Books were my Saturday highlight, and my number one set of the entire weekend. I was looking forward to their set, and my expectations were exceeded. The way they combine video with live instrumentation and vocals is awesome. The chopped-up audio from the old, repurposed VHS tapes WAS the rhythm section. I was thankful to be on the rail; I doubt I would have had the same experience 20 people back. Beak> and Tortoise were also amazing. My only real Saturday regret was choosing Fursaxa over F*ck Buttons. Fursaxa was total, um, that wonderful word that rhymes with “truckery,” and the tail end of F*ck Buttons was so great that I wished I had seen the whole set. Oh well. Live and learn.

Sunday was curated by Jim Jarmusch. I spent the early part of Sunday in the Deep End Bar watching other festival attendees participate in the annual trivia contest. (I will most definitely participate next year, because I would have OWNED.) The trivia alone was proof that you could have a great time at this festival without ever watching a single band. My Sunday highlight was Sunn 0))) and Boris performing Altar. Holy monkey. I think my internal organs were vibrating with the bass. “The Sinking Belle (Blue Sheep)” made me cry. The set was an intense way to end the weekend. My other Sunday highlights were Dungen and F*cked Up. Dungen brought the Swedish psych rock, and F*cked Up brought the manic energy as only F*cked Up can. The F*cked Up set made me feel 15 again. I wanted to go slam into people and slip all over the water and Coke and Oreos that Damian was spreading on the floor. (I didn’t. My brain might have reverted back to teen times, but my lower back reminded me that I am, in fact, in my thirties.)

I was sad to say goodbye to Kutsher’s on Monday, even with its questionable plumbing, odd smell, and disco-era décor. It feels like home for the weekend I’m there, and I can’t wait to go back home in 2011. Never die, ATP NY.

I don’t know what I’d do without you.

~ by thesynaptic on September 13, 2010.

One Response to “Volume: All Tomorrow’s Parties, Kutshers Country Club, Monticello, NY 09/03-05/2010 by Becca Skaparas (Special Guest of The Synaptic)”

  1. Great review!

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