Friday, September 26, 2008

Life in the Empire State

New York started out as a bit of a fizzer. We flew in to JFK from New Orleans and went to pick up our rental car that T had laboured over finding a good deal on for hours. We were told however that it was going to be $600 more than we had been quoted. We were heading up to Monticello in upstate New York later that day for the All Tomorrows Parties festival, but decided that we would be better to get the bus there and rent a car elsewhere. I do not endorse Dollar Car Rentals one bit - they are misleading and the staff are mean!

We stashed our bags at the Port Authority after buying our bus tickets, leaving us with about four hours of quality NYC time. This meant finding some good food, as we while the website for ATP stated there would be vegan food options, we thought it might be best to fuel up while we could. We went to Hangawi, a Korean vegan restaurant on E 32nd Street. It was one of the most beautiful restaurants I have been in - the tables are set into the ground, so you sit on the floor and your legs can dangle down. T was a bit of a bull in a china shop as we came in, as he tripped over his bag a little and the lid of the pen in his pocket went flying across the room. The staff were very good natured and asked if he was ok (he was), and serenity was restored. 

Hangawi I by you.

We started with veggie dumplings, and an amazing mango pear salad. T then had the avocado stone rice bowl, which was exactly that (avocado and other veggies with rice in a hot stone bowl). I had the pick of the bunch, the organic tofu steak. It came with organic multigrain rice and a salad so fresh it was like it came from a garden out the back. T had a Korean beer, and I had an asian pear soju cocktail.  

 Hangawi II by you.

The bus trip to Monticello was relatively painless as it was only about 90 minutes. A taxi whisked us over to the Best Western Monticello where we were sharing a room with our friends Chris & Corinne from Toronto. It was great staying up for hours catching up since we hadn't seen each other for about 3 years.

ATP started the next day over at Kutshers Country Club in Monticello, which was about a five minute drive from the Best Western. The Country Club itself was a little like being in The Shining - I don't think it had been renovated since the 70's, and the patterned carpet was a little creepy. We headed straight into the bar to get a drink, and lo and behold, there was our friend Daragh from Toronto. It was like we had just seen him the day before rather than 3 years earlier. 

The lineup of the first day of ATP was probably the weakest for me. Highlights for me that day were:

Some psychedelia from Bardo Pond, although I wish they had played their album Dilate rather than Lapsed - oh to see Aphasia performed live.......

Thurston Moore performing Psychic Hearts, the title track of which I particularly enjoyed, in addition to his devotion to Yoko Ono displayed in "Ono Soul," and his generally goofy demeanour. 

I held high hopes for the Saturday lineup. Highlights for me included: 

Growing - I had never seen these guys before, and all I knew about them was their noise/drone type stuff. This show was quite different, as it was quite energetic and dare I say it, very danceable electronica. 

Growing II by you.

Fuck Buttons - I started out trying to untangle all the layers of noise, but once I stopped doing that, I started to appreciate their music as a whole. It was an incredibly engaging and exciting set. I finally got what T has been talking about for the last few months.

Fuck Buttons I by you.

Low - I think this was the seventh time I have seen these guys, and I this was one of their most mesmerising shows. I especially enjoyed their working of African singing into "Candy Girl" at the start of their set.

Thee Silver Mount Zion Orchestra - These guys (and of course Godspeed) are the kings of building a crescendo, and they did not disappoint in this performance. I really enjoy their DIY type ethic (again along with Godspeed and others like Arcade Fire), where everyone sings as it isn't necessarily about the best voices, but the contribution itself. 

Shellac -  I had been hotly anticipating this show all day, as I'm a big fan and I love love loved their show at The Scala in London a few years back. I found this show a little disappointing though, and I can't really put my finger on it. I think it might be a combination of discovering that Steve Albini is not a friend to women in any way whatsoever, and that it all seemed a bit gimmicky, with Todd Trainer raising his arm like Kiss to start or kick back into things. 

I'm not really sure what all the fuss was about when it comes to Lightning Bolt. Sure, they set up and play in the audience, but that is a gimmick that in my view can only take a band so far. T made an interesting observation that audiences over here (at least in our experience) are quite passive, but the LB audience seemed to be reacting in a way that they thought they should, ie, cutting loose. 

Sunday was the last day, leading up to the finale of My Bloody Valentine playing at midnight. There were a few surprises leading up to their performance: 

Spectrum - I had really disliked his show in Melbourne a few months back, but this show was with a band and was quite relentless. This was even despite the fact that Pete Kember started packing up in the middle of the last song. That is dedication to the strict time allotments!

Mercury Rev - They're back baby! I had only seen them very briefly before a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds show at the Brixton Academy in London a few years back and they were a little.......ho hum. This set was amazing though, great set list and Jonathan Donohue was suitably maniacal. 

Mogwai - The show I caught of theirs at The Corner Hotel in Melbourne a year ago was one of the best shows I had ever seen. This show was good, but I enjoyed their older stuff (Like Herod, Hunted by a Freak) much more than the stuff off their new album, The Hawk Is Howling. Still, they were very entertaining, and it was nice to hear them talk about how they were so excited to be playing with bands they had grown up listening to like Dinosaur Jr, but also seeing great new bands like Growing, Fuck Buttons and Lightning Bolt. 

Dinosaur Jr - I had been semi-looking forward to these guys, but had been wondering whether it was the nostalgia of Green Mind that had evoked excitement in me. As it turned out they played a truly blistering set, quite different to the show I saw about 12 years ago in Wellington, New Zealand. That set had been, well, one long wank. This show however was tight and energetic, mainly thanks to Lou Barlow's presence, the element that had been missing at the aforementioned show. I may be a little biased though, as we listened to One Part Lullaby a lot when we were driving around LA, mainly Santa Monica, so I have a bit of a soft spot for him. 

My Bloody Valentine - The buzz about this performance had been huge for the whole festival, particularly surrounding the level of noise they would create. I had heard and read about 45 minute versions of You Made Me Realise, and it being louder than standing next to a jet engine. First off though, MBV kept everyone waiting for about 30 minutes. I wouldn't normally mind that, but they switched off the music (a rousing crowd singalong to I Am The Walrus, and the German/English version of Heroes) for about 20 minutes before they came on. Given that when music gets switched off, you think that the show will start soon after, the audience started getting a little antsy. Everything was ok once they came on, but it certainly left me with a sour taste. The set list was great, Only Shallow, Come In Alone, Soft As Snow, When You Sleep and so on, but it was a little disappointing to see them playing to a backing track. It was especially annoying when they went out of sync once or twice, but I guess it was good that the band was able to bring it back together without stopping. The show finished with You Made Me Realise which was excellent, complete with 15 - 20 minutes of noise after which they kicked back in perfectly. Just to see their sheer stamina in keeping the noise going for this long was quite incredible.

I love how the musicians all seemed to be big music fans and would hang out and watch bands with everyone else. Here's a roundup of T's and my ATP celebrity spotting: 
  • Kevin Shields watching Thurston Moore with a guy who looked suspiciously like The Mystery Man in Lost Highway.
  • T and I asking Kevin Shields after cornering him coming out of the secure area if he planned to bring MBV to Australia and New Zealand. He said no, and seemed a little uncomfortable talking - "I'm meant to be following these guys, I'd better go." Ah well, you don't ask, you don't get!
  • Kim Gordon hanging with Debbie Googe, Colm O'Ciosoig and Kevin Shields in the secure area at the end of Thurston Moore's set.
  • Talking to Stuart from Mogwai in the queue to see Low and discussing veganism and vegetarianism. He told us that he became a vegetarian after his Mother told him pigs cry when they sense they are going to die, and he "quite likes pigs" and lives in the countryside.
  • Steve Albini dealing cards in the Executive Card Room.
  • Bob Weston cuddling his wife after their set.
  • Todd Trainer absolutely everywhere.
  • T had a nice conversation with Efrim and Jessica from Thee Silver Mount Zion Orchestra. Efrim remembered meeting T on some train tracks in Montreal years ago, having a long chat and Efrim depositing T into a taxi at the end.
  • Benjamin John Power from Fuck Buttons cradling a beer and being very nice when I told him they played a great set the day before.
  • Both members of Fuck Buttons manning their merchandise stand at various points.
  • Pete Kember aka Sonic Boom manning the MBV merchandise stand and trying to convince a guy to buy a shirt by telling him that purple was definitely his colour.
  • Barry from Mogwai walking back to his room after their set.
  • Alan Sparhawk from Low buying some peanut M&M's late at night.
  • Members of Brian Jonestown Massacre trying to decide whether to see MBV after their own  set.
We left satisfied and smiling (thanks Michael Gary Scott), and exhausted. Funny how standing around watching other people expend a lot of energy can really tire you out.

2 comments:

Miss T said...

Oh we went to Hangawi as well and it was incredible! I'm so glad you liked it too. The food was totally unlike any other Asian cuisine I've had and the whole restaurant was fantastic. And it made me marvel at a city where a Korean vegan restaurant is not only viable and of superb quality but capable of supporting a sister venue nearby!

Your travels and eating are making me scheme and plan for next time ...

Miss T

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