Friday, August 14, 2009

All Points West Day 2: 8/1/09

The excitement leading up to All Points West has been building up for months before the concert. I purchased my ticket for Day 2 of the festival as soon as they went on sale. The opportunity to see Tool and My Bloody Valentine headline a fest was just too good to pass on. So of course when it came to the day of the show, there had to be multiple obstacles in my way. The first problem came when I went to print my ticket and it happened to be on the day that my printer decided to break. This meant that I had to drive somewhere to get it printed before the show resulting in my leaving of Boston almost 2 hours later than I wanted. The second big problem was that traffic on I95 was absolutely horrible around the New Haven, CT area where my roommate and I waited in bumper-to-bumper traffic for over an hour.

Needless to say, my spirit wasn't quite up when we got to the festival grounds. I had already missed …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead due to the aforementioned snags in my traveling plans. We decided to go to the Queen of the Valley stage first in order to catch Tim & Eric perform their wonderfully bizarre brand of comedy. This was a great choice because it elevated my mood right back to where it should have been. Watching Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim perform their classic skits and teach the audience about the 'Tim & Eric Touch' in a festival setting is unreal. This also gave us an opportunity to hear DJ Douggpound deliver him best pickup lines and see a preview of Season Cinco of their show Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! on Cartoon Network including a hilarious skit about the Bro-oach, a broach for men.

Since we were extremely parched from the trip down, the next logical step was to grab a beer. Normally at a festival this would not be much of a hassle but at All Points West you have to get a wristband that limits you to 7 of their unbelievably overpriced beers and the only way you can drink is in a fenced-in area like an animal. Obviously, people were not too psyched about this system yet it did not deter many from purchasing beer even with the cheapest being $7. We enjoyed a quick brew and listened to The Cool Kids as well as Kool Keith before making our way to the Blue Comet stage.

The trip across the festival ground was always a treacherous one due to the massive amount of rain from the night before. This meant walking through ankle-high mud that smelled like manure whenever you wanted to move to a different stage. On the Blue Comet stage, Arctic Monkeys were getting ready to show an American audience that the Brits still know how to rock. They put on quite an impressive show especially for a bunch of lads so young. Their set started with a surprising amount of darker minor key songs from their new album Humbug. They then announced that they were going to change things up by switching over to major before playing "Fluorescent Adolescent" and classic such as "I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor". A noticeable highlight was the song "Cornerstone" from Humbug which was a song they had never performed live before and was a treat for the APW audience. The set closed with their latest single "Crying Lightning", a great example of their new direction which I find a great progression from their earlier work. Below I am posting a link to Humbug. The album was produced by Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age whose influence you can hear in the guitar tones. I have to admit that I hadn't expected much from them but this album is one of the best surprises of the year.


Set list:
Pretty Visitors
This House Is a Circus
If You Were There, Beware
Potion Approaching
Fluorescent Adolescent
The View From The Afternoon
I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor
My Propeller
Do Me A Favour
Crying Lightning

The next set we caught was from St. Vincent on the Bullet stage. The group features Annie Clark from The Polyphonic Spree as well as Sufjan Stevens' touring band. They employed varied instrumentation including flutes, clarinets, and violins all of which were carried by Annie Clark's gorgeous voice. Her vocals contained the perfect amount of manipulation to compliment the music and the band had one of the most captivating sounds of anyone playing that day. One of my favorite moments of the entire fest came when she teased "The Star-Spangled Banner" then played a solo cover of The Beatles' "Dig A Pony". Her guitar tone and vocal melodies melded together to create a soothing sound that echoed through the grounds. Below is a video I took of the performance. It's not the best quality thanks to where I was standing but the audio is good and it stands as a nice taste of the song. Make sure to listen to her incredible new album Actor below and definitely pick up a copy when you get the chance.


Set list:
The Strangers
Save Me From What I Want
Now, Now
Dig A Pony
Actor Out of Work
The Bed
Laughing With a Mouth of Blood
Black Rainbow
Just the Same but Brand New
Your Lips Are Red

After that incredible set I was feeling that it was time to grab another brew. At this point it was fairly obviously that I had a bad case of driver's arm/face in which have by body was burnt from sitting in traffic with the window open. A good lesson for anyone else driving without air conditioning: remember that the side of your body facing the outside will get burned resulting in your appearance resembling Two-Face. Anyway, my roommate and I relaxed in the 'drunk pen' with the rest of the lushes while watching Gogol Bordello perform on the Blue Comet stage. They serve as the perfect festival band with their upbeat and danceable sound. I mean who doesn't like gypsy punk? Frontman Eugene Hutz knows how to work a crowd while dancing around and strumming his acoustic guitar while also giving everyone mustache envy. Backed with accordion, fiddle, and thunderous drums, songs like "Tribal Connection" and "Start Wearing Purple" sounded grand through the stacks of speakers lining the side of the stage.

The next exodus was back to the Bullet Stage one more time to catch Neko Case perfect the art of alternative country. Her soaring vocals effortlessly hit every note and her backup back served as the perfect compliment. She joked about wanting to rock out like St. Vincent but her tranquil set was perfect for that point in the day. Her latest album Middle Cyclone is a must-hear album of 2009 and I can confidently say that the songs from the effort sounded as good if not better at APW. For me, songs like "Vengeance Is Sleeping" and "This Tornado Loves You" were powerful tunes that sent a chill down my spine. Below is a link to Middle Cyclone and a video I took of her performance of "This Tornado Loves You".


Finally we came to the two headliners of the night and two bands I have wanted to see live my whole life. The first to perform was My Bloody Valentine whose live show has become something of a legend whether people are talking negatively or positively about it. Opening with "I Only Said", it was immediately noticeable that this band plays LOUD as the eternal guitar lick of that song echoed through everyone's eardrums. I had honestly never heard a band at a festival that could still play so deafeningly loud in an open space. Kevin Shields had stated that the band uses vocals as another instrument which results in them sometimes getting lost in the mix and remaining indecipherable. This was certainly the case as they were almost nonexistent amongst Kevin Shields' and Bilinda Butcher's wall-of-sound guitars drowned in all-you-can-eat guitar effects descended over the crowd like a wave of noise. Songs like "Soon" with its danceable beat helped get the crowd into the music but for the most part I felt like their commanding performance was lost and misunderstood amongst the throngs of people waiting to see Tool. This was most evident during the closer "You Made Me Realise" which ended with a 10+ minute torrent of unrelenting noise that received a single finger salute from several audience members. At worse, the band gave everyone the most memorable moment of the entire night. Below is a link to their timeless album and quintessential shoegaze record Loveless.


Tool was clearly the band everyone was there to see and for rightful reasons. The stage setup was one of the most elaborate and aesthetically fascinating I had ever seen. Behind them were curtains of artwork with the familiar imagery from artist Alex Grey. On each side of the stage were giant screens that played the visually stunning, sometimes disturbing videos made by guitarist Adam Jones for each corresponding song. This was all capped with an astonishing light/lazer show which needless to say was a visual smorgasbord. From the booming opening notes of "Jambi", the band played a satisfying set that was sure to grab hold of your attention and beat it into submission. Watching the rhythm section of bassist Justin Chancellor and Danny Carey effortlessly weave in and out of time signatures was something to behold. On the way to the concert, I was listening to Tool and stated that as long as I got to hear "46 and 2" I would be satisfied. Well, 3 songs into the set I got my wish and I could say it was the pinnacle of the entire festival experience. The song met my expectations of what they could accomplish live and more. Drummer Frank Ferrer who toured with Guns N' Roses joined the band on stage for "Lateralus" to add percussion to the already mystifying rhythm of the song. Other highlights included "Aenima" which I posted a video I took of below and "Flood" which was the song I was most surprised to hear. I am also including a link to the eternal classic Aenima, which remains one of my favorite albums of all time.


Set list:
46 & 2
Rosetta Stoned

At the end of the day, I was covered in mud, burnt by the sun, dehydrated and tired yet I still felt satisfied. It was a great eclectic mix of music and the sound as well as the festival grounds were very enjoyable despite unavoidable events such as weather. I only wish it was a little less conservative in atmosphere since it is much more so than other festivals of this nature. In spite of the odds and the long day, my roommate and I decided to make the trek all the way back to Boston directly from the festival grounds which despite a slight bout of psychosis at the homestretch managed to be a good idea. It was good to sleep in my own bed with the reminiscence of excellent live music lingering in my head.

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