Young Eliot at ATP NY
If you've made your way down to the store over the past week (and shame on you if you haven't!), chances are that you've heard a new record from TV on the Radio, Eddy Current, Sweet Faces or some other equally rock-tastic band. Your pal Young Eliot, however, hasn't heard any of them. At least, I haven't heard them clearly. Why not? Well, my ears are still ringing from seeing My Bloody Valentine (above) Sunday night at the close of the indie-rock-extravaganza ATP New York. So, sit back and relax while I reminisce about a time when I could still hear--and heard a lot of good bands at that.
Just as prevalent in the various reports on ATP as stories of performances have been tales of playing cards with Shellac's Steve Albini or drinking out of the same water fountain as My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields. What, you ask, was my brush with "fame" (a relative term, to be sure, in the world of indie rock)? Did I play air-hockey with J. Mascis? Or maybe canoe with Ira Kaplan? Nah, but I did eat lunch with Michael Rother (of Neu and Kraftwerk fame, but playing at ATP with Harmonia)! The catch is that, at the time, I thought he was just a German with bad table manners, not a krautrock legend.
The influence of Krautrock permeated the entire festival, which certainly had a substantially experimental edge. Appropriately enough, then, the first band to really impress me was San Francisco's deliciously psychedelic Wooden Shjips. Avoiding the pitfalls of indulgence that beset many similar bands, the Shjips turned in a taught, energetic set. Speaking of energy, Les Savy Fav singer Tim Harrington has that in spades. He also has (perhaps too much) confidence in his fans, as he brought a ladder into the crowd and coaxed the largely intoxicated crowd into lifting him into the air as he stood atop the ladder. It was a great set from the band as a whole, even if Harrington's antics stole the show.
As I watched Harrington dance around in woman's clothing, I thought to myself that Steve Albini would probably want to strangle this guy. Fortunately, Shellac didn't start until hours after Les Savy Fav, so there was no strangling. But there was punk rock. Ever since reading Our Band Could Be Your Life, Albini has been something of a musical hero to me. Shellac's set exceeded my accordingly high expectations, highlighted by their seminal "Prayer to God" (don't play that one for the kiddies, folks) and Albini playing the guitar with his teeth.
Speaking of my heroes from the 1980s punk scene, Bob Mould (above) was also on hand. I went into his set wary, given his recent electronic flirtations, but Mould couldn't have been better. Sporting an impressive beard and ignoring his solo stuff in favor of Hüsker Dü classics like "I Apologize" and "Makes No Sense at All," no one rocked harder than Mould this weekend. A few bands were louder, though, including Mercury Rev and Dinosaur Jr. Loudest of all, of course, was My Bloody Valentine. And I, of course, did not wear ear plugs, because I'm just that hardcore. Or stupid.
To put it simply, MBV was everything you've heard about them. At once crushingly loud and impeccably subtle, they are both the immovable object and the unstoppable force. Drawing evenly from their catalogue, Kevin Shields, Belinda Butcher (above) and company didn't miss a beat. The set concluded, as promised, with "You Made Me Realize," one of the catchiest tunes in MBV's repetoire. After two minutes of noisy pop perfection, the song transformed into a locomotive of sound. For about fifteen minutes, the band wailed ferociously on their instruments. It was at this point that my ears started screaming at me to get out of there.
But I didn't. And no one did. The fact that not a soul left that ballroom amid that sonic assault is a testament to the respect that My Bloody Valentine has earned on the indie rock scene. That said, I wish the cacophony hadn't lasted quite so long. Nonetheless, when MBV descended back into "You Made Me Realize," it was so epic that I didn't care that I wouldn't be able to hear for a week. Which brings us back to the present. In fact, I think I can almost make out the Creedence re-issue that's playing...