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- Posted on Sep 24th 2012 2:00PM by Devon Maloney
At this point in the game, ibuprofen and coffee are your only friends. Let them be good to you. When you arrive late, sleepy and/or hung over, savor what little of Braids' set as you possibly can. Thank the gods that a band who should've gotten a nighttime performance is getting a daytime slot, because it turns out you needed the electric jolt.
If you felt Vetiver was lacking something in the way of enthusiasm, Tall Firs will be the antidote. They'll make their sleepy late afternoon set entertaining despite its mellowness, telling back stories behind songs (about psychic and psycho ex-girlfriends) and feigning outrage that the staff "stole" their drinks backstage. The banter will provide an easy transition into the rest of the day.
At the Magic Band's set, consider the possibility that frontman John French applied the treadmark paint design on his shirt and pants himself. Appreciate how bassist Mark Boston literally takes the bass line for a walk, marching all over the stage in an outfit that should win him an award for Best Dressed Musician at ATP. Wonder whether the baby-faced Magic Band guitarist saved that grizzly bear shirt special for the occasion of playing this festival. Amidst your waning hangover, question the necessity of full-blown on-stage spotlights during the day.
Take a breather and go ensconce yourself in the pile of pillows on the floor of the Criterion film festival on the boat, because "The Royal Tenenbaums" is playing. Repeat later on when they put on "Brazil" and appreciate the appropriateness, in both situations, that you're swaying back and forth with the ship. Lament that you can't always watch Terry Gilliam and Wes Anderson's films in this state.
The Album Leaf might disappoint you, because the stage is almost completely dark, save a few sticklike LED contraptions spaced throughout. For an instrumental band, it will be difficult to maintain the attention of their audience, as a result.
Don't get down on it, though, because Thee Oh Sees are next and good lord, you're about to feel lots of regrets that you hadn't seen their live show sooner than this. Their bouncy '60s rockabilly punk is distinctively bred in San Francisco, and it will be perfect. Reckon with your pansexual attraction to literally every member of this band. (Reconsider neck tattoos as dealbreaker.) Respect Petey Dammit!'s unrelenting bass line as, bottom line, the hardest-working of the whole weekend.
Notice halfway through Thee Oh Sees' set that singer John Dwyer's playing a clear guitar almost identical to Jake Orrall's from JEFF the Brotherhood's set last night, and consider the possibility that ATP founder Barry Hogan made a secret deal with clear guitar manufacturers that would undermine the fest's "no sponsors" rule if anyone found out.
Speaking of Dwyer, try to guess the last person to go shopping for clothing with him. Possibly his mother, by the looks of that shirt.
It will not be a good idea to skip Lee Ranaldo. His song-introduction speeches are far and away the most explanatory, especially for tracks like "Christina." The tell-all nature of the Sonic Youther's whole getup is enthralling, so much so that you might barely notice when the lighting changes and the whole room turns purple.
At the Autolux set, talk to people around you. They take second place (after Whigs fans, of course) for Most Excited to Be Here. Some will even have made signs.
The L.A. trio themselves will seem frustrated, but it's because their sound setup is struggling. This will be the first time this weekend you'll notice technical difficulties -- Carla Azar will ask for more drums, and the whole PA might cut out for 2-3 seconds -- but where sound and enthusiasm are lacking, the band's visuals and their musical performance themselves pick up 110-percent of the slack. Singer Greg Edwards will occasionally smile (or grimace?) despite the post-rock gloom of their set, which might surprise you in its breathability and cool familiarity, even if you've never listened to them before. Enjoy the specificity of the crowd's exultant praises. Feel nostalgic for the '00s already.
Considering how varied each ATP bill is, this might very well be your first time seeing and/or actively listening to many of these bands, some of whom you might feel you should've been listening to for years. Take notes, and use this opportunity over the coming weeks to your advantage.
PHOTOGRAPHERS BEWARE: the Make-Up frontman Ian Svenonius will use your head to his advantage when crawling off of the stage towards the crowd. In retrospect, it might have been a good idea to have worked out a little before this weekend so you can handle the weight of his feet as he leaps onto your shoulders. Notice that, for how energetic Svenonius is, racked by dance spasms as volatile as the D.C. band's music, the rest of the band is equally somber. It will be as if their frontman is an elaborate magician's slight of hand, distracting from their sobriety -- but in the end, who will even care? Holy British garage punk, Batman!
You're going to need to prepare yourself for Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Take a break, grab a falafel, explore the boat out back; whatever it takes to relax. Because from the minute the Canadian octet begins filtering onto the stage, amplifier feedback already buzzing like sonic sludge, you will have no choice but to submit to the two-hour, deeply unsettling existential nightmare that they've carefully crafted as performance. The stage will look like a sandbox or playroom for really advanced kids, pedal boards and amps and monitors strewn about the floor, and the sounds that come out of them will force you to participate subcutaneously as the speakers rattle your organs around inside of your body. The tragic, lurching tango will slow your pulse as effectively as any Klonopin, except it'll do the exact opposite to your actual anxiety. For a band that hardly moves on stage, their two hours will be utterly consuming, like a deep tissue massage for your soul: It will hurt like hell, on a spiritual level, until it's done and all of a sudden, you feel great. Mentally apologize to British DJs Demdike Stare, because there's absolutely no way your body could possibly consume anymore sounds.
On your way out, post-Godspeed, take a tally of how many dudes are making valiant yet vain attempts to make out with their girlfriends. There will be at least three, guaranteed.