All Points West Saturday: Mud, Tool, and the Mighty My Bloody Valentine
The goal for day two of All Point West, at least in the eyes of the promoters, was to make you forget that just 24 hours ago, you or someone you know got drenched. And probably complained about it, or warned you to stay away. So they cut a deal: if you bought a Friday ticket, you could come back Saturday or Sunday. Just show that crumpled, crinkled dried out stub and you'd get in today, or tomorrow, for free. A nice gesture, aimed squarely at making those sodden Friday festivalgoers forget that terrible, terrible downpour (unless you bought one of those $239 three day passes--then you just felt like a chump).
But alas, the prior day's events were well documented throughout the Liberty State Park grounds. Mud was everywhere and of all different varieties: the dark oozy kind, the thick gloppy kind, the thin light brown kind, the watery grass mixture kind and most of all, the kind that stunk like various types of manure. The order of the day was to find the artist that would make you forget the fastest that the entire area smelled like the literal butt of every Jersey joke made for the last twenty years.
Tim and Eric, the douche-troupe from Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, didn't accomplish this. They instead opened their "comedy" set with a repetitive ditty called "Diarrhea," where they just repeated the word over and over, wearing nude body suits with giant hair testicles coming off them. After taking an extended break, they followed that gem with a song that compared urine to lemonade and talked about sitting on a toilet ("I Sit Down When I Pee"). Bad job.
It wasn't really until the Arctic Monkeys started their set that it felt like there was some potential energy brewing; they've mellowed a bit since their first record, but new songs "Potion Approaching" and the first live performance of "Cornerstone" went over quite well, even if old standbys "The View From The Afternoon" and "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" were still the most transfixing. For the most part, the once hyped, now possibly mature band seemed somewhat engaged with their hour-long set--but then again, you get the feeling that this band can do a festival set in their sleep.
Kool Keith's gang of cape wearers churned out a mega-dopey performance, in which special guest Ice-T was overshadowed by a random guy on stage who was dancing in place, up and down, up and down, holding his crotch with his thumb and pointer finger like a four year old in need of a bathroom. But the Bullet stage would see redemption through St. Vincent and Neko Case, the two big female led acts of the day. Annie Clark of St. Vincent was smiley and almost giddy, when she wasn't doing a rad version of the Beatles' "Dig a Pony" or chugging through the orchestral rock of "Actor Out Of Work" and "Black Rainbow." And Neko, who successfully pulled in all the parents in the house and maybe even some forward-thinking college students, bellowed through her mellow country rock, playing inspired versions of "The Pharoahs," "I'm An Animal," and "Vengeance Is Sleeping." The mud was forgotten.
But probably not if you were a Tool fan, staking out that perfect spot. So you'd see this My Bloody Valentine band before hand: small price to pay. During the extra long solo/drone/wall of noise that that accompanies "You Made Me Realise," there were numerous double middle fingers and sarcastic double thumbs-up pointed toward the stage--it was clear that a lot of people didn't know what to do with the famed psych-gaze band. To be fair, MBV's Bilinda Butcher did look the part of a high school history teacher doped up on morphine, and the vocals were turned down so low, even the band's typical mope-faced mumblings looked as if they were just opening their mouths for the sake of opening their mouths.
The day clearly belonged to Tool. Tool t-shirts were everywhere and Tool couples were holding hands, being drab together and in love as Tool's main man Maynard Keenan took a moment to demonstrate how well he knows his audience. "New York City is a pretty cool place," he said. "But all kidding aside. You can't fuck with Jersey. Unless you want your ass kicked." This prophetic statement lined a set that included "Stinkfist," "Rosetta Stoned," "Jambi"--all variations on the heavy/thrashy/prog/funk metal for which this band is still beloved. Tool are clearly cut out for the grand scale of a festival; they roll with quick tempo changes, lightning fast guitar jams, and a visual show that likes to highlight fire and weird shifty head things. In ways, Keenan's fourpiece were like the mud--different in spots but mostly the same, delighting some while making others feel dirty and compelled to head for the gates. Just another part of the shit-show that is All Points West 2009.