All Points West – Liberty Park, NJ – 7/31 – Day One pt.1 All Points West – Liberty Park, NJ – 7/31 – Day One pt.1

All Points West - Liberty Park, NJ - 7/31

All Points West - Liberty Park, NJ - 7/31

Is that Ry Cooder? Have I ever heard Ry Cooder? Is Ry Cooder even still alive? He must be, right? I mean, what the fuck would I be doing out here on the brink of New Jersey (two hours on trains, twice lost and a mile or so up to the venue) imagining dead celebrities on a blues rant as part of the opening strains of a three-day festival heralding Jay-Z, Tool and Coldplay?

Oh, this must be Seasick Steve. Fuck him. I’m getting a nine-dollar beer.

That leaves six more over the next seven hours which isn’t so unreasonable except when you consider that when I’m stag I tend to get anxious and when anxious I stumble into excess and, after all, this is a party isn’t it?

Shit. This could go South quick.

I walk towards the smoker’s tent. There are two on the premises, sponsored by American Spirits which means free cigarettes and so I get two packs from a nice middle-aged lady who seems genuinely excited to hear of my fondness for their Perique blend. God bless brand loyalty. Some smug shit starts grilling her about how all cigarettes are bad and what difference does 100% percent natural make anyway if it’s all going to kill you the same way and she is patient. She just sighs and listens until he finally decides that he is drunk enough (What the fuck time is it? 3:30? The kids are wasted already? Either someone’s on the short bus or I missed a tailgating tent somewhere along my walk) to go against his bloated temple and walks away with two packs of Menthols.

The Natty Ice of cigarette confections.

Sounds like the bands are playing. All of them. It’s a curious and wretched cacophony of laptops and five part harmonies. Great. I’m at a nexus of the event. The one place where all waves converge to make something not entirely unpleasant so much as thoroughly unexpected and I have to decide between the lauded throwback of Fleet Foxes and whatever the fuck Telepathe is all about.

I opt for the Telepathe because I hate Fleet Foxes. I mean really. Boring, boring, boring Sydney. The 60s are a dead scene and no one camps in New York City (and don’t dare tell me about your Delaware trip, you shit. I’ve been down that road before and spending a day by a fire live blogging from your I Phone isn’t roughing it) so please just shave your beards and make fast with your tepid revival.

Shit.

I may have made a mistake.

Telepathe are a two piece. Girls behind machines use drumsticks and deadly serious expressions to exude a pulse/noise/pulse/whimper dead angle and there’s really not all that much to see except for Anthony who still owes me a hundred bucks for that busted guitar he sold me when I wanted to be John Spencer YEARS ago and used to talk leafing through an imaginary thesaurus.

Him, not me.

In person, I’m about as verbose as a fig tree just louder and a touch smoky.

I think this might not be the crowd for me.

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I wander the grounds. I walk past the food stands, the H&M tent, the Twix Mist, the grassy dance floor, the Renegade Craft Art Fare where some shirtless drip with a hickey calls me “Brosky” and asks me for a light. I bite my tongue and hand him some matches. I spy some t-shirts I might buy on Threadless drunk but I don’t.

I go back to the Beer Garden. I get a Bud this time. $7. That’s something more manageable but it’s warm and loveless which makes me sad because without Budweiser I wouldn’t be half the man I claim to be.

Right about then it starts raining.

Lightly at first. A respite from the humidity. A dust to cover my confused way of being alone among a few thousand people.

Ra Ra Riot’s the next band. I head over because I think I saw them once at a CMJ with the Horrors and the Thermals at Studio B and I think I liked them despite the fact that most of those bills make no sense and so the bands all play with a lackluster contempt for music journalists and nut-busting chicks with cameras infinitely more costly than my own.

They have strings. I have a poncho and there’s not really all that much to do other than play video games or drink. The singer’s in love with his tenor and cut off shorts. The bass player’s giving far too much all. But it’s catchy. It’s young. It’s earnestly trying to lift you up but I am, ultimately, unfamiliar with their music and there’s nothing like a white indie crowd to kill the majesty of rock and roll so I trudge over to see the National.

Now THIS is a band I can get behind. I didn’t at first. Whenever I hear a baritone I’m always cautious that the band is making fun of me but the more I listened to “Abel” the more I understood the awesome power of rock and roll. Thank you, National. I want you to be the new Bruce Springsteen, the Velvets condensed into balm for the ashen soul.

And you’re close. You really are. The band is fantastic. Horn section. Bearded guy added for my festival benefit.  But what the hell, Matt? Are you not meant for this stage? Your voice sounds forced on this titanic sound system. The rain’s coming hard now. You need to let loose and be a man. Sure, Boxer is a staggeringly lovely record (I assume you agree or you wouldn’t be doling out so much of it) but I’m not a soft glass of whiskey now. I’m a dripping wet fan. You play “Abel”. It’s just not right. I can see it on your face beaming over us all. I can hear it in the guitars. You’re just looking for the point.

You find it, though. “Mr. November”. You come off the stage, fully. You throw yourself into the crowd. You sing your fucking heart out down in the throngs of welcome guests and you lament that cheerleader’s arms once made you great. You electrify. You make me proud to be and offer me my first chance to just fucking sing my lungs out above everyone because you make me believe that this is my song.

You finish in good cheer. The rain’s really coming down and I am back to the Beer Garden to wait it out. Try and tie one on in the damp. I chain smoke instead because my lighter is wet and there are all these fucking people under here with me. There are even prams. Great parenting.

I shoot the shit with two other smokers. I don’t really know what we’re discussing but we’re all tossing around almost one-liners to kill time and work our way into a stranger’s memory. Too bad I forget names so readily.

From one of the stages someone demands I “MAKE SOME MOTHERFUCKING NOISE!” I don’t. I’m just wet and far away to give Organized Konfusion any indication that I am at their command. Wait. Konfusion? What, you’re too good for a “C”? I’m sorry but I will not abide your phonetic abomination. Good day to you, sirs. I’m getting some food.

I wade through the thickening mud and budding tempest to the Food Court and am met with reasonably unremarkable fare. Chicken Strips. French Fries. Angus Sliders. Vegan Apologies. Some jerkoffs trying to pitch a turkey corndog as fair trade for nitrate rich beef product.  Everything costs about nine bucks. I choose a steak burrito with the rationalization that it will be the easiest thing to eat in the rain.

It is not.

So I pace with one hand turning to beefy, black bean soup with the other pruned over the mess. Trying to fit as much as I can in my mouth without choking. I chew hard and fast but my efforts are in vain. The tortilla gives way and pretty soon I am drinking the rest of the food from my hand.

You ever try a rainy burrito? It sucks.

This sucks.

I get a fourth beer and realize that I am profoundly unhappy with my current situation. I am cold. My poncho’s torn at the neck so I am fast getting soaking wet. My stomach is immediately turning with the hurried excuse for Tex Mex. I hate it. I hate All Points West. I can’t even smoke a cigarette because all my options for fire are shot and the smoke tent’s closed due to assholeishness (I can only imagine). Mud is splashing over my boots so my socks are turning to stew.

Oh good, Vampire Weekend’s up next. Fucking great.

The only thing that can possibly make this day grayer is White Oxford Rock played as Graceland at 78RPM with the twilight years of the Talking Heads thrown in for good measure. Almost every one I know likes this band. I have no idea why. Listening to their one and only record on a car ride made me want to smash my “with it” driver in the nose with his Club hard enough to blind him and lead us all to a fiery (if ultimately, silent) end. I think it’s all the whooping. Whooping makes me tense.

But they are…phenomenal. Tight as an anus after a rainy burrito (I will NOT be defeated) and ultimately fun as fuck. The jangles are there, sure. The whoops. But everyone knows them and everyone looses them with abandon. I like this. I really do. It’s making me want to sing too. Making me want to dance in whatever jerking way I can just like everyone else who finally appear to be smiling. Wide and fuck the rain. The discomfort.

All Points West - Liberty Park, NJ - 7/31 - 2



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