ATP 2012 Sunday Recap: The Make-Up, Hot Snakes + More Close Out NYC Festival
Much of the talk at this year's All Tomorrow's Parties: I'll Be Your Mirror festival centered on the Afghan Whigs, and rightfully so, but Cincinnati's finest weren't the only recently reactivated band on hand at Pier 36 in New York City. Two of the weekend's can't-miss performances came Sunday night, compliments of D.C. soul-punk weirdos the Make-Up and combustible San Diego rockers Hot Snakes.
The former -- back in action more than a decade after calling it quits -- arrived with much fanfare, taking to ATP's massive indoor stage in matching black trim-cut three-button suits. Before the quartet could sound a note, their hype man ordered the audience -- sparse but spirited and well acquainted with the Make-Up's music -- to look away and close its eyes, so that everyone could whip around and experience the illusion of seeing "one of the greatest bands of all time" appear out of nowhere.
With that, the Make-Up kicked into their version of the old-time spiritual 'Wade In the Water,' borrowing heavily, it would seem, from Marlena Shaw's '60s-era rendition. The group approaches vintage soul much as the Cramps did '50s rockabilly, playing the music hard, fast and thin. Flailing, yelping, self-aggrandizing singer Ian Svenonius (pictured above) called to mind the late, great Lux Interior -- particularly when he crammed the microphone into his mouth.
The Make-Up are not, in fact, one of the greatest bands of all time, but thanks to Svenonius' ceaseless buffoonery, they're among the more entertaining. Whenever organist James Canty, drummer Steve Gamboa and bassist Michelle Mae failed to conjure the energy needed to pull off their absurdest, anti-capitalist, up-with-the-people dance-party shtick, Svenonius simply let his personality take over. When it all came together, on songs like explosive "I Want Some" and eerie "I Am Pentagon," he had no need to overcompensate, and the band lived up to its promise.
After the Make-Up's 45 minutes were up, the Hot Snakes closed down ATP's second stage, located outside, beneath the elevated FDR highway. The rumble of the overhead traffic was no trouble for the Snakes, a supergroup of sorts led by Rick Froberg and former Rocket From the Crypt main man John Reis, who also played together in Pitchfork and Drive Like Jehu. Somewhere along the way, Hot Snakes got tagged "post-hardcore," but throughout their early-'00s heyday, they really made fractured garage rock, adding unexpected twists and turns to songs a less inventive band would simply bash through.
On the lead-in riff to opener 'I Hate the Kids,' Reis' Les Paul rang out like a sheet of metal twisting in the wind. Throughout the night, his tinny, trebly playing counterbalanced the thudding of the drums, and on standouts like "Suicide Invoice" and "LAX," the foursome came off like a math-rock version of the Stooges.
Other Sunday ATP highlights included Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Renaldo, who achieved a timeless indie sound -- tuneful and lightly abrasive with the occasional feedback freakout -- on songs from his 'Between the Times and the Tides' solo album, and San Francisco psych-rock eccentrics Thee Oh Sees, whose singer and mastermind John Dwyer struck a balance between childlike whimsy and feral ferocity. When the quintet really got going, fitting Link Wray or Sonics licks over pummeling beats and cranium-probing organ, Dwyer stood at the center of his own strange universe -- part Saturday morning live-action kids' show, part late-night skuzz-rock basement jam. Call it H.R. Punk 'n' Stuf.