Held for the past three years in a remote, ramshackle Catskills summer resort called Kutsher’s, America’s own version of the British All Tomorrow’s Parties festival was a somewhat different affair in 2011. Although the musical line-up was just as incredible as ever — Portishead curated and headlined two of the three nights, and Jeff Mangum also performed twice (read more about that here) — the event found a new home in Asbury Park, the New Jersey beach town that’s most famous for launching Bruce Springsteen’s career.
We can’t say we didn’t miss the intimacy and seclusion of Kutsher’s, but the new location proved to be a fantastic alternative nonetheless. Along with three days of excellent and challenging music that catered to the crate-digger set, we bowled, strolled the boardwalk, sampled the offerings of a remarkable (and fully playable) pinball museum, walked on the beach, played mini golf, and warmed ourselves in front of a bonfire. Most importantly, we reconnected with a deep-seated love of music that’s constantly tested by the Internet’s exhausting and trivializing hype cycle. A gallery of highlights from the festival — including Portishead, Public Enemy, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Cults, Deerhoof, Swans, Shepard Fairey, and many more — is after the jump.
Cults opened the festival at retro bowling alley/music venue Asbury Lanes. We’ve always been on the fence about their girl group-derived sound, but by playing up their singles’ icy undertones and avoiding cutesiness, they won us over.