All Points West Pt 2 – K’naan, Roots, Radiohead – Liberty State Park, 08/09/08

The good stuff! (remember, all photos are selects from the huge, crazy-great This Week in New York full photo sets on flickr)
5pm: Somali hiphop artist and about-to-be world music star K’naan took the smallest of the three stages, with probably the biggest backstory of the festival.
Ck out his Wikipedia entry, his myspace page, and his own website ( cause his journey from Mogadishu, Somalia, to the UN, to Harlem, to Ontario is worth it.

After “the African Way,” K’naan admitted that his recent Lollapalooza appearance, he entirely forgot the whole second verse of a song, only to see the front row of dedicated young fans mouthing the correct words in disdain, as he “made some stuff up. . . hey, I recorded that album, like four years ago”

His stage presence is remarkably relaxed, direct, and intimate; his lyrics are fierce, poetic, and intricate. The small but dedicated crowd was treated to several tunes from his upcoming album, Troubaour, and his neat explanation of the original 11c. French troubadours, with whom he feels a bond.

He admitted that the album is supposed to come out in September. “but it won’t,” he said with a smile. “because I haven’t finished it.” The album was recorded at Bob Marley’s old house in Jamaica, where K’naan talked about feeling the amazing spiritual vibe, and features contributions by Ziggy Marley and Junior Gong–probably along with other Marley offspring, with whom K’naan is close, sharing not only Marley style but also dedication to the ideals of Bob.

Tunes from Troubaour included the upfront “I Come Prepared,” the plea to “Take a Minute,” and “abcs”–available now, free somewhere via some kind of special telephone download. Many were punctuated w/some crazy street sounds and whooping sirens, courtesy of dj One Tyme, who used to spin behind reggae/dancehall fave Elephant Man.

Exhorting the crowd to sing along “ha hey” to some Somali prompts, K’naan kind of gave up in despair at the enthusiastic but rhthym-challenged response. He finished up with the beautiful “Waving Flag” [“they call me freedom . . . just like a waving flag”] and returned for an encore of his worldwide hit “Soobax.”

7:30 The Roots on the second largest stage. Un-f*cking believable. The Roots play with all live orchestration, and Black Thought rips it up onstage with breathtakingly deft raps over insanely great work by the band. Here he is with ?uestlove on drums

Guitarist Captain Kirk Douglas played with the tunes, the beats, and the kind of cocky self-assured mastery that you get only . . . when you’re actually a master. From jazzy bits of “Favorite Things” to the opening to Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” it seemed like Douglas channeled every African American guitar hero from Jimi Hendrix to Robert Johnson from his giant cranium into his taut, live-wire body.

On the sousaphone, “Tuba Gooding, Jr.” postured like he was vying for Class Clown in the yearbook but played like a man who knows the power of the large horn like a bass, adding some serious weight on the beat to the very body-cavity thumping lines coming out of the speakers. Heavy, man. and funny as hell at the same time.

The Roots ended with a brilliant frenzy of jazz, rock, R’n’B, TSOP, synths and more in perfect synch with the crowd. Without a doubt, they were the best live performance of the show, melding moment-by-moment improv brilliance with the mounting crowd excitement, feeding one off the other to show how live music should be done.

8:30 Radiohead This is how live music IS done, when you are one of the most popular, cerebral, and venerated bands of the decade playing to about 50,000+ people in an outdoor field with no raked seating, no natural amphitheater, and no room. I always feel like Radiohead’s stuff is kinda chamber music for rock fans, capable of being both intellectually and emotionally huge yet incredibly personal and searingly intimate at once. They seem an odd match for an outdoor megafestival, yet Thom Yorke’s quirky posturings and spamodic, nerdly dance moves manage to translate strangely well via multiscreen monitors and their justly celebrated and very sophisticated light show.

Opening with Reckoner, they played (this is not a set list) Kid A, You’re All I Need, Nude (no remixes!) We are fishes, Wakey Wakey, No Surprises, Bangers and Mash, among much else. Occasionally calling to mind the chill of Pink Floyd, they nonetheless managed to communicate with the crowd despite practically no banter, except when Yorke screwed up Videotape. They ended with two encores, including Pyramid Song and Fake Plastic Trees.

then, once again meek and bleating, we sheep, denuded, shorn of our cash, tired and used . . . we humbly lined up for an almost two-hour wait to get on the ferries. for a 15-minute ride.

but for nine hours of music, a sunny day, and the Roots and Radiohead, it was worth it.
And re; Pt. 1: well, nyah, nyah, border guard — despite your best efforts, I didn’t give the corporate masters any cash, for I didn’t buy ANY food – i had managed to sneak some granola bars and a Milky Way in, after all ; )


All Points West Pt. 1 – Nicole Atkins, Chromeo, Metric – Liberty State Park 08/09/08

All Points West – a 3-day extravaganza of 3 stages filled with the top indy/alternative (well, sort of) music the current scene has to offer.

A more corporate, managed, ultra-controlled and manufactured experience it would be hard to imagine, esp compared the previous evening’s arty collectivist goodness of 88Boadrum (see previous blog).

apw was on an “island” off Jersey City that required a ferry ride to reach. A $20 per person (purchased in advance on Ticketb@ast@ard, or $30 at the landing) ferry ride. The expensive, highly limited parking passes were were sold out far in advance.

The trip from Wall St via NY Water Taxi took 15 mins., tops. it took longer to walk the causeway from the ferry to the showgrounds than to ferry from Manhattan to “liberty” island.

the only thing liberated on “liberty” isle was our cash. Already bleating like sheep, we were herded toward gates where Draconian gatekeepers went thru everyone’s bags, ruthlessly collecting contraband – not cannabis, but even MORE evil — i.e., food.

No food allowed. I had brought a single whole wheat pita with a little peanut butter spread. GONE. Because white bread and much festival food just screws w/my stomach, and I was gonna be in the sun for 9 hours, w/only my pal PortaJohn nearby, it seemed like a good idea. NOT. I was advised I could bring in food only with a doctor’s letter. As I hollered, “Better give that to the homeless!” the pita was carried away.

here’s the border guard, holding the offending flatbread:

The place was hilariously fake and corporate, but the music was fine. Saw Your Vegas, Nicole Atkins, The Virgins, Chromeo, the Black Angels, Metric, a bit of Animal Collective, K’naan, the Roots, and, of course, Radiohead. Missed Kings of Leon and a few others.

here are the photos, all courtesy mr. twi-ny of This Week in New York. (for MANY MORE that will blow you away with their excellence and general coolness, you must go here: This Week in New York’s FLICKR. Seriously!)

Nicole Atkins was charming, quirky, and a pretty funny songwriter. “Pork, Grilled Egg, and Cheese”was a highlight.

Chomeo was their usual silly Francophile disco dancebeat self. I didn’t stay for much of their set, since it seemed exactly the same as the one they used when they opened for Justice.

Next on the main stage was Metric. Emily Haines is to Metric as Debbie Harry was to Blondie. They are not the band, but they are.

Next, the good parts:K’naan, the Roots, and Radiohead. yee=hah these bands were hot!

Best Drums EVER: 88 drummers at 8:08 –88Boadrum in Brooklyn, NY

At 8:08pm, on 8/08/08, on the Williamsburg waterfront in Brooklyn, NY, 88 drummers gathered to perform.

This was a revisiting of the 77 drum extravaganza on 7/7/07 – and it was AMAZING.

The piece was created and orchestrated by the Boredoms, who performed it LA this year, while electronic dance faves Gang Gang Dance led it here in Brooklyn, NY.

Best event EVER. it was FREE, and nothing was being sold. Instead, at a silk-screen station, volunteers silk-screened t-shirts for the first 300 attendees,

or, later, silk-screen whatever you felt like taking off and getting silk-screened!

tho’ sponsored by nike, it was the antithesis of the corporate arts spectacle/festival.

the perfect anti-Olympics 8/8/08 activity!

The vibe was super cool, super respectful, . . and the music was incredible – fantastic organization, three movements of bout 28 minutes or so, each