In its 12 years of existence, the U.K.-based All Tomorrow's Parties (ATP) festival has proven to be a lightning rod for some of the best underground, indie and alternative music from around the world. The artist-curated events bring together a wide variety of music and visual artists in smallish and nontraditional venues, allowing fans to mingle somewhat freely with the talent.
Recent years have seen ATP expand its reach to include a variety of titles, themes and countries--including the nostalgia-steeped Don't Look Back events, as well as events in Australia and Japan. This weekend, for the third year of I'll Be Your Mirror USA--one of ATP's several banners--the festival brings its wares to Pier 36 in New York City for the first time ever, after two successful years in Asbury Park, N.J.
Curated by Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs, this year's lineup includes a noticeable influx of soul and R&B thanks in part to Friday headliner Frank Ocean. Ocean may be the highest profile headliner the festival has booked to date, at least based on his cultural currency. His "No Church in the Wild" hook from last year's Jay-Z/Kanye West collaboration "Watch the Throne" still reverberating through pop culture, the 24-year-old singer saw his official solo debut, "Channel Orange," hit No. 2 on the Billboard charts this July. Currently, he comes to town on the back of appearances on the MTV Video Music Awards and "Saturday Night Live."
The Afghan Whigs are obviously fans of Ocean--the band released a cover of Ocean's "Lovecrimes" this summer, just one of two new recordings from the recently reunited band in more than a decade. Formed in Cincinnati in 1986, the Afghan Whigs fused the sounds of classic R&B and soul with punky, guitar-fueled rock to become one of the most memorable bands of the 1990s. Saturday's headlining performance is one of two area shows the band has booked in the coming weeks. (They'll also play Terminal 5 on Oct. 5.)
One could say Saturday's co-headliners are fairly high-profile as well. The Roots have a nightly audience with the nation thanks to their position as house band on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon." Of course, they're also a groundbreaking hip-hop act whose 2011 concept album, "Undun," was one of the most engrossing listens in recent memory.
The remainder of the musical talent runs the gamut, from Friday's one-off collaboration between avant-garde composer Philip Glass and former Battles frontman Tyondai Braxton, which should prove to be an early festival highlight, to Sunday's closing set by experimental Canadian collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo will perform twice throughout the weekend. On Friday, he teams with wife and collaborator Leah Singer for a multimedia performance featuring "suspended electric guitar phenomena," and on Sunday, he'll front a band that includes Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley for a set that should draw heavily from his 2012 acoustic-flavored solo release, "Between the Times and the Tides." Other highlights include the moody soundscapes of the Antlers, Daptone soul favorites Charles Bradley and the Extraordinaires and plenty of garage rock from the likes of the Dirtbombs, the Make-Up and Jeff the Brotherhood.
Those seeking respite from the live music can enjoy a comedy stage on Friday that includes rising star Hannibal Burress, local mainstay Kurt Braunohler and veteran performer Janeane Garofalo. Criterion will screen a series of handpicked films aboard the Queen of Hearts, which will be docked at Pier 36 for the duration of the festival.
And, yes, there will be dancing. DJs include Roots' drummer and man-about-town Questlove and New York Night Train man Jonathan Toubin, whose return to touring after a freak accident last December was one of the feel-good stories of the summer.
I'll Be Your Mirror USA 2012, presented by ATP, takes place this Friday through Sunday at Pier 36 in lower Manhattan. Weekend passes are $199; single-day tickets are $60 for Friday and $75 for Saturday or Sunday. More information is available at www.ATPfestival.com.