I’ll Be Your Mirror reflects what is awesome!

Angel Olsen and Will Oldham turned in a memorable performance at the IBYM fest on Friday night.

This weekend the All Tomorrow’s Party organizers brought the famed music festival’s U.S. cousin, I’ll Be Your Mirror to Asbury Park, NJ.  The fest is unlike any other in that it is programmed to eliminate any crazed hustling across town from one venue to the next and puts all happenings in close proximity to one another, with hardly any overlap. Basically, you can see everything you want to see, which is unique for this sort of music-filled weekend.  

The acts were as diverse as any successful music festival should be, but they definitely skewed towards the “I find it hard to believe you don’t know the beauty you are” variety. If you don’t get that reference, it’s a lyric from the Velvet Underground song which gives the weekend its name. Interestingly enough, “I’ll Be Your Mirror” was the flip-side of the single for “All Tomorrow’s Parties.” But let us not get bogged down with the Velvet Underground trivia, they played no part in this weekend, aside from the name of the fest.

Let’s first talk about another musician who didn’t play a literal part in the fest, Bruce Springsteen. Asbury Park is the seaside town of Boss lore, where he got his start in the 1970s and where he imported many of his lyrical anecdotes in his first few albums. The boardwalk! A pinball machine museum where you can play games from the ’60s through the present … For FREE! These may have been the actual “pleasure machines” that Springsteen sings about in “Fourth of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)”! Anyway, the locale was the perfect backdrop for IBYM. The transient population had largely left the area, so it transformed into a perfect early autumn playground for aging indie rockers.

I say “aging” because, as I said earlier with that whole “don’t know the beauty you are” thing, the two main headliners, Portishead and Jeff Mangum have not toured regularly for several years. Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, Chavez, Shellac and Public Enemy also have not released much new material since the turn of the century. Many of the spectators came out to see the reawakening of these long dormant talents. And lest it seem like I am saying negative things about the gray matter in the audience or on the stages, everybody sounded absolutely amazing.

The whole weekend was amazing, really.

One of the biggest draws were Mangum’s three performances at the Paramount Theatre. So much so that to attend one of the shows, you had to buy a separate ticket. There’s too much to say about Mangum’s long absence from music in this review of a festival that included so many other great things worth noting, but as I’ve said about him before, the Neutral Milk Hotel nucleus inspired many a spiritual awakening with the 1998 masterpiece “In The Aeroplane Over the Sea,” and then he got freaked out by all the people yapping to him about said spiritual awakenings. At least that’s my interpretation of it. What’s indisputable is that the guy hasn’t toured since 1999 and I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge how high my heart levitates when I hear his voice. Shoot. Hope he doesn’t read this.

Anyway, his performance was every bit as enchanting as when I was fortunate enough to take in his show last month at Sanders Theatre in Harvard Square, but the crowd skewed slightly more verbal, given the later start time and the permission to bring giant beer cans into the auditorium. Also, having waited more than a decade to see Mangum live for the Harvard show, and then getting to see him so soon after, it’s obviously not going to be as life-changing.

That said, his voice is truly something to behold. The low notes so effortless and right on and the high drawn out notes so impressive that you could feel the whole crowd wanting to applaud them, but wisely staying silent so as not to miss anything. What the crowd did miss though, were Mangum’s between-song invitations to sing along, because they were clapping too loud to hear his earnest and spare bits of banter.

Another of the weekend’s most magical moments took place in the same venue as solo saxophone player Colin Stetson gave flight to beautiful and innovative instrumentals. He would not only play notes on the sax in the traditional way, but he would click on the keys for percussive augmentation while howling into the mouthpiece, which produces a haunting sound that at times sounds like a gaggle of sad geese, but mostly just sounds gorgeous and mournful.

Speaking of mournful, if you’re familiar with Will Oldham, you know that whether his moniker du jour is Bonnie “Prince” Billy or any derivation of the word Palace, he has a propensity for darkness. Heck, one of his best albums is even called, “I See a Darkness.” But with his set up at the Convention Center, he seemed anything but bummed out. Performing with as many as seven instrumentalists (Chavez guitarist Matt Sweeney joined him on a few songs), Oldham swayed and bobbed about like an English teacher who had just gotten to the part of the curriculum that he had been dying to teach all semester. Even the title track from “I See a Darkness” was hardly recognizable, with sweet country harmonies, courtesy of backup singer Angel Olsen and the quiet and patient instrumentation behind him. It was a joy to see such a happy transformation, if not a surprise.

Other surprises included Swans, who brought the noise to the same quiet Paramount Theatre that had held the delicate solo performances already mentioned. The group had one song that felt like a neverending ending, using the approach that most rockers use to signify that the song is over, the eye contact and the jump with one final chord, and did it over and over. While it may sound tedious, it was actually amazing, and reconstructed a tired format to a lively new convention.

Portishead, the headliner for Friday and Saturday nights were as intriguing and creepy as ever at the Convention Center. Their multimedia show, which included an enormous projection behind the band and their beats, which were ahead of their time in the ’90s sounded as sonically intricate as ever. And singer Beth Gibbons always had an elderly eeriness to her voice that came fully formed with their first album 17 years ago. This has not changed either, and their return was a welcome one.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Grimm choice: Tax fraud trial could dog NY…

Rep. Michael Grimm may be splitting his time between the campaign trail and a courtroom where he is due to face tax evasion charges.

Local

Met Opera, unions extend talks for 72 hours,…

Met Opera agreed to extend negotiations with its labor unions for 72 hours, preventing a threatened lockout, the organization said late Thursday.

Local

MAP: New York City street closures August 2…

Summer Streets, the NYC Triathlon, the Ecuadorian Parade and festivals will cause traffic delays and street closures in New York City this weekend.

Local

Winning $7 million New York lottery ticket sold…

The only $7 million winning New York Lottery ticket for Monday's Cash4Life drawing was sold at a Queens 7-Eleven, officials said on Tuesday.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on 'Calvary' and his very…

Brendan Gleeson discusses how "Calvary" began over drinks and how his priest character is the opposite of the officer he played in "The Guard."

Movies

Interview: Chris O'Dowd does funny and serious in…

Chris O'Dowd talks about "Calvary," an Irish comedy-drama about a priest (Brendan Gleeson) under fire.

Movies

'Alive Inside' and 'Code Black' are documentaries with…

Two new documentaries — "Alive Inside" and "Code Black" — portray different issues but suffer from the same problem.

Music

Caught a Ghost catches a soul/rap vibe

Jesse Nolan says Caught a Ghost's sound aims for two things everybody likes: soul music and '90s rap.

MLB

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade…

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade deadline

College

Playing the Field: Valentine's Day coupling edition

  It’s Valentine’s Day, a day created by Hallmark to make couples spend loads and loads of money on candy, flowers and gourmet dinners. Or…

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

Career

What do you wear to a career fair?…

Getting that gig starts with presenting the most polished and memorable version of yourself, so refer to our expert fashion advice.

Style

Editors pick: Margiela's finger armor ring

These cool rings from Maison Martin Margiela are designed to overlap over the finger, covering each joint like armor.

Style

Givenchy champions diversity

Riccardo Tisci's uses a variety of ethnically diverse ladies for his spring campaign including Erykah Badu.

Wellbeing

Don't settle for the hotel fitness center with…

Travelers who want to skip the hotel fitness center in favor of local gyms that may offer better equipment, classes and amenities can turn to…