Greg Dulli took his job as curator for I'll Be Your Mirror -- the first New York installment of All Tomorrow's Parties -- quite seriously and it showed.
Day Two of the event, which the Afghan Whigs frontman planned, reflected not only his no-nonsense style, but also his style of music, a complicated mixture of soul, dance music, punk and the genre he and his band helped pioneer, indie rock.
The bands chosen for the daylong party Saturday at Pier 36 all offered a segment of that mixture – from Emeralds' gorgeous dance music to Charles Bradley's raucous soul, from Scrawl's defiant, minimalist rock to Joseph Arthur's inventive indie vibe, from Mark Lanegan's latest incarnation to The Roots' Questlove rocking the house with a Beastie Boys-heavy DJ set.
Even the setting for I'll Be Your Mirror reflected the Dulli dichotomy, combining grittiness (the outdoor stage was under the FDR Drive) and beauty (the pier where the Queen of Hearts movie boat-bingo hall was docked offered grand views of the East River and the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges).
Of course, the band that embodied the day most was Dulli's newly reunited Afghan Whigs, who have only grown tighter and bolder since their impressive first show at Bowery Ballroom in May. The festival also reunited the band with some of its best friends, including Mighty Fine's Steve Myers reprising his role as backup singer on the band's “1965” tour, offering a soulful falsetto on “66” and “Going to Town.”
Scrawl's Marcy Mays delivered a showstopping performance of “My Curse,” which she sang on the Whigs' classic “Gentlemen” album, that was wrenchingly breathtaking as she filled the tale of a brutal relationship with rage and tenderness.
In another show, that kind of emotional climax would be impossible to follow. Not for the Whigs. “The ladies have had their say,” Dulli said, after thanking Mays. “Now it's the guys' turn,” he said, as the band launched into “Gentlemen.” The momentum shifted and began building again.
Though it's not clear whether the Afghan Whigs will record a new album following this tour, they are certainly trying out new ideas. Their early anthem “Son of the South” got a new, swaggering upgrade, while their recently released covers -- Queenie Lyons' “See and Don't See” and Frank Ocean's “Lovecrimes,” which ended with a bit of “Thinkin' 'Bout You,” the new single from Ocean, who headlined Day One of the festival -- are strong enough to stand next to the band's classics.
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It's a sign that the Whigs' best work may not be behind them, just as I'll Be Your Mirror showed how far Dulli's influence really carries.
SET LIST: Crime Scene Part One / I'm Her Slave / Uptown Again / What Jail Is Like / Who Do You Love>Fountain and Fairfax / My Curse / Gentlemen / 66>Little Red Corvette / My Enemy / Son of the South / See and Don't See / Lovecrimes>Thinkin' Bout You / Going to Town / Debonair / Bulletproof>Where Did Our Love Go / Summer's Kiss / Purple Rain>Faded