FRIDAY: 'Hi, How are You?'
From the outset this was always going to be a different ATP experience than the Slint-curated event I attended two years ago. Different venue, different weather and an awful lot of bands that we all wanted to see, after all we had voted for half of them. One concern was that, with more than double the amount of people at this Butlins venue compared to Camber Sands, there may be queues and delays and general hassle, but due to great forward planning and organisation this didn't happen to any real extent over the three days.
After initial arrival and a lot of drinking in a giant pub on the seafront we checked in and flew straight up to the Centre Stage to see THE THERMALS kick off the whole weekend. They were a great choice of opener with their energetic punk rock and a lot of people get in to see them as well. I'm not going to get into set-lists and so on as this report will take forever, but suffice to say I've only heard their last album and I recognised a lot of the songs.
By now there was a huge crowd for DANIEL JOHNSTON and a false rumour circulating that he had missed his plane and wouldn't be appearing. Obviously not everyone in the crowd appreciated Daniel and what he has had to come through in order to even play live so some people were just playing "let's laugh at the funny guy", but mostly he got a heroes' welcome. Despite shaking like a leaf and sounding like he was playing his three-quarter sized with gloves on, it made me very happy that he could get up there and perform. He went on to play three more sets over the weekend, including one in a chalet so I think he enjoyed himself too.
Sadly YO LA TENGO aren't enjoying themselves as much as they should be on the main stage. They weren't the only band this weekend who would have benefited from a more intimate venue. The extended instrumentals like 'Pass the Hatchet' just got lost in this giant mall although the percussion based ones seemed to work ok. The long-lost 'Decora' and the encore of 'Speeding Motorcycle' with Daniel Johnston were pretty special though. Still, I love this band and although I've seen them loads of times I still plumped for them over THE NOTWIST in the first clash of the weekend. I learnt my lesson early - if the clash involved seeing a band in the Pavilion (giant daylight shopping mall) or the Centre stage (large dark nightclub) I went for the latter from here on in.
That decision means initially I plump for SPARKLEHORSE over MOGWAI, though as it was so easy to move between venues I get to see quite a bit of both. Sparklehorse are a low key, stripped down version of themselves with never more than three people on stage. It's occasionally lovely and I found myself reminded of how many good songs they have. I am too hyper to chill out for the rest of their set and I succumb to the overload that is Mogwai on the main stage. Sure they can be predictable - quiet bit gets loud gets quiet and comes back even louder - but they fill this venue with their sound and 'Glasgow Mega-Snake' just shreds the air. There is always something going on elsewhere at ATP and during the latter part of Mogwai's set I find myself utterly gripped by the Notts Forest v Yeovil play-off second leg which went to extra time (Yeovil won!).
I was thankful that my next gig was TALL FIRS in the Reds venue which was pretty chilled out and I even got a seat which recharged the batteries for the rest of the night. I imagined this lot to be in the Low/ Codeine vein, but you could have shut your eyes and believed you were listening to the quieter moments of Sonic Youth. I pass on Death Vessel as I saw him (and it is a him you funny people!) supporting Low the other week and head back upstairs for AKRON/FAMILY. I have one song by them ('Shoes') in my iTunes and I love it, but they didn't play it or anything like it. In fact what they did play was audience participation games and a load of alomost celtic tinged pub rock. If it wasn't for the fact that all of my gang are in here and I had drunk copious amounts of beer I wouldn't even have stayed (never mind done several mexican waves, ahem!).
It was back down to Reds for SUBTITLE who turned out to be one of those faces of the weekend - he was everywhere you looked for the next few days - i even saw him when I was leaving on Monday morning! He was clearly enjoying his brief stint up there on stage even though he seemed to run out of material quite early on!
I was hyper again and I went back to the Centre stage and just got talking to so many people that i ignored Youthmovies totally - sorry guys! From there it was down to Crazy Horse and some fantastic records - I remember hearing Fugazi, MBV, the Cramps, meeting a lot of friendly people (mostly from Dublin) and calling it a night immediately after 'Free Range' by the Fall was played. I looked at my watch - it was 4.15am and I had been up for 24 hours!
SATURDAY: "We were there when the world got great, and we helped to make it that way.."
A slight lie-in was interrupted by the unintentional genius that is R Kelly's Trapped in the Closet on ATP tv. It seemed that everyone I spoke to in the next few hours had seen it they all knew exactly what you meant if you said "miiidget, miiidget, miiidget!"
There's lots of time to kill so we chill out, have some proper food and bump into Steve Albini in the shop! SHELLAC were on first but due to late running soundchecks they don't play until 3pm therefore clashing exactly with the FA Cup final and a bit of Current 93. I had made my mind up to watch a bit of Shellac and then go upstairs for C93 but Shellac do 'The End of Radio' just as I'm about to go and it just floors me. Absolute lump-in-the-throat, hairs-on-the-back-the-neck material. They played 'Prayer to God' after that and then I tore myself away, as I would be seeing them again tomorrow and CURRENT 93 gigs are scarce and they were already well into their set upstairs.
I arrived just after they start 'Lucifer over London' and saw about 5 more songs, some of them beautiful, some of them annoying, all of them could be classed as English folk music. Sadly, they played to a scarcely populated room but they seemed to enjoy themselves anyway. And yes folks that was Andrew 'Party Hard' WK on bass.
I actually watch the last 10 minutes of normal time in the FA cup and it is dullsville! You people that watched this missed the music of Steve Albini and David Tibet you know!!
Those that suffered extra time also missed CLINIC. Despite being a fan of their first few releases I was surprised to find that they have released two more albums since I last really listened to them. Still I recognise a few tunes - 'Evil Bill' and 'The Second Line' in particular - and there was something perversely appealing about watching this bunch of guys in surgical masks and top hats playing their sinister music in a darkened nightclub when it's a blistering hot day outside.
THE GO! TEAM seem as strange an inclusion to this festival line-up as Current 93 earlier, but they are bold and FUN and they make the main arena work for them. Perhaps they would have suited better later on as I need a break and I only catch a couple of tunes. I just wished I had had their energy at this point!
I was back in for LES SAVY FAV who are of course one of the most entertaining rock bands you wil ever see, and they don't disappoint! I was slightly delayed getting back in and i miss the singer's haircut and the first costume change! There was lots more fun though as front man Tim Harrington had raided the Butlins toyshop for costumes, fake blood, face paint, masks, plastic swords, you name it! Every time you looked at him he was doing something different. LSF are both laugh-out-loud funny and a kick-ass punk rock band. The new songs sound great too, and that was a Superchunk cover at the end wasn't it? One of the real highlights, an unforgettable performance - just key "Les Savy Fav ATP" into You Tube and see what you get!
Time to calm down with WILCO downstairs on the main stage. Jeff Tweedy seemed displeased at first to be playing "in a food court" (he has a point) but he lightened up a little and his band were in stunning form. I liked the new songs and the triple guitar interplay on 'Impossible Germany' was just the sweetest thing all weekend.
Naturally the packed nature of this bill means you've gotta miss something and the queue for Battles is just too long for me to bother with, though judging by I would believe a lot more people watched them then Wilco. Everyone who got in said they were one of the very best acts all weekend. I also managed to miss both Annuals and Okkervil River in Reds, both of whom I would happily go and see any night of the week, so I try and make up for it by watching a bit of GHOST although I catch their folkier, less psych-rock part of their set and it doesn't really grab me.
One of my all-time heroes, PATTI SMITH, is up next and she starts brilliantly with 'Gloria' and 'Redondo Beach' and I wonder for a minute if she is going to play 'Horses' in order. She isn't, as she then goes into 'Are You Experienced' from her very disappointing new album and I realise that I've seen her four times since I last saw CORNELIUS and head upstairs.
Cornelius is every bit as stunning as the first time I saw him 4 or 5 years ago in the Royal Festival Hall, brilliant musicianship and wonderful visuals breathe new life into the 'Sensuous' material. 'Gum' and 'Beep it' are awesome, 'Count Five or Six' had me heading right down the front and 'Starfruit Surf Rider' was just the icing on the cake. This was my favourite show of the whole weekend, and for many people who stayed in here the whole evening the Les Savy Fav- Battles - Cornelius was a hell of a run of good music.
Cornelius was a hard act to follow but THE APPLES IN STEREO downstairs in Reds make a damn good show of it. This was mostly the pure indie-pop of the recent 'New Magnetic Wonder' album and it goes down a storm. Catchy pop was in short supply and the Apples made up for that.
I had an ill advised hot dog and stayed in Reds for WHY? which was yet another great show. I can't adequately describe what Why? sound like, as they get the hip-hop tag a lot because of their Anticon/ cLOUDEAD connection but their sounds leans towards people like Beck as well. They play most of 'Elephant Eyelash', at least one cLOUDEAD song and they also do a cheeky Conor Oberst piss-take which goes down well too.
More fully-fledged hip-hop with EDAN & MC DAGHA and a pretty fun end to the live part of the evening, especially the bit with the record sleeves. The kazoo was a little bit grating on the nerves and their late finish (2.20am) coupled with unpopular DJs in Jaks meant that Crazy Horse was seriously oversubscribed and nowhere near as interesting as last night. Back to the chalet for beer, Battle Royale (another great ATP tv choice) and bed.
SUNDAY: "...as we come to the close of our broadcast day..."
An even bigger lie-in thanks to my industrial strength earplugs means we cut it fine for SHELLAC on the smaller centre stage. Today's set was a bit different from yesterday's, it did feel a bit too early to be really getting into that sort of thing, but Todd Trainer is "baked" in Albini's words and is the star of this performance. His Meg White impression, his belittling of the heckler, his roaming snare during 'The End of Radio' made this pretty memorable. Steve and Bob dismantle his kit during the last song leaving him with nothing to play on. Saturday's set of songs was better but today's show was more memorable, so I'm glad I watched both.
Back down on the main stage SLINT are playing the spooked masterpiece that is 'Spiderland' in broad afternoon sunshine and I think it is really lost on a lot of people. I don't even bother with the first two songs and I'm a huge fan. They soon reel me in though and surprisingly i can walk right up to the front and get into it. I agree that the delays between songs and the mid-afternoon time slot spoilt it slightly, but at the end of the day this was Slint performing the likes of 'Breadcrumb Trail', 'Washer', 'Don A Man' and a particularly awesome 'Good Morning Captain' so I enjoyed it a lot. It was strange to end with the instrumental 'Without Monicker' which I don't think a lot of people knew.
I have only a passing interest in Bat for Lashes (eyewitness reports differed and said "amazing" and "dreadful") and I think Architecture in Helsinki are a poor live band so it's time for sunshine and drinking.
Back indoors for what turns out to be BAND OF HORSES debut UK performance. They are possibly the best kept secret of the weekend as they play one of the very finest shows. Ben's voice just carries so well and the material from the debut album is fast becoming a classic. 'Wicked Gil', 'The Funeral' and 'The First Song' are magnificent, and the new material shines too. I think they won a few fans today.
I wasn't a fan of MODEST MOUSE and I miss a bit of their set for all of Band of Horses and a Pizza Hut buffet where I shuffle around the salad bar with Daniel Johnston beside me! Happily I can hear the Modest Mouse set really well from inside Pizza Hut (must remember that for next time!) and it sounds good enough to get me out of there. I understand this is a seriously expanded line-up (2 drummers - one wearing a beekeepers hat!) including the legend that is Johnny Marr on guitar, but they are so impressive, probably my favourite act on the main stage. I had none of their records before ATP but I've since bought 'The Lonesome Crowded West' and I'm convinced they did a good few from it. Interestingly Johnny Marr was centre stage with a spotlight on him, Isaac Brock was stage left throughout. They were great though and I was converted.
Consequently I saw much less of ISIS than I thought I would and although they are too metal for my tastes they are impressive. I saw the first three songs of ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN but they seemed like they couldn't be arsed and neither could I. BUILT TO SPILL are the next significant act that i encounter and they are just superb. In fact they are so much better than the noodling trad-rock performance I saw them so 6 or 7 years ago in London. I had forgotten how many good songs they have, and even if there was no 'Car' this was all pretty great.
The end is in sight and no-one interesting was playing so a chalet based party was in order, but not before we called round to see Todd Trainer from Shellac who is loitering near our chalet and it turns out he is a neighbour. What a great guy he was, a pleasure to meet him.
Only GRIZZLY BEAR and DO MAKE SAY THINK to go, although I did manage to miss the Grizzly Bear beach performance. I was looking forward to them so much that I was slightly disappointed, although they were impressive and played some of the loveliest music all weekend. Those harmonies! Do Make Say Think are an absolute blast, a great closer to the festival and it was such a thrill to see so many people going mad to instrumental post-rock, even if I did spend a lot of their set trying to get served at the bar.
After that it was Crazy Horse (I forgot to even check Jaks but it looked busy!) for an another epic bash, people making their own percussion after the music ended, marching through the empty arena hyper and taking a trek to someone's chalet which was taking a bit of a beating due to the enthusiastic percussion. I reckon they lost their deposit. And could someone please tell me what the Arthur Fowler Memorial Bench is all about!??
Overall this was another superb ATP. No hassles, great music, great atmosphere and great people. Cheers to the 15 people in our posse who made it so enjoyable and the many more I met along the way. Let's do it again some time!
[pics by me: top to bottom - YLT and Daniel Johnston; Shellac main stage Saturday; Cornelius; Slint. There are some fantastic pics of this festival floating around on line, I recommend the ATP myspace page, Flickr (ATP vs the Fans) and of course You Tube (ATP vs the Fans) for those all important mobile phone movies!)