The Fall, Pavement, Boris, Broken Social Scene, Avi Buffalo - ATP Pavement: Butlins, Minehead
Kyle Ellison 28/05/2010
ATP Pavement: Butlins, Minehead: 14th - 16th May
After years of hearsay and speculation, 2010 has been the year Pavement finally reformed to the sheer delight of indie kids everywhere. Their first scheduled appearance as curators of ATP Festival sent those same kids into hysteria, as tickets quickly sold out for the May event. Good, that was a spring holiday sorted, now who were Pavement going to pick to join them? I think it's fair to say that this wasn't the dream line-up that eager ticket holders had craved, with a bill consisting of many older and lesser known bands that didn't exactly scream “party!” The initial buzz of a Pavement curated ATP was also dimmed as the band confirmed festival headline slots all around Europe, as well as a four night stint at Brixton Academy. But still, ATP isn't your average festival, and as some attempted to panic sell tickets last minute, I make the trip to Minehead with an open mind.
This turns out to be a decent policy, as critically acclaimed Sub Pop signees Avi Buffalo get the weekend off to a good start. While I'm not completely sold on the band's self titled debut, it's an absorbing performance and a pleasant way to ease in to Butlins life. There's little time to hang around though, as Surfer Blood are beginning immediately after over on the Pavilion Stage. So many bands are swallowed up by this huge main stage but Surfer Blood seem to take it by the scruff of the neck; coming across more like stadium giants than an up and coming indie-rock band.
After a quick stop gap to sample Butlins' many culinary treats (we opted for Finnigans fish and chips, later dubbed Winnigans), it's back over to central stage to catch The Walkmen. As great as their first few songs are, some technical difficulties see the band re-starting hit track “The Rat” three times. So often bands resent playing their most popular song, and there's something quite tragic (read: funny) about The Walkmen here desperately trying to rattle it out.
It's now time for the festival to throw up its first major clash; the choice between festival veterans Broken Social Scene on the main stage, and Wildbirds and Peacedrums perfoming with an 12 piece choir on the site's smallest (and undoubtedly best) stage. I opt to divide my time between the two, and as a result get two good festival experiences at the potential expense of a great one. The new vocal aspects in Wildbirds and Peacedrums music has brought new life to the duo, whose set I have difficulties tearing myself away from. Still, Broken Social Scene deliver a typically strong headline set; all fist-pumping and air-kicking fun, and a reminder of the vast amount of great songs they have to choose from.
This leaves Times New Viking with the graveyard shift, although you would never have guessed it as they draw one of the most energised crowds of the weekend. Maybe it was the first night enthusiasm (or more probably the beer), but for roughly an hour a room full of often stuffy indie-kids are transformed into sweaty mess of boys jumping up, down and into eachother. This is one of the weekends most euphoric moments, for sure.
With hangovers to nurse and mini golf to play, it's a morning of bits and pieces in terms of bands. The Drones prove themselves as a reliably strong (if never particularly breathtaking festival band), while Camera Obscura make for a very pleasant soundtrack to a box of chips (Finnigans again, slightly less Winnigans this time around.) As the day grows on, however, the festival throws up some of the weekend's clear highlights. The first of these come courtesy of Japanese noise mongers Boris, who play their first of two sets this weekend. Having never managed to see them before this had been one of my most highly anticipated performances, and it was every bit as explosive as I'd hoped. Double necked guitars, glitzy waistcoats and a gong, this was never going to be a letdown.
Unfortunately for me, my enthusiasm for Boris costs me dearly in the “position for Pavement” stakes. The Pavilion stage is the busiest I have ever seen it, and as the band arrives on stage I find myself a long way back. It really could have been anyone in that checked shirt, but given the crowd's reaction I'll assume it was Malkmus and he stayed there for a good two hours and fifteen minutes singing Pavement songs. Fortunately, I rather like Pavement songs, but this didn't really feel like the gig experience I'd hoped for.
Similarly, the much discussed wild antics of Monotonix are somewhat muted, as I enter the venue to find the crowd sitting down. It transpires that the Butlins staff were a bit worried there might be some kind of riot, and so they asked the audience to sit patiently and enjoy the heavy rock music. Obviously that didn't really work out, as the band gets pulled off after 20 minutes. It's strange, as the crowd had felt quite under control, and certainly not as wild as when Syrian dance god Omar Souleyman takes to the stage roughly an hour later. I'm not totally sure what happened during Souleyman's hour and a half set, but I do know this; All kinds of shapes were thrown, many of which I didn't know existed, but the general consensus was we had all witnessed something very special.
Having formed a giant impromptu dance off in the Crazy Horse pub last night, Sunday again gets off to a slow start. After seeing Wax Fang perform in London's The Social just a few days earlier, their set today on the Pavilion Stage feels a bit strange. It's by no means a poor show on their part, but there's no doubt that they're too small to command this gargantuan stage. Next up, Boris return to Centre stage for their second show of the weekend, playing Feedbacker in its entirety. It's probably my favorite of their two sets, with a more controlled and purposeful performance which is equally beautiful and deafening.
Having no particular interest in headliners The Fall, I watch them out of curiosity as they attract another large audience to the main stage. I'm afraid to say their live show does nothing to sway me in the band's favour, if anything turning me further against them. I'm sure they performed well enough, and their new album is a triumphant return to form, just not for me. However, if I had been disappointed by the lifelessness of Mark E. Smith, then there couldn't be a much starker contrast as Enablers frontman Pete Simonelli takes the stage. I imagine if the two singers were to play charades, Mark E. Smith would lose heavily. Yes, Simonelli is a very animated man who is difficult to take your eyes off, and his spoken word delivery over tight, spindly guitar lines proves a welcome discovery to close the festival.
And so, it's off back to the Crazy Horse to round off the weekend in style. This might not have been the strongest line-up to ever grace an ATP, but there's nowhere else in the world I'd have rather been this weekend. ATP remains the most fantastic concept for a festival, and with any luck we'll be returning to Minehead this Christmas for festivals created by Belle and Sebastien and Godspeed! You Black Emperor.
Pavement photo by musos guide.