Battles, The Go! Team, 65daysofstatic, Shellac, Modest Mouse - All Tomorrow’s Parties: ATP vs the Fans
Ross Drummond 17/06/2007
Additional reporting by Kev Eddy
(RD) ATP is one of the more surreal festivals around, taking place in none other than Butlins. Its three stages are in: a food court. A cabaret bar, which is more normally home to Z-list pop stars and Reds, the home of the famous red coats. Getting to wake up, have a shower and eat (fairly) decent food all weekend does feel like a bit of a copout, but for the neat freaks (ie me) it's great. Also, you just haven't lived till you experience a chalet party. With the curators this time being the fans (well, for half of the festival, anyway), the end result was obscure bands, instrumental music and an awful lot of beards. So, about those bands…
Hailing from Portland Oregon, the critically acclaimed Sub-Pop signees open the festival. Chosen by the fans, their three-chord post-pop-pop punk hits your ears like the bastard son of Green Day and Placebo's Brian Molko. The snappy set is a good, if a little uninspiring, start to the day's events. (RD)
Though only playing for 20 minutes, shaking whilst fumbling through guitar chords and lyric sheets, there is something completely perfect and mesmerizing about Daniel Johnston. His simple, hypnotic melodies and honest, beautiful lyrics turn a subdued crowd into a happy crowd. A bona-fide pop genius. (RD)
Take intricately crafted acoustic melodies, harmonise, layer with fuzz and vocals, harmonise, add the occasional violin section and repeat for 45 minutes. If Mogwai are post-rock then this is post-folk, and strangely beautiful. (RD)
I come awake. With the worst hangover in years. Butlins lager is shit lager. So bad that I'm even considering not going to watch Shellac. Good job they delay their set for an hour then, isn't it?
One bottle of Lucozade and a cheese sandwich later, and all is well. Steve Albini and his merry men casually blitz us with brutal razor rock - as you would expect from the best sound engineers in the business. Highlights include (of course) My Black Ass, Squirrel Song and Prayer to God, but it's the stark simplicity of The End of Radio which steals the show. A masterclass in how to make heavy music. (KE)
The Go! Team
If ever a band isn't done justice on record it's the Go! Team, and it's great to see such an eclectic mix of people recreate such an amazing array of songs. With half the set consisting of songs from the first record, and the other half of brand new songs which somehow already sound familiar, they prove themselves to be a fun band and a festival highlight. (RD)
Les Savy Fav
Les Savy Fav are one of those bands that have been hovering around my consciousness for some time now. Their live show didn't disappoint. The whirlwind of costume changes, fake blood and audience invasions that they call their lead singer only serves to focus the plain, balls-out enjoyability of their post-punk influenced RAWK. American's rock better than the English - fact. Les Savy Fav rock better than most Americans. Go see. (KE)
Atlas is one of those songs which drills its way into your head. The fact it's produced by previously-minimalist math-rock supergroup Battles is even more impressive - as, indeed, is the rest of their first full-length, Mirrored. Live, it doesn't disappoint, with hardcore veteran John Stanier proving his place as the group's beating heart, allowing his bandmates to create a complex, layered and surprisingly danceable experience. Absolutely unmissable. (KE)
On record, Okkervil River are a formidable beast and I was looking forward to seeing them at ATP. However, I was disappointed to find that live they sound not unlike a poor man's Bright Eyes in full Alt Country mode. (RD)
I love Two Gallants. They're the best two-piece band in the world - probably because they sound less like a two-piece and more like a raging blues monster. They play a blinding greatest hits set - with one new track in for good measure - and I implore you to see them when they return to our shores in September. Simple and beautiful. (RD)
Trans Am (who today ditch the electronics for a more rock sound) are really rather …METAL. Clutching a slice of pizza while playing dirty bass lines? METAL. Talking to the crowd through a vocoder? REALLY METAL. Sounding as if Kraftwerk had strayed from the motherland and discovered rock? REALLY REALLY METAL. (RD)
WARNING: NAMEDROP ALERT. About 20 minutes before going onstage, 65dos' guitarist Paul Wolinski confesses to a random bald man at the bar (me) that they're 'quite nervous about how the new stuff will go down'. He's not the only one - the dark optimism of new album The Destruction of Small Ideas was somewhat underwhelming after the apocalyptic fury of One Time for All Time.
They needn't have worried. The new songs are reborn onstage, matching and in some cases surpassing old favourites like Hole and 65 Doesn't Understand You. 65dos energise an ailing and drunken crowd, and reclaim their throne as the best live band in the UK today. (KE)
Yes, I'm ashamed, I had never heard of Shellac. I didn't even know who Steve Albini was - I blame a country upbringing. Thankfully, I catch their second performance of the weekend - and what a performance it is. Powerful and defiant, their riffs bite, the drums pound and drummer Todd Trainer terrifies hecklers. It all boils down to a great performance. (RD)
Quiet. Quiet. Quiet. REALLY FUCKING LOUD. Quiet. Quiet. Some unintelligible nonsense lyrics. Quiet. REALLY FUCKING LOUD. Repeat for six minutes.
Yes, Slint songs follow a fairly basic formula. But that doesn't stop them being one of the most atmospheric bands of the last twenty years. Yes, the first time you see them they seem boring: however, this is my second time, and it is gobsmacking. Worth persevering with - and if you're having trouble, close your eyes. It's worth it. (KE)
Bat for Lashes
Natasha Khan seems to recall every 'kooky' female act of the last twenty years, yet none of them at the same time. Kate Bush, PJ Harvey, Bjork… echoes of all of them are there, yet Khan creates something new, inventive and wholly enthralling which is uniquely her. This woman deserves all the success in world: after all, anyone who can sound profoundly haunting in the food court of Butlins has talent beyond the whit of man. (KE)
Architecture in Helsinki
The award for sloppiest band of the weekend goes to… Architecture in Helsinki! Their antics sound so promising on record, but are shambolic live. And, to top it all off, bland and boring new material confirms that any spark that the band once had has now gone. (RD)
Band of Horses
Band of Horses' record is one of the best albums of 2006. Live, it is just as beautiful, with almost extra politeness - perhaps from their relocation to South Carolina? Ben Bridwell's Lincoln-esque beard only serves to top off the performance. The perfect recreation of a perfect record. (RD)
Modest Mouse are everything I expected, Brock is moody, Marr is Mr. Cool (despite the heavily dyed hair) and the rest of the band are spot on.
The set contains a good mix of their critically-acclaimed back catalogue, as well as their more recent commercially successful hits. And, while playing Float On early is somewhat of a risk, it proves to be a good decision. After all, ATP isn't just about the hits.
Apples in Stereo
Back after a lengthy sabbatical, Apples in Stereo are the Sunday night antidote to a day full of very earnest musicians. Bouncy, poppy, a little bit dark and very entertaining, they carry off a full 45 minutes with aplomb. Certainly worth a casual look. (KE)
(RD) Unlike Mr. Eddy I can return home via the regular bus on Monday morning, bright eyed and (farily) bushy tailed. As I step on the bus full of old people who aren't used to seeing quite as many beards, oversized sunglasses and smelly people. You feel slightly sorry as It's not often that most of London travels to Minehead for a weekend. And though not without it's faults… (Get an acoustic tent to avoid putting on quiet acts at 10 o clock at night when everyone is pissed and rowdy) ATP really is a thing of beauty, I will miss you butlins.. and the all you can eat pizza hut buffet.
(KE) Thanks to an unforgiving day job, it's five o'clock on Monday morning when I drive out of Minehead to the strains of 65daysofstatic. As the Quantocks disappear behind me and the motorway pulls me back to the metropolis, ATP fades. Even so, that strange sense of community that seems to infect all festivals remains. It's not to all tastes - but then, neither is Glastonbury, or Reading, or V. ATP has a place, and it fulfills it spectacularly. Roll on the Nightmare before Christmas - just don't drink the lager.
Images except Battles, the property of Shannon McClean