Click on any image to enlarge | All photographs by Sonny Malhotra
Having shifted wearily home from The Crazy Horse at some ungodly hour in the morning, today’s early start is only made bearable by an opening performance from Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan.
The stale smell of beer and hotdogs populates the air in the dimly lit hall as the duo take to the stage. Best known for her time as cellist and vocalist with Belle & Sebastian, Campbell’s crisp and sweet vocals soar above Lanegan’s grunge soaked low, croaking timbre. An unlikely pairing, the partnership between the two was forged early in 2004 and has lasted for three atmospheric, retro-tinged Americana-folk albums.
The perfect antidote to the morning’s hangover, Lanegan’s gruff voice wraps around the gentle, sultry coos of Campbell in the gently rumbling melody of early track ‘Ballad of the Broken Seas.’ Taken from their most recent collaborative effort Hawk, ‘You Won’t Let Me Down Again’ shakes the performance from its lull as the electric guitar’s classic twang rolls out and directs the spotlight on Lanegan’s rough, dusty baritone. Classic romantic indie pop melodies jostle against low bass tremors, the sharp rills of the guitar and the vibrating cello strings. Tambourine zils jingle against the terribly off-kilter mini-clap-along in the crowd. Campbell looks irritated whilst the keyboardist encourages the young man leading the clap-along, who is currently dancing like he’s at an illegal rave. As 2008’s ‘Something to Believe’ rings out, the brooding beauty of their soundscape really does re-call the late 1960s sombre, orchestral pop of the iconic Lee Hazelwood/Nancy Sinatra variety.
As beautiful as the pair’s back catalogue is, Campbell’s performance becomes slightly dry and tedious towards the end, so it is with giddy excitement that I trundle downstairs for Frightened Rabbit. Having released the stunning The Winter of Mixed Drinks this year it is easy to forget that the Selkirk five-piece have been existed in various forms since 2006’s Sing The Greys album on local Glasgow label Hits The Fan. The Midnight Organ Fight is, for me, one of the most consistently epic and emotionally fraught releases of the past few years so needless to say my trundling is actually somewhat urgent.
Stepping out 15 minutes early, Billy Kennedy’s crisp guitar and Grant Hutchinson’s crackling snare drum reverberate around a surreal, empty room. The cold air of the pavilion wakes me up as the opening chords of ‘The Modern Leper’ expose the vulnerability of frontman Scott Hutchinson and the raw honesty of his song writing. As insistent guitar strokes and drums build from a soft shimmer to a thunderous crash the acoustics swell beneath lyrics riddled with a real bitter self-loathing. The percussion thuds with an incredible ferocity, as Scott’s stentorian, husky howls draw out the veins on his forehead as the band play a set that includes ‘Old Old Fashioned’ ‘Keep Yourself Warm’ and ‘Head Rolls Off.’
‘Backwards Walk’ sees Scott’s aching, quivering voice ring out over a muted ambience that genuinely sends a chill down my spine. Investing his emotions so entirely in each song, it is almost harrowing to watch a man seem to fall so completely apart on stage. Left to perform ‘Good Arms vs. Bad Arms’ alone, the Scottish frontman, drenched in sweat underneath he blazing purple lights, gently strums his acoustic guitar, brimming with an aching honesty. Sipping on beer and whisky he struggles with the upper registers but manages to find enough of a voice left to say “This is kind of Frightened Rabbit’s Christmas Party, it is the last leg of our tour so thanks a lot for being here. Also this is our first ATP ever, even as punters so it’s pretty fucking exciting. It’s just an honour to be asked by Belle & Sebastian.” At once inspiring and heart breaking, Frightened Rabbit’s performance this afternoon is quite simply breath taking.
Up next is another Scottish artist, although one of a more legendary ilk, Edwyn Collins. With the “amateur” Teenage Fanclub posing as backing band du-jour, the section of Collins’ set that I catch focuses largely on Orange Juice era songs such as ‘Consolation Prize.’ Having recently re-learned to think, walk and talk before penning this years’ Losing Sleep the fey, jangly pop of Collins’ performance is as shimmering as it could be. His post-punk sensibilities still bubble below the surface with an endearing optimism and when Alex Kapranos joins him for 1994’s ‘A Girl Like You’ it’s a pretty magical moment; one only topped by a Teenage Fanclub announced encore of ‘Blueboy.’
Catching up with Dean Wareham’s tour of Galaxie 500 songs, the singer admits that having played the original Bowlie, he found himself driving to Camber Sands on his way here. Flooded in a blue haze his warped psychedelic guitar and sweeping instrumentals are punctuated by an incredibly moving, ethereal voice before we head downstairs for Wild Beasts.
The Mercury Prize nominated four-piece take to the stage amidst the pounding bass lines, crackling percussion, soaring keys and low murmuring choral vocals of ‘All The King’s Men’ before the high pitched refrain of “Watch me/Watch me” grates against minimal instrumentation. Having “escaped the trauma of Butlins as kids” the band admit that now they’re here they “love it.” Hayden’s falsetto voice rings out against chiming synths as the band playfully make their way through an incredible set that includes ‘Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants’, ‘Hooting & Howling’, ‘The Devil’s Crayon’ and ‘We Still Got The Taste Dancin’ On Our Tongues.’ For all their intellectual posturing and strikingly serious ethereal harmonies Wild Beasts’ output is often flirtatious and genuinely amusing, especially when it comes to the opening “This is a booty call!” cry of ‘The Fun Powder Plot.’
Catching up with Field Music’s David Brewis ahead of his performance this afternoon he admits that he’s never been to an ATP before “partly due to the fact that both of the venues, both Camber Sands and here, are an incredible trek from the North East.” Having been asked to perform this weekend by Richard Colburn, David does say that it is absolutely “lovely to be here, and to have that personal element to the festival.” Responding to questions of what ATP means to him, David explains that “the way ATP do things and the consistent quality of events they put on is really admirable, especially at a time when its easy to make a lot of money out of gigs that aren’t very good. They have resisted the urge to do so and have created something that real music fans really want to go to. The more stuff they do, the better.”
Having released their semi-eponymous third album Field Music (Measure) in February, David and his brother Peter’s intellectual post-punk revivalism is punctuated with a wry humour and subtle sense of despair. Creative and witty, their performance this afternoon is haunting and understated. It doesn’t make for the most accessible, infectious set of pop harmonies but the gentle blues motifs and subtle poetry of songs like ‘In The Kitchen’ and ‘Tones of Towns’ draw a discerning, older crowd with their eccentric, quintessentially British sensibility.
With a confident air Dirty Projector’s David Longstreth soon swaggers on stage. With torn jeans and limp hair hanging down over his face he looks as though he could be part of the recent grunge revival. However, as the intricate guitar lines, and complex vocal harmonies from Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian soar above the sinuous instrumental textures it is quite clear that Dirty Projectors soundscape steers well clear of grunge in it’s art-rock experimentations. When they play ‘I Will Truck’ from 2005’s The Getty Address, the call and response bass and guitar rumble below gliding saccharine vocals.
Listening to last year’s Bitte Orca on repeat in the car on the journey down here provides some insight into the enchanting, jarring musical juxtapositions and ever-changing time signatures of their performance. Fusing dream-pop synth keys and howling guitars, the band effortless offer up the most interesting and experimental soundscape of the weekend. Marrying the romanticism of Nico-esque vocals with the obscure, affected, haunting layered vocals, muscular drumming and shimmering symbols on tracks such as ‘Stillness Is The Move’, ‘Two Doves’, ‘Knotty Pine’ and ‘Temecula Sunrise’ the Brooklyn based six piece are truly incredible.
The crowd thins out as a large section head to see The New Pornographers before Belle & Sebastian take up their headline slot. I stay put and weave my way to the front amidst an increasingly excited crowd. “I love you Bowlies” Stuart Murdoch cries over the opening percussion crashes of Write About Love’s ‘I Didn’t See It Coming.’ The Glasgow chamber pop group “troll through the ages of Belle & Sebastian” to bring us ‘A Century of Fakers’ from their third EP. My jaw hurts so much from smiling as the guitars jangle underneath Murdoch’s smooth, fey vocals.
The euphoric violin strings of ‘If You’re Feeling Sinister’ punctuate the rustic acoustic guitars whilst an orange glow populates the choral crescendo and famous, subtly infectious riff. With uniquely warm voices their performance of ‘The Stars of Track and Field’ is tear jerking: the entire crowd singing along. As Murdoch drags a handful of men and women on stage to dance with the band during what is undoubtedly their most famous number ‘The Boy With The Arab Strap.’ As the flashing lights die down to ‘Judy And The Dream of Horses’ the sense of jubilation in the air is really infectious and just completely spell binding.
It is pretty clear that nothing today has left to offer can top that most mesmerising of performances, a point that could not be more clearly proven by Jenny and Johnny’s tiresome, disappointing selections of songs. The kitsch vocals of Jenny Lewis are as beautiful as ever but the duelling crooning refrains of Johnathan Rice are uninspiring, as is the faux sincerity behind them.
Sticking around for the abrasive, harsh, synthetic and dark brooding electronica of Crystal Castles the night’s line-up picks back up again. Shrouded in a white cloud of smoke, their somewhat obnoxious melodies are embellished with flourishing synthesisers, infectious dance driven rhythms and Le Tigre esque howls from enigmatic front woman Alice Glass, who shortly dives into the crowd. More dynamic than on record, the Toronto duo provide a perfectly contagious, riotous ending to Saturday’s traditional indie line up.