As the dust settles over the tiny seaside town of Minehead, TLOBF’s two Rich’s have recovered enough to bring to you, dear reader, an account of the wonderful ATP v The Fans event.
When the original idea for this festival was aired, if seemed as if everyone’s dreams had come true. A chance to pick and mix your own festival. Brilliant. Of course, as the realities of this all dawn on the voters and the organisers it was, perhaps, an idea too far. The line up was great, but scheduling was always going to be a nightmare and the extended sets just meant that you got to see a lot less bands.
As a site upgrade from the WWII Camp at Camber, the facilities were really impressive. The chalets were nice and the presence of a full shower a welcome addition. Stuff like Pizza Hut and Burger King are always nice at 2am, even if the the Pavilion Stage was set in their surroundings. Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy mentioning that this was the first time they’d ever played in a food court. Anyway… enough idle banter, let’s get on with it…
Words: Richard Hughes
Photos: Richard Thane
Friday 18th May
The Thermals, Centre Stage
A perfect way to start the festival, a blast of three chord punk rock charged with political bite. A chance to blow the cobwebs from your head after the five hour drive down. True to their records, The Thermals were short, sharp and tight with sweat dripping off Hutch Harris as he hollered his way through their well received and impressive set.
Yo La Tengo
Yo La Tengo, Pavilion Stage
Suffered from poor sound initially but a move down the front from your intrepid reporter yielded a better experience. YLT crafted a whirlwind mix of rhythmic droning with swathes of feedback drenched guitars, playing the highlights from their most recent record (even if they couldn’t remember when it was released). They still confound listeners with their twist from their more laid back songs through to the ear damaging walls of noise that would make even Sonic Youth blush.
Mogwai, Pavilion Stage
Fantastic. Easy as that. Their set perfectly complement their location in the Pavilion. As the sun was setting the stage took on a bit of a glow as the crowd was mesmerised by the wall of sound created by Stuart Murdoch and crew. They played a set with material from the entire back catalogue, from Young Team to Mr. Beast and it was like experiencing a journey through swarves of beautifully realised soundscapes of music. Ending with the amazing Glasgow Mega Snake from their most recent album, the entire court was bathed in an amazing aura of noise. Nothing wrong with the sound for these guys.
Tall Firs, Reds Stage
Well, the come down had to begin somewhere and these guys delivered. A disappointing and generic alt-rock experience and very College Radio friendly. For a group who rarely play live, they didn’t look like they enjoyed doing so when they finally manage to get together. Uninvolving and unmoving.
Akron/Family w/ audience members
Akron/Family, Centre Stage
Another disappointment of the weekend. Having really enjoyed their last two records, I was underwhelmed by them live where they came across as being a bit too cool and removed, the sound was boring and rhythmically lulling. The only excitement came from their last song when members of the crowd were invited onstage to play general instruments of percussion and created a rather rousing and impressive finale.
Youthmovies, Centre Stage
Ok, so by this time the tiredness of driving down and my intake of copious amounts of lager made this set a little fragmented. But, through the haze, hints of impressive guitars and post-rock tendancies flooded my ears. Certainly one of the most interesting British acts of recent times, next time I’ll remember to take it easy before their show starts.
Saturday 19th May
Shellac, Pavilion Stage
The only way to deal with the dull thud of a hangover was to witness the explosion of noise that Shellac seem to be able to deliver on a whim. Albini’s outfit were one of the highlights of the weekend. A crashing cacophony of noise from the threesome as Trainer madly smashes the drum kit within an inch of it’s life, Albini whields the guitar and twists music from it in some gruesome but mesmerising manner whilst Weston’s Q&A session brought the quote of the weekend by describing the crowd as looking like “the fucking indie-rock Tailban”. Genius.
Annuals, Reds Stage
These guys came across as a louder version of the Arcade Fire but with more whimsical indie pop references and without the charm. This wasn’t help by the age it took them to get their sound right and didn’t even seem to make much of a difference as their entire sound was swamped and blurred together in a mess of instruments and wailing vocals.
The Go! Team
The Go! Team, Pavilion Stage
A real highlight of the day and a breath of fresh air amongst most of the bands on the bill with their mix of dance influenced pop. Watching them, you can do nothing other than me impressed by their energy, your limbs seem to want to dance of their own accord. Sure the songs can all start to merge into one by the end of their set, but their twin drummed beats set the pulses racing and the feet tapping.
Okkervil River, Reds Stage
I was looking forward to catching these guys immensely when I heard they were announced, but they disappointed somewhat. Coming across, live at least, as the new Bright Eyes their live show lacked something. A set mainly comprising new stuff didn’t really help and Will Sheff’s vocals wail even more live and their slow, ernst Americana numbers feel a little jaded. Shame.
Wilco, Pavilion Stage
This was one of the standout sets of the weekend. I’m a huge Wilco fan, but with Sky Blue Sky, nice as it is, disappointed me – I felt cheated in their coziness. Live, however, the tracks from SBS take on a whole other dimension; edgy, aggressive and far more impressive than on record. Nel Cline’s playing, whilst not a thing of beauty to behold, is mesmerising. The way the music is wrung out of his guitar is something that’s rarely seen live, from playing aching beautiful lap-steel to using a milk frother to coax waves of feedback out of his guitar, it’s amazing. Barn storming versions of Via Chicago, I’m The Man Who Loves You and Muzzle of Bees were augmented on stage whilst Jeff Tweedy finally looks happy with UK crowds. The banter took a number of songs to come but was amusing and easy. Commenting on playing so close to a Burger King Tweedy requested a cheeseburger, which duly came, and was then used to play the intro into a stunning version of Poor Places. This then perfectly segued into Spiders (Kidsmoke) to end a set that left grown men tearful and the whole crowd tingling all over.
Patti Smith, Pavilion Stage
Whilst not being the biggest fan of Patti Smith, I cursory glace at her set didn’t really win me over. Primarily being a promotional gig for her, very slated, new covers album I felt a bit cheated. Her backing band, at the moment, seem to be full of session musicians who give the stage a very AOR-feel and lack any real emotional edge or connection. Nice to hear her belt out Gloria though.
Two Gallants, Reds Stage
A surprise hit of the weekend for me. I wasn’t really sure what to expect live as their sprawling songs, on album, could be a it bit dull if forced to sit through them. However they came across as an Americana-White Stripes with the basic guitar and drums combo and yet still able to craft and create mammouth hooks through their literate stories of American life.
The Books, Centre Stage
A bit of a delicate surprise were these guys. I’ve only read about their show and not experienced them live which surprised me with how intricate and delicate it is was. Playing with a range of images / films behind them, they soundtracked the visuals with some bare electronica but mainly an acoustic guitar and electric double bass. They drew a huge crowd and suffered slightly from having Apples In Stereo downstairs and coming through the floor, but it was very interesting even if the late scheduling didn’t really suit them.
Trans Am, Centre Stage
I wasn’t familiar with Trans Am’s material at all before ATP, but I’m certainly curious as to how they sound on record now. Coming across like some weird post-punk rock band, it was odd to hear these three chord pieces of music without any lyrics. It really felt as though when compared to the straight post-rock of, say, Mogwai, that these guys were lacking something. Certainly the lack of dynamics that categorizes post-rock was missing and maybe that’s what really left me feeling cold and in need of a retreat to the chalet for some beers and cards.
Sunday 20th May
Shellac, Centre Stage
Oh yes, I was up and about to catch these again. Although I missed the beginning as I was enjoying the appearance of the sun and ATP had deemed fit to close the main arena for sound checking so the queues were mad to get in. A slightly more mellow set than the Saturday afternoon, it was augmented by the band laying into a heckler who found himself way out of his depth when confronted by Todd Trainer who, according to Albini, was “half baked” as well. I’ll just take this moment to say that End of Radio is one of my favourite songs… ever.
Bat For Lashes
Bat For Lashes, Pavilion Stage
Another real surprise of the weekend. I mainly went to see them due to the buzz around this band, but I was certainly left impressed. Coming across like the adopted love child of Bjork and PJ Harvey that’s been brought up by Kate Bush as god-parent. A stunning voice is complemented by their wonderful twisted folk accompaniment. Odd, kooky but compelling music.
Architecture In Helsinki, Centre Stage
I only caught the end of their set prior to Band of Horses, but they seemed in fine form even if they were a few members short of their sprawling best. I still can’t quite love this band, the male vocals just grate a little too much with me, but the arrangements are full of energy and mad rhythms that you can do nothing other than enjoy yourself when you’re in their company.
Band Of Horses
Band of Horses, Centre Stage
Band of the weekend, without a doubt. Their first UK date ever, they played with a real energy, love and passion that’s rarely seen, let alone mentioned, live these days. The band look genuinely moved by the whole experience, especially the reaction of the crowd. Augmented by an additional guitarist, their sound was loose, free and full of chiming guitars and thumping drums completed by a comedy bassist. Fantastic versions of The Funeral, Great Salt Lake and Weed Party came across better without the reverb heavy vocals on record, as if Ben Bridwell was opening himself to the entire crowd, the smile on his face growing bigger and bigger as the set went on. They may have hit a few bum notes as they admitted they hadn’t been practising whilst recording the new album which, on the basis of the new songs debuted today, should be great with more of a rock edge than their debut album.
Echo & The Bunnymen
Echo & The Bunnymen, Pavilion Stage
Another highlight of the weekend as the reformed Bunnymen played a straightforward Greatest Hits set and leaving, the rather sparse crowd, entertained and amused as McCulloch played his usual self. Chain smoking cigarettes and downing beer at a fair old rate, his voice still sounded amazing and surely, like Shane McGowan, unrelated to the man behind the shades. Killing Moon, The Cutter, Back of Love and Bring On The Dancing Horses were belted out whilst McCulloch complained about it being too bright and revealing, whether his tongue was in-cheek or not, that contractual obligations ensured us a encore of Nothing Lasts Forever. Mad, bad, full of attitude and yet hugely entertaining. Who’d have thought it.
Daniel Johnston, Reds Stage
The scheduling on Sunday was completely shafted. Johnson had been put down to play at 9pm and yet, come 11pm when Brightback Morning Light were supposed to be on, he’s half way through his set at Red’s. His ramshackle, lo-fi delivery has many admires though I’m not entirely convinced, it was worth seeing one of modern music’s few recluses.
And that was that… a long weekend finally caught up with me as I passed out on the floor of our chalet to the sound of some travelling disco around the block. I think I preferred ATP at the Camber Sands site, but they’ve got to make money somehow so a larger area was always going to be a future consideration. Hopefully, as the festival grows they’ll learn from all these little niggles that seem to blight ATP events at Minehead. The queues might not have been as bad as at Nightmare Before Christmas but they still happened. Anyway, the free Bumper Cars more than made up for some of the more disappointing aspects and all our party had a great time – drinking beer in the sun to the background noise of Slint has never been more enjoyable.
Click here to view the entire photo collection from the weekend.