Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

ATP curated by Jeff Mangum: Five of Friday's Best

10 March 2012, 20:07 | Written by Sam Lee

You can usually judge how good a night has been by the intensity of the next morning’s hangover and, if this premise is true, the first day at the Jeff Mangum curated ATP was a very good day indeed. But it wasn’t all about drinking vast quantities of local Somerset cider… Apparently there were some bands playing too, so we thought we should probably check a couple of them out. We really were spoilt for choice with the acts on the bill, but here are five of our favourites.

All photographs by Tim Ferguson except Half Japanese, by Daniel Mackie.

Joanna Newsom

With the unenviable task of playing immediately after ATP’s guest curator Jeff Mangum – the day’s unofficial headliner – it would have been all too easy to write off Joanna Newsom before she had even taken to the stage. But, from the moment that she walked on with a coy smile and a timid wave, she had the audience completely captivated and delivered a solo set that was subtle and seemingly effortless, yet breathtakingly powerful.

Half Japanese

From the moment that punk-rock veterans Half Japanese launched into their high-octane set, it was pretty obvious that they weren’t going to be for the faint hearted. Noisy, scrappy and effortlessly cool, each and every one of the short, explosive songs delivered with a nonchalant ferocity that can only come with the years of experience that Half Japanese have under their belts. In fact, as if to confirm that they really are worth taking notice of, Jeff Mangum himself surreptitiously arrived at the front halfway through the set. However, there is definitely something undeniably unsettling about seeing grizzled frontman Jad Fair singing “I want to have sex in your parents’ bed”.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

Not only the coolest band of the day, but also the loudest – by far. The final band of the day (starting at 1:30am), The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion rolled out three-quarters-of-an-hour’s worth of frenetic rock ‘n’ roll jams, punctuated by sudden stops and unexpected time signature changes. With barely a pause for breath in between tracks, Jon Spencer and his band were nihilistic and chaotic, yet impeccably tight throughout.

The Fall

With Mark E. Smith in as cantankerous a mood as ever, The Fall were the act that marked the shift in the Centre Stage’s mood. Taking to the stage after the delightful Joanna Newsom, Smith and co. prompted the first episodes of crowd surfing of the weekend, and drove the Centre Stage audience into their most frenzied state of the whole day. As Mark E. Smith sauntered around the stage, bumping into microphone stands and generally shouting quite a lot, the rest of the band held the set together with a relentlessly raucous energy – an energy that was more than reciprocated by the audience.

Jeff Mangum

Well, it would be downright rude not include him, wouldn’t it? With a set packed with Neutral Milk Hotel cult classics, the weekend’s curator held the capacity crowd’s full attention for nearly an hour straight, and despite playing so early in the evening, the audience were only too happy to oblige when he asked them to sing along with him. The only downside of his performance was that it was impossible not to feel any sympathy for the saxophone/percussion duo Matana Roberts and Sebastian Rochford, who were left to play to a nearly empty room due to a set time that clashed with Mangum’s. Still, with tracks like ‘Two-Headed Boy’ up his baggy sleeve, it’s hardly a surprise that the queue to get into the Centre Stage was longer during his set than at any other point during the day.

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