Friday 11 December 2009 – ALL TOMORROWS PARTIES DAY ONE
Today I wake up around 7.15AM with a headache. The suffering begins.
To be honest though I brought it on myself, my head was aching last night when I got in and instead of scoffing houmous and pitta bread I should have really been taking some headache pills.
It is a real stuttering start to the day as even despite my lack of movement I still insist on having a bath because I really don’t like sharing such facilities when at ATP. This is not meant as some kind of slur aimed at my co-conspirators but I guess in a barbed way it is. Additionally I make sure I get three days of Facebook Cull done, upped and ready to go just so that the site does not lose momentum while I am away.
Eventually I leave at 8.45AM with all traffic reports saying that the M25 is bad due to apparent fog. As I look out of the window though there is miniscule indication of any fog around. Still, this is something of a shoddy show on my part considering realistically to comfortably make it to Caterham for 9.30AM I was needing to be leaving at around 8AM.
As per the fear expressed on the traffic and weather reports people are driving slowly this morning, poodling along in apparent fear of the elements that as of yet are not showing their faces. Thankfully in the end the A12 begins to start moving at a sensible speed although by the time I hit the M25 I am already late for the guys.
The ride along the M25 is a funny one, very badly thought out on my part and alarming with it. By the time I reach the Dartford Crossing and I have to go over the bridge here finally I am seeing the fog that the news was warning me so vehemently of. As I cross the bridge I basically cannot see over the side of it and to be honest this is a good thing as at this time I really need to be concentrating on the varying degrees of driving occurring around ranging from the ridiculously over cautious to the downright cavalier.
In the end I get to Caterham around 10.15AM where I drag Racton and Matthew out of Costa, apologising profusely in the process. As they get in the car they ask me how I am doing and on the cusp of a lengthy journey to Somerset I announce “I’m sick of driving.”
Thankfully however from here onwards despite my headache the journey turns out to be a lot of fun even though the driving of the other slow coaches on the road seemingly afraid of a little weather never allows me to really pull away and make good time.
With petrol running out we make a stop off at some fleapit stop off for petrol and briefly, in between a conversation about Russell Brand (including me questioning his class credentials), it gets suggested that we stop for coffee or something to eat but feeling exuberant about the ATP that lies ahead we quickly refuel and soon get back on the road. First however I have to take some headache pills and as I stagger around the WH Smith I come across a bottle of Tizer, a beverage I thought was long lost to the ages. Immediately I snap it up but unfortunately it does not immediately solve my woes.
Gradually we head closer and closer to Somerset and upon arrival we toy with the idea of hitting the Asda at Taunton as we had so successfully done last December when we crossed paths with Martin the Nazi at the checkout. Annoyingly though we get slightly lost looking for the place this year and when we end up in a town that we have no idea the name of eventually Matthew thankfully spots an Asda. It turns out that we are in Bridgwater and as we stock up for a seven birth chalet by the time we reach the alcohol section of the store for the first time in ATP history we have actually filled up our trolley and have to get a second. In the end the grocery bill comes to a shocking £199, which Racton heroically puts on his card with view to the rest of us paying him back over the course of the weekend.
Soon we get on the final leg of our journey as the portion that according to Racton “keeps on giving” as the back roads begin to feel never-ending. The sights would be nice were we not in such a hurry to get to the indie rock!
We arrive at Minehead around 3.30PM possibly the latest I have ever arrive at an ATP. As ever we get greeted at the gates by the customary Butlins welcome for All Tomorrows Parties patrons (they hate us). Now veterans of the Minehead venue/location we park up and lead Racton (our named chalet holder) to do the business and get the keys as we take part in the great ATP chalet lottery.
As Matthew and I wait we look around at all the indie kids now growing beards and turning into indie men. Flannel shirts are now back in abundance but there isn’t one Santa hat to be seen. He and I discuss our favourite Christmas pop songs and how I now like to emphasise the “special” in the line “I’ll give to someone special” on the Wham! classic “Last Christmas”. This is what ATP does to an individual, it makes you want to rebel internally, go against your fellow man, the people around you that kind of serve as mirrors to your soul.
Eventually Racton emerges with key cards and map in hand. We have been lumbered with chalet R2 which does not sound close by (but at least it is memorable with its Star Wars droid connotation). The room is in Holnicut Village which is an area of the complex I have never considered before. Looking at the map it is roughly where we were in May. Bollocks.
Once more we move to the other car park to be closer to our chalet and as I drive through the hoards of indie kids Radio One is play “I’ve Got A Feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas and suddenly we have a sarcastic anthem to our. Tonight’s gonna be a good night.
Soon we find ourselves carrying our possessions to what is yet another ground floor chalet. Reassessing this chalet is slightly closer to the one in May but not overly, nothing like the luxury of my first Minehead ATP (the Dirty Three event in 2006) where we were right next to the entrance.
Settled we quickly head over for our first band of the weekend who turn out to be ATP perennial favourites BARDO POND. We (Gringo Records) once put them on in Colchester and it was a super loud event. This however appears to be something I have forgotten when today the sheer density of their sound makes me aghast in a way most pleasant. With my bad eyesight their singer now looks a lot like Stacy Solomon, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Then I notice she is wearing glasses too. Intellectual.
Towards the end of their set they churn out “Tommy Gun Angel” which was the opening song on Lapsed, the first record of theirs that I ever heard. It sounds as amazing today as it did back then. This however does not mean the end of the BARDO POND experience as crazily during the closing number their singer pulls out a recorder and begins blowing on it in a competition with the guitars she is never going to win in a thousand years. Ultimately this was a good stay the weekend’s music.
From here the next band we end up checking out is GROWING who do an unexpectedly weird bouncy electronic museum of sounds. Half the time I find myself bobbing but the rest of the time I’m just scratching my head wondering where the songs are at. In earnest it is only a glimpse of the set we get before congregating elsewhere.
The first big event (on paper) of the weekend is STEPHEN MALKMUS AND THE JICKS. I could fall in love with these songs and this band if only I could be bothered. Onstage Janet Weiss proves to be more entertaining than the man himself, at the same time she appears to be both vulnerable and stern as she provides a rolling beat that appears to hold the set together as MALKMUS goes off in his usual tangential directions.
During their set various saucers get thrown on stage (god knows which corporation these have come from) that really does not go down very well with either the mummy or the daddy of the band. These are not people that should necessarily be tempered in this way. By way of garnering favour, in an attempt to bring some party spirit to proceedings MALKMUS balls up some t-shirts and throw them into the crowd. He throws like a girl.
As the set goes longer than any Pavement set ever felt Thom cynically comments that he is enjoying this set more than he expects to enjoy the Pavement performance at the next festival in May. Then it ends.
From this it is quite noticeable how better the sound is in the pavilion than usual. Now surrounding the area are black drapes with things that look like stars on them. It gives off the illusion of being outside, like at a real festival. That or in an observatory.
Afterwards Racton and I head upstairs where J MASCIS AND THE FOG are kicking into action. It is such a weird look, the rhythm section of this combo look like pure metal. I had been hoping that Mike Watt would be making an appearance but no such luck. As ever J MASCIS is surrounded by more amps than a normal person could shake a stick at. Truly his hearing must be fucking gone by now.
The band open with “In A Jar” and it is genuinely astonishing different to the version that Dinosaur deals. Do I prefer it? I don’t think so. After this there is almost a classic rock element to the band, one where each member appears to have equal say lending MASCIS to opportunity to doodle and have some carefree fun. This fun is not necessary handed onto the listener. It is all a happy throwback though; very few acts or individuals have the balls to do anything akin to this these days.
During their set word comes through that Martin and his buddy have finally arrived and with this I head off to meet and greet, excited for fresh meat. It takes a while for them to enter the complex but once in I introduce them to chalet R2 and explain that we are slightly closer to the music but not overly.
We eventually head back to the complex to check out the YEAH YEAH YEAHS performing Fever To Tell, an album that never really registered on my radar until this appearance was announced.
Tonight the stage time comes and goes with no sign of the band. With the area already pretty much full we do not bother to barge our way to getting a good view, happy to stand comfortable in our group towards the back. As however the time begins passing people begin to get restless and booing begins.
One half hour later there suddenly is sight of a band as three large Ys arrive begin the stage and Karen O begins screaming at the crowd along the lines of “you boo me motherfuckers?” Well, yes.
As the band begins to kick off the letters “YYY” drop down behind the stage which unfortunately when looked at from a strange angle looking slightly like “KKK”. FAIL.
From here the YEAH YEAH YEAHS swiftly tear into Fever To Tell and almost all is forgiven as indeed they do justify their existence and headliner standing. On cue the record opens with “Rich” which is a typical album intro track before the band launches into “Date With The Night” and our collective festering cobwebs get blown away.
For what is quite the basic set up it is pretty impressive how the YEAH YEAH YEAHS get such a jagged and jarring sound out of so few players. Early I notice that Dave Pajo is onstage with them and in the most fickle manner it adds to the occasion for me.
Ultimately though I never got into the YEAH YEAH YEAHS and while a couple of people to our left go absolutely ballistic over the performance there reaction only serves to confuse me as to just what they are hearing. A reaction such as these guys seldom comes from music along so invariably you suspect some kind of toxic influence has been added to proceedings. As the main guy bumps into people one too many times (nearing us in the process) security comes along, oblivious to Karen O, and tells the guy to sort himself out (before he dies).
Eventually Fever To Tell comes to a close with “Maps” and still it is failing for me. From here they return to churn out some more recent songs but as they plough through “Zero” it is soon aborted. Whether this is from choice or necessity is open to debate. Before long it is all over and the wait for the YEAH YEAH YEAHS does not feel justified but at least it brought us together as a group.
Afterwards we head back to our chalet for some chill time. By now ATP TV is beginning to royally kick in as we couch checking out The Last Days Of Disco generally commenting on the campness of the piece and how Chris Eigeman was so much more better in Metropolitan (well, that’s my comment). We begin to wonder if what we are seeing on screen is what is now currently going down in the main complex and if we are missing out.
With ATP time wasting we head back to the complex and into Reds where EDAN (THE DEE JAY) is doing a set. To the untrained eye this is just a man playing records very quickly but to a music scholar, such as your high end ATP attendee, you soon realise that his songs are awesome but you do not recognise them. As a result of this confusion you begin to wonder whether he is actually the author of all this incredible music and suddenly a person gets stunned into admiration.
At point during the set on of the hangers-on onstage takes a flyer or photo and hands it to a honey (well, female, this is ATP remember) at which point Pauly becomes very quizzical chasing the girl to see just what it was she had been given. Turns out it was just an autographed photo of the guy behind the decks. Is he really that great? Seems he thinks so.
From here our group/gang/crowd begins to peter out as we head upstairs to the main stage to check out TORTOISE where people proceed to quickly drop like flies. For some reason very out of character I still have some energy, seemingly having tapped into my second wind. This however does not prevent me from getting tetchy as a wasted late night crowd isn’t necessarily the perfect one to share space with in order to appreciate the subtle glow of TORTOISE.
Having come away from their Garage show in August feeling like a new man with regards to post-rock tonight they again pull off a great show (if not quite topping the conquering one from a summer London evening).
TORTOISE circa now staunchly benefit from having pulled out a career record as part of their “comeback”, Beacons Of Ancestorship truly is an incredibly piece of work that has genuinely rejuvenated the band and live the songs sound just a crisp.
Still though unfortunately my appreciation of the band gets diverted/distracted by people nibbling each other’s ears during the set while other people continue dancing into me, not least the little guy behind me who I frequently gesture at and who frequently apologies back. I just find these people disgusting, disrespectful to the art in front of them as grown adults in the audience are unable to handle their chemicals. This is not my comfort zone.
Eventually TORTOISE come to a close to an immense amount of applause. There is also something of an exodus as the hour begins to dawn on the masses, an exodus that occurs before the band returns for an encore which as a result sees us almost up against the barrier. From here the band take off on another optimistic sounding joyride before ending the show clapping their way through the conclusion of their closer. This is how you win.
By now it is just Racton and I still standing and the time is now past 2.30AM and fast heading towards 3AM. Miraculously from nowhere I have gained my second wind, which is pretty rare as I tend to be first to bed at ATP these days.
Feeling victory we head back to the chalet in the hope that there will still be others up and about when we arrive. Indeed they are as we begin to indulge in an Asian movie called Ninja Terminator which hoses quite possibly the clumsiest score in cinema history, a soundtrack which is basically eighties pop songs unsubtly thrown into a bad mix, twisted and mutated into something absurd. The usage of “Another One Bites The Dust” is truly fantastic stuff.
Soon it all becomes too much.