Sunday, 13 December 2009


I wanted more sleep than this.  Today I find myself up early and inevitably first as my body clock once betrays me in the same manner that it has betrayed my whole life.  The time is 9.50AM when I begin to murmur and with a fuzzy head after a messy night I sit watching some TV for a brief moment before heading out to buy a News Of The World.  Whereas yesterday it felt like I had to walk the length and breadth of Minehead to find a copy of The Guardian you can’t move for copies of News Of The World knocking about.  When I discover a new shopping next to the coffee place that is even closer to our chalet I feel I am being mocked when today it has countless copies of The Observer.  If only I had wanted it today.  In the end though I just buy the News Of The World to annoy people.  And it works.

When I get back to R2 some people are now up and running, moving slowly Sunday morning style.  Today our hang time involves watching the Ian Svenonius interviews he records for Vice Magazine.  The episodes featured are with Mike Watt and Ted Leo.  I wish they would release on DVD as my aged PC at home struggles to stream them with its hardware and connection.

There are plenty of casualties it appears this morning and much less enthusiasm for the Space Toilet.  As we look over the tip that is the chalet becoming much untidier than usual there seems a lack of enthusiasm in general compared to the norm.

With this in mind the usual ritual communal fried breakfast goes out of the window as a sense of everyman for himself takes hold.  Some could say the Lord Of The Flies spirit is taking hold.  It most definitely is not the Lord Of The Rings group mentality that came with last Christmas’ stoned classic.

Obviously there is a reason why I am pointing this out and it is because Racton makes himself a fried breakfast but does include me in on the fun, there is not enough clean pans to service the pair of us.  From here I look on like a starving dog being handed a rubber bone as I have to settle for beans on toast in comparison to his meat raffle win of a dish.  To liven up proceedings I poor tomato sauce into the baked bean pan.  Edgy stuff.

After yesterday’s emotional carnage that was missing CRISPIN GLOVER today we over compensate and head over to the see him just after midday.  To placate me Racton comes along today in a gesture akin to a parent making good with its child.

While we wait in the queue a girl shouts “Jason Graham” and a pretty face approaches me improving my day infinitely.  Initially I don’t recognise her but it turns out to be Sophie from Peterborough who works for Agent Provocateur (a good friend to have in any walk of life).  In a rare exhibition of ATP friendliness she asks me how my book is coming along and being that this is my favourite subject to talk about (me and my book) this turns into the best of times.

Eventually we head into the cinema where CRISPIN GLOVER is set to do his thing.  I snag amazing seats towards the front.  When he comes out onto the stage in front of the cinema screen he is exactly how you would imagine and want him to be.  Without any real introduction or fanfare he launches straight into the reading of his first book of eight.

Nowhere else in this festival is there going to be a more regal person than GLOVER.  He reads from memory, from the heart in his fractured and nervous sounding voice.  This is true modern gothic, taking images from past centuries and transplanting them into current consciousness.  The content of his tales are weird and abstract but by the manner in which he tells them he is able to convey the horror from the surrealism as well as the humour and agony.

These days I find such things so much more exciting and interesting than live music.  In recent months I have been to more comedy and writer shows than I have live gigs for the entire year.  There is something somewhat more civilised, more fitting and mature about watching such statements of art.  CRISPIN GLOVER is definitely kooky but I still want to be his friend.  His slides look beautiful and his words suggest the kind of damaged mentality that is best celebrated.  Often I find myself lost in the middle of certain stories but I feel assured that there is a purpose to these things.  It is also batshit crazy at times, which only adds to the atmosphere and intention.

On screen the books look amazing.  These are no normal pieces of work from no mere normal man.  The wild words find themselves inserted mid picture and spread all over the canvas of the page.  Were they not so damn expensive I would purchase them all.

Midway through the set Racton exits with view to catching SHELLAC do their second set of the weekend upstairs.  Not long after he has gone the thumping strains of “The End Of Radio” can be heard threatening and competing with the clarity of CRISPIN GLOVER’s set.  With eight books read right on the button he brings proceedings to a close urging them to stay around to watch his films.  Unfortunately I am unable to comply.

Bounding upstairs I find myself confronted by SHELLAC smashing through their second set of the festival and levelling all in its path, they are already peeling people off the floor.  Out of sheer luck I bump into Matthew watching the set from afar as “Steady As She Goes” sees them with the sharpest, most jagged sound I have ever heard them seethe, a sound closer to that of Big Black than ever.

As ever the band don’t miss a beat tearing through “This Is A Picture” like a well oiled machine before seamlessly ripping into “Prayer To God” to a rapturous response, one that perhaps causes a person to question the mindset and friendliness of the crowd.  That said, find me a more defining and vindictive sounding song and I will show you a song that pails in comparison.

From here the hits just keep on coming as a “hits” set continues with “My Black Ass” and more music designed to give an audience whiplash.  As ever with a SHELLAC set you get the Q&A experience and these days so much of it is now aimed/pointed towards Todd Trainer.  Whenever he speaks though you get the impression that he truly is a dirty fucker, a drowned rat version of Dot Cotton that has a penis and can drum better than anyone else in the universe.

SHELLAC remains the consistently great band that regular turn up on the ATP line-ups.  If schedules were set by talent, professionalism and performance their name would be double the size of everyone else on the poster.  In SHELLAC this scene has one remaining act sticking to its principles while maintaining the highest level of performance.

Again they do “Killers” which feels like a rare treat, one that I had never experienced until yesterday.  “Dog And Pony Show” then follows in a similar strand with its defiant pound of no nonsense intensity designed to cut right through and not suffer fools.

The set closes with the couplet of the firebrand “Crow” and “Spoke” which sees Albini and Weston ending their day’s work by dismantling the drum kit from around Todd Trainer who refuses to cease thumping until Albini carries him off the stage as if he were part of the kit.  This band is a machine, a well-oiled outfit that has everything in amazing balance and constructs the kind of output most acts will spend (waste) a career never coming close to achieving/attaining.  And for SHELLAC such a gesture isn’t such a stretch.

From here we comfortably reconvene and head downstairs to the big stage where THE MAGIC BAND are taking to the stage.  Behind us in the distance Warren Ellis stands in his long coat and almost longer beard staring motionless and passionately.  He is one of the most terrifying things I have ever seen in my life.  To approach you feel would be to commit a foolish faux pas.

THE MAGIC BAND turns out to be painful to watch.  I feel slightly bad at not seeing the appeal in them considering that with the good Captain they were true innovators but today it just all seems so comedy, too comedy.  As the crazy vocals come in it begins to remind me of Dr Hook as I cruelly refer to them as the “Tragic Band.”  I have rarely seen a band at ATP appear so out of place.

Like true modern men of the modern age with view to a long day ahead of us we sought nourishment via the Burger King.  For such a left slanted festival there is something perversely fun in going so all out commercial.  As I order my burger at the counter the guy serving me comments on my broken iPhone and yet again I bond with a fellow human being over my broken Tricorder.

At this point our next stop is upstairs where DEERHOOF are making their appearance at the festival.  This is expected without doubt to be a highlight and they do not disappoint as they able onstage looking as awkward as ever before launching into a fun fun fun set of snappy time changes, exotic playing and synchronised stage moves.  Were their songs not so difficult to climb into this would be the perfect band for a Saturday morning kids show.

DEERHOOF is a beautiful thing, the wonderful experience of a band actually pushing the limits of alternative rock in a direction that expands all horizons.  It is genuinely tough not to smile when amongst all this wicked soup they pull out their cover of “Pinhead” by the Ramones.  The song has never sounded better.

As Greg addresses the crowd sounding the most painfully shy man in music as a present to the festival on its birthday they pull out another cover, this time is naturally of “All Tomorrows Parties” by Velvet Underground.  It couldn’t get any better, Satomi’s delivery of Nico’s words better the original several times over as goosebumps arrive in stylish fashion and this feels like the culmination of the continuation of such a legacy.

By now I spot members of MUDHONEY watching in the wings and all things said and done this is THE place to be right now.

Eventually the DEERHOOF set comes to a close as they come away oozing a different kind of charm and class in comparison to the resounding format/formality of most acts at the festival.  Much like AFRIRAMPO yesterday here is a band pushing the boundaries and doing it with a very wide smile.

From here I become excited at the prospect of MUDHONEY, an excitement I find myself struggling to transfer to the others.  They weren’t there two months ago when at the Koko the band tore the roof off the building and destroyed my hearing for a couple of days in the best possible manner.

To be honest it seems quite crazy that this band is playing at 6PM, a position that is far too low on the lineup for a band of such standing.  This is a band that could energise the festival late into the evening being a genuine and legendary party band with real songs that people know.  This however will always be the ATP way.

By the time MUDHONEY takes to the stage I am very close to proceedings, much closer than anyone else in our group.  They begin with three numbers from The Lucky Ones and unfortunately it just feels flat.  Almost immediately I hear a smart comment about it being Mark Arm being an Iggy Pop cliché while Steve Turner’s guitar on its own just isn’t tearing the roof off the place in the manner with which I had been describing.  Suddenly this a tough sell to my people.

To his credit Matthew sticks around and stands next to me as we finally get rewarded with “You Got It” and proceedings become a bit louder but they still remain lumpy and seemingly laboured.

So what is wrong with this?  To be honest, it just does not look like certain people in the band are having any fun.  Unlike the last two times I have seen the band and been handed my ass tonight feels a bit like they’re going through the motions, doing a job.

Inevitably the set arrives at “Touch Me I’m Sick” and the place does kind of go off but by this stage in proceedings my friends have long since lost interest and split the joint leaving me on my tod to relish in my former favourite band.  Oh well, even if the power is the missing at least I know the songs.

Eventually the band reach “In’n Out Of Grace” and the set arrives at its traditionally incendiary finale which does not fail to raise spirits but being the penultimate song in the set it is just too late.  As the song reaches its crushing conclusion the band tear into their cover of “Hate The Police” with Arm once more Iggy-ing it up before the band they utter their first words of the evening with a “thanks” and an afterthought “oh yeah, happy birthday to Barry and ATP.”  These were dark times.

I trudge back to our chalet to catch up with the others.  When I step inside pretty much everyone is back there generally expounding the lack of impression MUDHONEY left.  The Pirate Pikey chips in saying of Racton “but you said they were the worst band you have ever seen.”  Way to bubble burst and kick a person while they’re down.  I knew I didn’t like that guy for a reason.

By now people are tearing royally into the food of the chalet and manners/community have gone out of the window as things turn free for all.  Still there are pizzas and those have to be shared.  Also is it really unreasonable of me to be offended when I am offered a Pop Tart that has had a bite taken out of it (“its all right otherwise”)?  You never eat from other people’s plates.  Unfortunately over the course of the weekend some people have been making themselves at home more than others.

Eventually we head back en mass to the Pavilion for the MARS VOLTA and it turns out to be one of the rare moments all weekend that all seven of us are together.  In a way we (especially Racton and I) half think they might be OK considering the set we saw at Latitude a few years ago.

They take to the stage to a Spaghetti Western anthem creating expectation and apprehension.  When they finally bounce out you’d like to think they were the ultimate correlation of Led Zeppelin and the MC5 but they truly are not.  That said I would like to be what they are as they bounce about the stage as if being the second coming.

Early on one of the songs gets brought to an ending when the singer bounces the microphone off his heel which causes Pauly to cynically guffaw as the rest of us snigger and wrestle with our cynicism.  I have to say the popularity of this band with regards to an ATP audience is a surprising one to me.  It’s all so overblown and heavy, not necessarily tangible and far too flamboyant for at least our taste buds.

We make it to roughly half an hour into the set before we begin to fragment as a group and call it quits.  From here we head to the coin-ops where we can both play out our zombie shooting fantasies while still being able to hear the headliners in the distance.  Myself I pick up Guitar Hero as there feels some kind of perversity and rudeness in playing “Sunshine Of Your Love” while the MARS VOLTA, a real deal rock band, try their best in the background/distance.  Despite their distraction I remain in the zone and score 98% on the Cream classic.

As my iPhone begins to run out of juice and I experience battery angst I head back to the chalet to refuel (me and the cell) in the hope of catching/watching the X-Factor final results.  Ultimately though I miss it and instead wind up watching the start of a SuBo documentary.  This is not the spirit of ATP!  Elsewhere on ATP TV though I fortuitously happen across Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story which is genuinely painful and something SuBo might actually do well in watching herself.

Beyond this movie, not exactly spoilt for choice, I find myself watching Cellular when really there is a whole word of rock action happening elsewhere at the main stage and complex.  This is me all over, antisocial to end.  Even at Christmas.

Halfway through Cellular a drunken Pauly storms through our chalet door drinking a little carton of milk.  It seems an odd choice of beverage at this hour but evidently it appears to be working for him.  After sitting down for a second and checking in he promptly heads off and stumbles to bed where I hear an almighty thump and crash.  This I guess is the sound of him passing out.  He could potentially/possibly be laying in a pool of his own blood but I just shout “are you all right?” and when he responds in the affirmative that’s good enough for me (being too lazy to actually get up off the sofa).

Not long afterwards a very happy Paulina returns and begins speaking to me for more than the remainder of the weekend combined.  She asks me why the front door is still open and I explain the drunken state of Pauly.  We talk shop and it turns out that she used to live in Notting Hill.  We then talk accounts, a subject I should really know about.

Concerned that I maybe wasting my festival experience we head back to the complex to see POLVO.  Unsurprisingly we can’t get into LIGHTNING BOLT as the queue is crucifying as everyone’s favourite one trick pony is what is needed to power people through the final night.

POLVO play an awkward set.  Nobody wants to be up at this time and likewise nobody wants to be playing.  They begin their set by saying they feel like the people that are still left hanging around the party at the ending.  In other words they are faced with a real task.  To their infinite credit they do their noodling thing in a still fresh and upbeat manner but if you told me you were into this band first time round and now recognise some of these songs as classics I can’t help but raise an eyebrow at you.

Eventually our group drops one by one and finally it is left down to Racton and I to head back to the chalet as last men standing.  Along the way we evaluate proceedings.  It’s been another weird one.

Back home we watch the end of the Anvil movie followed by the first episode of Eastbound And Down by which stage Racton is now snoring on the sofa.  Finally I find myself the absolute last man standing as he heads to bed while I find an MC5 documentary (MC5: A True Testimonial) on ATP TV and wonder if the MARS VOLTA have finished their set yet.  I have to concede before seeing this movie I had never known about their record deal, the FBI surveillance and the whole White Panthers thing.  Before long I fall asleep only to awaken at 4.30AM with End Of The Century on TV and the MC5 seemingly having turned into the Ramones.

This is too much.  I turn off and in.

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