All Tomorrow’s Parties/Nightmare

We'd bought tickets for ATP quite a while back. As ever,
I'm impressed that they don't arrive until four days
before the event. Always good to start off by giving the
punters the idea they might never arrive.

The last time I'd been to ATP was when it was at Camber
in a run down Pontins. The group I had been with then
were the same this time, with the additions of DL, RVR
and Custardape. A pleasing mix, and nice to see every-
one after the hiatus following Dislocation. The
Nightmare Before Christmas was curated by My Bloody
Valentine, who had chosen an eclectic mix of acts for
the three days we spent in a Butlins in Minehead. The
results of this mix were mixed. A sizable proportion
of the acts that we chosen seemed to sound like sub-
standard MBV wannabes, which a cynic would view as
an effort to make MBV's 3 nights of headlining the
Centre Stage the best performance(s) of the festival.
It meant that the acts that really stood out for me,
and I think this goes for the people I was with, were
the ones that sounded nothing like MBV.

The MBV performance itself (I went on the Friday but
not again afterward...once is enough), was OK. I
think for a band with such an important place in our
collective musical heritage, this isn't exactly
glowing praise. Obviously, as a shoegaze act, the stage
performance is limited, but MBV seemed to avoid even
a brief contact with the audience. The sound was
terrible, in the sense that the sound engineer managed
to blend a series of fairly distinct instruments in to
a murk. Songs were discernible for sure, but from where
I was standing, it was a dirge with no audible vocal
(Shields complained sporadically about this). The crowd
, as with almost every band I saw, were largely motion-
less, so I couldn't say if the majority enjoyed or not.
DL definitely did, which is perhaps to do with stage
proximity. In the throng, the atmosphere is different;
further out it was just an average gig, with some
interesting song choices obscured by a sound engineer.

Highlights, as I say, were non-MBV related. Foremost of
all was Sun Ra Arkestra, led by Marshall Allen. They
played a set which as ThomPPW suggested was geared to
an audience of people who may not necessarily have more
than a passing interest in Sun Ra (Space is the Place,
Nuclear War are 'obvious' choices). Nonetheless, I
found it to be a revelatory experience. It is not often
I find myself genuinely feeling a performance, but this
was one of those occasions. I think it was largely
because of the history of those involved (seeing Allen
leaf through perhaps a thousand pages of music notation
amassed over fifty+ years) and the legacy of the songs.
The energy was amazing, meaning it was impossible not
to move to the music, despite a large portion of the
audience trying in vain (a recurring theme this year).
Excellent variations on Merry Christmas Baby and
Spaceship Lullaby's Holiday for Strings, along with
Knoel Scott's 'space dance' making it a gig I'll
remember for some time.

The high pointd spread over the weekend include Josh. T
Pearson's Texan railroad set, and our attempts to
stop Liam finding and arse licking him afterwards...
we failed...Gemma Hayes delicate set complete with
a beautiful little Kate Bush cover...Mum's set,
lacking in pretension and brimming with fun/joy...
beaming smiles from all throughout...Warren Ellis
apparently wanking someone off for a quid...
missing much of Sonic Youth in pursuit of crowd
based practical jokes...breakfast refuge in the
Sun and Moon...Chris being constantly hilarious,
even whilst early morning Ariel
Pink set replete with raincoat adorned lunatic...
who later turns out to be the lead singer of the
Lilys, who were/are shit...De La Soul making some
of the crowd move...Liam drinking too much on

Overall, a mixed bag. Good acts were few and far
between. The setting was odd, a mix of rundown (maybe
because it was out-of-season, maybe because that is
what Butlins is normally like) 'Disneyland for Rednecks'
as Warren Ellis put it on Sunday night, and gaudy
spectacle. The site is obviously chosen for getting the
most people in, but it meant the music was spread
thinly over three stages (Reds being largely redundant)
and the atmosphere was non-existent. There were nice
touches for sure, the availability of drinks that
weren't overpriced lager being one of them, but
the highlights came from the company I was with and
not the festival I had paid money to be at. The music
was patchy as I've mentioned, redeemed by Sun Ra
Arkestra, Mum, Dirty Three, Yo La Tengo, Gemma Hayes
(I thought I'd hate her, but she was cracking), Ariel
Pink, De La Soul, Sonic Youth. Too many MBV wannabes
and not enough edgy experimental fun. It seems
peculiar that the most exciting stuff came from a
band that have been playing variations of similar
material for over half a century.


6 Responses to “All Tomorrow’s Parties/Nightmare”

  1. Kryzler Steaks Says:

    Until seeing your photographs in black and white, I never realised how much the chalets at Butlins actually resemble Auschwitz

  2. Kryzler Steaks Says:

  3. Son of Custardape Says:

    grumble…grumble grumble…”badgers”…grumble grumble

    MBV were awesome!!!

  4. Amy Says:

    That third black and white photo is endlessly depressing. I’m putting my black and white films in on Tuesday – hope my ATP photos are less bleak, gosh.

    Mum were hands down the highlight of the weekend for me. I thought the music was actually on the most part a little poor, actually.

    • The Institute of Spectralogical Audio Research Says:

      Mum were pretty grand I agree, and music was definitely sub-par. This saddened me somewhat, but the company definitely made up for it. And winning at pool. I think there is something inherently bleak about out-of-season holiday parks, which I think I purposefully tried to capture. I saw an advert for Butlins on TV the day before yesterday and it was all shiny and bright and fun and I thought about how disappointing it must be for first time families to go to Minehead…it was probably just our cheapo ticket chalet though.

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