DiS had a tough choice to make back at the end of last year: buy tickets for weekend one of May’s The United Sounds Of ATP event, presented by All Tomorrow’s Parties at Camber Sands (as always), or opt for weekend two. The first had Liars, The Blood Brothers, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Mudhoney and Comets On Fire, but its Sunday was a mess of freakish-folk also-rans, the type of aural nourishment that us Hard Rockers simply don’t have the stomachs for. So, weekend two it was: Dinosaur Jr, Sleater-Kinney and The Shins on curator duty, and a line-up full of the weird and wonderful, but thankfully light on the folk.
While there, something struck us: we’re all off having totally different festival experiences, so why try to amalgamate when we can serve a selection of dishes? Which is what we’ve done. Below are weekend two accounts from Mike Diver and George Terry of DiS, Ben Wileman from Wichita Records, and Al English from the band Youthmovie Soundtrack Strategies. Hopefully you’ll find that at least one of them had the fun you had. Or didn’t have, but wished you did. Whatever…
Mike Diver Drowned in Sound
The guy’s a plant, gotta be, here with *Lightning Bolt *to spread goodwill to all men and women huddling, trying their very best to shelter for a wind cutting like knives through rotting soft fruit. He’s gotta be: no drugs, that’s what he says, yet there he is on the picnic tables, dancing to a tune only he knows, short-shorts riding up and superhero cape catching the crooked wind so wildly. There he is on the stairs, high-fiving festival traffic as it worms its way from room A to room B. Here he is in my face as I’m waiting to play air hockey. No drugs? Fuck, dude…
Talk of worryingly perma-grinning oriental Americans aside, the aforementioned ‘Bolt spread only misery: by choosing to set up shop, as is their gimmick (and that’s all it is, really), on the floor, many a mind in search of a sonic pummelling is left shut out, queuing to get into a room that’ll never empty. Me, I don’t bother – from the café you can hear their already-done-to-death drums-and-noise-and-noise workout perfectly well. It’s not like you’d be able to see them, anyway. One chalet mate of mine is near inconsolable; I attempt to cheer him by thrusting cool bottled lager into his mitts. Job’s a good’un, and the Lightning Bolt a write-off, the festival’s other highlights-in-waiting can take their turn in the spotlight of our attentions.
Skipping the day-to-day format, this is what clicked, all buttons to red and knobs to eleven. Broken Social Scene make me smile like a schoolgirl upon presentation of a pony, but as a confused-looking J Mascis staggers on mid-set, said pony’s been shot by daddy following a tantrum too many from his little princess. That aside, the Canadians deliver wonderfully, charming the top-floor room with a grace that few other acts of the weekend possess. Sure, Kevin Drew has an arrogance to him that any man that meets him would love to wipe out with a hefty punch, but when his band’s this good, bothered.
The Gossip are this ATP’s Les Savy Fav – where the New Yorkers made the entire festival dance in December, the six-legged disco-punks from Arkansas (originally) get us all hot ‘n’ bothered, turning the downstairs room into a toaster oven. We’re all nicely crisped by their set’s breathless finish, singer Beth Ditto (pictured, left) providing us with the sort of workout that once made Mad Lizzie a household name.
Black Heart Procession’s dreamily romantic murder ballads are welcomed by those packing daggers under cloaks of obscure band shirts – the songs lifted from The Spell are gloriously fleshed-out by the back-to-a-five-piece band, which more than makes up for their comparatively poor performance at London’s Boogaloo a few months ago – and Sleater-Kinney turn in the finest curators set of the weekend, although their bombast is a wasp fart in comparison to the incredible noise conjured by Dinosaur Jr. When they encore with ‘Freak Scene’, this attendee damn near wets himself.
The beach is windy. My face is full of sand. Ten days later, it'll still be pouring from my ears. Decide to eat chips in the beach-side cafe and get the hell back to Dodge ASAP.
Dead Meadow, Big Business and The Black Keys share the weekend’s trophy for Best Use Of Primal Noise, the above headliners excepted, while Dungen and The Shins, for all their on-record qualities, prove to be relative lows of a weekend marked by a series of highs. Natural highs, obviously.
No drugs? Oh come on now, seriously…
George Terry Drowned in Sound
Bus queue. A poster blue-tacked to the shelter proudly proclaims ‘extra buses laid on for the weekend of 19th-21st May. Now, one bus an hour’. Beno, we ain’t in London anymore.
After a 55-minute wait, made jollier by a wise Bombay Sapphire purchase from Budgens, there is a bit of a good-humoured scramble for the bus. It is at this point that a man, rapping to himself and wearing little other than an iPod and a cape joins the queue. Fifty pairs of eyes glaze over slightly as everyone wonders if he’s their new chalet mate. Chalet mate Jude, met originally through the modern miracle that is MySpace, and in person about 20 minutes ago, and I scarper upstairs. Chalet mate Ben is left to fend for himself downstairs. Two minutes later a text beeps through. ‘CAPE MAN IS TAKING HIS CLOTHES OFF. PLEASE GOD NO’. And the weekend begins.
Fortified by vodka and cherryade, me and my new ATP chalet family (Gareth has brought couscous. The relief at this normality is palpable) head off to see* Dead Meadow. They seem okay in a drone-rock kinda way, but nowt special, so we make our way downstairs to Magik Markers*. Who are, frankly, pants, so we make our way to the Queen Vic for a soothing beer.
Air hockey! Spider stamping! Two-pence machines! I love an arcade. Trounce all the boys at House of the Evil Dead 4 (YES! One day I will be a crime-fighting hero or similar) despite screaming ‘like a girl’.
** Broken Social Scene **(singer Kevin Drew pictured, right)_ are blisteringly amazing. Never heard a note before, can’t remember a thing about them now, other than being deeply ‘must buy some’ impressed. ‘Second to last album’ is the best opines Ben. He is clever and knows things so must take his advice when have made a tenner on the 2p machine.
** The Brian Jonestown Massacre sound (unsurprisingly) like the Dandy Warhols. IF the Dandy Warhols were the best band in the world. Nice facial hair too. **Dinosaur Jr were… highly enjoyable (can you tell which DiSser didn’t take any notes for the whole weekend, yet?).
Back at the chalet for an earlyish night. Ben turns the key. And turns it some more. And some more again. Two hours standing in the rain later, someone with enough security authority breaks down the door so we can sleep in the chalet that evening. There is now a big crack in the window and a hole in the door, but even this is preferable to Security’s Plan A – take out the window.
“But won’t it be a bit cold with no window?”
“Nah, don’t worry, we’ll screw it back in again once you’re all inside.”
“But how will we get out in the morning?”
“Don’t worry about it, someone will come to let you out.”
“Nice ball,” I remark coquettishly to a bunch of footballers in our quad. The effect may have been marred slightly by the pyjamas and blanket combination I was sporting whilst Maintenance fixed our door, now I think back on it.
After breakfasting on an unfeasibly large amount of cheese, head over to The Boredoms. Three (THREE!) drummers! Is this just greedy? Other than my encyclopaedic knowledge of Phil, my drummer knowledge is but poor. Drummy, drummy, keyboardy Japanese nonsense. But lots of fun. When it becomes apparent that each song, while ace, last twenty minutes, we head over to the bar for a Slush Puppy. With gin in it.
Indie karaoke is my new favourite thing. The man who performed ‘Chasing Rainbows’ will one day be mine. Meet Mike Diver who is eyeballing the D for Dolly page of the karaoke book. “Are you going to write about this weekend?” he asks. “No,” I reply with the boldness of truth. He looks at me a little like a boy who was promised Action Man but received a broken Tiny Tears, and elicits from me a promise that I will write ‘something’. A promise he now regrets.
Girls are great.* The Gossip *are inspirational. Go see! Go See!
“I will be sick in my mouth if I see any* Joanna Newsom*” Jude proclaims. We see a bit of Joanna Newsom (pictured, left). It’s actually a lot less irritating then on record and no sick occurs.
Girls are brilliant. Sleater-Kinney are proper amazing. Dancing ‘till 5am is fun especially when one can return to one’s chalet afterwards and sleep in a bed. Well, a sofa-bed. A lumpy sofa-bed that ate my pillows last night and this morning has designs on my head. Still, better than a tent x 10,000, and I like tents.
Eating cheese in bed and watching the EastEnders omnibus is a rare treat. One of the great things about ATP is that there’s not too much to do. Sure, we could venture out in the rain to the beach or the go-karts. Hell, we could even see a band. But right now, we’re all about cheesy treats and a little trip to Walford. We’re happy with that.
After a little Cape Man weirdness (‘Does Cape Man have Special Educational Needs?’ takes the prize for Best Team Name at the lunchtime pub quiz), we head to *The Decemberists *and fortify ourselves with more gin and slushy. Great indie-pop with a discernable verse/chorus structure, hooray! A welcome change from the drone-rock of the past couple of days.
On a promise all weekend but *Electrelane *were rubbish. I’m sorry, but they were. Far too much keyboard-solo action for my liking, and would it really hurt you to crack a smile ladies? It’s so much easier to enjoy a band who are enjoying themselves.
Bit of a blank here, a blank that I suspect was filled with cheap vodka and Clinic.
Who needs a bassist? (Except the Schla La Las of course.) The Black Keys rock without one, hell yeah! Ace on an ace sandwich with a side of great.
“This is it, we’re what it’s all been about,” proclaim The Shins. Which is odd as 1) I thought there were three curators, and 2) that’s hardly the attitude. The Shins were good in a Shinny kind of way. But not so good that we stay for an encore, opting for more Spider Stomping and dancing instead.
Wanted: chalet mates for next year. Liking for cheese a distinct advantage. Only applicants with a photo will be considered. I do fear the Cape Man.
Ben Wileman** Wichita Recordings
Still feeling somewhat jaded from the first weekend, our office rolled into Camber Sands early on Friday afternoon... and it was wet. And it would stay wet but become even more so.
We intended to start our weekend with a dose of the ‘Bolt but, alas, we were unable to get into the room (a recurring theme for the weekend). So, we waited for Dead Meadow (pictured, left). As heavy and as groovy as ever, DM did not disappoint. Friday was all about Broken Social Scene *for me, and *Dinosaur of course, so three-quarters of the way through the BSS set (a set which flowed like no other that I saw over the weekend), to have J Mascis join them on stage for a guitar duel with Andrew Whiteman was pretty perfect. An euphoric performance which left me buzzing.
After the magic of Broken I headed downstairs to catch a band who I was very excited to see for the first time, The Brian Jonestown Massacre. What a huge disappointment and a horrible way to kill the post-BSS buzz. Unlike many, I had not wanted Anton to kick off with the crowd. I had wanted to see the band play the hits and survive a full show! Unfortunately for whatever reason, BJM only had one speed tonight and it was SLOW. Painfully, boringly slow. In hindsight I would rather have seen Anton fighting.
Back upstairs for Dino and no such problems there! J, Lou and Murph rolled out the classics for all to enjoy. Sing-along-a-Dinosaur and the buzz was back - that was an ATP set to rival* The Melvins* at* Slint*'s weekend. The perfect way to round off the evening's music.
First up on Saturday, having failed to get in to see Lightning Bolt again, was* The Boredoms*. Excited to see them for the first time in a few years, I was kinda disappointed to find that they are still playing the drum circle set. The first time I saw them do that it was pretty stunning, but I must admit that after ten minutes I was wishing they did something more like the last few albums – more guitars and textures than just the few drones and shouts of ‘Eye’. Back to the chalet to regroup...
The next attempt to get Saturday going was also abortive: I somehow managed to spend one-and-a-half hours trying to get to Dungen, yet failed to catch a minute of their set. I did find time to buy a rather fetching Boredoms T-shirt though. Skip four or five bands, and it’s back for* The Gossip, who rocked. Terrible sound, great show. It was not until heading upstairs for *Sleater-Kinney that I remembered that David Cross, one of my favourite comedians, was compere for that day. A real shame to not see any of him but everyone who did reported that he struggled with the crowd which I found surprising – he’s fucken funny, you morons. Ok, maybe an off day... or maybe too many drunk fools who think their shouting sounds good. It doesn't, believe me. (Same goes for the girl near me just before The Shins came on who was screaming senselessly at Henry ‘John John’ Owings. Be quiet, miss, nobody wants to hear that but you.)
My Saturday highlight was easily Sleater-Kinney (pictured, right), a band that I have always ignored and now I see that that was an oversight. After the music had finished, Saturday night was a great one.
Sunday was largely spent in my chalet listening to Leadbelly and Karen Dalton, feeling a but iffy. Managed to once again fail to get in to see the ‘Bolt, and missed Dungen for a second time.* Band of Horses* cancelled... come one, ATP! Thank God, then, for Big Business!
Having recently heard that this LA two-piece gave been invited to join my favourite band (The Melvins - best in the world - don't argue!), I was very excited to see this show, and happily they were as good as I had hoped for. Coady is one of the most powerful and impressive drummers I have seen for ages (he broke a kick pedal and the kick drum skin in little over half an hour... maybe that just impresses me?!) and Jared (pictured, below)_ howls and hollers whilst busting out growling, raging basslines. Magnificent. Absolutely so. I wish I had enjoyed The Black Keys more because they had mighty fine shirts for sale, but alas they were not really for me... Bands need bass players. Fact. Even when the drummer is that good, they still need a bass player.
Clinic: sorry, dull. Although there is no need to shout about it. Keep your mouth shut and just leave the room, as I did. I have to admit that, as much as I love them, I ducked out of The Shins early to catch Lightning Bolt's (pictured, bottom) fifth and final set of the weekend. I was glad to get a good spot and was happy to finish my weekend's music with their highly impressive, mightily pummelling assault. Very good.
So, another ATP where the quality of party outweighed the number of fabulous bands but those that did shine this weekend... they sure shone bright.
Al English** Youthmovie Soundtrack Strategies
ATP felt real good this year. Upstairs on the* Dinosaur Jr* day, *Dead Meadow *sounded molasses thick. I reckon they’re the only band with a wah I could ever dig.
Broken Social Scene** only stopped being shit-hot when Kevin Drew made with the drunk uncle banter between songs. The J Mascis walk on didn’t really come off either. I guess he figured he could play over anything. He couldn’t.
He did make me grin inanely though when he returned to the stage in front of no less than eight JCM800 stacks. ‘Freak Scene’ = craziness.
Downstairs, the pure sonics of* Mt Eerie* on record was reduced to a bar band run through. Disappointing.
Saturday,* The Boredoms levelled. And do you realise just how fucking good *Spoon are? Aside from this most of the day was actually spent convalescing with cold beer and an all-too-comfy sofa. Later this evening, my girlfriend Jess will find me in the photo pit, sat directly in front of Miss Newsom, with ‘that’ look in my eyes…
How did The Decemberists manage to get EVERYONE watching to sit down? That shit was great. The theatrics, the crowd-surf-with-acoustic guitar, the way it kicked in so hard at the end. Awesome.
I don’t remember seeing anyone else aside from The New Pornographers. I think it’s cos I must have seen about five hours of Lost & Found TV. Next time you see them, watch the drummer. I tried to convince Graeme that he should spin his sticks more. He wasn’t having any of it.
Thanks to each of our contributors, who very bravely battled booze and loud music in the name of DiS. Ta, all.
Photographs by Lucy Johnston, except picture of Cape Man, photographer unknown