Thursday, May 25, 2006
All Tomorrow’s Parties is one curious beast of a festival. Displaying an acute branding genius, it holds sway with a certain vintage of muso regardless of whatever gets thrown up on the mixing desk. The myth these weekends have cultivated for themselves revolve around the idea of the all inclusive festival, a return to Eden with none of the corporate tie-in's that trample the leaves of your common garden variety festival. At ATP, there's a delusional hope that you are as liable to find Richard D James smoking blow outside your door as have a drunk teenager crash into your tent at 5am. This myth always guarantees a crowd of avidly pepped up enthusiasts. So low and behold cue a festival brimful with girls all wearing exactly the same Top Shop provided faux charity shop dresses. Accompanied by legions of the most self-conscious looking rake thin Indie males, all still pale from being shipped in en masse via container trucks and refusing wholesale to let themselves enjoy anything in case it dare scare well cultivated long faces with a smile.
This is a rites of passage that guarantees a brimming sense of smug satisfaction once you get back to posting online on whatever off the map indie forum wiles away the working day. There's the assurance of a buzzing self imposed musical austerity at ATP, this ain't no Glasto, this is pure unadulterated exclusion. You come here because you are of the curators mindset, there's no mid day ramblings between fields of random “yeah they're ok” bands. This is a pure hit, straight to the heads of muso beard scratchers. ATP bills itself as a showcase of the definite left of centre music scene, it lets you walk through the pages of The Wire magazine as it masquerades as a festival. Then when you are finished your top shelf browse, you can return home and big up your latest musical gems. As the curators make this festival, it was funny that the organisers stuffed the upper shelves of the first weekend this year with as discordant a set of curators as you are ever liable to find. Ranging from grunge survivors Mudhoney, New York fashiontas and indie scene ascendancy hispters the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and finally a nature worshipping hippy operating under the name of Devendra Barnhurt. That's a mix of archetypes that I wouldn't trust enough to DJ at a house party never mind take hold of the musical range of a whole festival. Are we prepare to run straight from the debris when the stereotypes come crashing into each other head on?
ATP is set amidst a sprawling sea side resort called Pontins. While Mosney shipped in the refugees to reap its millions as the housing estates packaged themselves off to the Spanish coast instead of the Irish seaside, Ponitins eyed up the demographic of the offspring of the original children who ran around barefoot in its chalets. Bare moments from a sun washed, sandy beach the resort stands as a bizarre monument to industrial society. While Russia had its artificial beaches, the UK had fields full of prefabricated housing with concrete crazy golf, massive arenas of late night waltzing and the flashing lights of arcades and one arm bandits. All now handed over for this festival to the delight of an urbane class of young professionals. A democgraphic who grew up revelling on the kitsch effect gleaned from a shared ironic attachment to the half broken memories of childhood entertainments and toys. Left to wonder around this open prison, you are left puzzled at how the appendages of decayed and past tense modes of production are revitalised and put once again to productive use for the leisure industry. Wandering around this bizarre ode to modernism late at night, it was piss easy to wind up lost, rambling through its enclaces and circling on its roads. Hero City, Surf City, Echles Green..chalet numbers jarred completely out of any rational order and only a pirate flag in your sitting room window to confirm the individuality of your place of stay.
For the first night Mudhoney outlasted grunge long enough to provide the crowd with re-jigged memories of early teen bedroom tantrums and we moshed ourselves sweaty to them. But as most of their recent work warned the acts they brought in were a cold mix of static seventies stoner rock from the likes of The Drones and The Scientists, leaving an already staid crowd rooted to the spot. If there was a spontaneous outburst all weekend, it came from those sudden moments where the music crashed at the end of the night, quick spaces opening as the previously crammed crowd turned joyfully on itself to kick crushed plastic glasses at each other before being pushed off by security.
Only the Yeah Yeah Yeahs selection whipped up something of a festival fervour but this was purely amplified in comparison to the tedium of the rest of the line up. No-wave noise merchants Macik Markers left pained ringing ears, less due to scrapped electric guitars battered by plastic fish and more due to an over indulgent wank fest in undergrad philosophy from their lead singer best po-mo pronouncements over a cacophonic rehash of the droned out feedback that ends a Sonic Youth song. The Ex-Models provided a blistering set of roof shredding noise in the vein of a less hyper Meltbanana, while fellow NY-er duo Services displayed the only hint that something called rave ever came to pass with a very LCD Soundsystem-esque set of rantings over a fucked sampler that veered from Cabaret Voltaire to the mashed up punchy industrial of Patric Catani. The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s gig was more like a convention where every minor regional town hipster this side of Wigan pier circa 1975 gathered to be beamed instructions on next seasons fashion loves and hates via some sort of gamma exuding death ray embedded behind the glasses of Karen O.
With a poor line up, a lot of time is spent taking advantage of the arcades, drinking in the chalets and simply crowd watching. Everyone is on stage, and everything is a performance. Indie girls are following people who look like they are in a band around with cameras. A group of friends who look just like that, mates sitting stoned at a festival are asking each other why the hell that woman is filming them? For a documentary of course, in a world full of Nathan Barley cunts it can only make sense. Two hippies sit in front of you as you are queuing for a car racing arcade game. Like a warped Doors cassette tape hinting at the music it once held before being consciously updated, they are out of synch - is it familiarity or difference? They aren't just fans, there's something more. Why the fuck is that guy filming them? He looks pathetic, drunk you brag loudly about the perpetual idiotic task of finding art even in the down time of a video arcade. But it expresses itself much more along the lines of "posing wankers"than any comment on the culture of performativity. Step off the stage, these wishful hippy fuckers are probably his mates - yet they blank him completely as they stand and leave and he is left to follow in his own path of reverence for them through the arcade. Wait? Was that Devendra leaving credit on a car racing game? Nice one, dickhead. Its saturday night, lets get a party started – not quite. A candle lit dinner blossoms behind your chalet. "Its a real cooked meal AND its going to be in a documentary." God bless us and save us the things ya have to listen to, just to have your fucking craic...
Inside the gig, in that sanctified zone of rest outside the toilets, a four year old child runs by. The girls beside me starts pointing "there's so many chavs at this festival" she drawls in a Londoninnit acccent "one of my friends was going to ask them for drugs, we had to drag him away." The curated TV suddenly appeals with R Kelly's soap opera echoing “Trapped In The Closet” turning into a wry festival highlight, a musical epic of infidelity and his brazen attempt to distract from his impending sentencing for statuary rape. Visiting other peoples chalets is a must at ATP and only after rushing through a blisteringly entertaining hour of Scooter and Queen at another Irish chalet is it time to hit the bar. It comes on with the piss head rush of a classic student bar, with Stone Rose's anthems mixed in with pulsating LFO and Vitalic. The place is dancing like crazy – or is that just the drunk punters on the stage? When its time to go outside in pursuit of a buzz, you are literally dragged along in a manic congo line through one door and out the other deposited in the playground.
Late into the night, bouncing through variant clusters of people, its burgeoning on 6am and sitting on the grass in Surf City opposite a Richey Manic lookalike. Cross legged in his white faded jeans, a pair of brand spanking new Converse and a laboured claim to fame as the singer with a short-lived band "you may've heard of us? We played around London" blissfully ignorant of the cliche cartwheeling out of his mouth he continued "called the Walking Abortions?" My own blissfully clichéd, drunken maggot of an Irish man, comes storming up inside of me prepared to wreck havoc in this quite isolated resort for the retired festival goer and their wuzzy Indie offspring. No amount of MIA from the satisfactory stereo can placate me. The words of Magick Markers still ringing pained in my ears, its all too much and I start to roar: "Wake the fuck up ATP! Universal sets of value systems still exist. The need for free mass education may seem extravagant to a bunch of charity shop dress wearing..." A running blur from my chalet as one of my co-horts rushes out and grabs me by the lapels "James SHUT THE FUCK UP!" Holy shit ATP is expectant, its waiting for a party that will never happen, its waiting for tomorrow, there can be no celebrations – no real celebrations tonight with whatever catatonic state of indie indulgence has been curated for us...pillow, then sleep and hangover.
For the final day all you had to do was factor in a line up curated by nature worshipping Devendra Banhart and his "gobshitey" face. Far too folk seemed to have a problem when this wispish hippy, looking like the wind blew him away from sucking on an acid tinged mole on the side of Jerry Garcia's arse came on stage and started muttering to himself "man...we...glad to ...be here...we are all..same direction...vibes." As for some of the others, groups like the Metallic Falcons looked like they took too much advice from Charlie Manson. Scarred by the 60’s and reliant on blessing a stage with incense before murmuring cathedral reverb-ed vocals to the ground. You quickly realised it was time to head back to the chalet for a marathon run of Dr Who and write this festival off and deal with the continued stomping hangover.
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About Soundtracksforthem specialises in iconoclastic takes on culture, politics, and more shite from the underbelly of your keyboard. A still-born group blog with a recent surge of different contributers but mainly maintained by James R. Big up all the contributers and posse regardless of churn out rate: Kyle Browne, Reeuq, Cogsy, Chief, X-ie phader/Krossie, Howard Devoto, Dara, Ronan and Mark Furlong. Send your wishes and aspirations to antropheatgmail.com
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