All Tomorrow’s Parties, ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’
Butlins, Minehead. Dec 9-11
The idea of hosting a music festival in a disused Butlins holiday camp is unsusual; the reality is downright bizarre. Despite spending the majority of the weekend running around all over the place with several people from Sheffield in a drunken stupor, I still actually managed to see quite a few bands. There’s a scene in Wet Hot American Summer where a group of camp counsellors go into town for the day, it’s all very nice at the beginning of the afternoon with ice creams and BBQs, but their day rapidly takes a turn for the worst and finishes with them fraternising with the homeless and jacking up on the floor of a shit ridden squat. This is a pretty good analogy for my experience of last weekend’s atp.
The journey started with “The Fear” because cheap Ebay tickets meant that we had no idea what the other people in our chalet were like, they could have been mentalists (we already knew they were Northern, and so was Jack the Ripper). As luck would have it they were all very sweet and hilariously funny too which was an added bonus.
More that 6,000 people were at the gig and frequent queues made the atmostphere a little strained at times with queues stretching all around the holiday camp. Unexpectedly popular bands such as The Melvins, Deerhoof, Dinosaw Jnr. and Gang of Four were forced to play a second set on to compensate for the fact that not everyone could get into the venue to see them.
The weekend’s line-up was curated by Sonic Youth’s ageless Thurston Moore and was largely mid-nineties US alt rock based, including Iggy and the Stooges, and of course, Sonic Youth. The colour of the wristband you were allocated determined which day you were allowed to see the two headline bands, Sonic Youth and Iggy & The Stooges, we had a fairly low key Friday and only saw stoner rock outfit Bardo Pond who were pretty predictable. Yawn. So we played on a couple of arcade machines and then it was back to the chalet for red wine and TV. Incidentally, there are two ATP channels programmed by the festival curators so if you get bored watching the bands there is always something else to keep you occupied, Garbage Pail Kids:The Movie turned out to be a great Saturday morning hangover cure.
Saturday was more eventful due to The Melvins and Deerhoof playing a second show. The Melvins started off a bit weakly but the double drumming towards the end of the set was amazing. Deerhoof were fantastic, energetic and fun. Haling from Oakland and San Francisco and with a Japanese singer they played beautiful music to make you smile and want to jump around like a crazy bean. Sugary sweet pop melodies with childlike lyrics about rabbits whilst bouncing around the stage are set against by crunching guitar parts. I love this band - they were so happy and catchy that they were one of the best bands of the festival. If Little Red Riding Hood were a musical, it would sound just like Deerhoof.
The big disappointment of the festival for me was probably the now uber trendy Gang of Four who played all the hits but really didn’t sound that great. The singer’s voice was too quiet and weak in the mix and the bands’ outfits were such a conscious homage to the 80s it was painful to watch four old men gurning around on stage pretending to shoot the crowd with guitars held like machine guns. Cheese-o-rama.
Sonic Youth, however were amazing. I just couldn’t believe how young they looked even after playing having been together for what must be more than 25 years. They played a real mix of old stuff, a few songs from Goo and Daydream Nation and some tracks from Rather Ripped. It was a polished and eclectic set which had so much energy and enthusiasm and charisma it was ridiculous. After the gig we caught up with two people from our chalet – Tom and Jo. Tom had decided to dress in Jo’s ripped New York Dolls T-shirt and skinny jeans and had apparently spent the duration of Sonic Youth screaming “YOU’RE RUBBISH” and “I MIGHT BE GAY!” to the delight of the people around him. Actually he fell asleep halfway through the set which was a pretty big achievement because, oh boy, they were loud. I bought a yellow T-shirt which cost 15 whole English pounds!
By the time Sunday rolled around we all pretty much felt like death having consumed an excessive amount of alcohol in the Irish bar and Jumpin’ Jacks. Anyway, we used it as a real day of rest and went to the museum of Bakelite (described on the flyer as “a dream come true” and thus, given the “Nightmare before Christmas” theme of the weekend it seemed pretty fitting). Actually it was quite interesting and very kitsch. Lots of brightly coloured cups and saucers, vacuum cleaners, cookers, bikes, even bakelite teeth! Upstairs was a museum of farming implements- sycthe's and pig ringers mainly, so that was an added bonus. On the way back we stumbled upon a Cider farm where we stopped for a refill, a cup of tea and a slice of cake before heading back to see The Stooges. Punk rock Sunday, eh?
Can’t even begin to describe Iggy and the Stooges. Other than to say he is THE BEST FRONTMAN I’VE EVER SEEN. Just amazingly gorgeous gyrating around to ‘Now I wanna be your dog’ and the ‘fun house’. Iggy bounced around arms flailing, jumping into the audience, inviting everyone up onto the stage to dance with him it was fantastic to watch. Probably the best gig I've ever been to.
Final night turned out to be messy fun after watching Be Your Own Pet. Drinking, dancing, drinking, drinking and then a great Crayola chalet party with a sweet little band where everyone was having a lovely time.