ATP’s first of two December festivals (one week prior to the Ten Years Of ATP weekender) promises three days of loud noise, with My Bloody Valentine on hand curating and choosing the line-up.
Kevin Shields and his band are not only down on the schedule to play Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, but promise a rehearsal show, for which we arrive a day early.
Unfortunately it never quite happened. Technical difficulties meant that at 11pm, it was finally announced that the intimate show would be cancelled. Disappointing maybe, but at least we awake on Friday morning already safely ensconced at Butlins, and check-in was trouble-free.
The festival finally gets underway after 4pm with The Wounded Knees. It’s a fairly gentle and innocuous start to proceedings with the band jangling away proficiently enough for us to check our diaries just to make sure that it’s not 1986.
It isn’t long before the first real star of the weekend begins to shine. Josh T Pearson (one time member of Lift To Experience) takes to the stage looking like some kind of cowboy Jesus. Accompanied just by Lift To Experience’s former drummer, we’re treated to two thirds of their line up.
With a voice that drips like melted mahogany he instantly demands attention. Whether he’s toying with the audience by briefly blasting out the opening chords of My Bloody Valentine’s Only Shallow or taking them on a tortured trawl through the dusty derelict corners of his life, Pearson is magnetic.
On the main stage De La Soul kick the party off in earnest. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since 3 Feet High and Rising, but the positivity of the album, and of the band itself, is in clear evidence as they run through their set. Pos and Trugoy are beaming as they take the crowd in their palms and evoke a real carnival atmosphere.
Participation is the key to De La Soul’s performance, and as the classics pour from the stage, it’s impossible not to throw your hands in the air and join the party. Throwing in favourites Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey) and Gorillaz track Feel Good Inc gets the weekend up and boogying.
Over on the Centre Stage J Mascis is making his first appearance of the weekend drumming with Witch. Switching from the feel good vibes of De La Soul to Witch’s stoner rock is jarring at first, but the impeccable riffing is stunningly primal and easy to get lost in. It’s as if Volume 4 era Black Sabbath are being channelled through the band. It’s a pity that they clash with De La Soul’s set, because to have to miss any of either band is something of a wrench.
However a worse clash occurs when Primal Scream and Yo La Tengo are scheduled to start at the same time. There’s a palpable divide in the crowd with no one sure what to do and who to see. There’s a lot of cynicism directed towards Primal Scream. There’s a common belief that the band are well past their prime. However, they start with a bang. Bobby Gillespie fidgets around the stage cutting rock star shapes and whooping constantly as if he’s got a mild form of Tourettes.
There’s no doubting that they know how a rock show should look, but to some they sound positively flat. They make their way through a greatest hits set, and it’s a reminder of how many brilliant singles they’ve released over the years. Playing pretty much everything from Movin’ On Up through Jailbird and on to Swastika Eyes and Miss Lucifer, they’re a safe bet for a swaggering, rollicking time. They wrap things up with Loaded and, while not everyone’s impressed, it’s a treat for the fans amongst us.
For those who couldn’t decide and get to Yo La Tengo’s set on Centre Stage a little late, it’s galling to find that they’ve already played And The Glitter is Gone from this year’s amazing Popular Songs album by the time we arrive (curse you Primal Scream). Fortunately, there are plenty more gems in store. The most notable moment comes courtesy of the incessant pop drone of Pass The Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind.
We watch as one punter, who has spent the entire set talking and texting, is impelled by the relentless bass figure to march around in a square for at least 10 minutes, seemingly incapable of stopping even if he wanted to. Before this localised demonstration of the power of music, we’re treated to a never ending glut of noise pop which, even at this early stage, could easily be described as the set of the weekend.
My Bloody Valentine start their first set of the festival like a band who haven’t had a chance to soundcheck. Kevin Shields is a noted sonic pedant, and before the band even launch into their set, he’s berating the soundman responsible for his vocal monitors.
After requesting that the PA be turned off, a colossal amount of time is spent shaking his head and uttering the words “one” and “two” before he’s finally ready to begin. First song finished, Shields returns to berating the sound man. Two songs down, he points out that the PA hasn’t been on. Oddly no one has really noticed this. More muttering and head shaking. This continues to the point where the momentum of the show is utterly lost.
There’s no doubting the quality of the songs when they appear, but Shields’ meddling and insistence on perfection hinders the performance to the point of distraction. Still there’s Saturday and Sunday’s shows to go, so there’s hope that he finally gets it right at some point over the weekend.