By the end of today we will have seen some rare sights, not least a woman dressed like Suzi Quattro at the height of her leather clad fame, and a man dressed in an all encompassing blue lyrca suit, which doesn’t seem to have any eye holes. He resembles a blue worm.
There’s a gorilla wearing a bra who’s stopping for more photo opportunities than Tricky, who is doing the honourable thing and hanging out on his merch stand meeting and greeting. As the end of the day draws near we even witness a man taking several pictures of the carpet in the Centre Stage area. The Centre Stage carpet is hideous.
This is all some time off yet. First off we have some knitting to do with The Breeders‘ Kelley Deal. Kelley originally took up knitting as a way to deal with her heroin addiction, and she now creates patterns, writes books, and sells her scarves online. It would appear that knitting is the new rock’n'roll because The Crazy Horse bar is packed with indie kids clicking needles. Kelley is initially sat at the centre of the group telling tour stories; eventually she gets up and checks out her fellow knitters’ work while swapping tips and hints. There’s no reverence or pretence, it’s just a bunch of people exchanging stories and ideas; a perfect way to start the day and an encapsulation of what ATP is all about.
The first band of today, The Whispertown 2000, celebrate the kind of indie tweeness that a knitting circle would suggest. The impossibly cute Morgan Nagler leads the band through a set of gorgeous folk pop tunes that have an irresistible punk edge at times.
On the main stage Blood Red Shoes are ripping up a storm. Duos generally lack something, whether it’s bass or stage presence. The White Stripes get away with it purely on the strength of their tunes, but Blood Red Shoes do it with unadulterated attitude. The interaction between Laura-Mary Carter and Steven Ansell is vital to their appeal, particularly on a large stage. Watching each other for time changes and segues and egging each other on when they approach the noisier sections, the band are intriguing to watch, and a visceral on a musical level too.
CSS make an effort. They may have a scarcity of tunes, but they do look fantastic, and you can’t fault their enthusiasm. Balloons adorn the stage, and the presence of a bright yellow, skin-tight cat suit grab the attention right from the off. CSS’s disco rock tunes veer from memorable at best to instantly forgettable at worst. As a festival band they’re almost perfect and funto watch for a while, but you don’t feel too bad when you drift off to check out the next band.
As luck would have it the next band are Wire, one of the most influential art-rock bands of all time. Blue light bathes the stage and the band plunge into a set that is as oppressive as it is full of hidden pop promise. It’s this mix that has ensured that Wire have endured for such a long period of time having formed in 1976. The set tonight treads a line towards the more dense and experimental, that’s not to say that that pop sound isn’t in there somewhere, but it is heavily concealed underneath waves of guitars and throbbing bass.
Shellac follow in a similar vein with their razor edged hardcore tearing the heads off all those gathered around the centre stage. Steve Albini is as twitchy as you’d expect the man who wrote these songs of repulsion and disgust to be. His guitar is slung not over his shoulder but around his waist, and he rips at it as his face contorts and twists. The bulldozer rhythm section simply pummels its way through the songs. This is as exciting and visceral as can be hoped for; they may well be ATP stalwarts, but their intensity is blinding and we’re glad that they’re here.
The Pavilion is absolutely rammed for the curators of this festival The Breeders. Sisters Kelley and Kim Deal clearly inspire a lot of passion and it’s easy to see why. On stage they’re comfortable and enjoying every note they sing and play. The smile that creeps across Kelley’s face as she thrashes at her guitar is as infectious as the swine flu outbreak that kept Juan Son away from this festival. It isn’t long before those smiles have spread throughout the audience. The high point is inevitably Cannonball. The band teases the crowd by giving them a quick burst of that fuzzy guitar intro before eventually allowing that bass line to get rolling and the audience to get jumping front to back. It’s a masterful set from beginning to end.
We sadly miss The Frogs because of a line-up change, so we head for the centre stage to await Mariachi El Bronx, which is essentially The Bronx re-imagined as a Mexican street band. It’s not quite as peculiar as that sounds, but it is different, and at this point in the day, different is a very much welcome sound. We’d rather hoped for a few more full-on party tunes, but right now there’s no better music for kicking back and putting our feet up to.
Holy Fuck wrap up the evening and make sure that any ideas we had of keeping our feet up are soundly beaten to a pulp. The mix of rock and casio driven dance tunes is perfect. Between songs there are Pinteresque pauses that lose them momentum, but when they’ve got tunes like Super Inuit and Lovely Alien it hardly matters. Pockets of some of the most inspired dancing we’ve seen for some time break out around the hall.
Then, in the middle of it all, one guy grabs our attention as he sways gently, trying to locate his centre of balance. Out of his pocket he pulls his camera, he angles it at the floor and snaps away. Checking the back of his camera, he seems pleased with the carpet detail he’s just grabbed. He puts the camera carefully back in his pocket and instantly starts to dance again. Holy Fuck indeed.