Live Music + Gig Reviews

ATP: My Bloody Valentine 2009: Day 2 @ Butlins, Minehead

5 December 2009

After the relative commercialism of first night headliners De La Soul and Primal Scream, the choices made for Day 2 seem more in keeping with Kevin Shields’ darker, noisier leanings.

That’s not to say it’s all like that, as we’re treated to some old school punk and some mind-bending jazz, but today is when it starts to feel like My Bloody Valentine’s ATP.

Things get going earlier today on the Centre Stage. Despite the continuing rain, The Tyde attempt to bring some Californian sunshine into our lives with their distinctly summery, shimmering indie-pop. It’s a valiant effort, but Darren Rademaker’s denim cutoffs are a sartorial error of gargantuan proportions which do little to ease the gloom.

The only way to go is to embrace the murk of the weekend and when The Membranes hit the stage in a blast of punk energy they sum it all up with the rather appropriately monikered Tatty Seaside Town. John Robb is on form, engaging the audience constantly and then roaring around the stage like a speed crazed freak.

It’s as invigorating as a naked dip in the sea and a slap on the arse with a wet towel. Live their sound is far more muscular than their fuzz soaked recordings suggest they ever could be. The Membranes are the kick that’s needed to start the day off properly.

On the Reds Stage The Volume Courbe appear to be somewhat nervous and vocalist Charlotte Marrioneau is visibly shaking. This frailty is translated into the band’s music, and these lilting, delicate songs seem as if they could break if they’re not treated gently. The glockenspiel rings out with a soothing tone that could calm any hangovers still claiming residence in the audience while the band set about charming anyone who has made the effort to catch them.

For those struggling to fully embrace the bleakness of the weekend the only option left open is to explore inner and outer space. As luck would have it the Sun Ra Arkestra are on hand to facilitate such needs. A visual spectacle that really has to be seen to be believed, this is a feast for the ears and eyes. Being faced with an orchestra of pensioners dressed like camp aliens on a jaunt to Egypt is not an everyday occurrence, but it does ensure that they get noticed. An enormous wall of occasionally incomprehensible sound: this is jazz with an added hint of funk. As the jams evolve, implode, and finally explode, the jumble of instruments finally begins to make sense.

With sunglasses apparently genetically engineered to become part of his face, Grasshopper cuts a fantastically cool shape throughout the entirety of Harmony Rockets‘s Paralyzed Mind of The Archangel Void. Essentially an elongated jam, it encompasses elements of folk, pastoral classical music, drone and free jazz. It’s a beguiling mix and one that requires full immersion to get the most from it. With closed eyes and an open mind it’s not too long before we’re exploring a similar headspace to the one that Sun Ra Arkestra created.

J Mascis makes his second appearance of the festival, this time with The Fog. No longer behind the drums, he takes his rightful position in front of a row of Marshall amps which almost certainly go beyond 11. As usual he’s impeccable, and although it hurts to admit it, the renditions of the Dinosaur Jr songs he thunders through here surpass the efforts of the band that created them.

The Horrors are now an “it” band. There’s still cynicism about them, but by now everyone seems to know that this year’s Primary Colours album is better than anyone could have hoped for. And that includes the band themselves, who play a set that pretty much suggests that debut Strange House was ever made.

One of the better things about ATP is that it often makes a band lift their game. They know that they’re playing to knowledgeable and critical fans of music. They also know that many of their own heroes are in the building. And so they often try to put on a good show. The Horrors recreated their recent album well, and the songs sounded great in this environment. Frontman Faris Badwan and his bandmates still cut awkward, gawky figures, but they just get on with it and it’s a solid, enjoyable performance.

By the time Sonic Youth take to the pavilion stage the main “arena” is heaving. Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon are something like royalty at ATP (as the ridiculously long queue for their interview with Ian Svenonius earlier in the day attests to). Thurston Moore rips at his guitar, reeling around the stage as the band make their way through a thoroughly professional set of songs mainly gleaned from The Eternal. Death Valley 69 makes a welcome appearance towards the end, and although a few more older songs would have made it slightly more satisfying, tonight they are faultless.

Some respite comes courtesy of Cocteau Twins man Robin Guthrie, who, like Kevin Shields, makes his guitar sound like anything but. His ethereal tunes might not make for a spellbinding performance, but the gentle waves and undulating patterns he conjures up are, at times, simply beautiful. It is however one of the most ridiculous scheduling decisions of the weekend (and there are a few) as with Sonic Youth finishing up at the Pavilion and nothing on at Centre Stage, we need something more “10pm Saturday night” than Guthrie’s chill-out instrumental noodlings.

Although My Bloody Valentine are headlining on the Centre Stage, Lightning Bolt are such an exciting live proposition that Reds soon becomes filled to capacity. Unusually they find themselves on a stage, rather than their usual position on the floor with the crowd, but this lack of immediacy does nothing to prevent the bludgeoning noise they make from ensuring that chaos soon erupts around the venue.

Brian Bibson’s bass is twisted into sounds that drill into the cortex of the brain, whilst Brian Chippendale’s drums fire off like howitzer blasts. From the front it’s like being caught in a tornado whilst being whipped by a particularly unforgiving dominatrix. From the back, it’s not much different, but it is possible to see a man dressed as a banana crowd surfing, which somehow makes a bizarre kind of sense.

At gone 2am, Fucked Up could be forgiven for putting in a somewhat subdued show. Of course nothing of the sort was ever on the cards, and it’s not long before singer/bellower Pink Eyes is stripped to the waist and has thrown himself into the audience. Somehow the cup that he’s crushed into his forehead remains in place as he hollers into the faces of the front row before finally leaping the barrier and joining them in the ruck.

An explosive character at the best of times, he’s like a mellow version of GG Allin except without the defecation and with more teeth. It helps that the rest of the band are so tight, because without the focal point of a singer (who has disappeared into a pile of seething bodies) there’s not much for the casual onlooker to see. But Fucked Up ensure that Saturday night ends with an almighty bang.

  1. ATP: My Bloody Valentine
    Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3

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