Live Music + Gig Reviews

ATP/Groening 2010: Day 2 @ Butlins, Minehead

8 May 2010

For those of us who get up in time for Hello Saferide (why does 1pm seem unreasonably early to be doing anything when at a music festival), we are treated to a lovely start to Day 2. Fronted by Annika Norlin, the Swedish band whirls us with their brand of twee country songs. While some of the songs disappear without too much fuss, occasionally Norlin’s sharp lyrics play havoc with the human functions, causing hearts to skip beats and tears to well up. Long Lost Penpal and Anna in particular strike hard and by surprise, and ensure that Hello Saferide don’t get lost in the schedule but instead remain in the memory.

For those of us nursing an obligatory hangover and with sleepless bloodshot eyes that look like they’ve been borrowed from Ren and Stimpy, and who miss the relative safety of Hello Saferide, the first band of the day is one with a seven-strong drum ensemble. Far from appealing. However Boredoms are such an exciting proposition it’d be the action of a fool to miss them.

EYE stands centre stage with a bank of keyboards in front of him, a rack of guitars behind him (he hits these with a large stick at salient points) and everywhere else there are masses of drum kits. This performance of Boadrum starts slowly with an almost ambient feel before building towards the first crescendo. At this point, EYE rushes towards the front of the stage and starts to holler instructions. The audience rip its gaze from the ensemble on stage to watch as drummer number seven floats towards the stage from the back of the room on a platform hoisted above the audience. He’s pummelling his kit within an inch of its life, and EYE seems to be possessed by some kind of belligerent spirit as he guides the platform towards the stage. It’s pure theatre and an undeniable spectacle. The rest of the show is a phenomenal display of musicianship as the drummers flip in and out of unison, flit between serene ambience and aggressive tribal patterns. It’s a thoroughly awe inspiring set, one that’s repeated in a second set on Day 3, and one that people are still talking about on Monday morning as they leave the site.

It proves impossible to follow up the wonderment of Boredoms. Danielson try in the Pavilion and Lightning Dust (Black Mountain‘s Joshua Wells and Amber Webber) try back at the Centre Stage, but neither manage to avoid what feels like an afternoon lull at the festival. The tight schedule put together by the organisers with pretty much zero clashes ensures that no one has to make life-or-death decisions choosing one set over another. However the flipside of that means that during a lull there’s no plan B to go and watch.

So there are a couple of hours off before Konono No 1 shake things up again. A Congolese dance outfit whose instruments are made from chunks of scrap metal, they make a thoroughly danceable noise. The rhythms are steeped in tribal beats that relentlessly drive for a trancelike state in the audience. The players themselves are immersed in the music, dancing frantically and creating a series of percussive soundscapes that take in elements of psyche rock and electronic. It’s a captivating spectacle.

Over at the Pavilion stage, She & Him take to the stage in front of a crowd that is amazingly devoid of the expected seedy indie kids rubbing their thighs frantically and drooling. Made up of de-facto film star Zooey Deschanel and monster of folk M Ward, they’re not exactly The Travelling Wilburys in supergroup stakes, but they have a few wonderfully cute pop songs that sound as if they’ve been borrowed from Dusty Springfield or The Ronettes. There’s no doubting that Deschanel has a lovely voice, but over the course of an hour it’s not enough to hold the attention. The band run out of steam and ideas, and by the end of the set the crowd has thinned significantly.

And now for something completely different. Picking up on the concept band themes, The Residents are scaring the be-Jebus out of everyone over on the Centre Stage in a rare UK live performance – cute is not in their vocabulary. Performing mutant old sold songs stitched together using a set of narrative tales between them, they are expert in grotesque theatre. Flanked by a pair of vaudeville aliens (one on guitar playing in a manner not unlike the apparently deceased Snakefinger) old man Randy prowls the stage in dressing gown, four foot long tie and clown shoes. A disturbing mask hides his identity as he rants about the people in the mirror adds unsettling vocals to blasts of electronic and slide guitar. Over 40 years the band have released a tide of material, but there’s no substitute for live performance; this is obviously where The Residents operate at their best.

One of the patterns that emerged from Groening’s choices was an interest in music from around the globe and, later on, Africa had further representation in the shape of blind Malian couple Amadou And Mariam. Their infectious rhythms and intoxicating stage presence is fast turning them into legends, and while they’ve had more of a carnival feel at previous gigs, even without a troupe of backing singers, they have no difficulty in getting the Pavilion moving.

Over in Reds, Thee Oh Sees are tearing the audience a new a-hole just above the new a-hole; only this one is far bigger and more ragged around the edges. Purveyors of raucous garage band rock ‘n’ roll, they also deign to chuck in a liberal dash of psychedelia and prog. If Iggy was living on glories past yesterday, this feels very much like the birth of something new. They might take their musical cues from MC5, Stooges and perhaps Television, but tonight they’re throwing out so much energy that everything they do sounds new and vibrant.

More Japanese drumming then takes over in the shape of one man time-shifting lunatic Ruins. A thundering octopus behind the kit, his sound is fleshed out with bomb-siren electronics that kick the ear drums in and stomp around the cerebral cortex in heavy spiked boots. For some reason it sounds better from outside the venue.

Back on Centre Stage we find The xx attempting to recreate their rather splendid album from last year. In a rare dispute between musicOMH reviewers, one thought it was a phenomenal attempt. Sound and tuning issues aside, the intense lighting leant itself to the experience, and with a set depending on intricate timing, the accuracy of all three members of the band felt stunning. Meanwhile the other reviewer came away having found it a little limp around the edges and murky where it should be taut like a fat man’s PVC thong.

The disappointment felt by some at The xx didn’t compare to reaction to Panda Bear. A member of Animal Collective and solo creator of the fantastic Person Pitch, great things were expected, but he played with the kind of enthusiasm mustered by someone offered the position of volunteer gusset scraper. Bleak at gone two in the morning, we consider cancelling our donations to the WWF, finish what’s left of our pints and head to bed.

  1. ATP/Groening 2010:
    Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3

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