Saturday, March 17, 2012

Photos/Review: All Tomorrow's Parties - Minehead, UK (Day Three)

Sebadoh @ ATP Minehead 3/11/12
Lou Barlow with Sebadoh
All Tomorrow's Parties curated by Jeff Mangum
@ Butlin's Holiday Centre, Minehead, UK
Day Three - March 11, 2012

Photos/Review: Rhona "Wiglet Bill" Aquilina

We woke up Sunday morning to find that a thick mist had descended on Minehead. The turrets of the pavilion that were so distinct against yesterday’s bright blue sky had all but disappeared against the white mist. We awoke slowly, already reminiscing about the last two days and recalling that David Yow had said on stage that Boredoms were, and I quote, “The best fucking thing I’ve ever seen!” We began to get excited about their impending set. I made breakfast in our accommodation while we watched A Brief History of Time on Jeff Mangum TV and waited for the bands to start up.

Mist on the beach @ ATP Minehead 3/11/12
The mist @ ATP Minehead 3/11/12

First show of the day was Boredoms at Centre Stage. The stage was set with five drumkits and fourteen guitars, not to mention what I have come to refer to as the ‘giant seven headed guitar beast’ that would later be played with a staff. They took the stage to enthusiastic applause and settled behind their instruments. Yoshimi P-we began by addressing the audience in Japanese, and when she had finished her words were kindly translated for us. She had been telling us that it was exactly one year to the day that a devastating earthquake struck Japan’s eastern coast and that there would be a moment’s silence before they began. Everyone downed cameras and paused silently with the band until they ended the silence by beginning to play.

As the music built in intensity the musicians came to life, moving in unison and creating a cacophony so loud that from my place in the pit it felt as though my ears were at least bleeding if not torn clean off. When I eventually found my wife to enjoy the rest of the show I could see she had been crying and I knew exactly why: I’d felt it too. The performance was overwhelming - sonically, visually and emotionally. Like a roller-coaster, simultaneously unsettling and embracing. From our vantage point in the centre of the audience you could see how Yamataka Eye operates as a conductor. The drummers lean in and out in unison like a living, breathing organism or tumultuous waves crashing onto the shore then receding. I realized that I’ve missed Boredoms sets at previous ATP's and vow NEVER to do so again.


Next up was The Magic Band at Centre Stage. I only managed to catch fifteen minutes of their set as I wanted to make sure I got in for The Olivia Tremor Control at Reds which I was very glad I did because they were awesome.

OTC brought an infectious joy on stage with them and had the crowd bouncing about and singing along with giant grins plastered all over their faces. Their performance was the embodiment of what the whole Elephant 6 collective have brought to this ATP--don’t get me wrong ATP is always super friendly, but this one was different. I felt like I could hug anyone in this room and they’d hug back without thinking. My love-in with OTC was cut short when it became apparent that outside the venue it’s one-in-one-out again and my friends were outside. Overcome with brotherly love I headed out to meet my friends mid-way into the set feeling content that someone would be able take my space inside.

After some much-needed refuelling back at the chalet we headed to Centre Stage to check out The Magnetic Fields about halfway through their set, just in time to catch "Andrew in Drag." It soon became apparent that there was the small issue of booming sound interference coming from Reds (which is underneath Centre Stage), probably Group Doueh’s sound check. The band remarked that it reminded them of when they played Roskilde and Queens of the Stone Age played next door.

We left Centre Stage before the set finished because we were aware that security were going to totally empty the venue after The Magnetic Fields because of the priority wristbands given out when people couldn’t get in to see Jeff Mangum on Friday. We then waited outside and watched as people poured out and immediately formed a queue to get back in. Once the end of the queue was no longer visible to those still filing out, they began running along it in a race to the end, until there was a queue of people snaking around the entire pavilion complex. We joined the mercifully much shorter priority wristband queue (as soon as it became apparent where it was) and waited for them to let us back in to see Jeff Mangum.

Jeff Mangum (No Photo) @ ATP Minehead 3/11/12

When they started to let us through the power walking began. Everywhere people were striding toward the best available vantage points they had scoped out over the last two days. It didn’t take long before even the worst of spots was fully occupied. Jeff took the stage and opened with a beautiful and intimate rendition of "Oh Comely" and thanked us all for singing along, somewhat predictably this encouraged us all to keep singing, which we did gleefully! Jeff was joined on stage by a changing line up of Elephant 6 musicians throughout. We were also treated to both parts of "Two-Headed Boy," all three (?) parts of "The King Of Carrot Flowers," "Ghost," "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea" and a cover of "True Love Will Find You In The End" by Daniel Johnston (incidentally Mangum told us he had tried to bring Daniel along with him but it hadn’t worked out).

In reference to the festival’s earlier shows Mangum told us “Every note of Minutemen sang directly to my soul” adding, “Pet Sounds? No. Sgt Pepper's? No. DOUBLE NICKELS!” Personal highlights for me were "Little Birds" and the set closer "Holland, 1945" during which Jeff asked the lighting guys to leave the house lights up. This drew my focus from the stage for the first time in the entire performance and what I witnessed in the crowd was sublime. There were strangers literally embracing each other in joy and others were standing eyes skyward both arms up-stretched in exultation, as though experiencing some kind of divine revelation. To our delight the stage filled with musicians for an encore of "The Fool" When they left the stage the crowd continued to cheer for a full minute.

It’s at this point that I realized we were about to see the last show of the entire festival. Usually I feel a sort of background melancholy on ATP Sundays, ever aware that this eventually has to end. But I just hadn’t felt that way this year. I’m convinced it’s a combination of two things: the first is that this is probably the friendliest ATP crowd I’ve experienced; the second is that my most cherished band of all time, Sebadoh, were closing the weekend. I abandoned my position behind the sound desk from where I watched Jeff Mangum and headed into the crowd where I could  have a bounce around to celebrate an amazing weekend.

Sebadoh took the stage, Bob D’Amico’s highly polished drumkit glistened under the stage lights, Jason (Jake) Loewenstein wearing a Magic Band T-shirt. Lou Barlow informed us that Sebadoh have actually missed most of the festival, only arriving late the night before. It seemed the boys stayed up pretty late and Lou apologised to someone in the crowd for having promised to be on their quiz team and not showing up because he was in bed. Someone in the audience shouted “I feel amazing” which visibly amused Jake. The band were in blistering form - the set included "The Freed Pig," "S. Soup," "Skull," "On Fire,'
"Dramamine" and "Too Pure." Lou and Jason swapped guitar duties, often playing at breakneck speed and inspiring a raft of crowd surfers, causing Lou to remark that he feels as though they’re bringing some real testosterone to the table with the performance, qualifying the remark with, “We used to be pussies, people hated us!”

They ended their set with ‘Brand New Love’ and the house lights come up. We left Centre Stage for the last time this weekend and headed back to our chalet kept warm against the coastal winds by the adrenalin racing through us and the satisfaction of having been at possibly the best ATP so far. Long live ATP!


If you haven't done so already, be sure to check out the epic Parts One & Two of Rhona's All Tomorrow's Parties Minehead diary!

1 comment:

  1. oh man, you missed the E6+Sun Ra+Boredoms surprise closing show then! It was a summary of the entire fest; great music and as you said, the nicest people around. It was pure distilled love.