Thursday, May 16, 2013

ATP curated by TV on the Radio

Not long ago, ATP announced that this winter's two festivals would be the last UK-based 3-dayers. They've never made any money, it seems, and having broken out into one-day events in London, and longer festivals abroad, maybe there isn't the desire among gig-goers to spend three days dealing with spartan conditions a fair drive away from anywhere. It's sad - and a testament to what ATP means is that most of the people I know from the weekends back eight, ten years ago, is that they all intend to come to the last one. My first was Slint in February 2005. It was snowing. I had flu. I saw a badger. I was mostly hopped up on nightnurse and didn't drink the whole weekend. It was *freezing*. It was wonderful.

This time, the check-in had been brought forward and nobody bothered checking IDs. This meant that we could all get settled - check out the Queen Vic with tables this time, make sure the Buddha Bowl van was back - and not miss any bands. North America were a comforting vocal-free, guitar-looping opener, Unknown Mortal Orchestra more nuanced in their vocal gymnastics and heavy riffs.

Mykki Blanco was the first sign of the turn this ATP would take; confrontational - "this is for all the prostitutes I know" did not sound like spin - and powerful. It felt like she was peeling off her female self to display the contradictions, the controversy, the confusion underneath. In big boots, and spitting, she showed that trans* doesn't necessarily mean transition - nor yet, 'put on a frock'. Starting in a sports shirt, then her bra, then topless, she forces you to watch. Then De La Soul showed how after all these years they can still work a room. Playing one side of the Pontins auditorium off against the other, they ruled the place.

Spank Rock and DJ.
Saturday morning broke to the traditional morning chorus; bird tweeting, seagulls shrieking, smoke alarms going off, anguished cries of "for God's sake, Sean, just have toast!". Dark Dark Dark were one of the few 'trad' ATP bands of the weekend, multi-instrumental southern-tinged rock - look, a clarinet! an accordian! ATP Bingo... - underpinned by a chiming piano.

Spank Rock had a DJ in hot-pink hot-pants and Amanda Blank hyping up the crowd, causing mixed feelings; first, are these lyrics socially acceptable, second, why can't white people manage to dance to this music without looking like idiots...and then TV on the Radio, the curators, took to the stage in a blaze of lights and interspersed their songs with shout-outs for every single act they had invited onto the bill. They are one of the acts I remember for lighting up the room the first time I saw them, and they were similarly life-affirming tonight.

Sunday - the traditional trip to the beach. Fish 'n' chips. Then The Juggs - "it gets funnier every time you say it! Like Cockfosters!" - took it down to true single-string blues and an awesome closing rendition of 'Come Save Your Son'. Of all the bands missing from the merch room this time, this was the one I missed most - the opening heartfelt howl of 'Jesus!' just wouldn't let you leave.

Saul Williams
CSS were as cheerful as ever - "well, there's no internet here - so we are all very present" - Lovefoxxx entering in a gold cape simultaneously tres rock'n'roll and also endearingly homemade. They lit the place up, and threw themselves into the surrounding hiphop with a rousing 'I've seen you drunk, girl'.

Saul Williams was the perfect end to the weekend. Accompanied only by an occasionally unhelpful saxophonist, he was powerful, angry, pointed, and at the last, brave enough to step away from the microphone and rely on the power of his voice alone to get across to us.  It worked. That un-amplified, un-musicked voice reached out like nothing else.

ATP may be moving on to bigger and better things, but the experience of spending three days in an internment camp on the British coast and wondering why the hell anyone would actually holiday here (next up at Camber is a swingers' weekend, apparently - theme is where it's at) is one that has been a constant for me for many years. I will miss it. Let's make the last one the best one. Bring teabags, binbags, sleeping bags and anything else you might need. But bring the music. Bring it on.