Archive for the 'battles' Category

Gig Review: ATP curated by Explosions In The Sky, Butlins Minehead, 16th-18th May 2008

Ok, let’s get this over with. We’ve kind of lost our blogging mojo for the minute but ATP deserves at least some sort of write up.

This was our third year running at ATP and yet again it was a cracking weekend. Any negative comments you may have read further down the page were really minor quibbles and did not affect our enjoyment of proceedings one jot, mainly because we got to see Battles on the Sunday night after an act of generosity that came completely out of the blue. More of later, if I remember.

Dinosaur Jr, Centre Stage, ATPWe arrived. It was raining. We got the chalet next door to the one we got last year. We headed for Centre Stage to catch the festival’s opening band, The Constantines, and their solid, blue collar indie rock went down very well. The singer gave himself a haircut during the gig. Not sure why. Japanese post-rockers Mono were up next on the same stage were loud and completely unspectacular, but not a bad warm up for Dinosaur Jr, playing the first of their two Centre Stage sets. We thought we had a good spot at the front until they wheeled on J Mascis’ four Marshall stacks that were to form a cocoon around the aging slacker legend. I moved to get a better view while JustHipper made do with catching glimpses of the great man when he approached the mic to sing. It was a great set dominated, not surprisingly, by Mascis’ searing guitar work. There was a good range of material on offer from set highlight “Forget The Swan” through to MTV breakthrough “Feel The Pain”, but there was slight disappointment at the end when the encore suggested on Mascis’ huge setlist (at least 3 pages of A4 with really big lettering – Mascis must be almost blind as well as almost deaf) didn’t materialise.

Phosphorescent, Reds Stage, ATPThen it was off to the Skyline Pavilion where curators Explosions In The Sky made their one and only appearance, their great conceit for the weekend being a complete lack of activity on the other two stages while they were on. Now I, unlike JustHipper, like a bit of post-rock now and then but I’m not massively familiar with the Explosions’ back catalogue and found myself unable to really get into it and giving up after about half an hour. It would have been nice to have something else to go and see but instead it was Burger King and beer and the DJs in the Crazy Horse. Before long we were in the Reds bar watching The Octopus Project from afar as JustHipper complained that she was “all post-rocked out”. So was I, but they sounded a bit more interesting and varied than the curators. I’d heard enough of Phosphorescent to know that I desperately wanted to catch their set and, although I was practically dead on my feet at this stage and my companion made it through just one song before hauling herself off to bed, I stuck it out and was rewarded with a quite brilliant set of atmospheric folksy blues with plenty of excellent vocal looping from Matthew Houck (turns out it’s just one guy). I made a mental note to rush out and buy his latest album. Three weeks later and I still haven’t; but I will.

Okkervil River, Skyline Pavillion, ATPSaturday morning began with the discovery of The Yacht Club’s buffet breakfast: £5.99 and you won’t have to eat again until teatime, though I think it lasted me through to 10pm on both Saturday and Sunday. After a game of pool I stayed in the Sports Bar to keep up my record of having watched every FA Cup final since 1976 while JustHipper enjoyed A Hawk And A Hacksaw on the Pavilion stage. Portsmouth’s victory was followed by what was probably the set of the weekend, for me, by Okkervil River whose ramshackle intensity translated brilliantly to the big stage. They seemed so much tighter and more focused than the couple of times I’ve seen them in club venues and they sounded positively epic, easily filling the huge space and no doubt gaining a number of new followers in the process. The electrifying “Black” and the gorgeous “A Girl In Port” were the undoubted highlights with Will Sheff in terrifically manic form, though the addition to the line-up of The Wrens’ Charles Bissell, albeit temporary, is a masterstroke, his taut, masterly guitar work perhaps the catalyst for their improved performance.

Next we had the first real clash of the weekend with And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead playing the Centre Stage while Iron And Wine played the Skyline Pavilion. Having seen Iron And Wine in Manchester a couple of days before we opted for Trail Of Dead, usually an uncompromising live proposition though they have certainly lost their way with their last two albums. A couple of the oldies sounded great but the rest failed to hold our interest so we returned to the Pavillion to catch the last 20 minutes or so of Iron And Wine which seemed to consist of just one song: the 3 hour version of “The Shepherd’s Dog” that had got many peoples backs up, including ours, at the Manchester gig. Iron And Wine in extended folk jam mode is not much fun at all.

The National, Skyline Pavillion, ATPA Boxer-centric set from The National rounded off proceedings on the Pavilion Stage. It was captivating stuff and it was great to see them playing to such a large and enthusiastic crowd. The normally reserved Matt Berninger even ventured to the barrier for some Bono-style audience-milking. The Boxer songs sound so much better live, retaining the dark atmospherics of the record but when they break loose, like in the closing stages of “Start A War”, they take you places that the album doesn’t quite manage.

I can’t say I remember too much about Western Keys on the Reds Stage later that night, except that I quite enjoyed them. Poised somewhere between indie rock and Americana, they had pedal steel duelling with Charles Bissell’s taut, angular guitar work. I hope that Bissell guy was on double time. It was midnight and we were, again, dead on our feet. Battles would have to wait for tomorrow night.

Jens Lekman, Skyline Pavillion, ATPSunday started with the breath of fresh air that is Jens Lekman. For me at least: JustHipper’s dislike of the Swedish pop maestro is legendary and she sensibly stayed well clear. With the bright sunshine filtering through the canopy of the Pavilion Stage and plenty of festival goers weary from the exploits of the past two days, it was the perfect conditions for Jens and his female-heavy backing band to spread some joy and blow away some of the cobwebs. The joyous “The Opposite Of Hallelujah”, with its excellent segue into “Give Me Just A Little More Time”, and the lengthy, ever-expanding story-song of “A Postcard To Nina” were memorable moments and Jens will have undoubtedly won over a few more fans. Not JustHipper, though, who I met up with to watch Polvo on the Centre Stage. We’d not really heard any Polvo before – they’d just reformed after about 10 years – and though they played perfectly serviceable ’90s indie rock, we decided to make our way back to the Pavilion Stage half way through to watch the last half hour of Beach House, whose laid-back dreamy pop was much more accommodating.

De La Soul, Skyline Pavillion, ATPI stuck around for Silver Jews while JustHipper made her way back to the Centre Stage to get some Atlas Sounds that almost sent her to sleep. The Joos were wonderful with David Berman on fine form, freed from guitar duties and able to prowl the stage at his leisure. Cuts from the new “Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea” nestled comfortably alongside older classics such as “Trains Across The Sea” and “Smith And Jones Forever”. Berman entertained the crowd by reading out conflicting articles from an Irish farming newspaper. Seriously. Next it was back to the Centre Stage to see if seeing Animal Collective live would induce some sort of epiphany and I would suddenly realise what all the fuss is about. Nope, it’s never going to happen. Animal Collective bore me to tears. Back at the Pavilion Stage De La Soul were entertaining a sizeable crowd and were great fun until we started to realise that they were overrunning and that Broken Social Scene’s set would probably be curtailed as a result. In the end they incurred our wrath by being 30 minutes late getting off the stage, although I found out later that they were 30 minutes late coming on, so not entirely their fault. Broken Social Scene, Skyline Pavillion, ATPBroken Social Scene were certainly worth the wait, cranking out superb versions of “7/4 Shoreline” and “Ibi Dreams Of Pavement” early on and then getting an (inevitable) cameo from J Mascis, along with members of Explosions and The National, among others, for a tremendous “Backed Out On The…”. There was a strange hushed singalong for “Anthems For A Seventeen Year-Old Girl” with the ever-enthusiastic Amy Millan leading proceedings while the closing “Major Label Debut” was a great way to finish things off. They may have only played for just over an hour but it was a wholely edifying set.

Battles, Centre Stage, ATPIt remained for us to grab a pizza and then join the queue for Battles on the Centre Stage. In a farcical move, people who had got to the Centre Stage early to be sure of getting to see the band, were cleared out of the venue after Lichens’ set finished and had no option but to join the back of a very long queue to get back in. Most of them probably didn’t. In another twist, people who got turned away from Battles’ performance the previous night were given blue wristbands and allowed to the front of this queue. Fair enough, but where were our wristbands? We didn’t try to get in last night but surely we should have had preference above anyone who did see the band’s first set. Then, just as we were bemoaning the whole shambles, a girl appeared out of nowhere and asked if we wanted a couple of blue wristbands that she had spare. Thus, we made our way to the front of the queue and into the venue, taking up a decent spot at the barrier. We would have probably got in anyway but that girl really made our weekend. Anyway, Battles were quite incredible and enjoyed perhaps the most enthusiastic crowd of the weekend, which wasn’t bad for the early hours of a Monday morning. How they do what they do, I don’t know. Their set was a mass of complex loops, samples, vocal trickery, live guitars and incredibly tight and energetic drums. It was a great end to another great ATP weekend, and I’m sure we’ll be back for more next year.

Dinosaur Jr – Forget The Swan

Phosphorescent – Cocaine Lights

Okkervil River – Black

The National – Start A War

Jens Lekman – The Opposite Of Hallelujah

Silver Jews – Suffering Jukebox