Day 2 of ATP started well with Horse Guard Parade kicking things off at Centre Stage with a track that could have been written by Calexico (and a lead singer who, from where we were sitting, looked the spitting image of Joey Burns). They played a mixture of country-tinged indie and straightforward indie which was in places extremely catchy and in places extremely dull. I wandered off about 4 songs in, slightly bored, to find a WiFi connection, and returned for the final track, an upbeat number, that I wouldn’t mind hearing again. This is not much of a description, I realise, but beyond the initial Calexico-esque moment, which was great, there wasn’t much that stood out.
After Horse Guard Parade finished I wandered up to Reds Bar to catch the start of Wax Fang performing Prince’s Purple Rain in its entirety. Although clearly just a comedic curiosity, as a member of that generation to whom that film was a formative moment, I thought I had to see at least a few tracks. Wax Fang did not disappoint. They got dressed up in frilly shirts and stupid wigs and pulled poses for the first four songs, the singer hamming it up for the front row in a long, gold coat, before breaking character to point out that they did feel a little silly, and to ask the crowd to please come check out their proper set on Sunday. This certainly softened me towards them as it had been hard to tell whether they were pretentious hipsters being deadly serious or just musicians having a laugh. Knowing it was the latter certainly made the whole thing palatable. Nonetheless, I love The Drones’ live show far too much to have missed it, so I sloped off a verse into “Darling Nikki.”
Back down at Centre Stage The Ledge informed me I’d missed “Jezebel,” always a highlight, but as I made it down in time for “Shark Fin Blues” I’m more than happy. The Drones were very much on-form, tearing through a set comprised mostly of tracks from Wait Long by the River and Havilah. They do a great job of starting slowly before building each song to a raging, fiery climax like hellfire being rained down on their enemies.
After The Drones, The Ledge went back to the chalet to watch part of the FA Cup while I went and watched a bit of Blitzen Trapper on the Main Stage. Their laid-back country tunes were justthe thing to enjoy while sitting at the back of the Skyline Pavilion with a drink, but I found myself distracted after about 20 minutes and I abandoned it to join The Ledge (and get some lunch).
We made it back up to the Main Stage in time for Fiery Furnaces with whom I have a love/hate relationship. I’ve seen them live when I thought they were amazing, but I find their albums hard-going, mainly because the songs musically sound like they start in the middle and go nowhere. It’s ok for about 5 minutes but eventually becomes infuriating. They were very much on form yesterday, however, and I’m sure I even heard a couple of actual choruses and middle eights. The Ledge dragged me away (not that I took much persuading) to go watch Mark Eitzel.
Now, I’m no fan of American Music Club (The Ledge loves them) and as a result I’d never listened to any Mark Eitzel solo material, so I was surprised to discovered he’s very much a cabaret-style crooner. He was playing with 2 guys with whom he’s currently working in Brighton, and he was on great comedy form, telling tall tales about his life as a Butlins’ performer. Not knowing much about him, it was at times hard to separate the fictional parts of his tales about each song from the fact, but it was highly entertaining, nonetheless. Each song had a story to accompany, which made the musical renditions more immediate, helped along by the fact that he has a really engaging and warm voice. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed the set, and despite my lack of familiarity with the songs, was glued to his performance for the full hour.
After Mark Eitzel, I followed The Ledge down to Camera Obscura, thinking I’d probably be irritated and bored with their soulless, sub-par attempts to be Belle & Sebastian and could abandon it to watch Boris before I reached the point where I was tempted to jump on stage and start smashing the equipment. I somehow ended up watching the whole set (mainly because we managed to walk right up to the front and realised we were in a great place to watch Pavement, so didn’t want to move).
Camera Obscura are a band that completely lack charisma, stage presence and any form of animation while performing. When you marry this with the fact that they have 2 decent songs – “Hey, Lloyd, I’m Ready to be Heartbroken” and “French Navy” and the rest of their catalogue consists of songs that want to sound exactly like those two songs but only end up being poor cousins, then you can understand when I say that watching Camera Obscura play live is very much what I imagine being dead feels like. When you watch them for a full hour, you start to understand what being dead for all eternity feels like.
They did, eventually, finish, and thank goodness, because even though I’ve never been a particular fan of Pavement, I did after 17 years, finally understand why everyone else I know is. The only other time I saw Pavement live was at Leeds Festival in 1999, shortly before they broke up and it was boring and lumpen and although The Ledge had me listening a bit to Brighten the Corners, I stopped listening to them after that day. Yesterday’s performance was entirely the polar opposite of that first experience, the band were so full of excitement, it was like watching a bunch of teenagers on stage for the first time.
Stephen Malkmus struck rock star poses, playing guitar over his head, behind his back, swinging his guitar up in the air, jumping. Bob Nastanovich was hilarious – not only does he have one of the best screams in rock, but his between-song banter was both funny and surreal (dude, Yorkshire is a county, not a city!). Spiral Stairs didn’t stop grinning through the whole thing. ‘Cut Your Hair’ took me back to the mid-nineties, the crowd singing along to ‘Stereo’ was inspiring, ‘Range Life’ and ‘Gold Soundz’ were perfect and I’ve still got ‘Silence Kit’ in my head this morning. They were rockier and catchier than I’d ever noticed (and I have played the back catalogue through a few times) and I will now be forced to get to know Pavement a whole lot better. The 2 hour set deserves its own write-up, so I’ll leave that to The Ledge to do later.
Finally,we managed to stay awake long enough to watch Atlas Sound at Centre Stage. Bradford Cox was on fine form for his birthday and was both melodic and hypnotic, regaling the crowd with stories about playing guitar behind the Kroger near where he grew up and his trip to A&E in Minehead last weekend after an asthma attack. Unfortunately, I was so tired by this point, much of it washed over me so much more description than that is impossible, though he did play a rather lovely cover of Pavement’s “We Dance” that outshone the version we’d heard just a couple of hours earlier.
Once again I spent a day watching bands with whom I’m only a little familiar or simply have never found entertaining before and thoroughly enjoyed them all (well, almost all). I find myself looking forward today to a lot of Flying Nun (ATP! When are you going to get Flying Nun to curate a weekend? You know it would be amazing!) and Mark E. Smith. Sounds like it’ll be the perfect end to what has been a classic ATP so far.