Festival Review: ATP 2007 – The Dirty Three Weekend, Day 1: Friday 27th April 2007

The Skyline Pavilion, Butlins, MineheadIt has to be said that the new venue for All Tomorrow’s Parties at Butlins in Minehead, Somerset is a massive improvement on the Pontins in Camber Sands where the event had taken place since its inception in 2000. Ok, so it’s still a crappy holiday camp but the rooms are better, there are more places to eat and drink, there’s an extra stage and the size of the stages has increased to accommodate the extra capacity, which has doubled to 6,000. Plus, it’s much easier to get to (for us at least), my run down to Taunton to pick up JustHipper, after her week of following James from Birmingham to Brixton, flying by in a haze of Nick Cave and Mary Margaret O’Hara CDs.

The main stage is in the Skyline Pavilion which is the resort’s centrepiece. It’s a huge indoor climate controlled space and the size of the stage alone makes it feel like you’re at a festival. The Only Ones were the first band on on Friday and were playing their first gig in 26 years. They were forty minutes late for the performance because, apparently, no one woke Pete Perrett up. Perrett looks like someone who needs waking up for a gig, like a younger but no less cadaverous Keith Richards. Considering how long they’d been away they put in a remarkably tight performance. I’ll admit that I’m not familiar with their work aside from the obvious but I was impressed with what I heard: above average post-punk with sharp edges, clever lyrics and Perrett’s highly individual vocal style. All very much like “Another Girl, Another Planet”, then, which I stuck around for (it was a definite hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck experience) before heading off to the Centre Stage to see Magnolia Electric Co. who were even better, their warm country blues and superb guitar interplay charming the sizeable crowd. I hadn’t planned to stick around for too long as The Dirty Three were on the main stage and MEC were playing again on the Saturday but I couldn’t drag myself away. After the beautiful closing “Shiloh” I made my way back to the main stage to catch most of The Dirty Three’s set.

The Dirty Three @ ATP 2007The sound that these three musicians make is incredible and easily filled the huge space in front of them. Jim White’s ingenius drumming and Mick Turner’s unflappable curtain of guitar are a sumptuous backdrops to Warren Ellis’ wailing violin. Ellis with his manic, electric stage presence was the undoubted star of the weekend and the sight of him throwing his long, lank hair back, mid-song, while launching a huge glob of saliva towards the heavens was perhaps, for me, the defining image of ATP 2007. His long, often hilarious, song introductions certainly lightened the mood between the bouts of intense, soaring post-rock.

There was pause for breath after the curators’ set so we finally grabbed some fish & chips before heading off to the third stage, Reds, to catch The Art Of Fighting, who didn’t seem to be as hard as their name suggests, playing a quiet, lush pop with an occasional epic sweep. I recognised the excellent “Heart Translation” from Sweeping The Nation‘s Songs To Learn And Sing feature of last year but overall the performance didn’t really grab me, instead it merely suggested that I might like to investigate further at some point in the future, if I feel like it.

Back at the Centre Stage Devastations‘ brooding bluesy Aussie rock spiked with the odd blazing torrent of guitar abuse was hampered by some clunky lyrics but ultimately went down quite well with both of us though by now we were dead on our feet after a long day and chose bed over the frightening prospect of Josh T Pearson at two in the morning.

Magnolia Electric Co. – Leave The City

The Art Of Fighting – Heart Translation

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