Look ma, it’s a post!
We’ve been pretty quiet this year, in part because we’ve just been very busy, but also because we haven’t really been all that inspired by anything – since Pains of Being Pure at Heart, that is. We have, however, just been to 3 of the most disparate festivals we possibly could have attended, all of which were good and bad for incredibly different reasons, and I thought it might be nice to provide some vague assessment of the pros and cons of the lot.
The Breeders-curated All Tomorrow’s Parties was our fourth visit to that festival so we knew what to expect – that is to say, wonderful indie-snobbery, comfortable tiny chalets, overpriced alcohol and bar staff who apologise for the red wine not being chilled, and lots of interesting-sounding bands we’ve never heard of on at unsociable hours of the morning. This year the lineup was particularly tasty – The Breeders, Throwing Muses, Teenage Fanclub, Bon Iver, Kimya Dawson, Deerhunter, Times New Viking, Shellac…all of whom failed to disappoint. Less exciting were Wire and Gang of Four (The Ledge disagrees about Gang of Four) – two bands we love but who I found uninspiring live. We’ve always enjoyed more of the obscure bands at ATP than we’ve disliked and this year was no different with brilliant sets coming from Whispertown 2000, The Frogs, Dianogah and Melt Banana.
The best thing about ATP and the thing which will keep us going back in future is, in fact, these gems of discovery as well as the ability to check out bands we’ve heard about, maybe know one song but whose albums we’d probably never buy – Melt Banana being a perfect example – and getting to experience their unusual and entertaining live sets. It also helps that it’s possible to get a decent night’s sleep without worrying about someone torching your tent….
In July we went to T in the Park for what was my fourth year and The Ledge’s second. Sadly, it didn’t remotely live up to previous years due to a poor lineup and a rather threatening atmosphere in the campsite. I’ve been shouting about how great T is for a while now, mainly because of the variety and number of bands on and the friendliness of the people we’ve encountered while there. Sadly, this year both were lacking. Although Nick Cave put on an amazing show and we really enjoyed The Twilight Sad, Elbow, Foals, James, Pet Shop Boys and Squeeze in particular (and, I’m embarrassed to admit, I found myself dancing to Blur as well…), it felt a bit like a nostalgia-fest. Gone was the wonderful Pet Sounds stage and all its indie variety and nothing replaced it – unless you count the tiny Futures stage which had very little to offer beyond Broken Records (clashed with something), Danananananaacroyd (or something like that), and The Twilight Sad. Back at the campsite for the first year I felt unsafe. We had our tent knocked down, we were kept up by people – who didn’t even have camping tickets – walking around shouting about what they could steal from empty tents and someone tried to steal a light from our tent – while we were inside the tent using it! It wasn’t nice and I doubt any of us will be going back again.
Finally, we found ourselves drawn to the End of the Road lineup (and the low cost) and we weren’t disappointed. Although I could have done without the extortionate prices on site (and what’s wrong with just selling chips or jacket potatoes? I don’t need an authentic Goan fish curry that costs £8 while I’m running between stages) and I can do without parents who think bringing 6 year old kids to the barrier for the headline act is a good idea and that the people behind them should just know not to push, overall it was a friendly, well-organised, incredibly clean festival which produced a fair few amazingly intimate performances on secret stages and in smelly tipis. The Hold Steady were good as ever, Neko Case was note-perfect, and has a clear career path into comedy should she ever decide to go that way, Fleet Foxes handled the heckling well, The Leisure Society completely charmed me and I didn’t realise how much I’d missed Hefner til we saw Darren Hayman. Plus, we got to be extras in a scene for a film about a fake band called Swipe.
Maybe it’s a sign of age (or extreme indie snobbery) that I’m growing increasingly frustrated with and bored by the big festivals in favour of the comfort, civility and ecclecticism of the smaller boutique festivals, but this year the little guys really outdid themselves both line-up wise and in sheer enjoyment.