ATP 2.0 finally came and went, when many must have been wondering if it would happen at all, or if it would be worthy of the association with the legendary events of lore (oh how I yearned to attend at a time when I simply couldn’t gofamily reasons). As such it would be foolish of me to attempt a comparison, but I will go as far as to say that it for was one of my favourite festivals, in spite of (or was it because of?) it’s considerable flaws.
My fellow psych pilgrims, unbowed by an arduous journey up the M6!
To start with, having made the pilgrimage up from the South Coast to North Wales by van, we were greeted at Prestatyn Pontins by a wall of hi-viz and sniffer dogs, and a brutalist approach to holiday camp architecture that would have made Stalin well a year of joy. The accommodation was Spartan to say the least, barely offering accommodation for four adults with a double sofa bed, two skinny children’s beds and minimal eating implements that would make an interesting study of stinginess were it all to be laid out as an art installation.
However, these obstacles overcome or situations adjusted to, our ATP experience was immediately transformed by the incredible Shonen Knife whose happy, passive-aggressive perfect pop punk was delivered in a way that generated joy and respect in equal measure, thereby setting the tone for the rest of the festival.
Sleaford Mods delivered a similarly joyful message albeit in a radically different way, with chief gurner and invective slinger Jason having previously been seen taking pictures of the chalets in our block, complete with overflowing rubbish and abandoned linen. They were the loudest show of the weekend, and I was very glad of my earplugs as Andrew’s thundering bass rearranged my internal organs while my mind tried to process the rapid-fire observations of a life that couldn’t be more ordinary.
Roky Erikson‘s performance was absolutely incredible, having been lovingly put together in such a way as to present his incredible voice and the groundbreaking and distinctive songs of the 13th Floor Elevators with all due deference and respect. Hearing him sing Slip Inside This House was worth the price of entry in my opinion and I sincerely hope he comes back this way one day.
On Saturday Wolf People kicked off proceedings on Saturday in the earnest and understated way that typifies their almost shy stage manner. However, actions do indeed speak louder than words and their heavy folk rock sound was an absolute joy to hear through their equipment if you were positioned right in the middle and close to the front.
I recall seeing Giant Sand quite some time ago at the End Of The Road festival, and then much more recently at last year’s event. His witty observations delivered in that mellow, deep, resonant voice, combined with upbeat and far out country rock makes for great festival music.
The Bevis Frond
￼One of the main draws for me was The Bevis Frond, a band I have been fond of for the last 20 years or so, and who seem to be ramping up rather than slowing down. The allotted hour spot falls quite a way short of their normal set so there was an intensity to the performance that, combined with the incredibly clear sound really worked for me. Nick and Paul’s guitar interplay was amazing, with my head following the sound from left to right as it swapped between them, while Ade’s loping bass and Dave’s precision drumming held the foreground. One of the highlights of the weekend for me, among a weekend of stellar performances.
The Heads were on the same stage as the Frond, and they were blessed with the same crystal clear sound which has a similar transformative effect on my perception of them to that of The Bevis Frond, in that what was previously perceived as a wall of sludgey stoner rock suddenly resolved into separate instruments. Paul Allen’s guitar is often down in the mix so it was great to hear that coming through loud and clear, and festival buddy Andy, who The Heads had somehow passed by, was totally blown away by their excellent performance.
When I was a nipper my best mate Hobbit (Andy Hobbs… go figure) loved The Fall, whereas I never really got them, save for the odd song. Living in Thailand as he does he’d no doubt be outraged to hear that, having heard one and a half shows I still don’t get them. Having secured a relatively comfy spot at the end of a long day I was prepared to sit this one out and just listen in, but they seemed a bit lacklustre so when my other mate Andy said he was heading back to our cell (chalet is a bit of a stretch, after all) after a couple of numbers, I joined him. Apparently Mark E. Smith pulled the band of stage for a managerial dressing down a couple of times after we left, so I guess I didn’t miss much.
On Sunday Trembling Bells kicked off proceedings that in no way at all reminded me of Sandie Denny (lest vocalist Lavinia Blackwall set about me with scythe). Joking aside, had I been asked which other performers came to mind after the performance, I doubt very much indeed that the legendary Ms Denny would have leapt forth as their sound was more rock than folk to my ear, although to be fair Lavinia has a beautiful voice. There were, however, occasional folky interludes like the one shown above, when drummer and co-founder Alex Neilson stepped away from the drums to sing an unaccompanied solo song.
Another unexpected discovery for me was the Boredoms the Japanese noise rock outfit whose captivating sonic sculptures tested some of the audience’s patience as they built slowly into magnificent shimmering masterpieces from the almost ritualistic/theatrical opening. Now admittedly the patience comment above doesn’t exactly come across as a ringing endorsement, but make no mistake I’d rush to see these guys again in an instant should the chance arise!
Bardo Pond have a huge reputation but for some reason they’d never really clicked with me until this performance. However I am a sucker for a flute and that combined with Isobel Sollenberger naieve and ethereal vocal style were an excellent counterpoint to the barely constrained and expertly channeled energy of the lead guitars and rhythm section. I was pretty mellow by the end of the performance and didn’t fancy any of the other acts (I’m sure they’d have been great, but to be honest I was wiped out), so it was great to finish my ATP with an intrguing and exciting new band before I crashed.
Surely worth a mention is the fabulous program which confirms, if confirmation is needed, what a fine fellow Stewart Lee is… ace comedian, lover of excellent music, and comic fan!
So, overall I had a blast. Everyone I spoke to was lovely, including some of the security guys. We’re it not for the non-payment issues that bubbled up to the surface beforehand, and the cancellation of the ATP festival that was meant to take place the following week, I’d say it was a brilliant festival. Sure, the accommodation was basic, but it was adequate and Pontins prices were fair considering its captive audience. The security was way over the top, but that was apparently a condition of the licence. I sincerely hope that all of the artists got paid and enjoyed their appearances as much as I did, but in closing I think that Barry Hogan would do well to either put ATP to bed now, or sell the name on to a sympathetic company capable of funding future events properly and thereby restoring it to its former glory.