Live Review
ATP, CURATED BY JEFF MANGUM
ATP Curated by Jeff Mangum
Butlin's Holiday Centre
Minehead
9-11/03/12

Arguably the least commercial lined ATP has seen in recent years, it’s a point proved as Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise burst open the weekend with a fun and undeniably infectious show, drawing on the collective’s various other projects, from Elf Power to The Gerbils, the highlights coming from the often explosive versions of the latter band’s songs. Robyn Hitchcock takes on his seminal ‘I Often Dream Of Trains’ album and wins, delivered with a sense of humour and charm that is as quintessentially British, quirky and brilliant as the album itself. Armed only with an acoustic guitar, any doubt that Jeff Mangum may struggle to emit the sheer power and ferocity of the Neutral Milk Hotel records are soon squashed when he opens his mouth. As it transpires, he is a powerhouse of an acoustic performer, as he broods with a seething intensity that teeters between magnificence and brilliant terror. The crowd are not only in awe but in love, couples dance and hold one another, single men belt out every lyric with a burning intensity and everybody is utterly transfixed. The closing rendition of ‘Two Headed Boy’ is majestic enough already, but then a sea of ex band members burst out from the curtain and begin to pound into ‘The Fool’ – the closest thing to a Neutral Milk Hotel reformation anyone is ever likely to see. It’s incredible stuff, and the wait for Mangum’s ATP (postponed at the end of 2011 until now) has been worth it for this moment alone.

The following of Joanna Newsom proves to be one of the most beautiful back-to-back musical pairings perhaps ever curated. A solo show, just harp and grand piano, she plays with a sense of authority, but also a sublime delicacy that makes you want to cry.

The Fall are simply The Fall. Brilliant, of course, they inject a growling sense of rowdiness and mayhem into the evening, and the closing ‘Theme From Sparta FC’ is a particularly brilliant rendition.

Thurston Moore keeps things plugged-in too, ditching the acoustics and strings from his most recent ‘Demolished Thoughts’ album and instead playing a noisy, chugging set that lies far more closely to Sonic Youth, all conveyed with fervent, sonic violence.

It’s Saturday, and while the seagulls fly and squawk their demented shrieks and the sun beams down hard on the little town of Minehead, a storm of catastrophic proportions is brewing in the upstairs of this Butlin’s resort. Boredoms unleash a blood-curdling performance. Delivered with gargantuan force and ferocity, they don’t so much start the day as ignite it – nothing is as loud or explosive all weekend and I doubt I’ll see anything quite like it for the rest of the year either. Any hangovers are sent firing to the back of the room, splattered against the back wall, along with everyone else’s grey matter.

Meanwhile, the self proclaimed ‘noh-wave’ group Yamantaka//Sonic Titan perform an unsettling show; one that somehow sits between relentless dronings akin to Sun 0))) and a hint of new wave that almost nods to Blondie. It’s a bizarre but beguiling thing, where Low deliver a set that succeeds in being just as eloquent and beautiful as it does raucous, fuzzy and noisy.

Mount Eerie decides to play lots of new material, but people chose to talk over it instead. What could have been one of the festival’s most intimate and beautiful moments is squashed (for me) by some of the audience’s pococurante. Still, there is still Yann Tiersen, who draws almost exclusively from his more rock orientated material from albums ‘Dust Lane’ and ‘Skyline’, and the set is delivered with a precision and gusto that displays an ability to work within any genre he desires.

As midnight approaches there are grumblings amongst some people at the lack of noise, energy or danceable material on display for a Saturday night. These are soon silenced by the brutal onslaught of Scratch Acid, David Yew prowling the stage like a deranged and rabid animal, the band a raging bundle of snarl and hounding bite, delivered with a brutality and angst that is inescapable. God bless the poor fucker after the show that is responsible for mopping up Yew’s piles of spit that’s covered the stage like cow pats in a field.

ACME (American Contemporary Music Ensemble) performs a beautiful recital of Gavin Bryars’ ‘Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet’, easing the throbbing Sunday hangovers with sweeping and delicate strings – a glorious start to the day. Boredoms then blow everyone’s minds again, and The Magnetic Fields draw heavily on their latest record, ‘Love At The Bottom of The Sea’. The size of their catalogue of course leaves us wanting more, but their performance, when in full flow, is simply gorgeous, Stephen Merritt’s voice flowing like a golden river of chocolate treacle.

Sebadoh finish the festival in a celebratory manner. Their chaotic barrage of lo-fi indie is as charming as ever and the closing sing-a-long of ‘Brand New Love’ is a marvellous ending to a magical weekend.

It may take weeks to get the stench of hotdogs out of my nostrils (that place is like a gas chamber for vegetarians) but it was a near perfect weekend of music.

By Daniel Dylan Wray

Originally published in issue 36 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. March 2012