With Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Mars Volta and more!

Barry Hogan's intimate gathering has become a cult indie institution. Providing a space for the musical underground to congregate and orchestrating a leftfield revolution in the process, ATP is truly unrivalled by any other festival out there. But it is sometimes criticised for its narrow demographic, where the hirsute muso rules the roost and standard festival goers are often nowhere to be seen. Indeed, these bearded post-rock men are an omnipotent force, but look a bit further and you will actually see a social smorgasbord of alternative types: tattoo clad men frolic with the fashion crowd and Warhammer geeks cower in corners with crusties. And they are all drawn together by an obsession with music which nullifies any obvious aesthetic differences. Yes, the faded band t-shirt is still a ubiquitous sight: adorned by many an ATP goer and judged by virtue of its music related obscurity (100 points for Black Flag, 10 points for Blur) But, wankiness aside, ATP is actually a whole load of fun. Put it this way, there are very few places in the world where highbrow and lowbrow cultural pursuits can co-exist with such acceptance.

So, after seeking out my chalet and venturing over to the gaudy lights of the Butlins Pavilion, first stop was Centre Stage to catch J Mascis and The Fog . Arguably a true parody of ATP with his monopoly on stoner rock, this grunge heavyweight and his band of unmerry men set the tone for the weekend with their oppressive outpourings of drone rock which were gladly received by all. There is still life in the old dog yet, that's for sure.

“See you on stage motherfuckers!” yelled Karen O as she left the ladies’ and ricocheted to her perch like a speeding bullet. Three gargantuan glittery YYYs sparkled proudly behind her as testament to her monolithic rock and roll status: a rare theatrical sight to behold at a festival so often dominated by introverted indie bands. But the Yeah Yeah Yeahs brought an injection of much needed glamour to ATP and effortlessly played through ‘Fever to Tell’ as if it was 2003 all over again. Crashing into unassuming bystanders and sputtering out song lyrics as if my life depended on it, I couldn’t have wished for a better way to kick start ATP. Grrrl power.

It was time to wind down and to immerse myself in some ephemeral Icelandic pop, courtesy of Mum . With twinkling, childlike mystique, the sprawling musical collective spun yarns of glitch laced wonderment, casting their spell over a receptive audience who remained utterly transfixed throughout the set. Whispering her way through the subdued anthemic grace of ‘Green Green Grass of Tunnel’, we were left gasping for air in a soporific haze. “I think I’m in love with her,” remarked one audience member on the beguiling front woman, which suggests the band’s charm was rather powerful stuff. Or maybe he just fancied her. Whatever it was, Mum’s performance was claimed by many (including myself) to be one the best of the weekend.

And leaping through the hoops of instrumental post-rock with jazz hands and understated brilliance, Friday night was rounded off nicely by the coolest dads on the block, Tortoise . Playing a spattering of older tracks and a good chunk from latest album ‘Beacons of Ancestorship’, people made out to Chicago’s finest musical reptiles and what was apparently one guy’s “perfect sex music.” Too much information.

With weary bodies and fuzzy heads, watching Deerhoof on the Sunday was a welcomed delight. The spiky, off-kilter vocals of Satomi Matsuzaki were strangely comforting and the band’s decision to cover the festival’s heralded musical inspiration—The Velvet Underground’s ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’—earned the band a trillion brownie points.

“See you in Outer Space!” shouts an excited Munaf Rayani shortly before slipping into his music-induced coma. And adorning the Pavillion walls with a blanket of twinkling fairy lights, those Texan post-rock stalwarts Explosions in the Sky certainly took us to infinity and beyond with their lush cinematic soundscapes and moments of dramatic splendour, blasting their way through their set with unwavering emotional committment and sonic perfection.

A two hour prog marathon from The Mars Volta and Cedric Bixler-Zavala didn’t even work up a sweat. Dodgy seventies garb, funked up bass solos and relentless falsetto shrieking are perhaps not everyone’s bag, but The Mars Volta have definitely got their own thing going on and blew away those Sunday night cobwebs.

A healthy injection of earth shattering noise from Lighting Bolt and my ATParty had finished in true ATParty style, with a visceral gut-wrenching aural violation. Brian Gibson and his masked drummer tore out hearts and ear drums aplenty that weekend with their rapacious roar. And the thunderous beat of Mr Chippendale’s supersonic drumming could be heard as far as Scotland, but he remained firmly on stage throughout the performance, much to the disappointment of his moshing revellers.

And it was all over in one mighty drum beat, another trail of Butilins’ chalets ripped apart in a frenzy of rock and roll chaos. So let’s raise a glass of real ale to ATP's continued reign and to the next ten years of sheer, unrivalled weirdness. Go forth and conquer.

Words by April Welsh
Photos by shot2bits.net

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