ATP: The Breeders - Butlins, Minehead - 15-17/5/09
04 Jun 2009
SPECIAL ATP REPORT PART 3: Tim Dellow - the final part of our atp report saga sees amongst others melt banana, shellac, foals, bon iver, blood red shoes and madlib answer in the affirmative to the deal sisters' invitation for them to step up to the all tomorrow's parties stage. bring on christmas.
One glance at the line up for the Breeders ATP shows a dichotomy (often within the very same acts) between the current and nostalgic. Many of these bands, ahead of their time, are now only receiving the credit they're due, and because of their very nature seek to push boundaries forward testing an audience with new material.
However, the ATP crowd of supposed forward thinkers are already seeking solace in the delights of the past. From an era ushered in by "Don't Look Back" re-hashes of classic, and overrated records, a chin scratching contingent that missed it first time round can celebrate the fact that years after poring over older brother's record collections, they indeed, get the punchline.
That said, the Breeders have always been at heart, an inclusionist pop band - testified by their debut's homage to 'Happiness is a Warm Gun' whilst their contemporaries the Butthole Surfers deconstructed a hairway to Steven.
This brings a new dawn to ATP - a less pretentious affair than last weekend's that includes a new audience who can relish the thrill of their own heroes: Foals, Blood Red Shoes and Bon Iver whilst being enlightened to The Frogs and Gang Of Four. That said, this new crowd are the real heroes - a step ahead of the old garde in their adoption and real-time celebration of music that moves their hearts and minds.
The dismayed red-coats have their cabaret hall blasted open by THE BRONX who are effectively a very good LA hardcore band. Mixing the weight of recent metal with a direct line back to Minor Threat (or even X who also perform this weekend), but with a good natured dose of humour to boot. When the singer jumps into the crowd he slams them for not dancing, but hey, it's early in the day, and as their later incarnation as MARIACHI EL BRONX where they swap their guitars for vihuelas and the singer proves he can carry a note and perhaps justifies their original major label rock band status... But, writing this a week later with my cynical f*ck hat on undermines the humour and dedication to their work and the joyous reaction from the audience - especially when the band is augmented by one Kelly Deal.
YANN TIERSEN should be commended for his refusal to hold-steadfast to a style, moving his new tuneage away from his Waltz mentality into dreamy Theremin soothed space rock, culminating in a fiddle led climax in yr soul.
Man of the moment BON IVER closes the main stage on the Friday night. Drawing largely (and wisely) from the only album of last year which no one could bring themselves to criticise, he stuns with his faultless vocals and distinct playing style. Live, and backed with a full (double drummer no less) band the arrangements begin more complex, twisting and contorting the shells of the songs to satisfying results that will surely date less than their recorded counterparts. Songs such as 'Skinny Love' receive a rapturous reception from this fully converted crowd with their sweeping CSNY beauty, Justin Vernon throwing up his words in a cathartic yet enveloping fashion.
The start is stunning, yet a mid set lull sees newer, less directional tracks veering into a mid-set Coldplay stadium lull. The spectacle of this at ATP is compounded by his sing along ending for 'Wolves' in which the entire audience is encouraged to exorcise. Thankfully, the less jaded members of the audience throw themselves in wholeheartedly and even the most cynical members have to check themselves from being caught up in the hurricane of crowd swell.
BUFFALO KILLERS are the Magic Numbers playing stoner rock. Some awesome, if traditional, guitar soloing saves the day, but it's still more Woody Grill than Texan Thrill.
[BLOOD RED SHOES]
Refreshed the next morning (ahem) and after what seems like a never ending soundcheck, BLOOD RED SHOES take the stage. Patrons of the festival (along with Foals) well before playing, these too take all that was great about Riot Grrl, put it in a shower, dress it up and invest the sex back into the trash. A set peppered with new songs shows massive promise for the new album and the two piece cut classy festival shapes through our hangover. Provocative, exhilarating and a perfect tonic for the morning.
From new to, well, old TH' FAITH HEALERS take the stage upstairs. Playing something like their third gig in ten years The Breeder's old touring partners have chosen to remain in the past with their band as opposed to keep moving forward. However, this hasn't stopped their other fantastic activities with their Glass Shrimp nights and radio show (check it out on Resonance FM), but demonstrates that to them, putting together the old band is a celebratory bit of fun. It's still arresting however, with the old songs aging well, and only their lack of vim occasionally letting them down.
From a band who new when to call it a day to one that seemingly hasn't realized time has been called on them - CSS. The debut album tracks still retain some vigour live, although those from Donkey sink without a trace. It's a shame - the album has been much maligned, perhaps in that people didn't appreciate its American indie Lemonheads-meets-Cars style influence. However, lack of credit has to go to the band for not sticking with this dreamy conceit live but to try to shoehorn it into the frenetic electro performance of their first. The results are akin to forced sex - your partner wants to please you, but it just ain't happening. The desperation at which they push songs such as the cod 'Reggae all Night' on unimpressed punters is depressing and no amount of balloons on stage can save it. When Lovefoxxx starts singing something about making a sandwich, you know it's time to head to catering.
Thankfully, you can return to SHELLAC who nail the balance of nostalgia and moving forward perfectly with a set that draws from At Action Park and includes three new songs. It sounds flippant, but quite simply Shellac have always been, and perhaps always will be, THE BEST LIVE BAND IN THE WORLD. Gimmicks are refreshingly deployed - such as a "slow motion" drumstick spin during an extended pause, or a slowed down vocal accelerating in time to the music to a shrill blast. The confidence of the band is intoxicating and the volume and delivery of the template of sonic pumulsion (yes, I did just make up a word) is breathtaking.
A tough act to follow, but THE BREEDERS, curators from heaven pull it off with style and aplomb. A very different set up to the tightly honed Title TK era band, the Breeders onstage tonight are a ramshackle group and far less professional. It's perfect. Like an old friend or lover you know warts 'n all, and love them for every under-rehearsed moment... big gaps between songs are filled with genuinely witty banter and a relaxed, celebratory air.
The set is Last Splashtastic - deploying 'Cannonball' early in the set and treating us to some Pod moments such as their "Classy" cover of 'Happiness is a Warm Gun'. "I hate it when bands do new songs I only like it when they play songs I know... And I like" says Kim, before playing a new song highlighting my previous point about back/fore-thinking, but although initially disappointing on record, in the context of this set the new songs are lovely live; a stoned sweetheart kissing the back of your neck while you dream of Honolulu. They even bring out songs such as 'Driving on 9' and 'Do You Love Me Now' which cements their place in my heart.
[Speaking of a place in my heart. This represents a hole in my soul where THE FROGS should fit. These rape-obsessed vom-inducing tricksters were, by all accounts, spectacular (especially when joined onstage by the Breeders) and spewing out vitally influential noise. However some jackass changed the stage timings at the last minute so this reviewer was instead subjected to STYROFOAM's ineffectual indie limpness.]
HOLY F*CK blew everyone's minds - their 2AM party slot was a big-beat-gone-post-rock MDMA fest that lifted all to a higher consciousness. A distillation of the Soft-Bulletin style semantics that Yann worked with earlier, but brought to entirely satisfying (if at times unsubtle) conclusion... For many the band of the weekend.
Sunday, and THE SOFT PACK are rare in that they can follow a lineage of Pavement, Sebadoh and countless other slacker rawk dudes without sounding contrived or pained. Ramshackle mess-age held together by an astounding drummer and tunes of Love 'N Height that blow careerist f*ckwits out the water. We like.
MELT BANANA again show their cruciality to the world by breaking their set in two - opening in pitch black with two lights on their heads scanning the crowd for gurning faces before breaking into a squall of synth based noize-core. The second half sees them bringing up the hyper guitar-work of Charlie and Teeny Shiny, which although a good ten years old now are light-years ahead of most musicians wildest dreams. Following their tradition of the deconstruction of modern rock started with their cover of 'Surfin' USA' they pull out a demented jabberwocky that resembles 'Monkey Man' and suggests that without moving forward The Specials should maybe stay split up.
Speaking of staying splitting up the universal criticism of GANG OF FOUR encourages me to miss all of their set except for the last two songs which, to my ears, raise a flutter in my heart and a thrill in the pit of my stomach. However, the new line up is certainly slower and clunkier and there's a sense of trading off the excitement caused by their initial reformation for no real artistic gain.
FOALS closed the main stage of the festival and managed to unify its two camps. Cerebral enough, and with enough gold influence to appeal to the chin strokers and with a vim and passion which enthralled the younger generation the band were entirely victorious. The new material demonstrated their desire to keep pushing boundaries and experimenting in modern music, whilst being increasingly soulful. Of course, I'm entirely biased in that I release their music, but my pride for the genius of this act knows no bounds.
The Weekend closed with J.ROCC's turntablism aligning the late great James Brown with the late great J.Dilla. Since his death from a rare blood disease the man's reputation has blossomed from the beat-maker of Busta Rymes and A Tribe Called Quest to, essentially the Nick Drake of the hip hop world - a man criminally ignored in his lifetime. MADLIB, a collaborator in his lifetime takes the stage and rocks the crowd to a late night funky finish, his crystal rhymes perhaps wasted on the inebriated partied out crowd.
The next morning. The party is over. I ask a gentleman who looks nothing like my friend Jeremy Warmsley if he is, in fact Jeremy Warmsley to which he replies "No, but i love his album". I go home. Satisfied.