Monday, 8 December 2008


All Tomorrow's Parties.

This is how festivals should be done. None of that cocking about with tents, and subsequently having to fashion them into some kind of improvised canoe when the monsoon comes. No chemical (warfare) toilets. No losing shoes in sticky sticky mud. And no Richard Ashcroft.

The venue for this weekend of pure awesomeness was the Butlins Holiday resort in Minehead, which is normally some kind of death camp, but with friendlier staff and more slot machines. As such, our accommodation was a two-berth chalet; nothing fancy, but it's warm and dry, you get proper beds, a shower, and a TV where two of the channels have been taken over by the festival curators.

Not that there was much time for showering and being brainwashed; there were far too many cool bands playing for that. Here's how it shook down.


The first band of the day, the warm-up act for the whole of the rest of the festival? The original 1983 line-up of the Melvins, smashing out scuzzy punk songs from back in the day. Amazing.

Then over to the second stage for Tweak Bird, who turned out to be quite astonishingly good. With just guitar, drums and voice these two guys kicked out far more noise than should have been possible.

A bit of a break for food and cheap booze in the chalet, and then back to centre stage for the deranged math-spaz of The Locust. Not the oddest thing I've ever seen, but close to it; clad in their trademark insectoid garb they bombarded the audience with a combination of intense blasts of technical hardcore, and repetitive oscillating electronic bass drone which at one point caused an audible wave of nausea to ripple through the audience. Willfully offensive, thoroughly super.

Isis were less of an assault on the senses, but brilliant nonetheless. Still loud, still heavy, but with more patience and melody, it was a positively soothing antidote to the random acts of aural brutality meted out by The Locust.

Next up were the Meat Puppets, who'd had to walk to the venue after their van broke down in sheep field a few miles away. Their slightly punkified, country-esque, blues rock jams seemed a little out of place in comparison to what had gone before, but they were still warmly received.

By this point The Boy had wandered back to the chalet so she pass out in comfort, and so I headed back over to the Reds stage to see Porn alone. It's a shame she missed out (especially since it was her who recommended them to me in the first place), because for me their hour long psychedelic doom drone jam was one of the highlights of the weekend. Two drummers, two bass players (who mostly played using screwdrivers and bits of scrap metal), and a bearded stoner guitar wizard brought the day to suitably apocalyptic end amidst swirls of feedback and pummeling beats. Masterful.


I've never been a big fan of country music - not even a small fan, actually - but the impeccably attired Junior Brown and his band were little short of life-affirming on woozy and drunken Saturday afternoon.

Which didn't do much to prepare us for the thunderous metal of the mighty Mastodon. Despite currently having to tour as a three-piece (guitarist Bill Kelliher's pancreas having recently exploded out of the side of him), they still filled the room with noise and definitively crushed and destroyed all.

How could things get any better? The arrival of the Melvins (this time with their current '08 line up) answered that question. Their set switched constantly from heavy, slow, droning sludge, to upbeat punk rock, all the while their two drummers battling with each other to see who could make the roof come crashing down first. Melvins = Legend.

The Butthole Surfers were a bit of an unknown quantity for me; I knew of them by reputation, but had somehow managed to bimble through the whole of the 1990's without hearing a single thing by them. They were good, groovy and rocking but with darker undercurrents. Definitely worth a bit more investigating.

In theory, Fantomas were an unknown quantity also; but the fact is that when you get Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr Bungle, Tomahawk), Dave Lombardo (original Slayer sticksman) and most of the Melvins together, and then have them playing cover versions of the soundtracks to films like The Omen and Godfather, you can guarantee that it's going to be equal parts brilliance and dark insanity. Which it was.

Neil Hamburger is apparently the hardest working man in American comedy. His entire act (that of a washed-up and disillusioned 1960's funnyman dying on his arse) is quite deliberately abrasive and offensive; but for me it all started to wear a bit thin.

And so I was quite grateful for the arrival of Rahzel, the undisputed beat-box champion of the world. For a while, anyway. Rahzel's talent is indeed indisputable - he makes way cooler noises with just his mouth and throat than many others do with entire decks and such - but without any sort of complete songs, it starts to feel as though you're just watching some guy doing impressions. Possibly because that's exactly what you're watching.

Last up for the night was Squarepusher, in his freaked-out drum 'n' funk-bass bleepy bleep glory. His greatest strength is probably also his greatest failing; the only 'live' element to the music is the bass (everything else handled by a dizzying array of laptops), and he's just so freakin' good that if it weren't for the deafening noise, relentless strobe lights and the close proximity of other people tripping their tits off, you could swear that you were just listening to a record. And so after three or four songs, I was driven off to an early(ish) bed by a combination of boredom, deafening noise, relentless strobe lights and the close proximity of other people tripping their tits off.


With Bohren & Der Club of Gore having mysteriously rescheduled to play the previous day (whilst we were watching Junior Brown), we scuttled off to centre stage to check out James Blood Ulmer and his haunting blues lamentations.

Then over to the reds stage for Joe Lally, erstwhile bass player for the legendary Fugazi. Unsurprisingly there were a number of musical similarities between the two, but not so many that it seemed like a second-rate Fugazi tribute act; with a decent set of tunes to go with his despondent vocals, Joe Lally very quietly and unassumingly became one of my favourite acts of the weekend.

A quick afternoon nap that overran slightly resulted in a mad dash back to the reds stage to catch Tel-Aviv punk titans Monotonix. I thought I'd made it with time to spare when I arrived to a large crowd and an empty stage; but the stage was only empty because Monotonix had set up right in the middle of the large crowd. As a result, the first glimpse I got of any of the band was when the singer, resplendent in his giant moustache and bright orange hotpants, came sailing over the top of the crowd in a plastic bin. This was within the first minute. After ten minutes of sweaty bouncing around I felt a great thump on my shin, which turned out to be the drummer relocating to the other side of the crowd, still hitting the drums as he went... and after another ten minutes of euphoric anarchy, it was all over. I've just discovered that these guys played in Bristol a couple of weeks prior to ATP; I am now officially gutted. One of the best shows I've ever witnessed.

Next up on the reds stage were Dalek; completely different, but no less earth-shatteringly brilliant. Joined onstage by a pair of guys with heavily distorted lapsteels and another fellow with a laptop, they filled the air with dense and menacing noise from which there could be no escape; all the while MC Dalek spitting vitriol into the mic and prowling the stage like a man preparing to fight the world. And win. Best hip-hop act in the world, and one of the many reasons why 50 Cent can lick my sack.

Another band, another complete change of pace. The Black Heart Procession play gentle, mournful indie; which was rendered all the more insipid by the musical might that had preceded them. Plus, there was a piano; and I've never got on well with pianos in rock music. So, back to centre stage for a third dose of the Melvins. Sweet.

Ghostigital took to the reds stage a little before the end of the Melvins' set, and so had already started blasting out their curious brand of Icelandic hip-top-lap-hop by the time we got there. Mostly, it sounded like intense blasts of noise interspersed with bits of trumpet and the rantings of a tourettes afflicted Bob Fossil. Kind of cool, but not so easy on the ears.

And so we skipped out to the ATP cinema (also curated by Patten and the Melvins) for an hour of All About Eve, before The Boy sloped off to bed and I sloped off to catch Kool Keith. Except that everything on the centre stage seemed to be overrunning, so instead I caught the end of The Damned's set... and then Kool Keith.

After a few songs I was fairly satisfied that Dalek were still the best hip-hop act in the world, and so I ducked out for intense beating at the hands of Double Negative and their fans, a number of whom had stripped down to their boxer shorts. Twenty minutes of bruising hardcore and bouncing off of people twice my body weight left me sweaty and elated, and with ears still ringing I stumbled back towards centre stage...

...where Kool Keith was still playing. I hung around for Squarepusher's second set of the weekend, and managed to last a whole five songs this time before bailing out, going to bed and thus bringing to an end a simply amazing weekend.


Charlie said...

Ah i was once a fan of the odd butthole surfers song in my teens. I would highly recommend them

Marianne said...

It was awesome.
Same time next year?

Matt said...

Fantomas was a French super villain originally! Very important in the history of supervillainy -