So, part two…
Saturday at ATP was a rather foggy day. We didn’t have any plans until 1pm so decided to go for a wander along the beach in to Minehead – there isn’t really much to say about it as a town really, but the beach in the fog was very pretty, and full of hipsters taking photos, a lovely sight.
One of the best things about ATP being in Butlins was the amazing culture clash, and watching it progress in different ways; the spar sold out of the Guardian while there were huge piles of the Daily Fail and The Sun untouched, Burger Kind sold out of veggie burgers, the fake Nando’s sold out of hummus. You could tell that ATP attendees aren’t Butlins’ usual clientele. Beyond the culture clash there was more fun – we had the joy of the adventure golf (I won! Just…), trying to win a bible on the 2p machines in the arcade, and the continuous plinking of the air hockey tables (I’m sure I can still hear the plinking now, two weeks later).
After the Butlins supplied fun there was more ATP style entertainment. The Jeff Mangum and ATP curated TV channels were amazing – there is something about sitting in bed in a Butlins chalet on a foggy Saturday morning watching Monty Python on a little 15″ TV that is inexplicably enjoyable, and if I say “machine wrapped with butter?” then I know everyone that was there will know what I’m talking about. We eyed up the cinema listings (also curated by Jeff Mangum) and would have liked to go and see a few things, but unfortunately didn’t get the time. It’s a shame you couldn’t take the TV and Cinema home with you to enjoy after the festival was over! And as well as all this amazing entertainment, there was the never ending source of amusement in the #atpfestival hashtag on twitter, which should win a prize for the funniest hashtag ever, as well as the most helpful. I’m still sad that all has gone quiet on that front now!
But back to the music. Saturday was filled with some lovely lovely sounds, starting with A Hawk and a Hacksaw. The venue wasn’t great for this – they were playing a unique soundtrack to the Ukranian film ‘Shadows Of Forgotten Ancestors’ with the film projected on to the back of the stage. Unless you were there from the beginning and managed to get sat down directly in front of the stage, you wouldn’t have much luck seeing what they were playing along to. As with the day before, I was stood somewhere near the back in what felt like a sea of 6ft + men (are all men that attend ATP that tall?). Despite this, the music was beautiful, and sounded like a wonderful accompaniment to the film. Should have got there sooner!
The rest of the day was spent over at centre stage. After standing in the sea of giants the day before, and as we were planning on being in there for a good 5 hours or so (if we kept walking in and out, we would have had to keep walk through that smell by the door. That smell that can’t be described accurately, that is a mixture of ale, rancid hotdogs, and toilets) we decided to head towards the back of the room and get a couple of seats. And a bloody good choice it was too. We watched a brilliantly fun Apples in Stereo, followed by an amazingly beautiful Joanna Newsom, then followed by the stunning Low. I’ll admit I almost fell asleep during Joanna Newsom, her voice and that harp playing are both hypnotic, and so so lovely. Low were one of the highlights for me, as they were the only band I’d actually heard of when C asked if I wanted to go. They were as fantastic as I was hoping they would be and definitely sent shivers down my spine. Alan Sparhawk invited everyone in the room for a jog at 12pm the next day – from what I’ve heard about 30 people turned up, I think it’s the only time in my life I’ve regretted not being a running kind of person! It was a lovely taster of what I’m hoping we’ll hear more of when we see Low at the Royal Festival Hall on April 3rd.
Sunday was another foggy day and started off with the astounding and achingly beautiful American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME). We got in slightly before it was due to start and managed to get sat down at one of the tables. The room filled up quite nicely and there were quite a lot of people sitting on the floor in front of the stage, it felt a bit like story time at infant school. ACME performed Gavin Bryars’ “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet”. I’d never heard, or even heard of, this piece of music before I heard it at ATP, and since then I must have listened to it at least 30 times. It is quite possibly one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard and I was completely and utterly blown away. I didn’t move a muscle for the entire half hour of the performance, I was captivated from beginning to end. It was made even more beautiful the addition of Julian Koster on his musical saw, which fitted in so well it’s like it was made to be that way rather than a decision made the night before. Some lovely person has uploaded a video of their performance to YouTube and can be found in three parts here: part one, part two, part three. In total it’s a half hour piece of music, but I urge you to take the time to listen to it all. You won’t regret it.
Following a short interlude for some tea and some more ATP TV wonderfulness, we went in to Reds for Olivia Tremor Control. C was possibly more excited than I’ve ever seen him in public and we got in early to go right to the front. OTC were wonderful, despite the obvious technical hitches that occurred, and the fact Will Cullen Hart seemed to have lost his voice. This was another poor venue choice for the weekend, considering Olivia Tremor Control are made up of most of the Elephant 6 crew it would have made sense to put them on centre stage, but they were in the smallest venue of the three. The room was packed and we were very glad to have got in there early, by the time they came on we couldn’t see the back of the room. My only regret is that we didn’t get tickets to see them play in London the following week!
Back at centre stage we ventured through the smell to see Sun Ra Arkestra, who were a vision in sequins. I never thought I’d see a room full of hipsters dancing around to some fantastic sequin glad jazz, and it’s something I’ll never forget! After that we went in Crazy Horse to see Tall Firs. I felt a bit bad that it was such a small and constantly rotating crowd, people would come in and stand around for 5 minutes or so, then walk out. There was also group of people standing over by the bar squawking quite loudly that were more than annoying when there are just two guys on the stage with their guitars playing some very mellow music. They were a good humoured duo and had some good banter going. The music was lovely and may well end up on my to be purchased pile quite soon.
After this there was a long way for Mangum Part 2. Everyone was emptied out of centre stage and there was then an hour and a half wait until JM was due on. Those who didn’t get in to centre stage on Friday night had been given priority wristbands for the Sunday night performance, and then everyone else was let in afterwards until the stage was full. The queue was immense, snaking right through the pavilion and outside to the adventure golf course. As C and I had seen him on Friday night, and we had tickets to see him the coming Wednesday at the Union Chapel, we decided not to join the Longest Queue Ever, and instead sat down in the middle of the pavilion with a cup of tea watching the fun unfold on #atpfestival on twitter.
So that was the end of our ATP experience. I can’t imagine a more perfect set up for a festival and two weeks later I am still on a comedown, constantly playing Neutral Milk Hotel and watching the ACME performance on YouTube. This was my first ATP and it definitely won’t be my last, I am already planning how to get tickets for this coming December. The lack of corporate sponsorship is more refreshing than I thought possible, and the atmosphere was constantly friendly and relaxed. I never once felt like either me or my possessions were in any danger of any kind – which I can’t say for previous festival experiences.
So, until December. I can’t wait!