Saturday, 31 May 2008

All Tomorrow's Parties - Friday Review

Having had a week plus back from holidays to digest the whole experience of ATP vs Explosions in the Sky, I feel suitably calmed to begin reviewing it. For the rest of the hols after the weekend, I was completely buzzing and wanting to get the next one on the horizon (which is frighteningly quick, given this new announcement). That's still the case, of course, but at least I'm no longer foaming at the mouth and miming Battles sound effects without cause or warning.

As planned, we blitzed the motorways during the morning and had very little trouble even on the last 30 A miles to Minehead. The reason was to get there in good time to set up and pitch on over to watch Constantines (7), who gave a brave first performance of the day to a newly arrived and slightly hesitant crowd. Still, as the beers began to flow and people shrugged off their day's travel, a holiday atmosphere kicked up and the straight up rock got some heads moving. I didn't recognise any songs but have only a loose grip on newie 'Kensington Heights' as reference, so it was left to solid grooves and driving guitars to draw me in. They did so well enough and I'd be interested in catching them again in a smaller club environment.

Next up was the first of many downstairs rushes to dig on the first main stage band, Papier Tigre (7.5). As evidenced in the archives here, I gave these Frenchies a good listening beforehand and was quite looking forward to them. They didn't disappoint, again getting the bodies moving somewhat to their angular but catchy Fugazisms. The crowd was still small - most remaining upstairs Centre Stage to watch Mono - but certainly appreciative. Their draw seemed to me to be in the intricacy of the two guitarists, underpinned by the tight drumming. Strikes me that it must be hard to get this type of music to be catchy as well, yet I patently came away humming the songs. Songs which I later chose to purchase from a merch lad who hopefully got the money to the band, after they seemingly abandoned their table. A brief note on Mono, whose last song I caught and seemed to have really stirred the crowd I'd briefly abandoned. Reliable sources tell me they were very good too, so things were off to a magical start.

The first big act of the night came next, as messrs Mascis and Barlow stepped up to the stage to begin the riff carnage of Dinosaur Jr (9). This was truly the start of the weekend in terms of pure walls of guitar. The '90's come flooding back over your senses as the riffs from both classic and current material are served up fresh and raw into your cranium. The musicianship in the wall of guitar sound is amazingly clear and effortlessly flawless. Guys that make it look this easy deserve some form of tin pot Royal medal really, but hopefully they're more than happy with the rapturous applause and adulation of the proper chuffed Centre Stage audience. A weekend highlight.........already.

Moving further into the night, the head honchos are on next for a surprisingly early appearance at their creation. As it happens, Explosions in the Sky (8) perform a majestic close to the main stage proceedings, without ever crossing into the removal of our breath. The sweeping guitar melodies and fragile silences mix well with the fading light and onset of dusk, with the Pavilion Stage providing a significant enough backdrop to close out the bigs boys and usher in the more frenetic, lesser known acts of the evening. A class effort.

Now, are The Octopus Project (8.5) worth the ever-expanding queue snaking away from the Reds stage......oh my yes. I'd not seen them before and was only marginally taken with their most recent outing 'One Ten Hundred Thousand Million', but I did fancy something upbeat in my newly energised mood, so I joined the heaving throng. Good decision. Aside from the nigh impossible task of obtaining a Guinness to accompany the music, this was superb with the band having tunes and energy to burn.
The jittery synths and breakneck electronica of the songs, added to the tacky Butlins late-night disco decor of the venue, made this set feel like the perfect mutant indie-dance party which so befits the ATP profile. The climax of the set for me is also the best summary of the weekend as a whole, a rapturous run through of 'Music Is Happiness'.

That could easily have been both the high point and end point of the evening but with 4 hours of music time still to run and this being the first day, the night was still young. Venturing back to the Centre, I find Ola Podrida (6) halfway through a gentle acoustic set. Nothing to set the world alight but a pleasant interlude nonetheless. I take some time to rub salt in the wounds of those put off by the masses and therefore missing the Octopus folks, then we're onto The Paper Chase (9). With bleach blonde front lad John Congleton swaying and hacking into his guitar, they rip into an utterly unhinged and intentionally disturbing set. From a band choosing such album titles as 'Hide the Kitchen Knives' and 'Young Bodies Heal Quickly, You Know', it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that these boys unearth dirty Americana and have backing rhythms that sound like blades being sharpened. Half cut in a mutated Butlins holiday resort on a rainy Friday night, however, the effect is sensationally multiplied. One of the surprise and standout performances of the weekend, sans doute.

Pretty far gone (not to mention mentally shaken) by this point, no one really wishes to move away from the plentiful beverages and sticky floor of the Centre stage, so we remain for the electonic DJ stylings of Four Tet (7). To be perfectly honest I only remember enjoying the club-like end to a superb first evening, which I can just about recall being very well mixed. This was more about a bit of drunken rambling and gushing over the nights entertainment though.........and with two days to go we had started off even better than anyone could have expected. Roll on Saturday!

Now playing: Tool - (-) Ions
via FoxyTunes

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