Friday, 27 June 2008

All Tomorrow's Parties - Saturday Review

Owwwwwwwwwwww. First night reveling impacts on ones second day wake up.....duly noted (though likely forgotten by the next ATP). The perfect way to readjust into enthusiastic music mode? How about eating your brekkie to the sight of The National setting up over on the main stage? Yep. that'll do it.

After a brief jaunt around the hills of Exmoor, including a few hours searching for the semi-famous mini ponies, we returned to the site for the first must-see of the day; Saul Williams (8). Decadently garbed in feathered headdress and war paint, set off against a plunging v-neck that would make Eddie Izzard double-take, the enigmatic beat poet is off to a fine start before we even consider the tunes. Which are solid, if not entirely engaging from start to finish. The energy and visual aesthetic of his show can't be faulted though and start things off nicely.

A short stroll past the main stage then affords us a quick check on A Hawk & A Hacksaw (7) whose eclectic instrumentation and folk-laden songs are an interesting, if not captivating diversion. Next comes one of the most diverse set clashes of the weekend, with Okkervil River vying against Ghostface Killah for attention. The former guarantee an excellent show but having seen them in Liverpool last December, and never having seen a hip-hop act live, I definitely needed to catch some of the latter's set. Starting out with Okkervil (8.5), I planned to hang out for around half the set and dash upstairs for the rapping thereafter. This proved difficult to achieve, as Will Sheff and the boys knock out some superb songs from 'The Stage Names' and the promise of new material also hangs in the air. Their stage presence is strong and the songs breathe wonderfully live, but eventually I bite the bullet and wander off into the unknown. The first sight that greets me is a (perhaps) unknown rapper taking to the stage and pulling off some pretty sharp wordplay. Not bad, thinks I. As it turns out, though, there are only two songs remaining in the set and a good 10 minutes is taken up with getting the laydeeeez up on the stage to gyrate to 'Greedy Bitches'. Not entirely unexpected, perhaps, but the whole episode deteriorates into a mass stage invasion and incoherent yelping from the various MC's onstage, making me wonder if Ghostface (6) was really worth missing the remaining Okkervil songs. C'est la vie.

The Centre remains the venue as ...Trail of Dead (9) put in a trademark blistering set as we move into the evening. More classics are aired than usual, with a triumphant 'Mistakes & Regrets' making them push the floorboards to their heaving limits. After regaining breath and despite the promise of another potentially electrifying set from Dinosaur Jr. in this very room, we return to the Pavilion stage for the unmissable The National (9.5). Happily, anticipating these guys so feverishly proves not to be a mistake, as they roll through some amazing highlights from the last two albums 'Alligator' and 'Boxer'. Every song is delivered with a passion that many bands only dream of, with the vocal and lyrics of Matt Berninger adding the final, exhilirating touch. A climax of the usual closer 'Mr November' lifts the atmosphere to fever pitch and, right in the centre of the weekend, serves as a fitting high point of the event overall.

Normally this would be more than enough for one nights entertainment, but ATP being no ordinary affair we still have the promise of Battles closing out the night with some hybrid late night alt-rock/rave shenanigans. Stars of the LidTo whittle away the hour or two until that time, I venture over to Reds to see the acoustic stylings of Lazarus (8.5). After the highs of The National and all the stage presence they bring to the large crowd, this intimate little showing to a few people, by one man and his guitar, is an intriguing offset. Every song drips with longing and regret, garnering impressed applause as he finishes and leaving everyone noting the name for further investigation at the merch stand on Sunday.

Rounding out the evening are the aforementioned Battles (9). Having seen them fairly recently, a solid live show was expected but the hour was late and the energy of earlier performances wearing off, so the fact that they inspired a full hour of pure crowd participation and bouncing is testament to the quality of their efforts. They rally through already-classics from 'Mirrored', including the other-worldly chimes of 'Atlas' and the frenzied charge of 'Leyendecker', bringing about (and feeding off) a resurgent audience adrenaline rush. The whole thing is repeated the following evening as the penultimate act of the weekend, but with the punters still fully tuned into the event and this seemingly being the first experience of the band for many, this is the set of choice and brings Saturday to another rousing close.


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Now playing: Grails - Word Made Flesh
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