Despite grand plans to: go to the beach! explore Minehead! ride the West Somerset Railway! walk the South West Coast Path!, a long day and too much beer yesterday mean that there is just about time for lunch (and more beer) before its over to the Pavilion Stage and Magnolia Electric Co again. I was sure I’d read somewhere that Jason Molina was planning something special for ATP (and although I can’t find that reference now, someone else was under the same impression), so I’m hopeful that it’ll be a completely different set from yesterday’s. MEC however start off playing pretty much the same material, so we decide to head to up to Centre Stage for the first performance of the day there (Ron & Miek later confirm that there wasn’t anything much different about MEC’s second performance).

Magnolia Electric Co - ATP 28-04-2007

So on to Hungarian zither & violin prodigy Félix Lajkó. He starts off on the zither, before moving on to the violin, playing both instruments incredibly quickly and with real fervour, eyes squeezed shut in concentration. His music is apparently based on the traditional string music of the Pannonian plain (which encompasses Hungary and northern Serbia) and is certainly kindred in spirit to Warren Ellis’s furied fiddling (Dirty Three cover a Lajkó song “The Zither Player” on their “Cinder” album). His performance gets a rapturous reception from the crowd, and he seems genuinely pleased & humbled – I guess this is not the sort of audience that he is used to playing in front of.

Next up is Sally Timms (of Mekons) and her band. She starts off on her own with the squeezebox-accompanied gothic fairytale of “Little Tommy Tucker”, before the rest of the band join in for a set drawn from her “In The World Of Him” album, peppered with a couple of Mekons covers. The “In The World Of Him” songs are also all covers, written by men (Mark Eitzel, Kevin Coyne, and Sean Garrison amongst them) and lyrically conveying a male perspective, but Timms makes them her own. Her performance is marred by the computer’s beats being too loud in the mix, but that is eventually sorted out, allowing Timms’s great voice to take Centre Stage.

Sally Timms - ATP 28-04-2007

Back down to the main stage for Low, one of my most-anticipated shows of the festival. Judging by the crowd’s reaction at the time, and comments I‘ve seen since, many people thought this the best performance of the weekend. Many must’ve felt that Low’s hushed melancholia and angelic vocal harmonies would struggle to fill the expanse of the Pavilion Stage venue, but fill it they do with an aggression of sound that only comes to the fore in a live setting. My favourite moments of Low shows are when Alan Sparhawk ‘rawks out’, giving us a glimpse that his influences are as much the likes of Swans, The Birthday Party, Suicide, Black Sabbath as anything more subdued. Low duly provide such a moment with the building-up-to-a-wall-of-sound of “Pissing”, my favourite song off “The Great Destroyer”. The rest of the setlist is mostly made up of material from “Drums And Guns” – I was wondering how those songs would stand up performed live, shorn of the loops and drum machine, but they translate perfectly well, even sounding more muscular than on the record, and it’s a treat to hear these different versions. Vote Low for future ATP curators!

Low - ATP 28-04-2007

Spaceman 3 is on my list of now-defunct bands I wish I could’ve seen live, so the promise of some acoustic Spacemen 3 songs as part of the Spiritualized Acoustic Mainline performance has me pretty excited. Sure enough it’s thrilling to hear “Hey Man” and “Walkin’ With Jesus” sung by J Spaceman and backed with strings & gospel singers, but I find that the bombast of the Spiritualized material and the too-safe gospel covers leaves me cold, so I don’t stay for the whole set. I miss “Lord, Can You Hear Me?” which is a bummer but sometimes you just gotta cut your losses…

Spiritualized Acoustic Mainline - ATP 28-04-2007

I head upstairs to catch the end of Mick Harvey’s set, which is unfortunately a bit disappointing – I have great respect for his musicianship, him having been a key compositional force in The Birthday Party, Crime & The City Solution, and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, but his solo material just isn’t dark enough, it lacks edge, there just doesn’t seem to be anything special about it (to these ears anyway). Sorry Mick.

For many people the most anticipated performance of the day is the double billing of Nick Cave ‘solo’ and the first-ever live performance of Grinderman. Word is that Cave will play for about an hour, leave the stage briefly, and then return with his Grinderman cohorts. As it turns out, Nick isn’t quite ‘solo’ – he’s joined by his Grinderman bandmates Warren Ellis, Jim Sclavunos and Martyn P Casey (who are all of course also Bad Seeds) for a great set of NC&TBS ‘hits’ (“Red Right Hand”, “The Ship Song”, “Deanna”, “Henry Lee”, “The Mercy Seat”) mixed with his more-recent more-circumspect material. Bruno Banani’s description of his performance as ‘Jerry Lee Lewis-esque’ is spot-on – Cave is regularly leaping up from the piano like an impressively-moustachioed firecracker, playing one-handed with his other stick-insect arm gesticulating as he belts out his abattoir blues. He even encourages the crowd to sing along! The set ends with “Jack The Ripper” and as expected the band leaves the stage, to return shortly as Grinderman, Cave now with guitar slung over his shoulder. His new role as ‘lead axeman’ is one that perhaps doesn’t yet sit too comfortably with him as there is a nervousness to the opening “Get It On” which results in a false start. But the band is soon in full swing, and they run through the entirety of the album with impressive vigour (considering that they’re not exactly spring chickens & they’ve already been playing for an hour). Cave’s guitar playing has been described as primitive, but when did guitar-playing ever have to be ‘accomplished’ to sound good? Although the unfamiliarity of the image of Cave with guitar makes it odd & jarring, he thrashes the instrument around as though he was born to it, and by the time the band launch into album-highlight (and encapsulation of the Grinderman ethos) “No Pussy Blues” the vast crowd are already converted in worship of their new guitar hero.

Grinderman - ATP 28-04-2007

Einstürzende Neubauten are only due to start at 1:30am so a rest of tired old bones is necessary beforehand. It means missing Nina Nastasia & Jim White’s performance, but a little recuperation is very much needed. So…
Einstürzende Neubauten at Butlins…! Would they raze the Centre Stage to the ground? Would they have at least brought their jet turbine ‘drum’ along? As it happens, Neubauten are relatively sedate, most (if not all?) of the set culled from post-“Ende Neu” releases. This is of course appropriate as “Ende Neu” marked a major transition for the band – the loss of original members Mark Chung and FM Einheit, and the switch to a more baroque, decadent (though restrained) sound – for me evocative of a mixture of pre-war and post-wall Berlin as opposed to the divided, bomb-scarred city that gave birth to the band in 1980. “We are not an industrial band, we are a shoegazing band,” quips Blixa Bargeld, he and Alex Hacke standing barefoot on stage. There are some classic Neubauten moments throughout the gig: NU Unruh spilling metal pieces to the floor from a height, Rudi Moser’s drumming on plastic pipes, Unruh rustling in a miked-up bag of polystyrene chips… “Die Befindlichkeit Des Landes” is the highlight for me, with Alex Hacke throwing plenty of louche rock poses as he bashes away at his low-slung bass, and the whole band at their most vigorous that evening. A bit of a sour note is struck later on though, with Blixa in particularly acerbic form. Some poor fool has the temerity to shout out “Rock ‘n Roll!” and is then subjected to a withering & extended put-down (“that is not applicable!”). Blixa is also keen to remind those of us that are not “official supporters” (i.e. paid subscribers) about how we’re 2nd class fans, missing out on most of the material that they’re playing tonight because we haven’t subscribed. Fuck you man! I’ve bought most of your records, and paid good money to see you live several times.
How to make friends & influence people by Blixa Bargeld…
Neubauten do treat us to a nice long set though, and it’s 3:30am before head can thump into pillow.

Einstürzende Neubauten - ATP 28-04-2007

For a selection of photos from ATP D3, go here

Here is ‘band of the day’ Low with a live radio session of “Pissing”, recorded 23 April 2007 as a “Black Session” for French radio show “C’est Lenoir”, France Inter.

Low – Pissing (Black Session)