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I’m by no means an experienced festival-goer. Despite having soiled with saliva the Reading & Glastonbury ad pages of my late 80s Melody Makers & NMEs, by the time I was in close enough proximity to attend one of those ‘holy grail’ festivals the line-ups didn’t hold enough interest to warrant spending three days in an increasing state of mud bespatterment. For me it has to be first & foremost about the music, maannn – I view as alien those who attend these events just for the ‘vibe’, wandering around dazed & confused, missing all the performances in lieu of some altered state of camaraderie. So when the deserving-of-huge-reward-in-the-afterlife Barry Hogan and Helen Cottage launched the inaugural All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in 2000, it was a dream come true – one of my favourite bands (Mogwai) choosing all of their favourite bands (amongst whom Shellac, Papa M, Wire, Sonic Youth, The For Carnation, Bardo Pond) to play in a seaside holiday camp where the punters had a proper roof over their heads, a plumbed-in toilet and self-catering facilities. That April weekend was one of the best of my life thus far, and subsequent ATP experiences (Shellac 2002, The Director’s Cut 2004, Slint 2005, Dirty Three 2007) similarly served up never-to-be-forgotten idyll on the English coast.

That the fine folks of ATP have over the years achieved the seemingly impossible by tempting out of retirement Slint, Television, My Bloody Valentine and now the Jesus Lizard, only adds to their legend, and to my mind you can’t have much better endorsement than that of the notoriously promoter-skeptical & festival-avoiding Steve Albini, who said “There are three things in the world that I endorse: Abbey Road Studios, Nutter Butter Sandwich Cookies and All Tomorrow’s Parties” (a somewhat healthier endorsement than that which appeared in the liner notes of Big Black’s “Songs About Fucking“: “Steve uses and endorses heroin”). Albini’s band Shellac are such regular ATP’ers that they’re now officially the “ATP house band”.

ATP flashback 01

from top, l-r: Mogwai (2005), Shellac (2004), Matmos (2005), Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy (2002), carousel horses (2007), Joanna Newsom (2007), Envy (2004)

On the return journeys after those wonderful weekends there have always been daydream conversations about “if you were curating ATP…”.

In 2007 the organizers gave form to those daydreams, introducing the concept of “ATP vs the Fans“, where the ATP folk chose half the line-up and ticket holders collectively got to select the rest (via a voting system). That concept has been resurrected for one of the May weekends in 2009, this time with the stipulation that votes can only be cast for bands that have not previously played an ATP festival in the UK. After purchasing tickets, attendees each get to submit a wishlist of 10 acts – these votes are tallied into a master list and every two weeks the top 2 names on that list are approached to play the festival (should the top 2 prove unavailable then the next 2 are approached). Of course it is unreasonable to expect people to splash the cash without some initial enticement, and the organisers more than held up their end by announcing a (to me) mindblowing first few names for their portion of the bill: the reformation of the Jesus Lizard!!! the reformation of Sleep!!! Anti-Pop Consortium!!! Grails!!!

On the basis of those four alone this became a must-attend event for me, and tickets have duly been procured and votes cast. Excluding bands that have previously played these awesome festivals was a tough assignment, as so many of my favourites have already appeared, but in the end the difficulty was reducing the list down to just ten.

ATP flashback 02

from top, l-r: Ganger (2000), Slint (2005), Camber Sands (2002), Múm (2005), Zeni Geva (2002), Dirty Three (2007), Camber Sands (2005), Boredoms (2004), Low (2002)

So now the wait in hope that I’m not too far out of step with the other attendees, and that at least some of my choices end up playing.  So far no good, with only two of those choices – Future Of The Left and Jesu – scoring high enough to be proffered an invite (which FotL have duly accepted, still waiting on Mr JK Flesh). Of the current list of 100,  only a handful of my choices are languishing in the lower reaches of the chart, so it seems I’ll have to rely on a ‘wildcard pick’ to see any more of my wishlist tread the Butlins boards in early May, but there is still plenty of time to go so I remain hopeful. None-the-less, with recent confirmations from Electric Wizard, Alan Sparhawk’s Retribution Gospel Choir and Qui, offers out to Neurosis, Killing Joke, Wolves In The Throneroom, Harvey Milk and Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, and faith in the further choices of the ATP curators, the line-up for “ATP: The Fans Strike Back” promises to be an awesome one and I’m already gleefully rubbing body parts in anticipation of my May trip to the wilds of Minehead!

On the Mixtapes page you’ll find a companion-compilation to the 2007 ATP which was curated by Dirty Three.


My votes went to :
Alasdair Roberts
Boduf Songs
Future Of The Left
Scout Niblett
These New Puritans
The Young Gods

The votes of my unmarried female companion :
Aesop Rock
Alasdair Roberts
Boduf Songs
Scout Niblett
Whip / Timesbold


Jason Molina + Okkervil River @ Crossing Border festival, Den Haag (23-Nov-2007)

Jason Molina @ Crossing Border festival, Den Haag

I arrived too late to see anything much of Okkervil River, but lucked into catching a live radio session from Okkervil’s Will Sheff later on. Then scored front-row seats for Jason Molina‘s solo set of electric blues. Molina, typically polite and humble, disappoints his hard core of Dutch fans (who identify themselves by their unanimous snappy correction of the MC’s mispronunciation of “Songs: Ohio“) by drawing from his last handful of releases and not playing any Songs: Ohia material. I too would love to hear him play some of his earliest songs – but Molina is a searcher, not looking back: this is a man who purportedly will play songs at nights like this that he wrote that same morning.

See Molina play “Memphis Moon” @ Crossing Border here

Qui + Future Of The Left @ Paradiso (bovenzaal), Amsterdam (26-Nov-2007)

Future Of The Left finally arrive in the fine city of Amsterdam and deliver another acerbic, eloquently nonsensical set of short sharp sonic slams. Although ostensibly the support act to Qui, they are demanded back by the baying crowd for an instrument-abusing & drum-kit-disassembling encore. And all my FotL-stalking bears fruit: this is the first time I’ve ever had a song devoted to me, the particularly appropriate “Small Bones Small Bodies”!

Better Bovine Than Equine

Better Bovine Than Equine? (gevelsteen, Leiden)

David Yow now prowls menacingly rather than the all-action style he was renowned for when playing with Jesus Lizard, but that adds a tension to his performance – the audience never sure if he will flail off the stage when Qui hit one of their riff-peaks. He only leaves stage once, probably less from intent than from the unbalancing effects of excessive alcohol consumption…

See Qui play “Today, Gestation” @ Paradiso here

Jesu + Fear Falls Burning @ Paradiso (bovenzaal), Amsterdam (05-Dec-2007)

Jesu @ Paradiso, Amsterdam

Justin Broadrick is a supremely talented and influential musican – with a genre making-and-breaking history that takes in teenage inventor of grindcore (Napalm Death), a stint behind the kit with Head of David, the almighty mighty Godflesh, macro-dub infection (Ice, Techno Animal) and various breakbeat incarnations.
So yes, tonight I come to worship at the altar of JK Flesh, at his harmonics-bouncing-off-the-roof-of-hell guitar and his incredible way with machines. Jesu, the misty early morning light to Godflesh’s dark corners, is now a fully-fledged band, Broadrick augmented by longtime-collaborator Diarmuid Dalton on bass and drummer Ted Parsons, another with a special musical pedigree: Swans, Prong, Foetus, Godflesh amongst many (mostly dubbed-up) others. Parson pounds with precision and power, Broadrick’s programming filling in the spaces between and meshing perfectly with Parson’s biomechanical beats and Dalton’s low-end pulses. And then there is that guitar

State-X / New Forms festival @ Pard van Troje, Den Haag (14&15-Dec-2007)

State-X / New Forms festival @ Pard van Troje, Den Haag

from top: Killl, Michael Gira, Scout Niblett, Sunn O)))

An excellent two-night festival split across the multi-roomed Pard van Troje venue in The Hague. Catch the close of melodic Scottish indierockers The Twilight Sad‘s set, before then being put through the wringer by Norweigian math-metal supergroup Killl with their strobe assault, eye-twisting backdrop and extremely precise (and loud!) power-electronics-augmented Viking riffage. The night ends with an uninspiring (DJ?)set from Aphex Twin, too populist in its intent but insufficiently groovesome to get the crowd going.
Night #2 starts with another superb Michael Gira performance (always in humble good (dark) humour), shining a cleansing, burning white light on all our failures and inadequacies . Unfortunately then have to make the difficult choice between Jesu and Scout Niblett, Scout winning through having been treated to Jesu in Amsterdam 10 days previously. She again delivers in spades, quickly winning over the first-timers with her powerful combination of kickass and fragile. It’s the first Scout gig I’ve seen where she doesn’t take a turn to bash at the drums, which disappoints some of us but ends up making for a powerful performance with her grungy guitar riffage well underpinned by Kristian Goddard‘s hard-hitting drums.
The night ends with Sunn O)))‘s pagan drone worship, their innards-massaging rumbles nicely filling the large space of the main venue.

Aesop Rock @ Melkweg, Amsterdam (05-Feb-2008)

Aesop Rock @ Melkweg, Amsterdam

Aesop, ably assisted by New York compadre Rob Sonic and DJ Big Whiz’s Wheels Of Steel, brings peace & good times to the Melkweg. By the closer “Daylight” he has the whole crowd signing along to his tongue-twisting rhymes, and before that we’re treated to plenty of songs from his recent “None Shall Pass” album and some amazing cuts from Big Whiz (when Aesop instructs him to “take us into outer space” in the midst of “Bring Back Pluto” he even adds some theremin caressing  to his dextrous fingerplay). Songs like “Fast Cars”, “39 Thieves” and “Commencement At The Obedience Academy” are all fist-pumpingly great, the animated skulls and bunnies of Jeremy Fish providing a suitably left-field backdrop.

Whip @ De Nieuwe Anita, Amsterdam (12-Feb-2008)

De Nieuwe Anita is the very definition of “gezellig“, a converted ground floor & basement apartment in a large residential block on a wide Amsterdam street, where you can have a beer while you get your hair cut. Whip brings his shy acoustic blues free-of-charge to the small appreciative crowd packed into the basement performance space (I later learn that Jason Merritt’s claustrophobia kicked in and left him messed up for a couple of days after). His “Atheist Lovesongs To God” release had him sounding like an early Palace-era Will Oldham, but his newer songs show him ploughing his own furrow.

Here is Whip‘s cover version of Billy Idol‘s “White Wedding”, from the “Bridging The Distance” benefit compilation on Arena Rock.

Whip – White Wedding Chart (weekly)

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