After a somewhat brutal weekend (musically and physically) at ATP Vs The Fans Part II, it was with some trepidation that DiS loins were re-girded for its sister weekend. But actually we had a quite lovely time; maybe it was the more cohesive line-up begat from having a proper curator; maybe it was something to do with it being sold out; probably it wasn’t the uber-tetchy security (um, did they spend so long looking over the top of the girls’ cubicles as the gents’?); whatever the case, a fine weekend, and one of the better overtly indie editions.
Reaction from friends and these here boards would suggest fanboy bias perhaps made me think this was better than it actually was. I dunno. Maybe that’s the joy of fanboy bias. Fair enough, Kristin Hersh’s fondness for iffier late records Limbo and University is made pretty apparent. But, y’know, it’s all about that feral larynx, shearing through our guts like a strung-out scythe, set to those oblique talons of crunching, slicing guitar. Apparently they had to fight ATP for a soundcheck, and were right to do so; I swear I can see cracks appearing in the night as they barrel into a final run of ‘Bright Yellow Gun’, ‘Vicky’s Box’, ‘Mexican Women’ and ‘Pearl’, the air finally shattering under an absolutely brutal ‘Bea’, finally swept away by a wired, discordant ‘Mania’.
Bit of vigorous old skool mixed with a minor mental breakdown? YES PLEASE! Telling us what an awful year he’d had before attempting to flog a bunch of CDs doesn’t make for the most super-comfortable moment ever, but the holler-along, bounce-along, rage-along soapy fun to be had elsewhere more than makes up. A capella ending awesome.
Want to like this more. Can’t, really. Some sections of the crowd seem wildly enthused, but for all the moments of sonorous frenzy as Tiersen lays into his violin, this is soundtrack music that feels like soundtrack music.
Eh. It’s been oft-stated that Justin Vernon and cohorts are a formidable live force. Hmmm. Not sure their ethereal intimacy really WORKS on a stage the size of the Pavilion. Maybe it’s the weird buzzing sound plaguing them. Maybe it’s that they’re basically just boring yuppie music. Maybe.
The Breeders do not turn in the greatest set of the day, though they pull out some pretty impressive stops. Swollen to a sextet with the addition of an extra guitarist and violinist, and with a generous, affecting set that leaves behind notions of ramming last year’s Mountain Battles down our throats, the soaring, stringed-up ‘Do You Love Me Now?’ is a total high, simultaneously epic and ramshackle. No, The Breeders really win by being ‘proper’ ATP curators and getting involved with the festival all weekend; in an act of supreme awesomeness, Kelly Deal finishes The Breeders’ set, walks through the Pavilion audience with guitar around neck, saunters into Reds and then mooches up to join The Frogs onstage. And there’s more – the pair coming out to perform with an obviously delighted Bradford Cox during Sunday’s Deerhunter set, and injecting a degree of point into Mariachi El Bronx’s pleasant but entirely WTF? set for a team up on Mountain Battles' ‘Regalame Esta Noche’. Toss in Kelly’s knitting, Kim flustering Scarlett Thomas by asking the first question at her Sunday book reading, and, er, the drummer totally pwning DiS’s friend at the coconut tree climbing, and you’ve got curators who stamped their mark on the festival in entirely the right way.
This IS the best set of the day. The Canadian laptop-loathers begin by giving their entire rider out to the front rows in doodled-upon pint glasses, then lash into an LP-drenched set of hyper-kinetic awesomeness, antiquated old bits of synths chopped and changed about stage from song to songs, like some steampunk demonstration of evolutionary theory. Anybody not dancing, hugging or dancing and hugging by the time ‘Lovely Allen’ consumes us in a blaze of radiant light probably expired from excitement a ways back into the gig.
If Tricky made records as good as his shows, Maxinquaye would probably be thought of as a kind of shaky career start. Costanza Francavilla is no Martina Topley-Bird, but even when Tricky isn’t technically doing anything he still holds the stage, his presence a theatrical but entirely disquieting exercise in controlled rage and shaped menace.
Wonky harmonies, fuzzy punk overdrive, country yearning, metal poses, girl-group shoutalongs, and a seeming obsession with birds. So confused about what genre this may be that I collar a member after and ask: he shrugs and says “it’s just rock’n’roll”. Which is better than ‘neo-cowpunk’, which is what I was thinking. In any case, the perfect start to Saturday, a hefty pinch of musical smelling salts.
Angry figures in the darkness, spewing out a diamond-hard apocalypse of sound – the force of the kick drum alone feels like being shot in the head. The music's utter refusal to age is quite marvellous.
Th' Faith Healers
Start off sounding like a bunch of Nineties Lush peer also-rans. Finish like the collapse of creation, a gigantic churn of guitar spinning and roaring, hypnotic and elemental. I wish it was still going.
Bradford Cox and revolving cast (whatever happened to Whitney? Did I imagine her?) can be a bit hit and miss live, and an opening ‘Agoraphobia’ is kind of lost, too delicate to survive in the Pavilion’s vastness. But then a massive, billowing ‘Cryptograms’ wrestles everything back down and from then on this works spectacularly, the likes of ‘Hazel Street’, ‘Never Stops’ and a Krauted-up ‘Nothing Ever Happened’ shooting into the space like waves of star fire. ‘Cavalry Scars II/Aux Outro’ works as the wide-screen finale was clearly always destined to be, but the real showstopper happens early on, when the Deal sisters turn up for a floaty, FX-ed up take on The Amps’ ‘Bragging Party’, a giddy, delighted Cox surrendering his guitar to concentrate on the twin tasks of goofy backing vocals and gawping at his hosts in awe.
Times New Viking
Knowing the stage banter about Heath Ledger, drugs, etcetera is pretty much the same every time can't dispel the ramshackle glory surrounding the Ohio trio's preposterously loud pop. Yeah, it's a bit gutting that they only play for half an hour, but still worth skipping the quiz for, just about.
They take to the stage in complete darkness, save for some little torches. They commence a combustion of searing electronics and weapons-grade howls. It sounds a bit like a demoniacally possessed radio. Deep in they drop an extremely wrong take on The Specials’ ‘Monkey Man’. Feel like somebody has been teasing our pleasure receptors with an electric drill. Brilliant.
The Soft Pack
Succeed where Parts & Labor to some extent failed last weekend, successfully bringing the Pavilion’s irksome soundsystem to heel with their rock hard power-pop thrillz.
Yeah, they’re oooookay; considering how stunning some of the reformations to have taken place on these stages have been, X's appearance doesn’t really have a sense of moment to it; maybe because it’s just a stop on a longer tour, maybe because cowpunk hasn’t dated super-well. Rollicking, in a taut enough way.
Gang Of Four
They were so good at the Thurston Moore ATP... what changed? Is it that Jon King’s, er, ‘enthused’ stage antics look a bit drunken uncle-ish at a venue this big? Or could it be that their formerly razor-sharp tunes are a little impeded by awful new bassist Thomas Mcneice? They play a lot of amazing songs, and they play them quite well, but it’s not the revelation of a couple of years back.
I mean, it's Shellac, innit? Proportionally at least 20 per cent of their gigs must have been at ATPs, but that doesn't mean we should ever be complacent. They're certainly not. Todd Trainer looks like he's about to die by the time 'Steady As She Goes' comes around. Savage, precision tooled, acid splashed, barbed genius. They imply they'll be back for the December ATP. Good.