Archive for the ‘events’ Category

LIVERPOOL SOUND CITY – Day Two

June 4, 2013

Day two commences with math-pop heroics courtesy of Vasco da Gama. Difficult to dislike a band with such fluid mastery of musicianship, especially when they’re so goddam modest about it. There’s frequent nods to The Dismemberment Plan and Dischord Records, but for all their clever arrangements, there’s a lingering suspicion that they’re a pop band at heart. Winning choruses mesh perfectly with the frenetic fretwork of guitarist Chris Lynn, leaving early evening revellers dazed but excited.

It’s a shame that the equally energetic Hands don’t attract a bigger crowd – their forthcoming Synaesthesia album ranks amongst the most immediately catchy collections to bolt from the Kill Rock Stars stable. They bounce adorably and ecstatically around the stage, with the soaring pop melodies of songs like ‘Trouble’ suggesting there’s even better to come from a band who’ve really got this ‘hooks’ thing nailed. Keep an eye out; they could well be soundtracking your summer.

Suitably cheered, we head to The Kazimier for something a little grittier, and Bad Meds are happy to oblige. Something of a local supergroup, the band includes Vasco da Gama drummer Dave Kelly and Hot Club de Paris’ Paul Rafferty amongst their number, and as such the curious cognoscenti are out in force. Theirs is a fun and frantic take on the skate-kid hardcore of early Black Flag and the Circle Jerks, replete with knowing banter (“Has anyone been signed yet? That’s the ultimate aim of Sound City, isn’t it?”) and a gloriously sludgy cover of ‘It’s Grim Up North’. Instant favourites.

Meanwhile, up the road, the much-hyped TOY decorate the Anglican Cathedral with their mountainous noise and Cousin it haircuts – given the time they’ve probably seen their music described via the shoegaze cliché ‘sonic cathedrals’, you gotta wonder if they ever imagined they’d actually play in one. As it turns out, the venue suits their sound rather well, as woozy riffs pile into each other atop a motorik rhythm section. Some of the more subtle chord changes of ‘Colour’s Running Out’ feel a little lost in the melee, but it’s a small price to pay to have your hearing blown out so magnificently.

The dashing Dan Croll is somewhat easier on the ear, and his take on classic pop songsmithery feels positively heart-warming. An evident knack for a hummable tune is enough to make every song feel instantly familiar, almost masking the dextrous subtleties of the band behind him. More of this winsome loveliness please.

The day’s final trek to the Cathedral feels, ludicrously, like the furthest Gigwise has ever had to walk, but The Walkmen are more than worth it. As dapper as ever, the band’s newfound maturity sees the majority of the set pitching for a rather more windswept approach than the energised stress of old favourites like ‘The Rat’, and it suits ‘em pretty neatly. Difficult to believe that they’re more than a decade into their career when their manifest enthusiasm still feels so fresh.

It’s been a pretty stellar day thus far, and Gigwise begins to worry that something is bound to suck at some point. And so we come to the tipsters’ faves Savages – on hand to prove that if you’re gonna be bummed out, it should owe a debt to their own high levels of menace and intensity – they’ve drawn plenty of comparisons to Souxsie & The Banshees, but the taut funk of their basslines owes just as much to the hypertension of The Bush Tetras, while Gemma Thompson’s strafes of white-hot atonality flash across the stage like electric storms. Every song drips with vitality and purrs venomously: once bitten, you’re lost to ‘em forever. Band of the weekend? Don’t bet against it.

Melody’s Echo Chamber present a much more relaxed affair, as their dizzy psychedelic alt pop proves to be much less acrid. Their delicacy serves as a neat counterpoint to their tendency towards off-kilter shonkiness, making them lovably delirious in the best sense possible.

Over at Leaf, The Still Corners seem to be struggling with technical difficulties that delay their set by a full half hour. When their reverb-drenched indiepop finally gets going, there’s a palpable sense of relief, albeit underpinned by a sense of irritation that it’s taken this long to get going. As a result, Gigwise ends up at the back of the queue for Thee Oh Sees, whose sweat-drenched set creates such demand that the rickety old Kazimier struggles to cope. There are angry scenes as waiting punters realise they won’t get to see the show, but what we eventually manage to catch amounts to a furious blast of psyched-out garage rock. Bodies spill over the monitors as the heaving moshpit flings itself back and forth with reckless abandon; sweat-sodden riffs riding hip-swaying basslines that pummel the guts and spill out the messy yards of intestine within. You can’t help but love a good rock show.

Speaking of which, that’s precisely how Future Of The Left opt to close out the day’s events, spraying a rowdy 2am crowd with gallons of molten riffage and barbed witticisms. The somewhat inebriated audience dances, screams and collapses into dazed heaps on the ground, surrendering to the forceful rage of the band… but that’s nothing compared to what happens when FOTL unleash two classics by frontman Falco’s previous outfit Mclusky. ‘To Hell With Good Intentions’ sees the first outbreak of pure euphoria, while the bon mots of ‘Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues’ amount to a twisted singalong with everyone’s shit well and truly lost. They close with a cover of Andy Kaufman’s infamous ‘I Trusted You’ – a helluva song and bona fide contender for greatest piece of performance comedy ever devised. Which is as decent a summation of this Cardiff quartet’s modus operandi as you could possibly desire. Bed time approaches – not with a whimper, but a full-on roar.

(Originally published by Gigwise, 06/05/2013)

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LIVERPOOL SOUND CITY – Day One

June 4, 2013

There’s few cities that can match Liverpool in the self-mythologising stakes. Football, art, camaraderie, that (in)famous ‘sensa yuma’… yes indeed, in terms of towns that loved to toot their own horn, the focal point of Merseyside would be up there with the best of ‘em. Maybe it’s down to the rich history as a port town; the former gateway to the United Kingdom. Perhaps it’s an extension of the embattled siege mentality that developed during a certain former government’s attempts to crush the industrial towns of the north. Who knows? But if there’s one area in which this place can truly claim to know its stuff, it’s pop music. Forget what you know about jingly-jangly Scousepop and cheeky chappie stoners; we’re talking about an area that’s experienced a genuine cultural renaissance in the past decade, and it’s pretty darn thrilling to see the place in such fine form.

Ok, we’re nearly done with the rhapsodising, but Sound City is as close to an encapsulation of Liverpool’s pop prominence as you could ask for. For Gigwise, the festival kicks off with a brief look at local lads Coffee And Cake For Funerals, whose silky r’n’b-tinges attract an impressive crowd early on day one. It’s about as far away from Merseybeat as you could imagine: subtle guitar chimes float spectrally atop dubstep-informed basslines and complex rhythms, making for an unexpected treat. Ok, some of their choruses sound as though they’ve been lifted from The James Arthur Guide To The X-Factor, but one suspects their ambitions are somewhat different to those of, say, James Blake. Either way, it’s a solid start.

We amble enthusiastically up the hill to the cavernous Anglican Cathedral, where The Loved Ones take advantage of their surroundings to break a few hearts with their understated folktronica. It’s cheating really – just as you think you’ve had all you can take of beardy fellas playing sad songs on acoustic guitars, along comes a band who nail the whole shebang perfectly. The ethereal cry of ’Wonderful Life’ sends us sniffling into the early evening, just in time for Kepla’s addictively weird set at The Kazimier. Electronic pulses bleed organically into one another, twisting and turning almost unnoticed into completely different rhythms before you’ve even had time to notice, while jarring blasts of sheet metal strafes keep you on your toes. The set ends with a wry grin from Kepla dude Jon Davies, and our toes continue to tap long after the beats have subsided.

Across to the Garage, and Esco Williams has the crowd eating from the palm of his hand. His brand of r’n’b is slick, commercial as hell and phenomenally catchy, but for all his gratitude and nice-guy smiles, it’s easy to see that his mind is set on bigger things. To that end, here’s the Gigwise conclusion: these songs are fun right now, but they won’t quite set the world alight – stick him in a studio with Andre 3000 or Frank Ocean on production duties and let’s see some sparks really fly. By now we’re just about ready to check out one of the acts hailing from beyond the city boundaries, and we trudge back up to the Cathedral for Noah And The Whale. Such an easy band to dislike, what with their university lecturer dress sense, unerringly affable politeness and propensity for inoffensive melodies that your mum probably likes. And it’s difficult to imagine that a band named after Wes Anderson’s head cameraman would do their best to be anything other than self-consciously odd. Luckily the band’s neat line in morose grandiosity proves to be their strength, and whilst they may not be the most mind-bendingly out-there beat combo on the block, their budget Arcade Fire- isms sure get the crowd going.

Timetable disruption means we only catch the final song of PINS’ set, but a stirring rendition of ‘Luvu4lyfe’ demonstrates why so many people are coming round to their feral, Lydia Lunch-indebted howl. Meanwhile Oneohtrix Point Never proves to be one of the day’s highlights, blasting other-worldly collages of fractured noise over glitchy, textured electronica. Like all the best acts who propped up the Warp and Rephlex stables in the 90s, Oneohtrix keeps one ear firmly to the future, but by removing the breakbeat, he allows himself space and scope to let his imagination cut fully loose. In short, he’s fucking ace.

There’s time to check out the slackered-up fuzz of New Zealand’s Popstrangers – all feedback-drenched squalls and nonchalant wails over chunky pop melodies – before Stealing Sheep set to repairing hearts broken by The Loved Ones several hours earlier. Sound problems onstage leave the band frustrated, but out front there’s nothing to worry about – songs are played out as whispers on the wind; ghostly apparitions that charm and soothe in equal measure. Lovely stuff. There’s just time to catch the end of Lunar Module’s analogue rave back at the Kazimier, providing further fuel for the argument that electronica has truly won the day today.

There’s a few murmured enthusiasms about Leeds’ own Blacklisters, which seems wholly inappropriate given the shape, size and indeed volume of their riffs. The Jesus Lizard mastered this sort of horribly brilliant chaos years ago, but it’s an absolute joy to see this lot breathing new life into it. Frontman Billy seethes his way through every last note as the band snarl around him: jagged, visceral, hypnotic. Just the sort of thing you wanna see on a Friday night. The synth-led drama of Bastille is always going to fall a little flat after that, but they still manage to turn a beer-sozzled Garage into a full-on party. The band feed off the good vibes pinging around the room, with the immaculately-coiffeured Dan Smith bouncing majestically around the stage. All in all, not a bad way to kick off Sound City 2013.

(Originally published by Gigwise, 03/05/2013)

Videotales – Are Pop Videos Still Relevant?

June 4, 2013

(NB – news article about The Art Of Pop Video, an exhibition at Liverpool’s FACT, which closed on 26/05/2013)

From Dylan waving placards along with ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ to Chris Cunningham’s nightmarish animations for Aphex Twin, pop history is full of iconic, innovative videos. And yet, difficult though it may be to comprehend in the age of YouTube, the record industry hasn’t always valued them so highly.

Initially the pop promo was seen by old-skool rockists as commercial fluff, an advert that diverted attention from the more important matter of the music itself. MTV changed all that, as the artistic ambitions that fuelled 1980s chart pop provided a platform for directors to challenge their own colourful imaginations.

A major new exhibition at FACT – Liverpool’s acclaimed media arts centre – investigates the history of the medium, featuring over a hundred video clips ranging from Fred Astaire’s iconic ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ choreography to Spike Jonze’s stylised work for the likes of Björk and Fatboy Slim. According to curator Michael P Aust, the pop video’s “synaesthesia of music and moving pictures” is unique.

“No other art form has this: the moment when we’re moved by a song, but unable to distinguish whether this comes from what we’ve seen, or what we’ve heard,” he says. The Art Of Pop Video exhibition provides a rare chance to properly study this powerful combination. “There are no pop video museums,” says Aust. “Unlike in cinema, no canonized selection of important works has been established yet.”

It’s an apt time to look at this subject, as we may actually be in something of a golden era. Always a way for breaking filmmakers to boost their credentials, videos are currently attracting Hollywood big-hitters. JJ Abrams is directing Empire Of The Sun’s new ones, David Fincher did Justin Timberlake’s comeback vid, while the likes of Tilda Swinton and Shia LeBouef have taken high-profile starring roles recently. Videos are a rare chance to do an arty short film that people will actually see.

Newer acts are fully exploring the medium’s potential. North London troubadour Tom Hickox is the son of a classical composer, Richard Hickox, but takes his visuals as seriously as his songs. He collaborates with a new company called De La Muerte Films, and feels that music videos are more important now than ever.

“People are as likely to hear music on YouTube as anywhere else, so the visual half of that medium needs to be addressed,” he says. “Film is such a potent force, so it needs to be handled with care, but when the marriage of film and music works it elevates the song into a different realm.”

For FACT, the exhibition represents an opportunity to explore pop video in a grander context, posing questions about “what legitimises an art form,” explains programme producer Ana Botella, “and what defines our times – past the age of television into the age of accessible digital tools, the Internet and social networks.”

The technology has certainly improved over the years, but has the overall quality? “There are a hell of a lot of stylish, expensive videos out there which lack any soul or impact,” says Debbie Scanlon of De La Muerte, who’ve also made films for Dog Is Dead and Kyla la Grange. “We have the potential to be more creative now with new tools, but it’s important we still use our brains.”

So is there scope to take more creative risks, in the post-TV age? “It tends to be down to the artist and their team. We probably won’t be allowed to make that big budget elephant sex video we had in mind for One Direction,” she laughs. “But at the same time, if they decide they want to change their image…”

(Originally published by Clash Music, 24/04/2013)

DESAPARECIDOS – Manchester Academy 2, 10/02/2013

June 4, 2013

“They say it’s murder for your folk career / To make a rock record with The Disappeared” – that may not have been the cleverest line on Desaparecidos’ 2002 debut, but it was certainly the funniest. Now they’re back with new music on the way, and with Conor Oberst hinting that his long-running Bright Eyes project may have been killed off, it could yet turn out to be the most prophetic.

Still, that’s the diminutive Nebraskan all over; constantly playing with words, characters and false promises. He’ll talk enough shit to convince you that he’s a total asshole before crooning the most sensitively intelligent lines you’ve heard this side of John Darnielle, slaloming the listener in and out of false senses of security and distraction. The scamp. The reunited five onstage are a more visceral prospect than the Americana-tinged folkiemo with which Conor made his name – bassist Landon Hedges doubles up on the majority of lead vocals, amplifying the ragged howl as a deafening, punked-out ruckus sounds out. The thunderous pounding that Matt Baum’s punchdrunk drums receive would be a compelling spectacle on their own; firecrackers and explosions beneath the soaring melodies.

If there’s a real problem tonight, it’s the shitty sound that does its best to obscure the songs. So hook-drenched album opener ‘Man And Wife, The Former’ is barely recognisable until the singing starts, while the dude-punk thrills of ‘Greater Omaha’s head-nodding riff are almost totally lost to the fog. But what we can hear is riveting, with new material suggesting a second album could be a stormer. Even the old songs feel relevant and now, as opposed to decade-old nostalgia pieces. Time will tell whether the folk career is truly deceased, but for the time being The Disappeared look like a pretty good bet. Welcome back.

(Originally published by The Fly, 15/02/2013)

Love and trust and friends and hammers

July 20, 2010

Although a thick, Septemberish grey is currently hanging over us in Liverpool, it’s still summertime. Admittedly, without the dazzling sunshine of previous weeks, there ain’t nuthin’ goin’ on but the rent, motherfucker, so we’re gonna have to make this summer pretty special. WHTB is currently getting excited about the forthcoming weekend’s trip to Butterley in Nottinghamshire for the Indietracks festival – a weekend of booze, fun and indiepop in the midst of the East Midlands’ foremost railway museum. It’s been a full two years since the tent last saw daylight, and ‘excited’ doesn’t quite do justice to the anticipatory feelgood factor at WHTB HQ.

With The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart amongst the headliners, you can betcha sweet ass there’s some party heads being warmed up. There’s also a plethora of other bands (notably SHRAG) and friends that I’m pretty stoked to be seeing. It’s gonna be AWESOME. I won’t say ‘expect a full report’, because I’ve made and subsequently broken promises like that before. But hopefully there’ll be some words scribbled down to communicate my gibbering glee.

AWESOME!

recent listening:


Projekt A-Ko – Yoyodyne

Buffalo Tom – Birdbrain

Red House Painters – Retrospective

Leatherface/Hot Water Music – BYO Split Series Volume 1

Beach House – Devotion

William’s Wish Wellingtons (birthday compilation made by MD)

Guided By Voices – Alien Lanes

Guided By Voices – Box

Kristin Hersh – Hips And Makers

peace out

w x

Running behind

June 7, 2010

A few months ago, in a post about the relative merits of bands reuniting, I casually dropped in the fact that I’d bought a ticket to see Sunny Day Real Estate’s first UK show. No-one asked for one, but in any case here’s a review of sorts.

Right. It was absolutely wonderful – not quite as good as Pavement at ATP, but wonderful nonetheless. Even the opening acoustic set by Biffy Clyro couldn’t ruin the occasion. I don’t know what’s happening with all these reunion shows, but I’m sure they’re supposed to be shit.

Jeremy Enigk’s voice soared, William Goldsmith pounded away majestically and Nate Mendel looked perfectly at home – even though he surely can’t have set foot on a stage that small since the Foo Fighters’ 1997 tour. Dan Hoerner, meanwhile, wore a grin so goofily ecstatic that words cannot do it justice. Evidently he loves playing in this band.

SDRE attempt their own version of Spinal Tap's infamous 'lost en route to the stage' scene

And the songs! Good lord, the songs. The emotive pop hooks of Seven, In Circles and Song About An Angel are thrilling enough on record, but it was an almost religious experience to hear them played live. Fists aloft, inept indie dancing and gleeful expressions all round. Everything you could possibly hope for from this sort of show. The fragmented splendour of their second album was well-represented too – Theo B in particular reduced this hack to rapturous, gobsmacked beaming.

If I’m coming across as some sort of nerdy, overawed fanboy, I apologise.

Presumably it’s because I am one.

Ah well.

Smudge: The Majesty Of Tom Morgan

May 25, 2010

“It’s not the tracks, it’s where they’re leading” – Tenderfoot by Tom Morgan

We all know life’s a bitch, and it can be enough of a drag struggling through from day to day. Music’s much the same. How much time do you spend subjected to other people’s tastes and wondering to yourself, ‘when will this shite end?’ But every now and again, both life and music throw you a bone. It might not be much, but that bone can still taste like manna from the gods.

WHTB is usually skeptical of events like Liverpool’s Sound City festival – essentially a week of hip-but-not-necessarily-exciting bands coming here who might not otherwise – but this year it came with a delightful bonus in the form of Australian indie-pop-punkers Smudge.

Now, you may not have heard of Smudge, and there’s no reason to feel like you should have done either. They never attained an especially significant degree of fame, and if they were influential at all, it was barely outside of their own back yard. Their only modicum of celebrity comes from singer Tom Morgan‘s songwriting partner and de facto foil. Anyone familiar with the works of Evan Dando?

Back in 1991, the Lemonheads were touring their fourth album Lovey (also their major label debut, and their first lp not to feature founder member/frontman Ben Deily) in Australia. Dando and Morgan were introduced to each other by Nic Dalton, founder of Sydney’s Half A Cow Records, and the pair hit it off immediately. The next time they met, several months later, they began tossing musical and lyrical phrases back at each other. Eventually they wrote a song called It’s A Shame About Ray.

Dando and Morgan would also collaborate on Bit Part for the Lemonheads’ fifth album, before going on to co-write at least half of its follow-up (the under-appreciated Come On Feel The Lemonheads). Morgan speaks fondly of the process, describing it thus in 2005:

“It was never like a business arrangement, it was a product of hanging out together. We always have one guitar, we never have two guitars because people get caught up in your own little thing. So, you have to have one guitar and you hand it back and forth… Otherwise you’re playing over the top of each other, there’s no focus”

It’s strange to imagine one of the 90s’ most famously loopy rock stars forming such a disciplined partnership, especially with someone on the other side of the world, but even now the pair continue to write together or for each other (albeit sporadically).

So that’s why you might have heard Tom Morgan’s work before. He was never invited to join the Lemonheads, however, because Dando knew that Smudge was already a going concern. Indeed, by the time Come On Feel… was released, Smudge had released a series of EPs and were preparing to release their first long-player Manilow on Half A Cow.

This, and the three albums that followed, demonstrate that Morgan was more than just a source of material for his famous friend. The sound may be scruffier and the delivery scrappier, but Smudge’s heart is firmly on its sleeve – passion and sheer glee plainly audible for all to hear, and perfectly encapsulated within two-and-a-half-minute pop songs. It’s easy to see why they were much beloved of the slacker congnoscenti, since their songs fizz with the same guitar buzz that powered the likes of Superchunk, Eric’s Trip or Guided By Voices. For those bands, the sound is part of the selling tool – the lo-fi hiss that defined a generation of American indie rockers. But in the hands of this Australian trio, it merely helps to propel songs that are by turns funny, upbeat and (occasionally) resigned to their fate. There’s a warmth and… well, yeh, a humanity in their snappy, crackled pop that you rarely find in any band. Some days it’s positively reassuring to know there are folks out there who ever made records like these.

So it was great to see them turn up in Liverpool, at a free Saturday afternoon show with a BBQ. WHTB geeked out sufficiently to earn some personal dedications (and a worrying sense of fanboydom… but hey, that’s what this blog’s all about, so best quit worrying about it, eh?).

Smudge on an uncharacteristically sunny day in Liverpool

They were utterly wonderful, from the opening breeze of Ingrown to their tribute to one of “Australia’s greatest bands” (their take on You Am I’s Berlin Chair). Tom is still chirpy and sweet, Adam’s melodic basslines still brighten up even the perkiest of pop songs, and Alison is still simultaneously the sweetest of presences and a joy to watch behind the kit. In short, Smudge are still great.

They were going to play Divan, but I asked for Don't Want To Be Grant McLennan. GAH!

Fire Records has recently reissued two Smudge albums, including the classic Manilow. You’re well advised to start there. Then investigate Tom’s work with Nic Dalton in Sneeze, as well as the various other great bands the pair have been involved with over the years.

Peace out. x

All Tomorrow’s Parties (Day Three)

May 21, 2010

“Do you want a goose for breakfast?”

My third day at ATP commenced with me staring bleary-eyed at my chalet-mate Mudguard (it’s best not to question the origins of the nickname, I’ve discovered) and wondering what on earth the above sentence could possibly mean. Swiftly coming to terms with the fact that I was still on the sofa, I learned that Mudguard had been woken up by the sound of geese honking outside his window. At 9am, I was not quite tempted by his offer to kill and cook one of the unbearably loud – dare I pun, ‘fowl’ – creatures, and politely declined.

Scrambled eggs were swiftly prepared as the day’s petit dejeuner, and I slowly attempted to process the events of the night before. Resigned to the fact that I didn’t come out of it too well, whatever way I looked at it, I put Your Heart Breaks on the stereo and slowly attempted to digest the Grauniad’s family section. Lo-fi twee and articles about teenage diaries could only hold my attention for so long, however, so instead I entered zombie mode and watched the Grand Prix for a bit. It’s fair to say that I do not get the appeal of motor sports. They’re rubbish, aren’t they? Who likes motor sports? Pfft. Although I’ll concede that Grand Prix makes a good case for being Teenage Fanclub‘s best album. So maybe motor sports aren’t all that bad.

Eventually I headed out to watch Wax Fang. They’d already played one set at the festival – covering Prince’s Purple Rain album in its entirety, and in costume – which I’d missed. Everyone seemed suitably enthused, however, and I enjoyed their own stuff. They were catchy, energetic and rockin’ in a Ted Leo sorta way, but unfortunately the morning’s zombification had done me few favours in the alertness stakes. Utterly spaced out, i opted out of booze for a bit. A little focus would have been nice right about this point.

I should have loved The 3Ds. Fizzy, old-skool lo-fi indie rock always excites me, and these veterans of New Zealand’s indie rock scene were pretty darn good at it. In the end I lasted half an hour before getting the sweats, and wisely decided to get some air. Air hockey, that is! Attempts at the official festival sport, with Time For Twee and her suitably cool compatriot Pete, provided little improvement to my rapidly-deteriorating consciousness, however. When even food failed to perform as an elixir, I conceded it was time to return to the chalet for half an hour’s nap.

The doze invigorated me somewhat. Pondering that I had now managed to spend all of two and a half hours in my chalet bed, I dashed out to see The Clean. The strains of their classic Anything Could Happen drifted across the air as I made my way to the arena, and I was disappointed that they’d finished playing the song by the time that I arrived. In any case, I was swiftly alerted to the availability of curry, and finally partook in my first full meal of the weekend. Truly, I was back in the room.

I dashed back to the arena, rested and refueled, knowing that beer was welcome in my stomach again. I felt positively victorious at this stage, despite not really having any reason to. Whilst browsing the merch for Wax Fang goods (verdict: i’ll buy them on the internet), I even bumped into Stewart Lee – a WHTB hero since around 1996 when I first saw Fist Of Fun. He was polite and friendly, and agreed to a picture (although his decision to throw his hood over his head at the last second renders the photographic proof somewhat dubious).

Lee was no doubt in attendance for The Fall, of course. Sticking largely to the new album, they veered between thrilling and dull, but happily my taste for beer returned at a fast enough rate for me to enjoy Mark E Smith’s rabble. I really wanted to follow them up with Enablers‘ set, but knew I’d already seen them before and instead headed to see the potential once-in-a-lifetime set by The Raincoats. They were a scrappy post-punk mess, and totally awesome with it. Say, what about a beer?

Closing sets by The Authorities (standard garage-punk) and Endless Boogie (proficient but dull jam band) proved little to us, other than that it was time to close the festivities by drinking and dancing ourselves silly. The Crazy Horse bar provided just the disco for us, spinning a variety of 6Ts, soul, reggae, old skool hip-hop and the occasional smattering of twee. I requested Born To Run only for the DJ to look at me quizzically and ask, “Who by?” If I couldn’t have Springsteen, I was surely in need of another beer.

At 2am the disco finished and we all headed back to our chalets. Mudguard and his delightful wife were having a cup of tea before bed, and i opened a can of lager to join in reflecting on the weekend. It had been pretty ace.

Finally, I managed to spend a night in my chalet bed.

ATP rules.

All Tomorrow’s Parties (Day Two)

May 20, 2010

I awoke at 9am, two hours after going to bed. Wondering whether I was still drunk, and concluding that yes, I probably was, I reluctantly accepted defeat in the fight for more sleep and got up. Feeling woozy, but strangely not hungover, I regaled my pals with the tale of the previous evening and enjoyed a bacon buttie. Too much cannot be made of the recuperative powers of the bacon buttie – suffice to say, I instantly felt like the champion of the world.

Following a browse of the morning’s Grauniad, I wandered outside to meet up with an acquaintance from a certain respectable indiepop discussion forum (in actuality a hotbed of the world’s finest intellectuals and raconteurs, where every thread is drenched in sparkling wit). This seemed as good a time as any to indulge in the day’s first beer.

Not long later, I wandered past the main stage to investigate Blitzen Trapper. Meh. Where’s the bar? Oh, here it is. Ace.

I contemplated watching hardcore veterans Saccharine Trust, but opted instead for the FA Cup Final – a wise decision, it turned out. The game was thrilling from start to finish, including two dreadful penalty misses, a stellar performance from the woodwork and a sublime winning goal. Essentially Goliath bettered David, much to everyone’s chagrin, but it was an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon. As I engaged some West Ham fans in witty banter (read: drooled and drunkenly babbled about the current state of LFC), news filtered back that Saccharine Trust were already the worst band of the festival, vindicating my choice.

Having bumped into Pete again, I head upstairs to see Mark Eitzel, who i’d been meaning to listen to properly since about 1997. Maybe it was the beer talking, but his set was astounding. Piano-led jazz-inflected narratives of drugs and heartbreak, all sung in a silky-smooth croon and interspersed with endearing patter about his life as a Butlins Redcoat (“I got the gig because Butlins stipulated that one of their own acts performs at the festival with the indie rockers”). Constantly blurring lines between fact and fiction, it was an emotional rollercoaster of a performance. Pete and I agree that he delivered the “set to beat”.

After stumbling across yet more friends, we laughed at Camera Obscura‘s onstage miserabilism and reflected on how that deadened the impact of their show. It was all lapped up by the assembled indie kids, however, no matter how lacklustre it appeared to me. Besides, we were next to the bar.

The highlight of the weekend, however, was always going to be Pavement. Drunk as hell and excited as I could possibly be, I heard amused references to my delirious state of happiness throughout. “Look at his face!” I love Pavement. It was awesome. I couldn’t have asked for much more. Or could I? Warrington’s finest retired punk rocker GI invited us all back to his chalet for veggie fajitas, and who was I to refuse? Great stuff, and a well-needed recharge after all that excitement. Then we ran back out again for some electronic sketches and guitar doodles from Bradford Cox‘s alter-ego Atlas Sound. He was pretty good. BOOOOZE.

An incredibly fun day was capped off by an incredibly fun set from the many members of Still Flyin, and continuing the weekend’s themes, I danced and drank myself silly.

The set finished around 2am, and I decided to watch the Kahn fight. Your humble correspondent headed to the sports bar, ordered a beer and sat down in front of the big screen. Next thing I knew, a bouncer grabbed my shoulder, muttering “I’ve had enough of this,” and escorted me to the door . Discovering it had suddenly become 4:30am, I eventually learned I had been repeatedly falling asleep, and although it came as news to me by this stage, I had been repeatedly warned about it.

Too drunk for my ego to be bruised, I staggered back to my chalet, and managed to reach the sofa before passing out.

Part Three coming soon…

All Tomorrow’s Parties

May 20, 2010

After another despicable lapse in posting, WHTB has decided that the best form of self-admonishment is self-correction. Or something. So without further ado – certainly none of that apologising lark – here’s WHTB’s account of this year’s All Tomorrow’s Parties festival. Pray, do not judge this meffy soul too harshly.

ATP is a (now bi-)annual indie rock festival which takes place in the quaint setting of an old British holiday camp. Having relocated several years ago from Pontins in Camber Sands to the larger and more impressive Butlins site in Minehead, it has grown with the recent rise of so-called ‘underground indie rock. This year’s curators, the reformed Californian slackers Pavement, had sold out the festival on their name alone. Almost entirely to checked-shirted boys such as WHTB, in fact. Boys, it turns out, love Pavement.


I arrived at the festival site in something of a grump. Minehead is a lovely-looking coastal town with a beautiful shoreline, and the thought of the weekend ahead should have been enough to keep my spirits buoyed, but no. Due to a variety of circumstances too dull to relate, we were unable to check into the festival until some time towards the end of the first two bands’ sets. Avi Buffalo and Surfer Blood both featured rather highly on my ‘wanna see’ list, but no matter. There remained plenty of time to enjoy bands.

My friend Pete was heading over from New York, and so we had loosely arranged to meet up. Not having seen him in five years (other than in pixelised form) left me rather doubtful as to whether this would happen. The fates are mysterious creatures, however, and they dictated that we should walk past each other as soon as we both entered the arena. We half-took in a disappointing set by Spiral Stairs and caught up over the first of many beers. Fun!

We then moved on catch the Mariachi-drenched Americana of Calexico. A good band will always improve matters. As will a good Minutemen cover (Corona). More beer.

Next we caught The Walkmen in time to hear their hits, despite a fuse blowing onstage, causing them to abandon their set for a good five minutes. They re-emerged baffled but eager, and reminded us all that The Rat is ace. More beer.

I had eagerly anticipated Broken Social Scene, but after a promisingly noisy start, they descended into pseudo-epic rock that was a little too U2 for these ears. Beeeeeeer!

Mission Of Burma put in an early bid for band of the festival, which came as no surprise after witnessing their heroics at Camber Sands in 2006. Great stuff. Getting drunk now. That’s when i reach for myyy revolveerrrr!!! Ah, anthems.

We watched a bit of Quasi – not bad but I was getting a little band-fatigued. Had a wander. And some beer.

Next we caught the end of Marble Valley, and met up with my bud Yoshi from Still Flyin. Good guys. Beer? Again? Don’t mind if i do…!

Times New Viking are one of my favourite bands, and by this stage i was pretty darn drunk. Which was good news, of course. Around this time I stumbled across Westie from Pavement – a charming man who appeared to have time for everybody. Hewas even willing to pose for a photo with a drunken, incoherent fanboy such as myself.

After bar-hopping for a while, I found Pete and the Still Flyin boys again. Around 4:30am we somehow wandered into a packed ground floor chalet party. With a fog machine and a strobe light. WOAH. An hour or so, i looked up to see a nekkid girl dancing on a table. “I’m not cool enough for this shit,” I muttered to Yoshi, feeling a bit awkward and wondering exactly how I was going to explain this to my better half. Not short of young gentlemen willing to help her dance, the nekkid girl eventually jumped off the table, skipped across the room, jumped out of the window and ran off into the night. It was strangely poetic.

Eventually, I got back into my chalet at 7am. Drunk.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Day Two coming up…