ATP Curated by Deerhunter: Day 1 ~ A Voyage into the Unknown
[Writing soundtrack: James Brown]
There is something deeply depressing when you finally find a festival which lives up to your expectations, only to find out that it is coming to an end. My first All Tomorrow’s Parties experience was last years Jeff Mangum curated love fest at Minehead; a weekend which still lingers long in the memory as my favourite ever festival experience. So it was a toss up between TV on The Radio and Deerhunter; eventually plumping for Deerhunter despite being unfamiliar with the band, or indeed much of the line-up. So it was a real journey into the unknown as we put peddle to the metal and headed southbound to Camber Sands.
After a relatively painless five hour drive we arrived at Pontins Camber Sands, and made our way to the friendly if somewhat shambolic check in. We were giving the chalet share option a whirl, so were a little concerned we may end up with cannibal serial killers, or even worse skinny jeaned hipsters. As it turned out they had given our chalet to somebody else. Not to worry though, new digs were quickly sorted and we found ourselves with a spacious 4 berth chalet and no annoying chalet mates: result!
In typical fashion bags were quickly dumped and we headed straight to the pub, where the longstanding tradition of over doing it a bit on the first day was adhered to. After few ciders and a wander round the penny arcade (i now want a Tuppeny Falls machine installed in my kitchen) we head upstairs to catch the first act of the day, Atlas Sound. This was my first sighting of the gangly Lazarus Churchyard-like presence of Bradford Cox… the first of many on Day 1. He was charm personified as he welcomed us all to his party and then proceeded to play a solo set of weird, ethereal, downbeat electronica. I had never heard any Atlas Sound before and, if I’m being honest, found the strange soundscapes interesting rather than truly loveable. Not to demean it any way, interesting can be a good thing; exposure to new sounds is all part of the ATP experience.
We left shortly before the end to head downstairs to watch The Blue Orchids, Martin Bramah’s seminal 80s post-Fall combo. Bringing a healthy dose of Manc snarkiness and patented brand of organ driven garage-indie. They hurtled through Bed Education, Disney Boys, A Year With No Head… Being a simple soul at heart this is the stuff I love, simply arranged arsey pop music and their brilliant early evening set brought a big smile to my face.
Following a bit of a mooch, and trip back to the chalet to check if, the at this point still expected cannibal serial killers, had arrived: they hadn’t. We also, grabbed a bite to eat in the Pontin’s Sand Dunes ‘restaurant’…note to self: don’t do that again. I think my body is still trying to process what was in the food, which was in now way natural. Full of mashed up roadkill and salmonella we headed back to Stage 1 to catch the end of Cavern of Anti-matter. Being Tim Gane from Stereolab’s band I kind of wish I’d made more of an effort to catch them from the start, as it was sounding good, and I must make an effort to listen to some of their stuff. Although, we arrived just in time as Laetitia Sadier ambled on stage for an impromptu, if not entirely unsurprising Stereolab reunion…the crowd goes wild.
8.30 TBC says the line-up. Whatever can that be. Intrigued, what seemed like the whole site trooped into Stage 2 to see what it was all about. Grabbing a decent spot, stage right we waited eagerly to see what would unfold. Bradford & Lockett from Deerhunter wander on stage setting up guitars and amps, and sound checking. Expectation rises.
Then to my absolute delight Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz from Tom Tom Club join the party. It is quite hard do justice to the next 40 minutes of mind-blowing musical thrills with the mere words ‘improvised funk jam’, but in essence that’s what it was. Bradford starts playing the kind of hot funk guitar rhythms which would give Sly Stone food for thought, while the tightest, funkiest rhythm section ever to come out of CBGBs laid down the groove. And on it went, relentlessly for 40 minutes as the sweat started to drip from the ceiling. The sideways ‘oh these kids’ glances Tina was giving to Chris, whenever Bradford went off on some weird musical tangent were priceless. At one point the Bradford Cox seemed to be having guitar sex with the bass player from freaking Talking Heads!!! Like I say, hard to put into words, but to say you had to be there would seem churlish. I wandered out completely deaf and grinning ear to ear…starting to feel like ATP now.
A quick dash back to the chalet; still no serial killers. Unless they were really good at hiding. Or had been turned into mutant seagulls. Actually, its a more likely explanation that they were eaten by the mutant seagulls; they were bloody massive.
Anyway, back at Pontins central command the Breeders were taking the stage to perform The Last Splash in full, and also Pod. We arrive just in time to catch the closing bars of Cannonball…the one we obviously wanted to hear. I don’t know if it was the muddy sound, the people talking loudly near us or the fact that i was still in awe of the set downstairs, but I was distinctly underwhelmed by The Breeders.
Bradford popped on stage for his by now de rigeur cameo appearance, but it just wasn’t cutting it for me so we retired for a drink back at the chalet and prepared for Deerhunter’s first set of the weekend.
Now at this point I should confess that prior to purchasing ATP tickets, Deerhunter were a band who had escaped my radar. I had probably heard the odd single on 6Music, but had never really given them a go. Their early material, tonight performing Cryptograms in full, was very much a foreign country to me.
Bathed in blue light, Deerunter entered the fray. They are a strange looking group, Deerhunter. The band, and trusted right hand man Lockett Pundt in particular, look like a bunch of regular guys. It’s almost as if by some strange alchemy, Bradford Cox has managed to absorb all of their charisma and personality into himself, to become the force of nature that he is. Spindly effected guitar lines cut through the air over a heavy, dubby, motorik beat. Bradford wrapped around, a rather beautiful Vox Phantom, wailing impenetrable fuzzed up vocal cacophony into the night. Occasionally songs I had listened to as part of my pre-festival ‘revision’ began to swim into view; a swoony Octet, a dazzling Cryptograms, a sweetly ferocious Flourescent Grey. The band tight and well drilled, keeping their loose cannon front man on the right track. Utterly mesmerised, I found myself understanding just what the fuss was all about.
Having mainly listened to the later stuff, i couldn’t help thinking as I wandered out into the cool Camber Sands air, that the weekend’s musical delights would only get better, and better.
A suggestion that we should ‘go and find the sea’ was met by replies of, ‘don’t be so bloody stupid’, ‘it’s too dark’ and ‘I really can’t be arsed’, nevertheless, I still found myself attempting to climb a sand dune at 1am in the morning. I say climbing, more falling and landing on a handily placed timber death trap. Cue more bleating from me and a knackered ankle; i still have the bruises. Tired and emotional, limping back to a serial killer free chalet, to watch weird Tarkovsky movies on ATP TV until i finally fell asleep….just in time for the mutant gull dawn chorus to erupt like a thousand angry car alarms.