[Writing Soundtrack: Low]
Day 2 of the festival drifted into a hazy focus. Checking my surroundings, I was momentarily confused; was I in prison? What the hell happened last night? Then came the relief filled realization that this wasn’t one of HMP Slade’s finest compact and bijou holding cells, and I wasn’t going to have to give all my snout to Grouty. No, here I was in Stalag Pontins, Camber Sands, with another 2 days of musical excitement to look forward to.
Fortified by cups of tea, and Nisa shop croissants we decided that rather than spend the day in the confines of the Camber Sands Gulag, playing on the Tuppeny Falls and trying to win sufficient tokens to claim a poorly realised replica of Stewy from Family Guy, we would instead venture into the nearby town (or is it a village) of Rye. On making the short drive to Rye and parking up, I was disappointed to find there was no sea: I expected seven would be the minimum requirement. There was a castle though, with proper big cannons and everything.
Following a handy Twitter tip off (thanks Jo) we set off to seek out Grammar School Records. Walking through the door was like stepping back in time….it’s kind of like the shop in Black Books, except with records obviously. A bearded old bloke sits behind the counter listening to his jazz records, mostly oblivious to the flood of ATP vinyl junkies cluttering up his shop. I’m pretty sure you’d be buggered if you tried to pay by credit card; he doesn’t even have a till, writes down his sales in a little notebook.
Piles of second hand DVDs, boxes and racks of records, all manner of ephemera piled high everywhere; a proper Aladdin’s cave. One wall seemed to be some kind of weird art installation; old LP covers on the wall modified to have the same cats head over the central character adorning the LP sleeve. Very odd. I could have spent all day in there going through the racks of vinyl (it had that musty, plasticy smell I remember from record shops of old), but made do with a couple of purchases: LPs by The Bar Kays and Marianne Faithful, for the sake of completeness. He said he’d put them in a ‘lovely bag’ for me…proper customer service. Actually, wandering round town with a bag of records is a heady childhood memory, so I figured it best to grab a bite to eat in a local hostelry and make our way back to Camp X Ray, before I started weeping.
First band of the day was Ex Models ft Kid Millions (another band I had never head of). It was loud and fast hardcore punk all the way; which for some reason I found to be absolutely hilarious. I think I might have just been struck by a bout of mid-festival giddiness. Following that we headed downstairs to catch The Hollow Stars (again, no idea.) Apparently the lead singer was a former Deerhunter guitarist, so I went with high hopes. They started promisingly enough, with lovely ethereal 80s guitar lines over throbbing keyboards, but it eventually grew a little tiresome. It was all just a bit too po-faced and serious for my tastes. I stayed for most of the set, just in case things livened up, but became aware that I was feeling a bit grotty, so headed back cell block H for a quick shower, a change of clothes and glass of Shiraz to set me up for the afternoon.
Meeting up up at The Queen Vic for a swift one, we headed upstairs to watch The Black Lips. At least I had vaguely heard of this lot, and was informed that they had previously been banned from ATP events for unruly behaviour. I mean just exactly how rowdy do you need to be to get banned from ATP?! This boded well.
It was just what the doctor ordered; The Black Lips bringing a welcome dose of good humour, great tunes and bratty punk rock joy to proceedings. Stretched 3 across the stage in the classic Clash tradition they belted out a set of rousing pop/punk tunes, interspersed with motormouth stage banter, talking over each other like The Goonies. Not sure if they were just high on life or something more chemical, but I was sold and made a mental note to give this mob a listen once I returned to the real world.
Realising a diet of beer and cider was probably not the most healthy combination if we were to make it to the end of the day, we returned to the dungeon to feast on pork pies, cheese and wine by way of preparation for going to see Tom Tom Club. Now call me an old fogie if you will (and you probably will) but of all the new and edgy bands on the ATP bill, it was this bunch of reformed 80s funkateers I was most looking forward to seeing this weekend. I mean it’s the ryhthm section from Talking Heads for gods sake, what’s not to be excited about.
Finding a good spot on the fringes of the dance-floor (far enough away from the moshers to be safe, but not so far back that you felt like an OAP) we were treated to an hour or so of wonderful happy pop/funk fun. They’re just so sparkly! They belted out the ‘hits’ like it was still the 80s; Genius of Love, Wordy Rappinghood…utterly joyous stuff. I found myself imperceptibly doing the hands in pocket, shuffley dance that can only be done properly by fat old knackers like me. That is, I would have been doing that if my feet weren’t stuck like glue to the by now cider drenched dance-floor.
A couple of bizarre cover versions added to the fun; and added to the weird feeling of being at an 80s 6th form party, where the Geography teacher has been left in charge of the disco. Under the Boardwalk (we were praying for Bruce Willis to come onstage, but sadly no sign…) and a hilarious rendition of Hot Chocolate’s You Sexy Thing…yes that one.
The crowd began to thin a bit towards the end. Not sure if this was due to Panda Bear playing downstairs, or the hipsters just having too much fun. Well whatever it was those who headed for the exit door early missed a treat as they finished on a superb version of Psycho Killer, which left me with a massive smile as we headed back out into the by now cold and windy Camber Sands evening.
Popped back to the chalet, for essential sitting down (old, kackered, tired feet) and something decent to drink. We had by now realised that the drinks on offer at Pontins were on the whole bloody awful. So the chalet dash for well needed Shiraz was becoming something of a between band ritual. Whatever happened to the real ale stall that they had at Minehead? That at least offered something a bit different.
Last band of the day would be Deerhunter performing Mircrocastles. Now my take on Deerhunter has been that each album has got progressively more tuneful and poppy. That isn’t meant to be a criticism by the way; I am a pop music fan at heart. I just like it with a bit of weirdness thrown on top to keep things interesting. Tonight’s performance, for many reasons, was a much more angry and muscular affair than I had been expecting, while still managing to end on a note of joyous optimism.
They started like they meant business. Even gentle pop confections like Agoraphobia had new found muscularity. More than anything the evening’s performance demonstrated the group dynamic; four normal quiet guys and a hugely charismatic, oddball, loose canon front man. An incident where Lockett’s amp stopped working led to a long period of Bradford the raconteur, chatting, occasionally preaching, to his devoted audience. This was later followed by an angry violent exchange when Bradford took issue with the stage security team who were being too heavy handed with the crowd surfers, spitting water at them and quite literally losing his wig. This seemed to give the band the necessary anger to perform as the rest of the set was performed with a rage and intensity which was frankly stunning.
The good vibes were restored at the end of the set, as Bradford whispered in the ears of each of the band in turn: cue raised eyebrows, and oh fuck it, why not shrugs from each of them. As the noise reached fever pitch Bradford and Lockett jumped into the crowd, and where held aloft by an adoring crowd. The non-plussed security team were considerably more gentle this time. Bradford eventually getting back on stage to take over on bass and let the rest of the band join in the fun. A fantastic end to the evening.