[Writing soundtrack: The Black Lips]
The final day of the ATP adventure arrived with the sound of mutant gulls and retching hipsters. If you can imagine Neil Young’s Arc played on a kazoo; well that. Two nights of Pontins luxury accommodation, and the body really wasn’t holding up. Rising from my bed to meet the new day like an arthritic sloth it was time to make plans for the day. Day 3 was looking like a bit of a cracker (why is that always the way festival schedulers). With Steve Reich, Pere Ubu, Robin Hitchcock and Deerhunter on the agenda there was only one thing which was going to get me back on an even keel: copious amounts of tea and a fry up. A quick Google search located the Rye Bay cafe where the traditional full English was scoffed with abandon. Followed by a bracing stroll on the Sands, where paddling hipsters and locals eyed each other warily, we were finally set for the day.
[I should point out at this juncture that it is now almost a week since ATP; drink has since been partaken and my memory is not that great at the best of times. So if I should digress at some point about being kidnapped by pirates or some such, I have probably just drifted off into a revery or started confusing my real life with films again. Apologies in advance.]
Before partaking of further musical indulgence there was the tricky matter of Lord Sinclair’s Rock n Roll quiz to be negotiated. In a holiday camp full of music nerds this was a concern. We really didn’t stand a chance. A Twitter plea for reinforcements was made ,and thanks to @DrElfy and @Sipperana for stepping up to the plate, so we weren’t sat there like Billy no mates. In a packed Queen Vic the quiz commenced with the declaration from the quiz master that we needed to get this thing wrapped up so we could get off to watch Steve Reich at 3pm. It was never going to happen really. Now I have no idea who Lord Sinclair is, or what he does when he isn’t being Lord Sinclair, but boy can the feller talk. Dapperly dressed and permanently pissed, he kicked off the quiz in a shambolic fashion which was maintained throughout. Amusing anecdotes ran headlong into questions, making it difficult to tell if he was asking questions or just rambling on like Rowley Birkin. He was usually very, very drunk and completely hilarious.
As the minutes ticked away it was becoming blatantly clear that the chances of making the start of the first act were slim to none. A long interlude when two teams went into a ‘draw off’ to design the sleeve to the Fuck Buttons new album, ate into the time and produced amusingly literal results.
It was turning into the War & Peace of pop quizzes. However as answers to various rounds were read out it became clear that we were doing okay, and it at least wasn’t going to be a total humiliation. The raging green gilled hangovers of our fellow quizzers was working to our advantage, as various teams, and I’m quoting, ‘fucked off’. In for a penny, we decided to stick it out to the bitter end, and as the results were read out were surprised to find our names not mentioned. By some incredible twist of fate, which I can only put down to @johnfidler retching up the Marvelettes from the dark recesses of his memory, we’d only come bloody second. Well technically we were third as there was a tie break between two other teams for first place, but runners up was a good result, given the company. We didn’t win the chalet for the final ATP, but it’s still a result I want carving on my tombstone.
Following this unexpected result we raced up stairs to catch the rest of the Steve Reich. I can’t say I have ever listened to any of his work, but was aware of his reputation as one of America’s great composers and pioneer of musical minimalism. We got there about half way through to see a man playing the clarinet. That doesn’t really do justice to the sweet sounds he was making, soft melodies to rid you of even the most stubborn hangover. It was billed as the London Sinfonietta, and was expecting something orchestral for some reason, so was quite surprised as musicians stepped up to play guitars while Mr Reich himself sat down at the piano. If anyone knows the name of the piece they played next I would appreciate it if you could let me know, as its gentle, jazzy repetitive groove had me hypnotised. Just lovely. As he stepped forward to join his musicians to take a final bow, ATP roared it’s appreciation for giving us something genuinely different amongst the noise and thunder of the festival.
To celebrate our quiz victory (yes by this point it had become a bloody victory) we decided to forgo the Gallic delights of Laetitia Sadier, and go down the road to the very dodgy looking boozer for a pint of real beer and some pie & mash from the stall next door (jellied eels optional). Sadly the pie & mash stall was closed (what were they thinking?) so we headed into the pub. If you remember the scene in American Werewolf where they go into the Slaughtered Lamb, that’s kind of in the ballpark of how it felt walking in to this austere and imposing establishment. To be fair it was fine, they were quite friendly and even had a room set aside for ATP staff, so they were pretty much down with events next door.
Heading back to the Pontins remand centre for ageing anarchists, we fortified ourselves with cheese and wine before heading off to watch Micael Hurley. The scheduling of this ATP was beginning to make more sense; sometimes on a Sunday afternoon all you really want to hear is an old man singing sweet country blues about cups of tea and the workings of his digestive system. I saw him wandering around the car park afterwards and rushed over to shake his hand and tell him how much I enjoyed his set. He just looked a bit baffled to be honest. Bless.
Next up was Pere Ubu. We arrived as they were sound checking; this then turned into the gig itself as they decided to just get on with it whether anybody wanted to listen or not. David Thomas, seated and reading his lyrics from a lectern throughout was on good form. Professionally grumpy, and funny and charming with it. They rattled through a set largely drawn from their latest Lady from Shanghai album with some oldies mixed in. Sadly no Non-alignment pact, but they did do a rip roaring Modern Dance. With songs decicated to the ladies in the house and weird anecdotes about trying to write a song for Kylie, it was all good fun. [At this point I think the Pirates came for me. They stole all of my 2ps and made me walk the plank, never to play the Coronation St slot machine ever again. Surrounded by plastic sharks and Chinese replica Cartman’s I declared myself their Emperor and went onto conquer the world armed only with a stick of rock. True story.]
Having escaped pirate enslavement, and following the ritual booze refill at the chalet, we made our way up to see Robyn Hictchcock. The crowd was a little sparse sadly, the younger element having been lured away by the sweaty racket going off downstairs (Dan Deacon I think), but it did at least mean we could locate ourselves in a good position near the front. The thing I admire most about Robyn Hitchcock is that he decided to wear a black and white polka dot shirt some time in the mid 80s and thought ‘well I don’t really see any point in exploring the delights of other materials’ and has stuck with it ever since.
I first saw Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians at Glastonbury in 1986….he appeared to be wearing the exact same shirt today. I really should ask what detergent he uses. It was good to see him performing with a full band this time, including former Young Fresh Fellow & REM sideman Scott McCaughy. On chatty form, he was witty and surreal throughout, belting out a set of lovely pop-psycedelia, including a cracking version of Kingdom of Love. Bidding us farewell Robyn admonished us to look after our teeth, and never to brush anyone else’s teeth without their permission. As I’m sure Alan Partidge would say, classic Hitchcock!
Feeling weary now, final day festival fatigue starting to take hold, so we headed back for a restorative chocolate Hob Nob and polished off the last of the wine, and prayed I’d get my 4th wind. To be fair I cannot commend highly enough the reviving powers of a good bottle of shiraz. I suspect my liver may beg to differ.
We made our way back to the main stage and joined the throng waiting for Deerhunter’s final set of the weekend, a performance of Halcyon Digest. This album was my first exposure to Deerhunter, and it’s weirdly melodic pop charm had worked it’s spell on me, so this was the one I had been looking forward to all weekend. The band took the stage to rapturous applause and proceeded to play a stunning set; Revival, Memory Boy, Desire Lines…all sung along to with gusto. A touching reminiscence from Bradford about the late Jay Reatard was followed by a thunderous Coronado, accompanied by Verity Susan on sax, and ending with a stunning He Would have laughed.
Returning to the stage for the encore in a dress, Bradford spent a good twenty minutes thanking EVERYONE individually, as anticipation rose for the final songs of the evening. It was a triple bill from the new album, Dream Captain, Back to the Middle and finally a mental extended version of Monomania with every amp turned up to eleven. Perfect.
Tired but happy we decided against indulging further in final day insanity and decided to give Black Dice a miss (where they any good?). Conscious of the early start and long drive northwards in the morning I decided to crash…so tired I knew I would be asleep the moment my head hit the pillow. The gang of stoners in the chalet over the way had other ideas however and decided to sit outside my window until SIX FUCKING AM talking bollocks and being utterly annoying. With typical English reserve, instead of asking them to remove themselves from the property to continue the party elsewhere, I lay awake swearing quietly and plotting strange murder scenarios involving Komodo dragons and their genitals. It was at this point I had an epiphany: I really am a miserable sod.