We thought one field trip wasn’t enough to do justice to the weekend’s Jeff Mangum curated ATP, so we went ahead and made it a two-parter…
On balance, we reckon you’ll agree with that decision. The only problem was, given the high frequency of quality on Friday evening, could the rest of the festival possibly measure up?
Saturday started with an unscheduled lie-in following the Blues Explosion’s high octane, late-late show the night before. This meant we were fresh as daisies when The Apples in Stereo rocked up to Centre Stage, sometime around 5pm. Fronted by the influential Elephant 6 co-founder Robert Schneider, TAiS have forever been a band on the periphery of our radar. This changed within the first song of their set, a performance we can only describe as distilled joy, met with obvious enthusiasm by an audience seemingly imbued with the urge to dance with abandon. And no wonder, with tracks as infectious as Ruby, Hey Elevator and Energy (the video of which is directed by Elijah Wood) providing fuel for a fire stoked right from the opening bars of their set. The performance, as you may have guessed, was the highlight of our Saturday; pretty good going considering the second Joanna Newsom set and Low were still to come.
Early Sunday was a triumph of serendipitously good timing – more luck than judgement, but still. Having missed the first Boredoms set the previous day (that lie-in we mentioned), we had them in our sights as the first live act of the final day of the festival. But there was a problem; they looked like clashing with a Q&A with filmmaker Lance Bangs. If we had to miss one, it would have to be Boredoms, it wouldn’t be coming down to a toss of the coin. The reason for our fervour? Bangs’ CV reads like a who’s who of TDN’s favourite bands, with Sonic Youth, The Thermals and Pavement just some of those he’s worked with. Here to preview his forthcoming film, Breadcrumb Trail, about iconic Louisville band Slint, Bangs is engagingly humble, treating us to extended clips of the film, talking us through key sections. A word of warning though, if you’re a big Slint fan, the film threatens to explode some of the mythology around the band you may prefer to stay in the dark about. That’s all we’ll say.
Screening over, we checked our watches and crossed our fingers in the hope we’d be in time for the majority of Boredoms. We had nothing to worry about; catching the lion’s share of a set from a band famed for their bespoke performances, at the centre of which is band leader and de-facto conductor, EYE. Employing five drummers and a 14 guitar high ‘tree’, the performance is a mixture of throbbing energy and mesmerising drone, the like of which we’ve never previously seen or heard. A mind-expanding experience.
Our hit-list of the rest of the evening’s listed line-up comprised the Sun Ra Arkestra, Magnetic Fields, and Sebadoh. If SRA were much more than pleasantly surprising, Magnetic Fields were quietly underwhelming, appearing and sounding as if to work their way through the set rather than enjoy themselves. A little harsh perhaps, there were moments of light relief from a band visibly making an effort, but that ‘visibly making an effort’ bit kinda sums it up. Unfortunately for Lou Barlow and company, we failed to get through more than a handful of Sebadoh’s Centre Stage closing performance. Rumours abound that the Elephant 6 gang would be making an unscheduled appearance down in the more intimate Reds stage, so we took a chance and headed on down.
The rumour quickly proved reality, the Holiday Surprise gang taking up positions on stage. Even better, they were joined by various members of the Sun Ra and Boredoms crews, all shot by Lance Bangs no less. On Friday, we’d cursed ourselves for arriving late for the E6HS, guessing we’d probably missed out on something unique in the process. If this surprise cameo was anything to go by, we were spot on, as various band-members vacated the stage, Scott Spillane and Julian Koster passing right by us playing an indulging tuba/saw duet on their way. Special is the word, which for us, pretty much sums up the All Tomorrow’s Parties experience.