Playlist #7: All Tomorrow’s Parties

This weekend The Double Negative embarks on a trip to Butlins, Minehead.  Alas, our reasons are not to watch Chico, or admire the sublime skills of the super-talented Red Coats. No, we’re off to attend the wonderful ATP!

All Tomorrows Parties, the 3 day festival that originated in 1999’s Bowlie Weekender, dutifully forms the central hub to our annual musical sojourns. We were relative latecomers to the world of ATP, never attending one in the old surrounds of Camber Sands, but we have made the Minehead Butlins our home on at least 6 occasions over the years.

Now excuse me if I journey into whimsical nostalgia, but my own experiences with Butlins go back way further than ATP.  Aged 13, a mini version of me went on a family holiday to the self-same Butlins in Minehead. It was here I was treated to my first ever live band experience. Bucks Fizz, no less! Yes, Cheryl Baker and co have the great distinction of being my first (it wasn’t all bad, as that same weekend, we were also treated to the amazing showmanship of Rod Hull, and the feathered sociopath, Emu). It’s with glee that years later, I would return to that venue, and on the exact same stage I saw Bucks Fizz whip a crowd into, erm, polite applause, I’ve seen some of the greatest live performances of my life. Les Savy Fav, Battles, Aphex Twin, Animal Collective, Shellac, Big Boi, Modest Mouse, The Melvins, Fuck Buttons, Mission of Burma…the list is endless.

Centre Stage in here has to be my favourite venue in the world. Technically, the sound is great (props to the ATP crew), but the layout and feel of the venue also surpasses all others. Unlike gigs at venues as soulless as any ‘Academy’, you always feel like you’re at an event in Centre Stage. Maybe it’s the warming glow of the neon strips at the back of the room, or the carpeted tiered seated areas. I particularly enjoy the bemused look on the bar staff’s faces when they are unexpectedly thrown into the live experience of Sunn O))).

“I particularly enjoy the bemused look on the bar staff’s faces when they are unexpectedly thrown into the live experience of Sunn O)))”

Of course, every festival is what the individual makes of it. I’ve gone expecting to focus purely of the live bands (Pavement weekend), and been a little disappointed with the shows, but that was soon replaced by a weekend of fun antics, possibly fuelled by home-made vodka jelly and enough Pear Drop flavoured shots from the bar to fuel a small family car. On the other hand, I wasn’t expecting much from a Portishead curated weekend and left blown away at the quality of bands on show. Our own group of revellers seem to have a few rituals that we always adhere to; from Pizza Hut buffet on arrival, to Saturday morning bowling, to the Sunday afternoon carvery.  All available on site.

ATP is guaranteed to throw a surprise or two your way. I can’t think of many places you’d get the chance to watch Dinosaur Jr in front of a very small crowd (still perplexed by that), or the Ricky Hatton v Floyd Maywaether fight stood aside GZA from the Wu Tang Clan, or Daniel Johnston popping up every couple hours playing a ‘secret show’. Perhaps best of all was Big Boi inviting all the ladies onto the stage, only to be horrified at the wonderful sight of indie waifs and hipster freaks that surrounded him. I’d recommend tracking down the All Tomorrows Parties Movie for an insight into a typical weekend. It’s a film that perfectly encapsulates the feel of the festival.

Our own group of ATP’ers always seem to lose a member or two over the course of the weekend. Fair to say some of that is self-inflicted. See earlier reference to vodka jelly, or the insane/genius idea of Capri Sun infused Jagermeister (very popular with ants). Sometimes, and by that I mean EVERY TIME, one of our party will bring along the lurgy. We’ve had everything from eye infections, ear infections, stomach bugs and mass man-flu bouts. That just adds to the fun though. For those needing some down-time, the chalet can provide as much entertainment as the venues. The Butlins TV channels are taken over by the weekend’s curator, which can result in some amazing scheduling, or as on one occasion a horrendous experience watching a freshly hunted deer birthing a fawn – sorry to share. It’s fair to say that anti-hunting documentary never sat well with my hung-over body.

This year we’re treated to the amazing Jeff Mangum as curator. After a self-imposed exile for several years, Jeff returned to the fore last year for a series of performances under his own name, foregoing that of old band Neutral Milk Hotel. The music of Jeff Mangum is of almost mythical status to me, so it’s fair to say that I’m a little pumped up for this weekend.

Who knows what joys await us? I do know that Friday night, Centre Stage, I shall be entertained by an amazing slew of artists with a run of Jeff Mangum, Joanna Newsom, The Fall, Thurston Moore and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion enough to make me hand in my gig-going passports as I’ll surely OD on pure joy. Just when will we have the chance to pop back for more vodka jelly?

Marc Hall

Posted on 07/03/2012 by thedoublenegative