Wednesday, 30 December 2009

New Year Noise in Dirty Ol' Manchester

As usual January is thin on gigs, which is a blessing if all the venues don't turn the heating on during snowstorms like the misers at the Kings Arms. The last gig I went to in 2009 was upstairs in this Salford pub. I watched Serpentine Pad, Stray Light, Fat Elvis and a band with no name play very short sets. I was wearing two coats, a shirt, three T-shirts and a jumper and still I was so cold I had to go and warm up using the hand dryer in the toilet. The next day I almost coughed up my right lung with pneumonia. At least they serve nice real cider, not that corporate chemical bubbly crap Strongbow. Don't book a gig there in the winter though.

%%% January %%%

16 Stupids / Revenge of the Psychotronic Man - Retrobar £5 7.30pm-2am

16 Former Bullies / Irma Vep - Islington Mill FREE

17 Vivian Girls - Deaf Institute £8

18 Rolo Tomassi - Deaf Institute
Yes this venue has heating, and they use it!

20 Baroness - Islington Mill

28 Marble Valley - Dulcimer
A great fun gig from Pavement drummer's other band. You missed it?

29 Danny Saul and some other musicians - Kings Arms, turn the heater on misers!!! £3 plus big some spare cash for the electric metre and hope the neighbours don't complain.

30 Plank! / Former Bullies / Gideon Conn / Pens - Jabez Clegg, starts 10pm, Plank on at 6.15, over a tenner on the door with lots of bands who might be quite boring? Friends of Mine festival

31 Lou Barlow - Deaf Institute £10

%%% February %%%

4 The Ex and Brass Unbound / Zun Zun Egui - Deaf Institute £8
This could well be gig of the first bit of the year

6 She Keeps Bees - Dulcimer

8 Dan Friel / Plank! - The Corner

11 Beach House - Islington Mill (Pineapple Folk) £9

12 MV & EE / The Doozer / Irma Vep - Islington Mill (Golden Lab) £6

14 Hot Pants Romance afternoon prom - Islington Mill

15 Crash of Rhinos / Wooderson / NASDAQ / Well Wisher - Satan's Hollow
NASDAQ is FTSE 100 playing different music

22 Serpentine Pad - Tiger Lounge (The Big Dig) FREE

23 Xiu Xiu - Islington Mill (Wot God Forgot)

24 Salford Concert Series w/ Toshimaru Nakamura - Islington Mill

25 Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra / DBH - Green Rom £3

26 Moloch - ex-Army Of Flying Robots - raw, brutal, doom-rock, riffs, greatness -
Closure - Leeds grindcore plus heavy slow bits - good band
Stinky Wizzleteat - top-notch Brummy sludge-stoners
We Happened Next - local thrash duo - lightning fast, gr - Royal Oak, Chorlton

27 Plank / Klaus Kinski; unpredictable disco-noise-bash /NASDAQ - Fuel £3

28 Kong / Apes Fight Back - Ruby Lounge


1 Plank! support DD/MM/YY - Ruby Lounge

5 LoneLady - Ruby Lounge

7 White Hills / Pontiack - Ruby Lounge

11 Retribution Gospel Choir - Ruby Lounge (Wot God Forgot) £8
Low's Alan Sparhawke's harder rockin' trio

11 Autechre - Pure... OOPS Big Gig Clash!!!
Rock hellfire vs. mouse pushers, where is Pure anyway?

19 Former Bullies - Night and Day

20 Lightning Ensemble featuring Evan Parker

Evan Parker: Saxophones
Richard Scott: Buchla Lightning
Stephen Grew: Piano
Phillip Marks: Percussion

Cross Street Chapel

20 The Stranglers - Academy

21 A Silver Mount Zion - Academy

22 The Album Leaf - Deaf Institute

25 Picastro / Paddy Steer - Dulcimer

26 Bad Uncle - Fuel

27 Neil Young tribute /open mic - Fuel

28 The Noise Upstairs - Fuel

31 Former Bullies - Trof Northern Quarter

2009 Albums

These are all the albums released in 2009 that I listened to and enjoyed, in approximate order of preference. I expect I'd like the new Pelican album too, but I haven't heard it yet! No doubt I'd also like Flipper's Love album if I could actually find a copy in a shop.

Fennesz - Black Sea (Touch)
Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medecine - The Audacity of Hype (Alternative Tentacles)
Melt Banana - Lite Live ver 0.0 (A-Zap)
Dinosaur Jr - Farm (Pias)
Mission of Burma - The Sound The Speed The Light (Matador)
Big Sexy Noise - Big Sexy Noise (Sartorial)
PJ Harvey and John Parish - A Woman A Man Walked By (Island)
Arbouretum - Song of the Pearl (Thrill Jockey)
Tortoise - Beacons of Ancestorship (Thrill Jockey)
Faust - C'est Com... Com... Complique (Bureau B)
Soulsavers - Broken (V2)
Califone - All My Friends Are Funeral Singers (Dead Oceans)
Tara Jane O'Neil - A Ways Away (K)
James Blackshaw - The Glass Bead Game (Young God)
Yo La Tengo - Popular Songs (Matador)

Obits - I Blame You (Sub Pop)
Nancy Elizabeth - Wrought Iron (Leaf)
Flaming Lips - Embryonic (WEA)
Meat Puppets - Sewn Together (Meat Puppets)
Dalek - Gutter Tactics (Ipecac)
Alice Donut - Ten Glorious Animals (Alternative Tentacles)
Oneida - Rated O (Jagjaguar)
Part Chimp - Thriller (Rock Action)
Evangelista - Prince of Truth (Constellation)
That Fucking Tank - Tanknology (Gringo)
Slumberwood - Yawling Night Songs (A Silent Place)
Lisa Germano - Magic Neighbor (Young God)
Lou Barlow - Goodnight Unknown (Domino)
Daniel Johnston - Is and Always Was (Feraltone)
Therapy? - Crooked Timber (DR2)

Yellow Swans - Mort Aux Vaches (Staalplaat)
We Be the Echo - Masks (Chuckbeat)
Action Beat - The Noise Band From Bletchley (Truth Cult)
The Present - The Way We Are (Loaf)
Sweat and Skin - Lovetune for Vacuum (Pias)
Tarwater - Donne-Moi La Main (Gusstaff)
Githead - Landing (Swim)
Lightning Bolt - Earthly Delights (Load)
Stranger Son of WB - Einstein's Getaway (White Box)
Mountains - Choral (Thrill Jockey)
Gilded Palace of Sin - You Break Our Hearts We'll Rip Yours Out (Central Control)
Sleeping Dog - Polar Life (Gizeh)
Mark Eitzel - Klamath (Decor)
Anni Rossi - Rockwell (4AD)
Joe Gideon and the Shark - Harum Scarum (Bronzerat)

OOIOO - Armonico Hewa (Thrill Jockey)
Jim O'Rourke - The Visitor (Drag City)
Samson and Delilah (Little Red Rabbit)
David Grubbs - An Optimist Notes the Dusk (Drag City)
Hanne Hukkelberg - Blood From A Stone (Leaf)
Sonic Youth - The Eternal (Matador)
Thee Oh Sees - Help (In the Red)
Six Organs of Admittance - Luminous Night (Drag City)
Ben Frost - By the Throat (Bedroom Community)
Chuck Prophet - Let Freedom Ring (Cooking Vinyl)
Magik Markers - Balf Quarry (Drag City)
A Hawk and a Hacksaw - Deliverence (Leaf)
Jackie O Motherfucker - Ballads of the Revolution (Fire)
Vowels - Pattern Prism (Loaf)
Kalbakken - Then I Saw Summer and Sun on the Earth (Little Red Rabbit)
Jack Rose and the Black Twig Pickers - Beautiful Happiness
Nurse With Wound - Paranoia in Hi Fi (United Dirter)
Shiggajon - Fire Sange I Gul Og Rod (Singing Knives)
Pissed Jeans - King of Jeans (Sub Pop)
Radian - Chimeric (Thrill Jockey)
Speck Mountain - Some Sweet Relief (Carrot Top)
Bowerbirds - Upper Air (Dead Oceans)
Starless and Bible Black - Shape of the Shape (Static Caravan)
Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard - 'Em Are I (Rough Trade)
Blk Jks - After Robots (Co Op)
Pere Ubu - Long Live Pere Ubu! (Cooking Vinyl)
Digital Leather - Warm Brother (Fat Possum)
The Courtesy Group - Tradesman's Entrance (Ma Doocey)
Debbie Leggo - Debbs Leggs (Fire)
Jim Jones Revue (Punk Rock Blues)
David Cronenberg's Wife - Hypnagogues


Magazine - Play
Loop - A Gilded Etrenity
Loop - The World in Your Eyes
Daniel Johnston - Hi How Are You?
Daniel Johnston - Yip Jump Music
Subhumans - Death Was Too Kind
Flipper - Generic
Flipper - Gone Fishin'
Flipper - Public Flipper Limited
Flipper - Sex Bomb Baby

Six that got away!

I was bound to forget a few albums I enjoyed and these were those:

Mudhoney - Live at El Sol (Munster)
Pontiack - Maker (Thrill Jockey)
Foetus - Limb (Ectopic Ents)
Moebius - Kram (Klangbad)
Hayward / Coxon / Thomas / Taylor - About (Treader)
Mono - Hymn to the Immortal Wind (Human Highway / Conspiracy)

And how could I forget...

Bardo Pond - Peri (Three Lobed)
...and the other five Bardo Pond related albums from the Nightmare that might have been released in 2008 or 2009
Bardo Pond - Volume VII CDR
Sunn O))) - Monoliths and Dimensions (Southern Lord)
The Drones - Havilah (All Tomorrow's Parties)


Melt Banana - Initial T (Init)
Melt Banana / Young Widows (Temporary Residence)
Nightmarchers - Scene Report
Nightmarchers - Mystery Machine
Soulsavers - Sunrise (V2)

Ten Years of All Tomorrow's Parties: Sunday

Shellac played first every day at Camber Sands when they curated ATP so that they could kick back and watch all the other bands they'd chosen. They revisited that time by opening the Sunday afternoon noise feast, and a better way to start Sunday afternoon you'd be hard pushed to find. That is of course unless you were dumb enough to drink way too much on Saturday and felt like shit. Since I only had a couple of glasses of wine, I was in there early right down the front in the trajectory of the guitar amp. Steve Albini has a great vicious ripshit guitar sound and its good to get as much of it as possible while you can before he forms his body in the shpe of a plane and flies off over the city looking for a poker game. Luckily Todd Trainer's hairdresser hadn't broken down, so he flailed inimitably at the drums at the front of the stage, making hilarious moves only occasionally upstaged by Steve. Maybe someoen should buy him a studded TT leather jacket? There were a few songs repeated from their previous day's performance, and the song lots of people had been wanting to hear, "Prayer to God" was upended over our ears in a slower more restrained holy day fashion. "The End of Radio" had some very ad libbed vocals, still open ended and mutating apocalyptically to fit any occasion. Bob took some question while Steve tuned his guitar, as is customary at Shellac gigs, so I asked why they had played at the same time as the Dirty Three on Saturday. He replied, "So that you couldn't see us twice." Hell, I've seen both bands so many times I've lost count so missing half a gig here and half a gig there isn't the end of the world, not just yet anyway. The man who once made "Songs About Fucking" had complaints about fucking. It seemed two of Steve's neighbours had been at it all night yelping and groaning loud enough to keep him up, so he kindly requested they stay chaste between the hours of 2am and 7am so that he could catch some sleep. There was an excellent new song played near the end that seemed to tell the story of the same war bloodied character they'd lamented the previous day. They also played "Killers" which I don't recall hearing them play live before, and that old Festive Fifty favourite "Crow." Last came "Spoke" with Bob and Steve dismantling the drum kit as Todd played on until there was just one drum left. Steve carried Todd off the stage to a jolly good round of well deserved applause.

The Magic Band kicked into "Click Clack" just as I got a coffee and I headed on up to the front of the Pavillion stage. They'd been the highlight of the Autechre ATP, a blessed relief from an overdose of laptop mouse shufflers. Apparently they'd been dormant and might have remained so had Barry Hogan not requested their presence at Butlins. At first I thought Gary Lucas had revealed himself to be a renegade Timelord, and regenerated to a younger incarnation. He hadn't made it over and had been replaced by a younger but no less able guitarist dressed in a suit and tie. The drummer was also a youngblood, keeping those complex beats for portly Rockette Morton and Denny Whalley to weave magic within. Armed with hat and harmonica Drumbo headed up the retro party, taking in songs mostly from "Troutmask Replica," "The Spotlight Kid," "Clear Spot" and "Shiny Beast." as he'd said at Camber Sands back in 2003, he wasn't trying to fill Beefheart's shoes, but as his biggest fan, pay homage to his songs. When he asked if anyone had any questions I asked who the guitarist and drummer were, but he misheard and thought I'd asked if he wasn't playing the drums. So that was two bands in a row who I'd directed a question to.

Deerhoof were cute and angular in their funny little way, playing a cover of "All Tomorrow's Parties." Someone had to do it! The small singing bassist apologised for nauseating someone or other and between songs I walked about shouting, "We wanna be free to do what we wanna do, we wanna ride our machines without being hassled by the man! And we wanna get loaded!" Yes, I was waiting for Mudhoney. They took their time setting up, and then really weren't loud enough, but made up for that with probably the most energetic performance of the weekend. I was down the front until they played "Touch Me I'm Sick" and the crowd went wild. I'd seen them too many times to count, and they have never failed to play a great, fun gig and make it seem like there is nothing better to do than play in a rock'n'roll band.

Explosions in the Sky should be called Sanity Clause and His Bobbing Elves due to the way they sound like Christmas and the way they move about on stage. When they play the quiet bits they have to sit down rest after tossing their guitars up and down in the noisy bits. I liked them more when I didn't look at the stage. I liked them a lot more when they were playing gigs to fifty to a hundred people, and didn't ham it up so much, but they still make nice music.

Sunn O))) were even better than the day before, playing a choirless rendition of "Monoliths and Dimensions." Carbon dioxide billowed, bass drones ruptured realities and a new world formed from clouds. The singer screamed like hellfire and intoned magickal incantations, as smoke poured from his cowled body, purging our environment of Fuck Buttons' crap drum machine which could occasionally be heard rattling away downstairs during the quieter moments. Towards the end he appeared in a sun shaped head dress with red lazer implants, transformed into a creature from a new world where brain frying drones trump tinny retrocrud monotonous drum machines. In the aftermath it slowly dawned that the rest of the evening's music was for the most part going to seem like a damp squib.

Mars Travolta sounded thoroughly repulsive, like the kind of music punk rock was supposed to destroy. They'd been given a two hour set, and no other bands were billed in opposition to the second half. I ran into Bardo Pond, a band truly deserving a two hour set, in the chippy and they agreed that the Mars Travolta sounded fucking abysmal. I discovered that I couldn't eat the special vegetable curry as some fool had made it with wheat noodles. This was the first and I hope the last time that I have ever seen curry made with noodles. I guess they must have been cheaper than using proper vegetables, lentils or beans? The only thing I could find that I could eat in Butlins take away wheat/meat hell were the repulsive greasy chips. I knew I'd only eat about ten and end up throwing the rest away, so I went to the supermarket in the arcade and bought a tin of wheat free baked beans which I ate cold from the can. Sleepy Sun played their hippy dippy dopey music to a decidedly underfilled Central Stage whilst I scoffed beans. I was diggin' their woovy groovy retro soft rock even less than earlier in the week. After Sunn O))) they seemd so weak and pathetic that they were hardly even there.

Apse were amusing in Reds as I was getting tired and the lighting kept making me think they were fronted by a singing pig. This kept me entertained for a while but then I fucked up by getting curious enough to check out Tall Firs, who turned out to be rather bland but not wholly unpleasant in a watered down Pavement fashion. It was nice to run into my old friend Greg Neale the photographer who'd solved my temporary homelessness problem at the Slint ATP, but when I headed back downstairs to Reds I found the queue to get in to hear and probably not see Lightning Bolt so long I gave up on it. The Bolt could be heard rumbling away from outside and drunken smokers in the covered area outside started playing along with cup on table percussion until humourless security ordered them to desist. Don't be 'avin' too much fun at Butlins! I ran into Mick Turner, who'd bailed out on Lightning Bolt to smoke, on my way back up to Centre stage to see Polvo. Then half of Bardo Pond materialised with a bold plan to jump the queue to Reds with their band passes. I'd already decided I'd rather see Polvo fir the third time in my life, and headed up to hear them play a set that was comically interrupted by Lightning Bolt kicking up a storm downstairs. Polvo were the only band to actually make any lasting impression after the Sunday Sunn O))) headcleaner but if they'd been billed to clash with the second half of the Mars Travolta's hideous jamfest and Lightning Bolt had played last on Central stage so that everyone could get in to see them, it would have made a much better end to the weekend. It was nice to run into my old friend Karren Ablaze! after the "Enemy Insects" had flown away, but I lost her and found the guitar slinging half of Bardo Pond. They were looking to party some more but I bailed out back to my hotel where some moron had put the front door on the latch so I couldn't get in again. This time I climbed up onto the roof, and opened the unlocked window to my room and climbed in. The next day at just past 9am a woman opened the door of my room and let herself in, making a quick apology and a hasty exit when she saw I was sitting up in bed looking at her. It seemed as though she might well have been expecting to find the room empty. I got a refund and caught the bus to London for more Om and Sunn O))) before heading home to hibernate.

Check out Greg's photos here

Ten Years of All Tomorrow's Parties: Saturday

Papa M was billed as playing "From A Shark Cage," but so entrancing was his rendition that it seemed to me that he'd boiled down a fifty minute album to a twenty minute live set. I watched from the stage dive barrier as he picked magic from six strings, aided for the most part by a bassist and second guitarist. It was an immaculate performance, even if some of the album had gone AWOL. Maybe the song with the phone messages got a call up to go fight an illegal war in Afghanistan? When David mentioned Abe Lincoln for some reason that has now slid into lost memory because it won't help me survive to remember why, I got a chance to do a heavy heckle which raised a few laughs; "Thomas Jefferson: if god is truly just I tremble for the fate of my nation!"

The Pavillion became the playground of two very silly scantily clad Japanese women. The anarchic Afrirampo larked about playing nonsense rock, both yelping and dancing about as much as playing guitar and drums. I guess if you're wearing a bikini covered in fluffy bits in Winter, you need to keep moving. There was no doubting their momentum could take them to parts most other bands wouldn't even think of travelling to, but it wasn't too hard to tear myself away to catch the latter part of Om's much darker set upstairs. Om were diggin' up Lazarus again and the big stage suited their low heavy sound, but this didn't have the atmosphere of their Crazy Horse gig.

Shellac played some of their songs. These included: My Black Ass, a slowed down Canada, Copper, A Minute and a sombre new requiem where they sang, "Oh what a friend was Gary." When they kicked into The Squirrel Song intro I decided it was time to head downstairs to hear the Dirty Three. I was going to have my gluten free coffee and walnut cake and eat it and made the best of the most irritating clash at All Tomorrow's Parties ever by watching the first half of Shellac's set and the second half of the Dirty Three's more swinging party. The Dirty Three were in full swing and released a set of balloons near the end of their set, again different from the previous three. They proved themselves the heroes of the fortnight and were one of the few bands who took total command of the huge Pavillion.

Porn started out with just one big fat bearded man making a noise. It slowly grew as more folk joined in and in the end there were four noise-smiths wooping it up, including the ubiquitous J Mascis. It was an awesome sound and one hopes fucking Fuck Buttons were listening.

Downstairs Battles had started to destroy any appreciation I used to have of them. Strangely the drummer who used to play in Helmet and the guitarist who used to play in Don Caballero sounded pretty neat, but it was impossible to block out the other two musicians' irksome contributions. Tyondai Braxton had good reason to use a vocoder; without mutation his voice was totally annoying. He was warbling and crap rapping to new jams that didn't grab me at all, ruining whatever small spark might have been there with a stream of gabbling geek speak. Before hearing this, I'd rated Battles above Melvins as band to watch, but as soon as Melvintime hit, I was glad to head back upstairs to avoid this descent into dreck and prove my judgement very wrong indeed.

I've seen Melvins a few times before, but this was by far the best gig I've heard them play. Buzz introduced the band, refering to the bassist dressed as an arab as the man in the suburban turban. Towards the end he left the stage, drawing aside a backdrop to reveal a couple of extra drummers pounding away. The four drummers made an exceptional racket as the man in the suburban turban leapt into the crowd, screaming over and over, "Death waits for no one!"

The Breeders were a hell of a lot better than the last time I saw them, when they played the sloppiest gig I've seen them do. I guess the new rhythm section hadn't worn in so well back then. Today they had an extra guitarist to help out and Kim Deal sat behind the drum kit to sing "Hovering." They played more "Last Splash" and "Pod" songs than ones from their two more recent albums, including my favourite "New Year." They played their infinitely improved take on the song Mark Chapman took too seriously, "Happiness is a Warm Gun." Luckily no one shot Kim Deal. At the end they wheeled out a decaversary birthday cake and asked Barry and Deborah on stage to help them eat it.

The Drones cranked out their intense garage rock so loud I had to move back from the front of the stage. Someone shouted for a song early in the set, to which frontman Gareth Liddiard spat, "We already played it Einstein!" More of their set seemed to be from their earlier albums than from the excellent "Havilah" but I could be wrong as I was lost in the rush of hysterical histrorical blood, piss and puke their blustering emotionally flayed music runs on. They were the first band of the day who made me feel I needed a drink, and the left hand bar was deserted so I quickly got some red wine to guzzle as Gareth ripped his throat ragged. It was a shame more people didn't make the effort to see them as they are one of the most ferocious live acts on the planet these days. Bands don't get to such venomous heights without being road hogs.

Despite being very near the front for the first half of The For Carnation's hushed atmospheric set, it was very difficult to actually hear them. The room was rapidly filling up with drunken arseholes who were more interested in shouting at each other things like, "Oh Wesley isn't this amazing, so very now. It's so amazing I don't even want to listen to it but I think I should hold up my crappy little camera phone and block someone's view of the band so that Ponsonby and Jasper can watch a really bad sounding version with a wobbly picture on Youtube and we can laugh at them while we snort coke grown by starving farmers who were ripped off by a drug cartel that smuggled it across borders up the ass of a mule. Wouldn't that be splendid?" It would have been futile to ask all these loudmouth buffoons to be quiet as there were just too many of them. It would not surprise me to learn that most of them were Londoners, as talking very loudly and spoiling gigs in the quiet parts of songs is an ancient tradition in that city. The For Carnation were mostly quiet parts. It was the most annoying part of the weekend and a case of bad billing. The For Carnation should have played early in the day to avoid the sound of the crowd, who wouldn't have had time to get drunk enough to be so rude. If they had swapped places with Shellac and played after Papa M it would have been perfect, as David Pajo seemed to have the full attention of a much more sober gathering. Pajo was lurking by the sound desk, talking to a lady. I noticed this as I made a futile trip back there hoping the music would be louder, but instead the level of inane chatter increased. A tall man with a camera who knew Pajo and the lady began to shout drunkenly at them about five times louder than they'd been talking and when Pajo left continued to shout drunkenly at the lady, paying no attention to the band at all. "Shut the fuck up!" I shouted at him as I stormed off back down the front where some fuckwad was shouting about her septic clit ring. Meanwhile The For Carnation played some songs, one of which was "Empowered Man's Blues" and I was surprised by the number of new ones as this weekend was in general a bit of a golden oldies feast. Sadly the new ones didn't sound as timelessly brilliant as the older ones, but to be fair I was really having to strain to hear them over the gobshites. Brian McMahon was positioned at the back of the stage and had a box with a mike set up on it. When he wasn't singing he'd duck down and hide behind the box. What was he doing down there? Probably holding his head in his hands sobbing, I came all the way from the USA to play one gig for these drunken jabberjaws and I can't even hear myself sing because everyone is talking so damn loud. The drummer was at the front but the band collectively had as much stage presence as Brian's old band Slint; almost none at all.

Sunn O))) did not suffer from similar problems, as their rendition of the "Grimmrobe Sessions" was a total headcleaner vortex. Even if you'd wanted to have a conversation, you'd probably not have been able to work out what you wanted to say. Two dark robed men, heads cowled, loomed out of the billowing fog of dry ice raising guitars skyward as if in worship of a drone demon and let loose a skullfuck mega-hum that was probably setting off earthquakes and tsunamis on the other side of the world. Time slowed and stopped, Sunn O))) had completely taken over the room and created their own small universe where all had to bury their identities in the cleansing drone. Afterwards I felt like I'd never felt before, something had happened to my sense of balance that was quite pleasantly bizarre. I ran into Bardo Pond again as Sunn O))) stopped burning and they were all similarly enthused. It was cold outside. The creation of a new universe hadn't yet begun, but the old one had been obliterated. The starship heading towards our solar system had to delay to repair extensive damage to its hyper-music drive.

Ten Years of All Tomorrow's Parties: Friday

Alexander Tucker was accompanied by his friends Decomposed Orchestra who backed up his looped cello and guitar based songs with grace and subtlety. He played a song called "Atomised" whihc was synchronous with me having my Big Black "Atomizer" cassette in my pocket, which I'd show people, remarking that I'd bught it in 1987 and it still plays just fine, yet CDRs I burned five years ago no longer play at all. People gathering respected the relative quietness of his perfromance and didn't shout at each other like a pack of durnken cockney baboons, so I guess he was fortunate in getting an early pre-pisshead assholism slot. A lot of people missed him and Bardo Pond though, and I kept hearing people complain that Bardo Pond had played so early in the day. Maybe they could have played two sets like Shellac? They certainly have enough songs to play a completely different set every day they were in the country. Bardo Pond were fucking awesome. They dedicated the entire set to Jack Rose. What better epitaph could a man desire? Somewhere in outer space the immense gravitational pull of their slow heavy music was picked up by an alien spacecraft on a mission to boldly search out the most beautiful music in the universe. They promptly set a course for planet Earth. "Tommy Gun Angel" might have been the song most suited to epitaph status, as its about the feeling singer Isobel Sollenberger got when her dog Tommy Gun died, as if his soul moved through her on its way out. When a roadie indicated to guitarist John Gibbons that there was time for just one more song, they launched into a stellar new one that went on a hell of a long time, for which I felt thankful.

I was once sent a scratched promotional CDR of a Growing album that skipped and glitched. I thought it was quite likely it sounded better that way. I think I saw them at a Camber Sands ATP, but they aren't all that memorable. Their music is OK as an ambient backdrop to wishing you had a Mogwai album on instead, but amplified loud doesn't register much enthusiasm in my megamusicmind (TM). One of them played a bass guitar, and I think this must be the way forward for music in the twenty-first century.

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks were loose and fun on the Pavillion, jamming out a fair old number of new numbers after starting with that song about Yule Brinner from his first solo album. He amused me by passing judgement on the monitors at Manchester's Deaf Institute where he played earlier in the week. Apparently he couldn't hear himself strum. I thought I spotted my old friend Karren Ablaze groovin' near the front, lost in music. She once asked Stephen to marry her, and he replied, "karren, you're too young to get married." Despite enjoying the Jickery well enough, it wasn't hard to tear myself away to listen to J.
J Mascis and the Fog could be in some kind of eternal indie rock yin yang conflagration with S Malkmus and the Jicks. I have every album by both bands, and their superior old/reactivated bands Pavement and Dinosaur Jr. Both bands played in Manchester on the same night in different venues and then repeated the clash at Butlins, so I missed the first song or two of the Fog set. Maybe they should hit the road together and swap bands. Would J Mascis and the Jicks sound better than S Malkmus and the Fog? Those who'd seen the full Fog set both weekends told me he'd played the same songs each time, with three Dinosaur Jr tunes (Thumb, The Wagon and So What Else is New). I reckon they should have just kept on jammin' for hours as there were no other bands booked to play upstairs for an hour and a half after them. It'd certainly have been more fun than the damp squib about to blubberpuppy downstairs.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs arrived late because Karen O's hairdresser broke down. They called the audience bitches for booing their absence and then played their first and best album from start to finish, ruining it entirely and making me not want to listen to them ever again, although this has unfortunately proved impossible. Wherever I go in Manchester now it seems someone has the third retro electro Yeah Yeah Yeahs album "Ain't No Blondie" playing. Nick Zinner spoiled short rock'n'roll songs by playing the riffs way too long before the actual song kicked in so that the riffs got boring. Karen O danced across the stage like a woman with a hot poker up her arse, wearing a studding leather jacket that read KO. They were far from a knockout but got a four song encore anyway when they wheeled on a bassist and a keyboard and played some of their crap newer songs. They were so inept they had to abort the first one and KO pathetically begged the crowd to tell her band they loved them. If Tortoise or Shellac had been playing upstairs whilst this sad spectacle unfolded, maybe they'd have had found out how much the indieground realy likes them? I guess no other bands were playing at the same time as the promoters might not wanted to have dented KO's ego by giving punters a choice of better music (unless of course fucking Fuck Buttons had been playing upstairs). You don't catch bands like Tortoise and Shellac begging the crowd to love them do you?

Six Organs of Admittance were a sweet relief after the sordid spectacle of overblown egos jacking off in public. They seemed to have lost the woman from Magik Markers, but then again it could be that she was hidden behind the PA as I was watching from the farside of the room. They seemed much more focused than their earlier gig in Salford, where they'd blown one of Gnod's amps.

There was a great big queue to get in to see the mediocre Fuck Buttons but I suspect, like me, many were getting in early to guarantee a full Tortoise experience. On Centre stage the nodding dog roundabout boys were louder and all the worse for it. Their first album is OK as an ambient background. Live their shitty drum machine sounds repulsive cranked up and monotonous. Why people rave about them is beyond me, but they are not without merit; the occasional nice melody surfaced and the anyone-could-do-that noise was passable, but they perpetually banged on the same beat way too long, in desperate need of an editor.

Tortoise were a different beacon of musical prowess entirely. It was getting late and tiredness was catching up, sending me into a hypnotic trance as I listened to the first half of their set seated. They made me realise I had to get on my feet and head closer to the action. They switched instruments, multiplied rhythms and played most of their excellent recent album. They saved the best 'til last when they got a much shorter encore than Primma Donna and Her Yeah Combo. Making the most of it, the furious free guitar storm "Seneca" erupted and calmed and they sent everyone clapping along to the rhythms of freedom and musical brilliance that ended the night on such a high not that not even Karen O's trendy tye dyed pet chihuahua could hear it. Somewhere out there it reached a distant starship and spoke well of the human race.

I got locked out of my hotel and ended up sleeping on the couch in Mum's chalet, so a big thank you to them and Siggi!

In Between Days

For the four days between the two Parties, punters could pay a hundred quid to stick around at Butlins and see a gig every night. Since two of my favourite bands, Bardo Pond and the Dirty Three were playing, I was up for it. I absconded on the first day so missed Alex Tucker and Lightning Bolt. Missing Lightning Bolt seemed to be a recurring theme for my week. The Dirty Three were playing the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the Thames so I sped east to London. I stayed at a nice hostel in Shepherd's Bush which, unknown to me before arrival, was run by Australians. Before heading up the Northern line to Embankment, I stopped off at Notting Hill and strolled over to Rough Trade, on a mission to find the new Melt Banana single, Initial T on Init records. They were selling it at a pound an inch, but I also found some great bargains; Tabata and Tarwater singles for a pound each, and five CDs for a tenner (Shannon Wright, Lungfish, Paul Westerberg, DJ Olive and Alistair Galbraith).

On the Southbank, Josh Pearson unveiled an entirely new set of intense but subtle country songs. Playing solo to a fully seated gathering, this was the first time he'd sung them in public. It's a shame he keeps moving on without making albums, as he's leaving some great songs behind in the dirt! The most memorable new one found him beseeching a ladyfriend not to think of him as her Jesus Christ. The stage illumination cast shadows across his face that made him look like the Turin Shroud Jesus at times. Jesus may have walked on the water and swam on the land, but he never wrote songs as good as Josh Pearson even if he was later recast as the lord of the dance.During the interval I heard a very familar song that I just couldn't place, so asked the soundman what it was. It turned out to be Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, a band who I hadn't listened to in years. They'd be a good call for an All Tomorrow's Parties reformation, like Slint and Polvo; all we need now is a curator to ask them. They seem the kind of band who may very well appeal to Matt Groening so who knows? During the interval I ran into a couple of the guys from Last Harbour, down from Manchester for a Dirty Monday!

The Dirty Three were on fiery form, with better sound and a longer set than on the Butlins Pavillion stage, but none of the audience participation. The set list was different and included some songs not played at Butlins including "Authentic Celestial Music" and the grand finale "Sue's Last Ride," always a good one to finish the show. Some guy kept asking Warren where he got his pointy shoes but he couldn't remember.

The next day I had enough time to check out the Notting Hill Exchange and found a bag full of ultra cheap vinyl, including albums by Elvis Costello and Das Damen for 30p and the only Gang of Four album I didn't already have for a quid! I also dug out some cool CDs by PJ Harvey, Jim O'Rourke, That Fucking Tank, Pelt, Anni Rossi, Dinosaur Jr, 23 Skidoo and Ghostigital, Einar Orn's daft rap group who I saw play Butlins Reds at the previous Melvins curated Nightmare. I also saw Jim O'Rourke play the Autechre ATP, and Lungfish on the Tortoise day of the five-year-versary two weekend celebration. Shannon Wright played the very first ATP I attended, curated by Shellac. Back on the bus on a surprise stop as we headed west on to Taunton I found myself next to a pub called "The Admiral." This is the third song on the first Shellac album, with a bassline purloined from PJ Harvey's "Victory." I made it back to Butlins much earlier than expected and arrived at the production office at the same time as Mick Turner yet again. No one knew what chalet I had been allocated so I decided to head along Warren Street past the beach to Minehead for a great curry at the Taj Mahal restaurant while they waited for Deborah or one of her minions to sort it out. On returning I was glad to be given a key at last, but was not so happy to find that after walking halfway across the ghost town site the chalet I'd been directed to had a normal metal key and not a self demagnetising electronic credit card style thing like the one I'd been given. So I trudged back to production and this time they sent me to the right chalet. When I got there I found the key wouldn't open the door, so I left my heavy bags in the connecting corridor and walked back again. The key needed remagnetising, but at the gatehouse the magnetising machine had broken down. By this time I was starting to get a little bit pissed off. I really should have had access to the chalet hours ago! As it was getting close to gig time, I headed to the Crazy Horse and left Tomorrow Party man to wait for narky Butlins woman to make a key capable of opening one door. As luck would have it I got there just before Josh started and after the first couple of songs my key finally arrived. This time it worked, for a short while anyway. Josh played his new drummerless country set, but sadly a shorter version. He seemed kind of nervous. I recalled only four songs, but someone else reckoned he played five. The Dirty Three had a nice surprise for us as we gathered close to the stage. Warren Ellis announced that unknown to Mick Turner and Jim White, they were going to attempt to play the album "Horse Stories." This was the first Dirty Three album I heard, so it felt like another loop of my reality closing. Speaking to the small crowd of around a hundred, some guy engaged Warren in a conversation before they'd even played a note. "We'll continue the therapy session later because we have a gig to play," Warren reprimanded him graciously. Jim White thwacked his floor tom so hard as they started "1000 Miles" that it fell over but he kept the flow. Warren had to ask if anyone could remember which song came next. "Sue's Last Ride" is usually a set closer, so it might have seemed odd to them to play it second, and "Hope" is a regular staple of their set. "I Remember A Time When Once You Used To Love Me" doesn't get played half as much as the first three songs, so it was nice to hear it after Warren's little tale about the Greek guys who wrote it. By this time I'd drained my first cup of wine so headed to the bar as Mick Turner realised he couldn't remember how to play "At the Bar." By the time I was back at the front, it was time for "Red," a song they'd been heckled for the night before in London and the colour of the wine I'd bought at the bar. I was right next to the violin monitor so got a very different raw powered dirty sound than the other three Dirty Three performances of the fortnight and "Red" was pretty wild. Warren located an intelligent man with an i-Pod with "Horse Stories" on it to remind them of the running order, and dubbed me a man who knows the truth when I remarked that the E-chord was an easy one. This was the real treat of the gig as I've never heard them play the last three "Horse Stories" songs before. "Warren's Lament" was beautiful and "Horse" was not as penultimate as it should have been. Mick couldn't remember the chords to the last song, amusingly called "I Knew It Would Come To This" and gave up the ghost. Warren borrowed the i-Pod from the intelligent man and played the song into his mike, commenting, "Doesn't that sound wonderful?" It was a funny way to end it all and hats off to them for making the day one to remember. Later I asked Mick if it really was a surprise to him and Jim. He said that it certainly was and if they'd rehearsed the songs he'd have remembered them all, which proved it as if it needed proving. Would Mick Turner lie to you? Not many bands are worthy of following the Dirty Three, and you can count Fuck Buttons on that score. They played over-long noise disco that sounded like the magic roundabout theme fed through a distortion pedal with a crap old drum machine playing the most unimaginitive basic beat possible. The two men prodded at their buttons nodding their heads like those dopey toy bulldogs that cockney racists used to put in the back of their minis and cortinas in the seventies. In between them they had a disco ball, which I guess was there to make up for their lack of charisma. I retreated to the back of the room and tiredness caught up with me. It was quite pleasant to doze off to half awake dreams of Dylan the rabbit and Dougal the dog, Brian the snail and a blue cat but as a child I always prefered the Wombles. I slipped back to wakefulness and glanced across the room to see my old friends Bardo Pond, so went over to say hello. With Alex Tucker, we headed back to their chalet and drank tequila late into the night. The sky was clear outside and we appreciated the constellations shining up above. Alex mentioned that the Alistair Galbraith "Orb" CD I'd bought the day before was one of his favourite albums of recent times but Bardo Pond had some sad news. Their friend Jack Rose the amazing guitarist, had died of a heart attack on Saturday. Earlier that day I'd bought "Pearls from the River" by Pelt, his old drone band. They had a DVD of the last "Twin Peaks" episode; "When you see me again, it will not be me." I had no idea how late it was when I got back to my chalet but I found a key belonging to the guy I was sharing it with in the lock and neither that nor my key would open to the door. So I trudged out to the gatehouse and asked yet again to have the keys remagnetised. At last I got inside and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

My former chalet sharer, a hippy with a set of bongos, returned next morning to eat some biscuits he'd left behind. He'd been given another chalet by festival promoter Barry Hogan himself after Butlins had been completely unable to get his magnetic key to work. Maybe his vibes were freaking it out? I later heard he'd lost it with Barry and Deborah and snapped a chalet key in half. As I tried to find out what had happened last night, he suddenly came out with, "Terrible what they did to Ghandi isn't it?" What shot him or sent him to British 'public' school? He then tried to convince me that noise isn't sound. I realised that I was dealing with someone who was out to lunch and was pleased that I wouldn't have to waste anymore time on pointless conversations like this. I managed to convince him to take all his things to his new chalet as I was planning on walking to Minehead and wouldn't be around if he came back to collect them later in the day. The night before, sat on the floor in a sleeping bag in the Crazy Horse he'd informed me that he'd been in a psychiatric hospital, but it was much nicer here. "Well I hope so," I replied. The Cramps played a psychiatric hospital in the States, but I don't recall the Dirty Three ever gracing one with their presence. That afternoon a steam train ride had been organised which was pleasant and led to more people getting to know each other a bit better over the mulled wine that was served at the last stop. On returning the All Tomorrow's Parties documentary was shown on Butlins TV. The best part was the all too short clip of the Dirty Three kicking out the jams. Growing and Mum played first on Wednesday evening but both suffered from Bardo Pond anticipation. Mum played a similar but shorter set than they had on the Pavillion stage and were much better than Growing, another band with horrible sounding synthetic beats but no corny disco ball. Bardo Pond played a lamentably short set. Whoever decided that a band with so much music could only have a forty-five minute set, yet give tedious one trick pony Fuck Buttons an hour should be ashamed. In fact as there were only four bands each evening and an hour and a half between doors opening and the first band, it seemed strange not to let everyone play for over an hour if they so desired. Bardo Pond were heavy and made me happy. "Isle" was dedicated to Jack Rose. They played "Flux" and "Endurance" and finished with a monstrously spaced out "Night of Frogs." They didn't repeat any of the songs in their Friday afternoon set, which was cool. Om were a revelation, as I don't really care for them on record. Live, however they were spellbinding. The drummer was amazing to watch as he struck slow precise double cymbal splashes. Their third man, a multi-instrumentalist with a wild afro and cool pointy goatee added much texture to their sound and it was all loud enough for Al Cisneros' over the top spiritualised lyrics not to jar.

On Thursday the Crazy Horse flooded so the action was shifted over to a freezing cold Reds. Maybe it was a Bardo Pond? Apse sounded like the bastard offspring of Mogwai and the Chameleons. Their drums were way too loud due to the small number of people in the room which made their set quite punishing. Sleepy Sun were lightweight hippy dippy retro twaddle and bored me. Polvo were the band I'd been waiting for and seemed to be on fine form. They'd actually reformed when Explosions in the Sky asked them to play ATP and now have a new album recently released on Merge, although guitarist Ash Bowie mentioned that people were having trouble finding it in this country. I'd seen them once before, supporting Babes in Toyland at Nottingham Rock City, but if anything they were better than ever, uniquely forceful and angular. Time means nothing to a timeless band. Deerhoof did their cutesy thing, including an inferior cover of the Ramones classic "Pinhead." Towards the end the drummer got up to make an incoherent speech, the gist of which seemed to be that he was very nervous to be playing after Polvo, a band he clearly had a lot of respect for. Bob Weston and Todd Trainer of Shellac were hanging around. It's a shame Shellac didn't play today. It would have probably brought in a whole lot of punters a day early.

My Bloody Sunday Nightmare

Today was a day of waiting for the Dirty Three. I didn't have to wait long for one of the Three as I ran into Mick Turner at the production office on my first visit to procure a wristband for the In Between Days gigs that were running during the week between the two three day Nightmares. After a walk on the beach and a trip to Toucan healthfoods where I stocked up on gluten free food which I could eat without being sick, unlike the greasy bilge Butlins serve, I arrived at Centre Stage just in time to catch the end of Irish singer-songwriter Gemma Hayes' set. The last folky song was said to have been her best by all I spoke to, elegant and pretty and an easy way into Sunday music. With no hint of Lou Reed cynicism, "Sunday Morning" by the Velvet Underground came over the PA. It was already afternoon, but at least they tried. A loop of songs including Johnny Cash's inferior cover of Nick Cave's "Mercy Seat," The Stooges' "Gimme Danger" and the Ramones' "Blitzkreig Bop" played too quietly over the big PA. It was enjoyable but someone should tell Barry Hogan that these three artists have many more songs as the same loop repeated over and over between bands throughout each weekend. What was really irritating was the way the volume suddenly dropped to barely audible for the best song "Blitzkreig Bop." As the loop reoccurred ever more frequently during the second weekend, I took to singing along to "Gimme Danger" changing the words to, "Gimme Danger Mr Hogan, we got no more Stooges songs, ain't got No Fun, ain't got Not Right, we ain't even got Sick of You." I hope someone bought Barry some more Stooges and Ramones albums for Christmas.

The Che label that originally reissued and extended Bardo Pond's first album "Bufo Alvarius Amen" sent me some unmemorable releases by the Lilys to review years ago. The singer proved to be very annoying between songs making stupid comments. Maybe he was nervous. Their popularity was hard to gauge as there were no other bands playing on the other stages so by default they got the entire early audience. Their set of uninspired Velvet Underground garage rock-lite dragged on and seemed the longest of the day by far. They were better than the dismal Horrors however, and gave me a chance to sit down and write some notes on the weekend whilst passing loud sarcastic comments at the singer's inane stage banter between their mundane indie pop songs. I was killing time until Th' Faith Healers hit the Pavillion.

First I had to return to the production office where they'd finally sorted out the logistics of selling me a wristband. Chalet allocation would prove more challenging it would later transpire. Ian Svenonius walked in behind me. It was nice to see him again, as I'd interviewed him a couple of times when he was fronting the Make Up. He told me he liked my Russian army hat, which I bought on a trip to Berlin to see the reformed original Killing Joke. Ian was at Butlins to publicly interview musicians for his TV show "Soft Focus." During the weekend he conversed with J Mascis, Sonic Boom and the married half of Sonic Youth.

I was still waiting for Th'Faith Healers, and really didn't expect much from over-hyped feedback rockers A Place to Bury Strangers, with their black hair dye emo name. I was pleasantly surprised to find them a high octane dynamic and noisy trio who have obviously grown up listening to My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain. This was the first new band I'd heard this weekend that made me think I'd like to hear an album of theirs, but before they reached the end of the set it was time for one of the All Tomorrow's Parties reformation specials (second edition) Th'Faith Healers who were setting up downstairs. There was no problem getting right down the front, and like The Membranes, guitarist Tom Cullinan said he was wondering if anyone at all would bother to turn up to see them. They were charmingly sloppy at times, with drummer Joe Dilworth wandering out of time from the rest of the band later in the set. Singer Roxanne Stephen forgot her tambourine and asked the crowd if anyone had one after she spent the first song walking off to the side of the stage and walking back as an inferior substitute. "Someone go find Steve Mack!" I shouted. A short way through the set someone threw a small blue tambourine to her, appropriate since one of their singles which they played early in the set is "Gorgeous Blue Flower in My Garden." The cover of that single is a photo of a boy in underpants clutching a sign reading "Butlins BOGNOR 1st," another funny synchronicity. I bet they never thought they'd reform to play at Butlins when they released that single on Too Pure in 1991. The woozy riff of "Reptile Smile" was still a doozy, and on returning home I found their first album "Lido" to sound much more My Bloody Valentine influnced than I'd previously noticed. When Tom announced that they had time for only one more song, my friend Rico looked a bit upset so I told him they hadn't played their longest song "Spin Half" which sure enough sent us off to wait around with twenty minutes of no-band time before we climbed the steps up to Centre stage, now occupied by Swervedriver. I saw them a few times supporting Therapy? back in the nineties, but they never really grabbed me. They're still competant yet unmemorable. Singer Adam Franklin has cut off his long dreads now so they even looked ordinary. I bailed out before the end of their set to go eat back at the chalet, as there was even more dead time before Mum played the Pavillion. On returning I found all Th'Faith Healers selling their Peel Sessions CD at one of the merchandise tables at the back, and chatted with Tom about Wire and the likelihood of more Healers gigs in the future. He told me it was pretty unlikely unless they were invited to All Tomorrow's Parties again. I guess a future curator might request a Quickspace reformation?

Mum are very nice people and I will find this out next weekend, as if their music didn't tell you that already. They have charm and grace a plenty. Fronted by two women, one playing a cello most of the time, the Icelandic ensemble were more forward looking than most bands playing this weekend in that their entire set consisted of songs I'd never heard before, as I haven't heard their most recent album yet. In one song they told the gathering they wanted to keep them all in their hearts, a very different sentiment to the way Karen O will demand next weekend that everyone tells the Yeah Yeah Yeahs they love them. This shows up just how out of synch with the general aesthetic of All Tomorrow's Parties bands the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are. Most bands are humble enough to be pleased that people come and listen to them and thank them for doing so. Karen O is so shamelessly egotistical that she demands everyone tell her they love her band, a rather pathetic spectacle. Mum aren't quite the polar opposite of Yeah Yeah Yeahs style over substance though; Tortoise perhaps are.

The Dirty Three came, played and conquered. Jim White had grown his hair and looked like a fuzzy headed mad professor, flailing away like his drum kit was a raging sea, as Warren Ellis reached for the sky and Mick Turner filled in many different colours of their expansive landscape. Their elemental music evokes impressive vistas of unspoilt country, breathtaking views and their emotional impact. No one sounds anything like them, so it mattered not a bit that they had no new songs to play. They could keep playing their timeless oeuvre for all eternity and it wouldn't pall. The newest song in the set was "The Zither Player" from "Cinder." Warren Ellis got the enchanted throng humming along to "Sea Above Sky Below," sat on his amp and leading us all in a serene sea-like sing along, with a look of wonder at the noise he was hearing. Warren revealed the Dirty Three to be three naked angels who appear in your dreams to let you know bagpipes are better than trumpets, unless Miles Davis is playing the trumpets. "Hope" and "Everything's Fucked" were killer as usual. Last they played the oldest song in the set, "Kim's Dirt" with Warren perched on his amp howling at the moon.

Lightning Bolt clattered away in Reds but it was hard to see them. This didn't matter much, but I found their bass heavy attack much more punishing on the ears than anything My Bloody Valentine could dish out, and finally found a use for the earplugs that had been given out each night just before the Bloody set. After a bit of their tumbling rumble they made me realise that I'd much rather be upstairs listening to My Bloody Valentine again, a nicer way to go deaf.

The second half of My Bloody Valentine's set was the best part, with Slow Soon Feed Me With Your Realise rushing towards the noise onslaught, and unless they'd sneaked in one of their rumoured new songs near the start it was yet again exactly the same set as the previous two nights. Bilinda Jayne Butcher had worn a white dress on Friday and black on Saturday. Tonight she was dressed in red and black, the colours of anarchy. The rush of white noise, adding a new dimension to the semi-obliterated guitar storm with drums reduced to barely audible cymbals surfing the periphery, seemed to last longer tonight. When they kicked back in after the white line moved inexorably over the stage, they sounded distant and tiny, as if lost to the universal hum.

The Robert Coyne Outfit played downstairs in Reds to about thirty or forty people which was a shame as their precise three guitar garage rock was most enjoyable, recalling Television, the Dream Syndicate and sixties punk rock. They seemed the perfect aside to the best thing I'd seen on ATP TV that weekend, a showcase of Nuggets bands with the Seeds, Love and Elevators. Anyway one of the guitarists was Tony Thewlis of the Scientists, probably the greatest and most under-rated garage rock band on the planet, so I wasn't going to miss this. If anyone had wanted to meet the curators this was the perfect opportunity as two of the people watching latterly were Bilinda Jayne Butcher and Kevin Shields.

School of Seven Bells sounded a bit better live than they did on the bland song of theirs I'd heard on the radio. They reminded me of later inferior Cocteau Twins, but I was mostly chatting and eating some moderately horrible Butlins chips which were impossible to finish.

Brightblack Morning Light were much better, and made a pleasant late night comedown for the weekend. Playing one long quasi-ambient groove before a backdrop of shifting images of scenic landscapes, they sent me drifting off into a hypnagogic state. Kevin Shields once explained it was his intention to evoke the hypnagogic state with My Bloody Valentine's later music and he must have heard a kindred spirit in Brightblack Morning Light. When I woke I was still in a dream.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

My Bloody Saturday Nightmare

After my first sleep for forty-two hours, I decided to head into Minehead to buy some of the Spanish wine I'd sampled on Friday. I'd sampled enough to get a little tipsy before even setting foot in Butlins and the red was pretty good. My mission was delayed when I heard the sound of music. It seemed as though Yo La Tengo were playing somewhere. As I neared the Pavillion I realised that it was actually Sonic Youth soundchecking. People could go inside and watch from a distance. They ran through five songs from "The Eternal" and Lee asked the small gathering to, "Look lively out there! Too much of the sheep dip!" a comment psychically synchronous with the black sheep I'd seen as his recorded voice was reproduced on magnetic tape the day before.

On returning from Minehead I passed Thurston Moore on the pavement. The skies were grey but we are both wearing shades, two guys who live to rock. Back at Butlins I watched about twenty minutes of the Sex Pistols "Filth and the Fury" film in the cinema then made a futile bid to watchIan Svenonius interview Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon. The queue was long enough to fill the venue at least three times, so I returned to the Pavillion where I was rewarded with a better bit of entertainment. The Sun Ra Arkestra were soundchecking. They concentrated more on getting individual instruments sounding good than playing whole songs like Sonic Youth did, but hearing any of these fantastic musicians soloing is a rare treat.

Upstairs The Membranes had been reborn with Gold Blade's rhythm section. John Robb lives about a twenty minute walk from my home and I sometimes run into him in Hulme. He was charging about with more energy than most frontmen half his age and predictably proclaimed Minehead to be a "Tatty Seaside Town." When he fucked up the song he explained it was only the second time he'd played it in twenty years. "The Pastels haven't rehearsed at all, and they'll still be better than us!" They played "Wounded Bull in Victorian England," their song I've heard more than all other Membranes songs put together as it was on Homestead's "Human Music" compilation which I bought mostly for the Live Skull, Yo La Tengo, Salem 66 and Volcano Suns songs. I think I only saw them once back in the late eighties, supporting That Petrol Emotion in London. "We didn't think anyone would come to see us," joked John, "No one did twenty years ago!" As the jarring chords of "Shine on Pumpkin Moon" clattered to a close, I ambled downstairs and got an impromptu festival audio moment as the Membranes merged with the freeform sound of the Sun Ra Arkestra's opening space jam. These eleven super cool dudes keep the flame burning after their leader had to return to Saturn. One of them utilised the space on stage to jive and do handstands when he wasn't playing a part in launching a musical rocket to Venus. I made my way right to the front of the stage and tears of joy welled up behind my shades. They played "Nuclear War" the song Yo La Tengo covered, with the handstand man sticking out his butt as he sang, "When they push that button kiss your ass goodbye!" Their cosmic jazz was well suited to the Pavillion stage as it required no extreme volume to bring transcendence, and the star spangled black night side banners were perfect to glimpse from the corner of the eye as light reflected off the Arkestra's shining robes. Space really was the place! A lot of people remarked that they just didn't get the Arkestra when I told them how much I enjoyed their gig.

In a perfect bit of sequencing, Harmony Rockets blasted off another stellar trip to find the skullfucking core of the "Paralyzed Mind Of The Archangel Void," one of the best albums in the known universe to fuck to. Amplified to blast off levels at the peaks, this flew so far above and beyond the album itself that it left me wondering why Jonathan Donahue and Grasshopper bother to continue with Mercury Rev. This stuff is so much better and was really the only time another band mined the hallucinogenic hypnotic noise / melody interface that put them on a level with My Bloody Valentine themselves. A follow up album is well overdue. I'd love to hear these guys jam with the Sun Ra Arkestra, I think that would be out of this world.

I entered Reds at the exact time (6pm) That Petrol Emotion were due to play and thought for a second they were going to play to a nearly empty room as the "Blue to Black" emergency rhythm sample kicked in. It was but a soundcheck with another ten minutes until lift off. I had enough time to buy a glass of red wine to drink and spill on red carpet and easily found a spot right on the Mack barrier. In Reds if the room fills up the only way you can see the band is to be very near the stage or at the front of the raised area behind the mixing desk, but the sound is excellent and hard hitting. It really came as no surprise when they started the set with a fiery "Blue to Black" and the set was pretty much a truncated version of the one I saw them play back in July. Only Killing Joke make me want to move and groove more than the petrols, such is their rhythmic itch. "It's a Good Thing" scratched it and by "Abandon" they'd rubbed it raw. Such was their energy they made me feel fifteen years younger. I was never crazy about "Hey Venus" but they've made it way heavier now, and Reamann bursts out some wild six string freak out near the end that lifts it high. Singer Steve Mack announced that they were going to play an old song, and I shouted "Lifeblood!" to which he replied, "Now you've spoiled the surprise." Requests were shouted, I'm sure someone was after "Can't Stop" just like in Manchester and I shouted "Circusville" at which Reamann burst out laughing, shaking his head and replying, "No way! No fucking way!"The last song was the ever more relevant pollution evacuation anthem "Scumsurfin'" maybe my favourite song of theirs. Maybe it was time to move to higher ground before Reds flooded.

Upstairs J Mascis and the Fog were half way through a set of guitar solo drenched songs. They were looser than Dinosaur Jr but played "The Wagon" and finished with an epic "So What Else is New." The big fat mountainous bassist certainly wouldn't be able to bounce about like Lou Barlow. I'd really have liked to have seen the whole set, but I'd have had to split myself in two! Nevermind, they were due back next weekend.

Walking through the main hall en route to rice and beans at the chalet, I chanced upon a band who sounded like a poor rip off of My Bloody Valentine with all the joy and experimental originality excised. That was the horribly over-rated Horrors. On returning for Sonic Youth's set, the Pavillion was predictably the most full it had been all day. They'd have certainly sounded better upstairs, but maybe then not everyone who wanted to see them could have got in. Most of the set came from their disappointing recent album "The Eternal" and some idiotic nearby Eastern Europeans chose to show their appreciation by clapping out of time and shouting at each other until I asked them to stop. Everything shifted up a gear when they played the time tripping "Hey Joni" and "The Sprawl." They were allowed an encore, and blessed the Pavillion with a corruscating "Death Valley '69" that was better than the whole of the prior set combined, ending with a freeform percussion fade out jam.

Robin Guthrie's pleasant music made a nice backdrop for a rest and a chat with some friends from Manchester, who all decided to wait in Reds for Lightning Bolt. I decided I'd rather see My Bloody Valentine again.My Bloody Valentine were the first band I ever saw play a gig in Manchester, so in a way this weekend seemed like a loop of reality closing. They played the same set precisely and not surprisingly were slightly better than the first night. Bilinda wore a black dress and I ended up much closer to the stage. Nearby a hilarious dyke kept hollering to the bassist between songs, "Goodgey we love you!"

No Age jammed their two man drum and guitar schtick which was obviously highly influenced by My Bloody Valentine as I struggled to stay awake. Hypnotic punk rock and lack of sleep were conspiring against me. Suddenly I was jolted wide awake by a much more memorable tune - "Something I Learned Today" by Husker Du. Hang on, who was that balding guy who'd joined them on guitar? None other than Bob Mould and as if I hadn't got enough of a nice surprise I was up on my feet and shouting along to the next song, a killer rendition of the second Husker Du single "In a Free Land." Torpor descended again as they left the stage and I occasionally managed to half take in a very fat man fronting Fucked Up who despite being loud and noisy couldn't keep me awake so I crashed.

Bands not heard: The Tyde, Le Volume Courbe, The Pastels, Spectrum, Lightning Bolt, Ariel Pink.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

My Bloody Nightmare: Friday

I ran into a band before I even got to Butlins. Ira and Georgia of Yo La Tengo were walking on the seafront. We talked about Dead C by the sea and they headed towards the town whilst I went to get my wristband. I ran into Josh Pearson on the way into the Pavillion and he asked me to tell him how the sound compared to Manchester. It seems he is of the opinion that the Ruby Lounge has a shitty PA!

The Wounded Knees were the first band on. They fortunately have nothing at all to do with the annoying Wounded Knee on Benbecula whose CD I bought for a quid in Vinyl Exchange. I call such things quidiscs. The Wounded Knees play hippy folk jam shtick with Harmony Rocket Suzanne Thorpe on flute. When the venerable bespectacled J Mascis sauntered out to guitar the last and longest number they revved up a notch from low key pleasantry to low key psychedelic frazzle rock. They were an easy way into the music day.

Josh Pearson and his drumming partner sounded much harder and clearer than they did in Manchester. Then again I wasn't standing directly in front of his amp. They hammered out Kashmir battery and My Bloody Valentine homage amongst the originals and moved the festival up a gear with angels and devils on their shoulders. Unfortunately I missed the start of his set due to getting lost looking for my chalet.

De La Soul were pure party fun on the pavillion. I've never been too bothered about listening to their records, leaning more towards a Public Enemy / Dalek rap attack than their lovey-dovey grooves. They got one side of the crowd set up in jocular opposition to the other, trying to get the left to out-party, sing along and wave more than the right. I left before the end to catch a bit of Sabbath metal from Witch, who I'd never heard before. J Mascis was on drums, slowly becoming the most ubiquitous musician on stage. I prefer Dinosaur Jr but Witch were a good contrast to De La Soul. J's friend Lee Ranaldo had been watching and as we walked downstairs to the Pavillion, I told him I'd listened to "Daydream Nation" on the bus into Minehead and it had made a great soundtrack. He shook my hand and then obliged three young Sonic Youth fans who asked him to be in a photo with them. On the bus I'd had a great Walkman synchronicity as I looked out the window to "Eric's Trip." From the old tape Lee sang, "There's something moving over there," and a flock of black sheep were running away from the vehicle.

Primal Scream were already cranking out some stadium soft rock on the Pavillion as I climbed the stairs to hear the vastly superior Yo La Tengo, a band I've seen many times. The first time they supported Screaming Trees in Camden with Seam opening. Tonight the set finished with that long song about sliding down a waterslide and the next day I'll try out a real waterslide for the first time. I can't say I enjoyed it really, certainly their song is a much more interesting experience, a relentless repetitive bassline over which Ira unleashes that gung-ho guitar fire that is my favourite component of the Yo La Tengo rock'n'roll funtime. As I left some girl opined that the bassist must get bored of the "Pass Me the Hatchet, I'm Goodkind" bass line, but I reckon James McNew enjoys getting into a no-mind repetition state with that one. They played a shorter set than their recent Manchester gig, and despite numerous heckles for an encore there was none since these guys don't have the massive ego of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They did however grant my friend Rico's wish to hear "Tom Courtenay" which was probably in the set anyway!

My Bloody Valentine started out with Kevin Shields ordering repeatedly that the PA be switched off so that he can work out what technical nightmare was bothering him. Eventually he apologised after a couple of songs for the vocals being inaudible, which is odd because I'm sure I could hear them! Maybe by this point I was hallucinating through sleep deprivation? Certainly as their set progressed building to the double whammy of "Feed Me With Your Kiss" and the lengthy noise onslaught they unleash in "You Made Me Realise" my brain slipped in and out of a hypnagogic state. My body felt on the point of collapse, yet the melodic noise kept me bouyant and upright, brain levitating ten feet up in the air. "Soon" and "Slow" were the most hypnotic songs of the weekend, with strobe lines pushing "Soon" way beyond the coy indie-dance incarnation that closes "Loveless" into a heavy headfuck that was infinitely better than crappy cash crop drugs farmed by slaves.

Ol' Bloody punk inspirations Buzzcocks played mostly greatest hits as usual and were a fun end to the first night. They still hate "Fast Cars" and hope they "Breakdown," but sped through almost every song from the first side of "Singles Going Steady" and a fair few off the flipside. "Noise Annoys" never seemed such an appropriate or inappropriate song for them to play, depending on your perspective, if you have any. Steve Diggle still dedicates "Autonomy" to the late inspirational Clash frontman Joe Strummer, which is a deserving epitaph for a freedom rocker. I was singing along way too loud and they made me realise that shouting 'woawoaw' is a good way to stay awake with a Harmony in Your Head.

Bands not heard: Television Personalities, Serena Manesh.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Nightmare Begins...

In Manchester, Minehead and London during the first fifteen days of December I heard live music from more than sixty bands:

Pablo's Finest Hour
Anna Kashfi
The Gilded Palace of Sin
Josh T. Pearson (4 times)
Irma Vep
A band whose name I forgot
Six Organs of Admittance (twice)
The Wounded Knees
De La Soul
Yo La Tengo
My Bloody Valentine (3 times)
Sonic Youth soundchecking
The Membranes
Sun Ra Arkestra
Harmony Rockets
That Petrol Emotion
J Mascis and the Fog (twice)
Sonic Youth
Robin Guthrie
No Age
No Age with Bob Mould
Fucked Up
Gemma Hayes
A Place to Bury Strangers
Th'Faith Healers
mum (twice)
The Dirty Three (4 times)
Lightning Bolt
The Robert Coyne Outfit
School of Seven Bells
Brightblack Morning Light
Fuck Buttons (twice)
Growing (twice)
Bardo Pond (twice)
Om (3 times)
Apse (twice)
Sleepy Sun (twice)
Polvo (twice)
Deerhoof (twice)
Alexander Tucker and Decomposed Orchestra
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Papa M
Shellac (twice)
The Breeders
The Drones
The For Carnation
Sunn O))) (3 times)
The Magic Band
Explosions in the Sky
Tall Firs

I enjoyed most of them.
I'll write about it later so that my old friend No One can read about it from his mercy seat.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

27 Damn Ugly Rats Grip Ridiculous Nightmare

When I was fifteen if you'd asked me who was my favourite band I'd have said the Stranglers. Back in the mid-eighties, home taping was killing music, but some people even bought cassettes full of half dead music. When I had about two dozen pre-recorded cassettes, ten of them were by the Stranglers and the first one I bought was "The Raven." I was also listening to Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned ("Phantasmagoria" was released on my fifteenth birthday), Killing Joke, Ultravox and baggy trousered schoolboy essentials Madness. "The Raven" threw me a bit as I'd only heard the brilliant pop hit "Duchess" back in 1979 on Noel Edmonds' Jukebox Jury TV show and no other songs on this experimental rock album were anywhere near as straightforward. Bizarrely the BBC banned the "Duchess" video for being blasphemous as the Stranglers dressed as choirboys in black shades and sang the song in a church, yet it was alright to show a still photo of the Stranglers dressed as choirboys singing in a church whilst the song played. The album intrigued me and grew, with songs about Vikings, dying cities, nuclear devestation, middle eastern dictators, malevolant alien farmers and gene manipulation - not the average lyrical subject matter. Next time I had enough special metal to buy some tapes I got their first two albums "Rattus Norvegicus" and "No More Heroes" on the same day, two albums full of lyrics my mother did not care for.

Hugh Cornwell left the Stranglers quite some time ago but he's kept on playing lots of Stranglers' songs. On this tour his trio were playing his latest album, the excellent "Hoover Dam" followed by every song from "Rattus Norvegicus." "Hoover Dam" is a full tilt power trio affair and the songs hit just as hard and catchy as his older ones. Album opener "Slow Boat to Trowbridge" switched places with penultimate cut "Wrong Side of the Tracks" so the gig opened with some Hendrix inspired guitar slinging. "Slow Boat" is the big rocker and feels better later in a live set when the crowd are well warmed up. Hugh does not like flashers at his gigs and there were notices up in a futile bid to stop all those annoying people who stick their cameras up in front of your face while you're trying to watch a band so they can post a crappy little film with diabolical tinny sound on You Tube. Best to keep the guitar flashy and not distract the guitarist with flashing - he might miss a fret and that makes him fret! He snatched a camera off one naughty man near the start of a song and kept on playing, banging on almost the same beat.

After a short break the three 'ells (Cornwell, bouncing bassist Caroline Campbell and rolling drummer Chris Bell) came back to their station to smack the shit out of "Sometimes." The first three songs were delivered faithfully, then Caroline sang "Princess of the Streets," giving JJ Burnel's lyrics an amusing lesbian twist. Back in '77 JJ shouted "Change it Hugh!" to usher in the guitar solo on the "Something Better Change" top ten smash hit and Hugh had got the urge to change "Rattus" arrangements. His delivery of the lyrics to "Hanging Around" was sped up, which didn't work as well, but the psychedelic arrangement of "Peaches" improved the ol' beach plodder no end. I was amused by the German tourists who'd started lurking on the beaches. "Grip" really got everyone going like strangers from another planet finding rock'n'roll to be the best thing the human race has to offer the universe and "Down in the Sewer" was epic and awesomely twisted. Most bands don't even bother to play as many as nineteen songs but Hugh had five more encore treats in store for the survivors! The almost chart topper "Golden Brown," a homage to Bob Dylan and a hint of what might be his next tour plan perhaps? The last couple of songs were the apocalyptic "Straighten Out" and "No More Heroes." I wouldn't be surprised if he played the whole of the second Stranglers album on the next tour, but you never know. The gig was so good that I spent thirty three quid on a divine invasion of Birmingham to repeat the experience the next day and had a ridiculous blast.

After Hugh's Manchester gig I jumped on a bus to Fuel and managed to catch a set by Leeds technoid duo Worried About Satan, soundtracking a French film "13" about an illegal Russian roulette ring. I missed Plank, but I've seen them more than any other band this year so it wasn't exactly the end of the world. Not yet, anyway...