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.