Wednesday, 30 December 2009

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.

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