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