All Tomorrow’s Parties is the one time every year when an old reviews editor gets to cut loose a bit. No matter how many bands we actually make it to, though, we always come back with some new life lessons. Some in the form of wisdom, some in the form of physical pain. Here's what we gleaned from this weekend’s Simpsons-themed Saturnalia.
1. The Residents are very scary old men
It doesn’t matter whether they’re wearing eyeball heads or weird geriatric masks, their combination of unearthly ambient wigouts and deranged punk yowling is terrifying. And when they start telling stories about “the Mirror People…” Well, suffice to say I haven’t looked at my face in reflective glass since I got back.
2. Iggy Pop: you still would
Yes, you would. Don’t lie, because I know that when he growls “I’m a streetwalking cheetah with a heart full of napalm”, that even if you’re the world’s biggest Fall fan, that in your secret heart, if you knew no-one would find out, you would. And you’d really enjoy it.
3. Balloons make everything better
I’ve made some of my weirdest ever impulse buys in the ATP supermarket. If you’re standing in a queue to buy cider and there are balloons on sale for 99 pence, what are you gonna do? I’d intended to take them to a chalet party later so I could be one of those wacky dicks at chalet parties with balloons, but then I came across the cutest small boy that has ever existed dancing with his mother to Amadou & Mariam, and… again, what are you gonna do? Is it sad that batting those balloons out over the crowd and watching as they ricocheted back from side to side across the front rows was the greatest sense of achievement I’ve had in months? Probably.
4. ‘Ambling Alp’ by Yeasayer should be made some sort of global national anthem
Seriously – wherever, whenever you play that song, it brings joy and unification to the people. In the Irish Bar at 6pm, heading to the beach at 3am, in a chalet at lunchtime... there’s always room for a bit of sticking up for yourself, son.
5. Rabbits are fucking fast
I learned this sometime between Friday night and Sunday morning upon deciding that the warren-dwellers of Minehead Butlins would make a fine stew-based midnight snack. Four legs good, two legs bad, especially after you’ve just been dancing to Liars like you’re in primal scream therapy.
6. It is possible to totally reverse your body clock in one weekend
One of the peculiarities of ATP is that because you take out the physical hardship of a field festival (you never have to walk for more than five minutes, you’ve got a comfy chalet full of booze to go back to between bands), you end up much more messed up, much faster. And then next thing you know, it’s 8.30 in the morning and you’re having Costcutter Rioja for breakfast.
7. Spiritualized make the perfect music
Seriously, ‘Ladies And Gentlemen’ with strings and gospel choir on a Sunday night in the Pavilion when you’re already so emotionally and physically broken you would probably weep a bit listening to Newsnight? Doesn’t get any better than that, and I bet I could rpve it under laboratory conditions if I wasn’t still a bit wobbly.
8. Some songs you never want to end
One of the best things about ATP is the impromptu secret gigs and collaborations. By far the highlight of our weekend was watching Congolese thumb-piano rave-up merchants Konono No 1 playing in the extremely sweaty confines of Jak’s accompanied by one Jason Pierce on unholy feedback. Normally I have the musical attention span you’d expect of someone raised on Kenickie and the Manics, but after 25-odd minutes of one song, I could have danced for another four hours.
9. Skateboarding is difficult
This I discovered shortly after being diverted from going down to Minehead beach (probably a good idea given my state at that point) by a very kindly and well-intentioned security guard. Seeing a fully-grown man on a skateboard, rather than, you know, spit at him or something’, I instead decided to spill my heart about how I’d never been able to skateboard when I was a kid. Queue 10 degrading minutes of said man trying to teach me how to ollie in that way that boys teach girls how to play pool, me proving comprehensively that my core balance skills have not improved in two decades, and said skateboarder asking me if he could “have a special cuddle”. Yes. I know.
10. There’s always a chalet somewhere where people are having more fun than you are right now
You just need to follow the noise, child.