Pontins, Camber Sands, Friday May 10 - Sunday May 12
“I saw that guy in the arcade playing Silent Hill,” says Tunde Adebimpe, pointing out into his crowd. “I saw you trying to win a giant Angry Bird… I feel like I’ve met everyone here.” Camaraderie: the charm of All Tomorrow’s Parties holiday-camp weekenders, and one of the reasons they’ll be missed. The other, most significant reason is the joy of discovery-by-curation. Though they’re often dismissed as worthy beardies, this line-up offers many fine examples of TV On The Radio’s twisted sense of fun and exquisite taste – and none finer or fiercer than Friday’s explosive, hysterical, sexy set by Mykki Blanco, who sidesteps any ‘queer rap’ pigeonholing by force of wit and sharpness of tongue, bringing a universal depth to a unique voice.
She couldn’t find much odder bill-fellows than shouty-shouty Death Grips, all rage, muscle and stuttering beats. There’s something seductive about their racket, but MC Ride’s shtick is pure confrontation porn, and just a little bit hipster Rage Against The Machine (although ‘Hacker’ rules). Another stark contrast arrives in the form of original hip-hop lovers De La Soul, who soothe the vibe’s fevered brow with some thoughtfully bouncy, daisy-age party-startin’. ‘A Roller Skating Jam Named “Saturdays”‘ is the best sort of feelgood music, boinging around in the main room, while downstairs Thee Oh Sees keep things gnarly, holding up the psych-rock end of TVOTR’s broad taste spectrum. First thing next day, Light Asylum wrench the thermostat back to “stark”, but for all their monochrome humourlessness, there’s an impassioned beauty to their industrial Yazoo routine.
On then, to the weekend’s highest rollers. From the off, with ‘Halfway Home’, TV On The Radio sound fierce and muscular. These are their first gigs since the death of bassist Gerard Smith in 2011, but they make no reference to it; the ferocity of their attack this evening suggests a band very much pushing forward, and the first new song of the night, ‘Mercy’, is aggressively punky, Tunde seething, “I fell in love with professional evil on the day you left my side“. ‘Wolf Like Me’ nearly takes the roof of the place, all rough and snarly as the band lose their shit and Light Asylum’s Shannon Funchess stagedives like a legginged torpedo. ‘Million Miles’ is the second new song of the evening, a soft, honeyed soul ballad that builds to a grand, Beatles-ish psychiness with Kyp on vocals. ‘Dancing Choose’ and ‘Staring At The Sun’ see us off, band and audience losing themselves in a happy frenzy. Try as they might, it’s an energy that one-time professional party-bringers !!! can’t quite match downstairs.
Sunday starts arty with Lone Wolf & Cub, a band who sound like you’re taking the piss when you describe them (“beardy drummer, woman on a trapeze”) and often sound like they’re taking the piss when you listen to them. Though the concept/joke/whatever is better than the sound, it is nice easing yourself into the day by watching Suzanne Rogaleski blithely swing, twist and writhe. Now, here’s a surprise: CSS are still flipping going! You have to give them full, puzzled marks for persistence, but as Lovefoxxx takes to the stage in a shiny silver cape it seems things haven’t moved on a great deal since the disaster that was third album ‘La Liberación!’. New dancehall-tinged single ‘Hangover’ and the soft-focus ballad ‘Frankie Goes To North Hollywood’ are chirpy enough, but insufficient reason for anyone to still care.
From the ridiculous to the sublime with Saul Williams, whose alternately lyrical and haranguing hip-hop poetry forces you into a different mode of concentration, washed and buffeted in a stream of verbiage. Beautiful as he is, Saul would be far too soothing an end to proceedings, and so we prepare to be propelled into the starry, wild and windy night by the sex-funk-space-noise-terror jams of Shabazz Palaces, equal parts Funkadelic and Suicide. Ishmael Butler and Tendai Maraire play from behind a set-up draped in shining silken fabrics, clad in shades to protect themselves from the brain-frying emissions of spooky treated vocals, ominous booms, larynx-shaking thrums and outbreaks of hellish racket. As the set progresses, it gets deeper and weirder until everyone is totally lost. If only we could all stay here forever… but it was probably too good to last.