Pitchfork scare the bluecoats with a mind-melting bill of obtuse indie for the seaside. Pontin’s Camber Sands (May 9-11)
Pontin’s of Camber Sands tries desperately hard to be weird and wacky. Reception is housed in a pirate ship, the upstairs bar is reached via an octopus belly and crocodiles run amok in the go-karting arena. But if this kerrrazy seaside holiday resort truly wants weird, this weekend they’ve got weird. Starting right here, right now on Friday night with Fuck Buttons.
The obtuse Bristolian noisemongers begin with the deranged nursery plinky-plonk of ‘Sweet Love For Planet Earth’, a colon-battering hit of fuzz guitar and Benjamin Power’s demonic growls delivered from a Fisher-Price microphone run through Beelzebub’s effects pedal. It sounds like a baby drowning in the river Styx and unnerves every orange-shirted steward from here to Hastings. Before that, Shit And Shine deploy five drummers, two guys in rabbit ears and a man with a green head for their set. Later, Portland’s dance-punks Glass Candy split the room: to some it’s a post-Crystal Castles party set, to others Kate Nash At The Disco. Whatever, it keeps us going until Hot Chip’s four-hour DJ set and oblivion.
After a Saturday morning spent playing Spot The ATPer at the beach (clue: they’re the ones in the Battles T-shirts and black jeans), majestic folksters Bon Iver bewilder and fuzz-titans Times New Viking enthral before Los Campesinos! realise a dream by playing the main stage. “This is our Wembley, our Knebworth, our Pyramid Stage!” chirps Gareth before unleashing the fantastically appropriate ‘Knee Deep At ATP’.
“You’ve got a whole lot of hurt in your heart buddy, you’re busting up. This one’s for you,” comes the introduction to ‘Patty Lee’ from Les Savy Fav’s Tim Harrington, today sporting a sheer white kimono-cum-sumo wrestler’s suit. It’s an evangelical start, and it just gets weirder from here – as expected. Harrington’s soon in the crowd, slipping on a Pink Panther costume then beheading it and singing into a girl’s crotch before (groo!) wiping sweat off his chest into her mouth like an indie Har Mar. And that’s before he’s found a bra to put on. They finish by leading the crowd downstairs to the beat of drums like hairy Pied Pipers before bringing half the drumkit on to Black Lips’ stage. Apparently, the Atlantans were supposed to be participating in this but had over-indulged earlier in the day. So much so it would seem, they barely make it through their set, Jared refusing to play anything too “complicated”. ‘O Katrina!’ and ‘Bad Kids’ still sound great, but it’s a test of patience. Hot Chip also disappoint, spunking their best songs in the first quarter before sinking into balladry. They end with ‘Nothing Compares 2 U/In The Privacy Of Our Love’, which would be fine, but not at 1am when everyone’s ripped on vodka and sunstroke. Day three and the bingo hall smells of death and sweat as we watch A Place To Bury Strangers in swim shorts. Their thunderous space-kraut is a million miles from Sunday afternoon beach listening. Probably the loudest band on the planet, they destroy guitars in the darkness, lit only by schizoid strobes and lone lighthouse beams. Black Mountain, by contrast, bring the lethargy, interspersed with some Sabbath riffery.
Pissed Jeans are piss poor. We’re all here because we’re fans of noise and chaos, but this garage punk needs a few more hours in the garage. That said, singer Matt Korvette is narcissistically captivating and they pull a few minutes of genius out of the swamp.
Kaftans, cravats, cocktail dresses and courtly jester costumes can only mean one thing: Of Montreal have been at the dressing-up box again. They sweat through ‘Suffer For Fashion’ alongside a flurry of balloons, confetti, butterflies, tigers and ninjas. It’s brilliantly Roxy Music, and when they drop ‘The Past Is A Grotesque Animal’ the place erupts. Long-haired metallers mosh – it’s that kind of night.
Downstairs, Wooden Shjips’ 20-minute riffs draw a bigger crowd than The Hold Steady, who rally a devoted handful with belters ‘Hot Soft Light’ and ‘Stuck Between Stations’. No Age have an inauspicious start: the drums sound like they’re mic’ed up to a Dictaphone, while the drummer’s two vocal mics obviously came from the same shop. Like much of the weekend, though, they start to make sense as you adjust your head. Pitchfork might be a little earnest, but like all ATP curators, they’ve got taste.