Gawd bless Sir Billy Butlin; founder of the original social networking site and king of holiday camp heaven for all your kin. Now there’s a man that knew how to start the party – just remember to close your chalet curtains though, yeah?
So, in keeping in the spirit of ole Billy boy’s vision of wholesome fun and frolics, this weekend’s All Tomorrow’s Parties fest – now in its tenth debauched year – is very much a family affair. Hosted by The Breeders’ identical twin sisters and rock royalty Kim and Kelley Deal, the next 72 hours in Butlins, Minehead, sees bands and artists spanning generations battling it out; from the veteran who knows how to win over a crowd (Throwing Muses’ Kristin Hersh: “I’m old and retarded”) to the rookie who should know who their audience actually is (CSS’s Lovefoxxx: “This one’s for Rihanna!”).
And what better way to commence a weekend that’s likely to break you beyond repair than hardcore punk monsters The Bronx, whose frontman Matt Caughthran bulldozes into a mass of sweaty beasts with merry abandon. Next up are seminal outfit Throwing Muses, who, despite being billed criminally early, are the perfect tonic of alt.rock intent and Hersh’s sweet husky-dew vocal, to ease a work-week-weary crowd into the ethereal soul-searching of Bon Iver’s shack-dwelling Justin Vernon.
Following a night of reckless hedonistic dancing at ATP’s local discothèque Crazy Horse, there really is no better way to obliterate your Saturday morning hangover than joining Kelley Deal for a surreal, but comforting, spot of knitting. And on the great lady’s recommendation, these broken bones trot off in the direction of young upstarts Blood Red Shoes and CSS. But where the former have gone from strength-to-strength with their angst pop and a particularly frenetic version of ‘You Bring Me Down’, CSS manage to leave us with a suicidal gaping hole of misery where the spirit of joy once resided – and no amount of helium balloons onstage could convince us otherwise.
How a band can move from quite excellent to sounding like a box full of stale farts and looking less chirpy than Alf Garnett so quickly is beyond us. Thankfully, the swooning pop ditties of Teenage Fanclub and the acerbic and hysterical Shellac – this weekend’s house band – are to hand, the latter of whose epiphany-inducing ‘The End Of Radio’ is only surpassed by their set on Sunday, resplendent with a version of ‘Canada’, a fannish inquisition of sorts (“What’s your favourite juice?”), Bob Weston pretending to be an aeroplane and Todd Trainer (an omnipresent force at this year’s event) being carried offstage by Albini.
And despite heart-palpitating sets from hell’s own drummer Zach Hill and electronic noiseniks Holy Fuck, it is curators The Breeders who are Saturdays highlight, as the Deals fumble humbly through ‘Saints’, ‘Divine Hammer’ and the mosh-starting, floor-punishing ‘Cannonball’. With the addition of ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’ we almost die
on the spot in utter contentment. As could Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox on Sunday – after managing to drag Kim and Kelley onstage to cover Kim’s side-project The Amps’ classic ‘Bragging Party’, he spends the rest of the soured psych-pop set giggling like a schoolboy and declaring himself a “dork”.
Notable mention should be given to The Soft Pack (né Muslims), whose jaggedy indie-pop sounds less infuriatingly quirky live than on record, but there’s really only one band on Sunday who summed up the euphoria that ATP instils in the right-minded festival goer.
Foals may not have chosen to break themselves in easy with a hits set, instead eschewing ‘Hummer’ and ‘Cassius’ in favour of extended intros, jams and new material (“In the spirit of ATP, we thought we’d wing it,” says Yannis Philippakis. “We hope they don’t suck”). Indeed, they don’t. Closing with ‘Two Steps Twice’, which sees Philippakis bounding nimbly offstage, evading the lumbering security and haring round the entire room before coming back onstage to beat seven bells out of a hapless snare drum, Foals prove that the young’uns at this year’s ATP can give the old timers a run for their money yet; but only just.