Let’s talk the United Sounds of ATP, this being the music festival in Camber Sands to which I went in May. This year had three curators Mudhoney, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Devendra Banhart, looking after Friday, Saturday, and Sunday respectively. In this episode, I will discuss Friday, the day curated by Mudhoney.
The first act I saw was Holly Golightly, she being famous as a sometime associate of Billy Childish and a guest star on The White Stripes’ Elephant. Live she comes across as a raddled yet stylish woman who poses with a guitar while a band plays around her. The music is the kind of mid-sixties retro-rock you would expect from her pedigree. I did not recognise any of the tunes, but I wager that that many of them were cover versions or indistinguishable from same. Much fun was had.
After that, a succession of acts who ploughed similar furrows to Mudhoney. This kind of thing can be the curse of ATP – unimaginative curators who only like bands who sound like themselves. Friday saw lots of acts with stoner rock guitar riffs and testifiers on lead vocals, with a general tendency towards lots of tremelo and occasional bursts of Hawkwind keyboards. The later acts seemed better than the early ones, but maybe this was because my mood had become a bit more appreciative.
The Drones came from Australia and provided us with an attractive lady bassplayer as well as the usual stoner riffs and testifying vocals. They had at least one really impressive song, built around an endlessly repeating and thuggish bassline. The singer had a somewhat Nick Cavey air to himself, and had an expressive command of his voice that allowed him to do both quiet, mumbley stuff as well as the screamy thing.
Total Sound Group Direct Action Committee broke away from Friday’s straitjacket, being instead a rather free-form outfit whose looseness suggested that they were either crazy improvisers or hopelessly under-rehearsed. They had a trumpeter whose endearing thing was jumping into the audience and blowing his horn at people while the rest did their stuff onstage. I liked them.
The Scientists were more straightforwardly part of the evening’s bill of fare. Their most notable features were perhaps the striking appearance of their lady drummer (whose austerity did not prevent her from being able to pound out the beats) and the mullety guy with the “Support Your Local Prostitute” t-shirt. Jesus, is that all I have to say about this band?
Comets on Fire were also straight down the line in terms of their conformity to the evening’s lines of engagement, yet they seemed to do it better than the others and were one of the finds of the festival for me. They particularly went for the Hawkwind-esque keyboards and exuded a general air of woahhhh-ness. They also had some nice looking t-shirts for sale, which I now wish I had bought. Sadly, the merchandising was a bit fucked up this year, with bands only selling their stuff in the immediate aftermath of playing. I don’t like being railroaded so I was hostile to buying things in that kind of setup. Their loss.
Black Mountain also impressed. They are apparently from Vancouver in the Canada. They also laid on the spacey keyboards big time and lived in a world of proggy art-rock, which met with my approval. One fascinating feature was the band’s lady member, who played occasional instruments as well as vocalising in a manner sometimes oddly reminiscent of evil Clare Torry, only not rubbish. The lead guy meanwhile was capable of both singing and delivering the most amazing guitar stuff, which caused some astonishment. That said, they maybe served up their best songs first before trailing off somewhat.
Mudhoney were the final band of the night. You know the score – Sabbath riffs and drawling vocals. They are a bit piss-takey and very “dude”. A lovely moment was when one of them had to be helped up by a roadie during a guitar solo after falling over backwards Tufnell-style.
They were nevertheless surprisingly engaged. One song that stuck in my mind was about this anti-war one about a nerdy guy who finds himself getting loads of action because all the jocks have been drafted and sent off to be killed. He concludes ruefully that the rightwingers who love war are all dirty old men who want to get the young guys out of the way so they can screw younger girls. Makes you think.
They also played ‘Touch Me, I’m Sick’ and many other YEOW! classics, before finishing with ‘Hate The Police’ which, though a cover version, seems to be their anthem. Sadly there was no performance of their version of Spacemen 3’s ‘Revolution’, but they definitely delivered the goods. Nevertheless, some found them a bit repetitive and went back to the chalets to crash. I felt that Mudhoney repaid close attention, even if their claim to have been the best ever ATP curators was a bit wide of the mark.