Monday, June 20, 2016

Stewart Lee All Tomorrow's Parties, Part 3: Saturday

I continue my account of the last ever ATP festival. Previous installments here & here.

I went for a stroll into sunny Prestatyn and saw none other than folkie sensation Alasdair Roberts wandering around. This was very exciting as he was on the bill for Sunday, so if he was here this meant that at least one more act I was looking forward to seeing was still going to be playing. I thought of saying hello but I did not want to be that guy who annoys famous people. Afterwards though I wondered whether Roberts might be at that level of fame where randomers saying hello to him is still exciting.

I was in Prestatyn to do some shopping (including trying to pass a prescription for "stuff" in a local Boots), so it was fitting that the first things I saw back in Pontins was the last few minutes of Shopping, who played angular music suggesting a Congolese influence. I did not see enough to have an informed impression but reports were positive. I saw more of Wolf People, who could lazily be described as a late 1960s folk-rock revival outfit. They're good at what they do, though I think further investigation may be needed to determine just how good.

I wandered along to The Raincoats in a spirit of some trepidation. As you know, they emerged in the punk era and were considered strangely novel by all being women. Their career ran its course then but with the passage of time they have experienced several revivals of interest in their work. I am a great admirer of their cover version of The Kinks' 'Lola' but when I saw them at a previous ATP I found the experience dispriting; to me they were the wrong kind of ramshackle, coming across as amateurish and incompetent.

This time I only caught the last few songs of The Raincoats' set (something I seem to have done with a great many of the performances at this festival). But either they were more on top of their game or (more likely) I was in a more receptive mood, because this seemed like strikingly good stuff. It was still a bit ramshackle but it was good ramshackle, the kind of thing that is the opposite of slick. And there was a droney element to their music that I did not recall from the last time. I came away from this thinking that I should re-engage with this band's recorded oeuvre.

I also saw the last few songs of Bevis Frond. They were like a 1970s softy rock band who had somehow travelled forward in time to the 2010s. To me they were fundamentally inessential but they might appeal to others.

So I went to see Richard Youngs on Stage 2. I know him just from some performances he gave at Counterflows in Glasgow last year. He somehow manages to straddle the disparate worlds of folkie music and conceptual art music, which means that on any given occasions when you see him you never know quite what you are going to get. In this case he came on stage and did some kind of odd a cappella piece. Then he did a song where he would sing a line and then shout "HEY!".

I like to think of myself as a broadminded individual open to new experiences, but this was all a bit too in your face artwank for me, so I wandered off. I heard subsequently that I left just before it all got interesting. Apparently he sang a line and shouted nothing, whereupon someone in the crowd tentatively shouted "Hey?". After that the concert became a bizarre event based on unpredictable performer-audience interaction.

But I saw none of that because I was making a daring raid upstairs to see Laetitia Sadier. The last time I saw the former Stereolab singer (at a previous ATP) she was playing solo. This time she had a band with her, made up of young gentlemen. The whole thing was OK but again I found it somewhat inessential. Still, I did find myself standing beside curator and TV funny guy Stewart Lee for a bit. I thought of giving him a thump and saying "Who's having the last laugh now?" except he is well known for his skill at the arts of fighting so I decided against it.
Back downstairs I caught the set by late 1980s indie sensations The Blue Aeroplanes. They are one of those bands who weren't involved in shoegaze and never went seriously indie-dance, so now they are somewhat forgotten (but not, presumably, by Stewart Lee). I did not hear much of their stuff back in the day but always had the idea that they had an interesting art-rock quality to them, so I was keen to check them out. Now their line-up is made up mostly of younger musicians but there are a couple still who are or could be original members. The drummer is of somewhat advanced years but the two key oldsters are Gerard Langley, the beat poet inspired vocalist, and Wojtek Dmochowski, dancer.

That's right, readers, they have a dancer. Some have described Wojtek as the original Bez but I think there is a different dynamic to his efforts here. Bez basically shuffled backwards and forwards in a confused haze, but Wojtek is more of the interpretative dance persuasion. Lord knows what the musicians in the band though of him, but for me his presence was a key part of what made this a great performance.

Another great thing about the Blue Aeroplanes was how up for it the band were. Sometimes one finds with long-running or reformed bands where past members have been replaced by young people that you end up with detached session musicians, but here we had a load of excited players who gave every impression of being very invested in the music (and there were even a couple of songs that did not have Gerard on lead vocals). The last song they played was a particularly mental all hands on deck tune that would have been a great encore piece, if bands in the middle of a festival bill got to do encores.

Come back tomorrow for more ATP action!

More astonishing ATP pictures

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