Thursday, June 23, 2016

Stewart Lee All Tomorrow's Parties, Part 6: Sunday (continued)

Amazing! I am still describing my trip to the last ever ATP festival. Should you want to see previous instalments, they are here, here, here, here and here.

I was very excited about seeing Bardo Pond on the main stage. They are a real ATP band, in the sense that I think playing at early ATPs played an important part in bringing them to a wider audience. There is a heavy rock freak out quality to their music, but their sound is also slow and restrained and less excessive than, say, the likes of The Heads. They include a number of blokes on instruments and a woman on flute and vocals. At previous ATPs I always saw them playing the smaller stages but this time they were on Stage 1, the big one. And while before they always seemed like a small stage band, this time they felt like they had expanded and upped their game to take on the expanse now offered to them. Isobel Sollenberger was fronting the band much more than when I had previously seen them. Her languid blissed out demeanour well suited the enveloping stoner rock sounds.
Perhaps because they have gained so much by playing ATP festivals, Ms Sollenberger actually thanked Barry Hogan from the stage. A ripple went through the crowd. I may even have heard someone saying "Fucking hell", but it was a measure of how the bad vibes of Friday had somewhat dissipated that her thanks were not followed by boos from the audience.

I saw a little bit of a 1970s documentary film about the Sunbury Pop Festival, this being an Australian music festival in the town of Sunbury. It looked like a very well made member of the festival film genre, with great footage of bands performing and then music juxtaposed with things happening in the crowd. As with every film of this type there was an incident where a guy who had taken too much acid had to be coaxed down from an observation tower. There was some interesting interview footage with a guy from a band where he was saying that what was so great about the festival was that it showed there was enough talent in Australia for festivals to be put on without having to bring in second rate American bands (for all that his band sounded like a Creedence Clearwater Revival tribute act).

The most interesting bit of the film for me though was all the footage of cops getting heavy with festival goers. As presented, it looked like there were a lot of lads hanging around not really doing too much when suddenly the cops would roll up and throw people into police vans. Anyone who suggested that this might be a bit much was liable to join their friends in the wagon, perhaps receiving a few slaps into the bargain. Cops be cops.

It was also striking how white and British Isles the festival goers all looked. Unlike ATP of course! I read subsequently that Sunbury Pop declined into a festival for beer drinking dickheads. A pre-fame Queen played one year and were greeted with cries of "Fuck off back to Pommyland, ya pooftahs".

Sadly I missed the sing-a-long Wicker Man. I did catch some of Richard James, a former member of Gorky's Zygotic Mynci who must spend his time denying that he is the Aphex Twin. His music was entertainingly droney.
Rounding off the weekend for me then was the Sun Ra Arkestra. OK, let's get all Van Morrison School of Music Journalism (a phrase coined by one Dave Howarth to refer to music journalists who state the obvious or thoughtlessly parrot unchecked received opinions) on this. The Arkestra are a jazz big band led by Marshall Allen, who is in his 90s. They have their origins in the band led by Sun Ra, who was from Saturn (to where he has now returned). They wear sparkly capes. They have songs about travelling through space. They parade through the audience at the climax of their set.

To be honest, the Sun Ra Arkestra are pretty much the same every time I see them, but they are pretty much the same in a way that always makes me want to see them again. They are the perfect good time end to a festival like this. Friday's Bad Vibes were now definitively gone.

And so the festival ends on a high note… but Monday morning brought astonishing news. You can read all about it here tomorrow.

More astonishing ATP pictures

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