18.12.2009, Words by Ruth Saxelby

Ten Years of ATP

It’s a long old drive to Minehead, plenty of time in which to gorge on filling-threatening toffees, swap favourite gig stories and get well and truly revved up with made-for-the-journey playlists. By the time we arrived I was more excited than a kid on Christmas Day and sugar crashing like there was no tomorrow. There was only one thing for it and that was jumping head first into the gigathon of ALL TOMORROW’S PARTIES three-day 10th birthday party. In-between chalet karaoke (Elton John and Fleetwood Mac featured heavily), brisk walks on the beach and much chilli cheese eating, we saw a lot of bands. Here are some of the best bits.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Glasses of smuggled rum and coke in hand, our first stop was under the white tented peaks of the Pavilion where three giant silver glittery Ys dominated the stage. We waited then waited some more. People began to boo. Half an hour is hardly diva-ishly late but everyone was impatient to get going. Then the familiar black bob stormed on stage. “Fuck you ATP, we only just got here!” screeched Karen O before launching into Rich, the opener to an exhilarating playback of 2003’s ‘Fever To Tell’. Maps and Y Control, and then Heads Will Roll chucked in for good measure, had almost everyone back in the palm of Karen O’s sweaty, clenched hand.

Making our way upstairs to Centre Stage, we caught the merry band of Icelandic mischief makers playing what felt like elvish carnival music. Clearly bonkers but utterly beguiling, Múm cast a lovely spell over the crowd.

Fuck Buttons
A quick pitstop at the chalet later, we ran back to Centre Stage for Fuck Buttons. In the dark cave-like room, it felt akin to orchestra of sheet glass simultaneously smashing in cascading surround sound. Overwhelmingly loud in a sharp and visceral way, the experience was strangely, refreshingly palate cleansing. Afterwards we jumped around in the Crazy Horse for a couple of hours before calling it a day.

After possibly the worst breakfast of my entire life (oh Butlins, how can you mess up scrambled eggs?), we headed back to the Pavilion for Afrirampo. In matching red painted faces and outfits, the two slight Japanese women alternated between naïve melodies and mind-bendingly ferocious rock. One minute they had the crowd belly laughing with their on-stage broken banter, the next guitarist Oni had leapt up on to a raised platform in front of Pikachu’s drums, leaning back to allow Pikachu to drum out the rest of the song on her guitar. It was the rockest thing I’ve ever seen. Apparently they played with Lighting Bolt the next day but I missed it.

Having bagged spots down the front, the first thing that hit was the physicality of Battles. Each band member was like a concertina, channelling the sound through their body. Tyondai Braxton thrust back and forward over keyboards and computer controls, expelling half-spoken sounds that were then distorted, sampled and looped. Ian Williams made jerky, angular shapes over his guitar and keyboard, while bassist/guitarist David Konopka dropped to the floor to strum frantic rhythms. Drummer John Stanier jumped out of his seat to hit a cymbal a couple of foot above him and at various points drummed with one hand while violently shaking a percussion instrument with the other. It was utterly thrilling, sonically and visually. The crowd were ecstatic, leaping about with as much building fervour as the band. The new songs were poppier, with almost nursery rhyme like vocals, and were devoured with the same joyous hunger that greeted Atlas. The whole thing left me a little speechless and on a complete high.

Sunn O)))
Many rum and cokes later, at 2am on the Saturday night, we positioned ourselves in front of the humongous speakers on Centre Stage. Clinging to the barriers, all eyes were fixed on two hooded figures shrouded in smoke. The duo were apparently performing their ‘Shoshin/Grimmrobe’ demos in their entirety but I couldn’t really say what actually happened. It was like being in the belly of a fire-breathing monster, an entirely peculiar kind of purging. I spent half of it with my hands in my ears, a vain attempt to salvage at least some of my hearing. Worth the tinnitus? Hell yeah.

Devendra Banhart
Having shaken off the worst of the hangover with a dash down to the beach to catch a beautiful 4.30pm winter sunset, we settled back in the Pavilion for Devendra and his band of bearded songwriters. I’d been expecting something altogether folkier, but instead it felt like a 1930s swing party. The audience swayed and faces glowed as Devendra introduced each song with a shout out to the band member who’d written it. Cosy limb-thawing stuff.

Explosions In The Sky
The Texan post-rockers were the last proper gig of the weekend for me. I crashed and burned shortly after. Soaring, searing and intensely life-affirming, they were the perfect ending to a very special weekend. Hundreds of light-reflecting bubbles descended into the crowd throughout their set. The quieter moments were slightly marred by the click-clacking of arcade air-hockey games at the back of the Pavilion but it didn’t really matter. Tracks like Welcome, Ghosts remind you it’s good to be alive. Which is actually also how being at All Tomorrow’s Parties makes you feel, infinitely alive together. To the next ten.

Check out our ATP gallery to read some of the bands’ favourite memories of ATP.

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