It's a little creepy, truth be told. A giant bear is-
Everything is oddly quiet, polite, ordered. Everyone seems a little disorientated by their surroundings. It like some kind of arch political trick, a Nazi swerveball; they've invited all the pencil trousered, 50s flashing, floppy haired indie kids to come to this place and they're gonna line them up and shoot them or Zyklon B the soft little fuckahs while they sleep off their Magners and Marijuana headaches (even then they'd see the Throbbing Gristle reference before the danger, even then they'd nod in recognition and smile at their friends). These people in high places, these Government lackies are plain fed up with these shambling ex-students, these sad Dads (or perhaps sad Uncles), these people who just won't give up and grow up (tomorrow Bobby Gillespie will play maracas in Grinderman; the whole time showing you can beam like a fangirl and growl like Jagger with jkust one facial expression).
Irritated with all these people who still insist on still listening to music, the Government have prepared Extermination Camps and snuck them through the Lords.
We missed The Only Ones but I think they might always have been shit.
You come out of the fish and chips shop and just around the corner, surrounded by lights yelling out Pizz Hut and Burger King and Jumpin Jacks, the Dirty Three are playing their guts out.
Mad pirate music for lonely souls, staked out for the birds, liver open.
Warren Ellis is the most enthusiastic man ever, he's totally, brilliantly, lost his cool and accepted his bands role as curator with all the childish glee of a blogger - he's high kicking whenever he can, making great windmills with his arms and sawing away at his violin like his life depended on it (which I guess, it does).
He probably has a mortgage, some sprogs, problems getting his 5 a day but he's ecstatic right now because he's curating ATP and that's got to be sky high on any music fans wants list, got to be the closest thing we get to the sheer compulsive frenzy of mixtape making and top ten lists...
He's not cool about it but he doesn't have to pretend it's not an honour. He knows everyone out there would swap places with him. You can tell he had his list of bands for ATP well before anyone asked him to put it together.
In fact, none of the people here are that cool. This doesn't seem like a festival for poseurs or preeners - a totally unexpected treat when you see the line-up and imagine all the stackhairs and the Birthday Party fetishists and Joanna Newsom luvvies. In fact, there's a thick streak of nerdiness running through the crowd - people clearly know their stuff and love it; no real chancers at ATP, no one coming in blind.
(By Day Three everyone will look suitably dank and deathly and like they haven't washed for a week but they'lll smell of Organics conditioners and coconut soap)
After the Dirty Three, we made our way into the oddly Lynchian Reds (an attenuated Vegas), rapidly lost a minor fortune (one G & Ts worth) of 2p coins in the arcade and then settled for drinks and the potted noodling of Brokeback, some Tortoise offshoot or other which sounded worse than that might suggest.
I liked Djed, bits of Millions Now Living Will Never Die, but Tortoise have to be the worst thing to come out of Chicago since Steve Silk Hurley.
Or any of those Chicago Housers.
Back at the chalet I force Kempernorton to ingest large amounts (actually, small amounts - he's a total wuss) of the ultra-strong, genetically modified spazzweed I bought just for this moment and we spend the evening listening to music in some semi-paranoid, sub Withnail state, watching as drunk folk lurched against our windows in nicely pressed Neu! t-shirts.
In the morning, on ATP TV in the chalet, we watch Elvis documentaries and begin to sense a theme emerging.
Day Two properly kicks off with mini-golf, a savagely contested game in which the hugely average Kempernorton won, my wife came second and I dripped in a miserably mediocre third out of 6. I mumble something about being distracted by the Nick Cave rehearsals (the Elvis theme spreading it's wings). He's gonna do quite a lot of the old uns.
Alan Vega's set is more mental even than the group of small 0ff-their-tits girls dancing madly to his beats. A woman who looks like she should be on the cover of one of those 'Wild Women' books you can only by in Glastonbury bookshops with crystal waterfalls in them is playing some kind of primitive theramin while taped beats and noise and general mayhem* spew out and Alan Vega rants over the top about marines and nastiness and potty-mouthed politics before inviting some small child up on stage to play harmonica.
No, it really is a small child.
There's an energy that only Alan Vega has. He plays with primitive parts; the beats, the noise, the vocals, the throb but he clearly believes and that drives the music onwards, makes it relentless rather than boring, elemental rather than basic. It's a great set and the Elvis theme is further extended. Only Muhammad Ali and Johnny Cash are more Elvis than Alan.
There's an unwritten rule that I thought everyone knew: you don't wear a t-shirt of the band who are playing. You can wear opposing or complementary t-shirts but never the actual selfsame band, I mean... ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ A few are breaking that rule tonight; wearing their Spiritualized and Spacemen 3 and Neubauten t-shirts with no apparent shame. This is a coolly presented, laid-back, festival but - Christ - rules are rules.
This kind of disregard for basic social norms puts me into the kind of manic spiralling descent that only Gin and Tonic and Spiritualised Acoustic Mainline playing Spacemen 3 songs will drag me out of so I guess it's lucky that the transgression is happening now, when I can just lay back and smile at my friends and bathe in the wafts of nostalgia that drift around the room. Over an eighth of these people once had those For All The Fucked Up Children In The World Spacemen 3 t-shirts and over a half of them would still have them if they hadn't thrown them out because they didn't want to encourage their kids to have foul language...
Spiritualized may be terminally uncool these days but on this form they are sweet and lovely and just what's needed in this giant deflated balloon of a main stage.
Nick Cave and Grinderman are on. Everyone's willing Cave up from the piano. Yeah, we like those ballads, we love them, but we can put them on later, when the kids are trying to sex or something, when they're swapping b-sides like saliva back in the chalets...
Right now we need to grin and grind and Nick pushes most of the right buttons as himself and then even more as Grinderman, picking up a guitar (it looks odd on him, somehow) and having a good thrash at playing it, while the rest of the band spazz and go around him and he tries to play the organ and the guitar and sing and tell everyone that he is the Grinderman.
I used to love Gallon Drunk and they used to love The Birthday Party and didn't the guy from Gallon Drunk once play with the Bad- ?
Honey Bee, let's fly to Mars.
Then it's a long wait and more superskunking while we recuperate back at the chalet / processing pens (actually very comfy), watch the rest of Match of The Day (it doesn't seem to matter that Liverpool lose) and wait for Neubauten to come on at 1.30...
1.30. Jesus. A band I've never been able to see and always wanted to and they stick them on at 1.30.
Excellent. The timing's perfect. You need to be a little fucked for Neubauten.
But my friends are falling and my wife's already fallen. She goes to bed and falls into a cosmic coma, looking beautiful but so wasted she ought to be listening to Donna Summer (which, coincidentally the rest of us are, since my smashed ipod can only blurt tunes out at random and almost all of them I've never possessed, I'm sure - I mean, there's whole chunks of freakish jazz sometimes, stiffloads of Coil obv. but then also an odd predilection for shoegazing nonsense which I'm only just up to admitting.
I awake with a faceprint of cottonette, not remembering being asleep. It's 1 AM. Neubauten.
The place is packed. Plenty of industrial skeletons in these closets. Inside I'm sqealing with excitement, outside I'm Lee Marvin cool; no one can tell how my eyes are getting glassy because I'm filling them with smoke.
They come on and everything's ablaze...three songs in and they've gone for pure krautery, motorocking, NNNAAAMMM style... Blixa is in a talkative, pisstaking mood, gently bitching and moaning about no one subscribing to their records... a mentalist near me yells out Tanz Debil every now and then... there's some kind of commentary by Blixa on the nature of rock and roll...
"We're not an industrial band, we're a shoegazing band..."
There's ballads in here, songs about colours and light and hellos, all sung in alternating english and german (though by now no one can really see the join. It strikes me how magnificently beautiful and understated their music is, even when they crank up the metal-bashing and start throwing the spanners - out of the strong, came forth sweetness - and the band is also tighter than you'd believe, stopping and starting on a sixpence, even when there seems so many things going on that it's all having to revert to some entropic, oedemal tangle...
Kempernorton is already sweating trays (why buckets? that seems excessive) and has had a real-life near death experience even before A N Unruh starts crinkling polystyrene but this sends him off on one, Polystyrene being to Kemper as Kryptonite is to Clark.
But Blixa is right, they are a shoegazing band... the songs stretch on and on but the first time I look at my watch is 2hrs later when the finally go off. Almost everyone in here wants more, it's compulsive and everyone's woken up. 3 AM seems early. Even my cast-iron indie kid mate N is caught up in the moment, saying it's the best gig he's ever been too... and this is the guy that Psychbloke's always saying goes down the front of more or less every band in existence...
On the way back there's a man who looks like Elvis hanging around the football pitch. I'm too wasted to offer him a game but I make a silent vow to seek him out later on tomorrow.
I'm- Sleep comes uninvited, right in the middle of. Dintseethatcoming.
It's morning and first on is the skewed minor dementia of 'legendary' Mary Margaret O(h) Hara, now recombined via gene therapy as half Bjork half Bill Cosby in scat mode...
Mesmer would've been proud, Mary seems to have wandered onstage with almost no preparatio, but there's a touch of Neuro-Linguistic Programming about her performance; you get the feeling that you're being somehow coerced into being fascinated by her against your will... as if it could be Tori Amos (Or Tori Spelling) up there and you'd still be laughing and pressing palms and drinking your cider too quickly.
Could be just charm, I guess.
We catch the happy hippy chops of White Magic (pretty, but they didn't do 'keeping the wolves from the door'- a shrooming contagion of mine) but the wait is all for Joanna Newsom, who Pre-Raphaelites and Faerie Queens behind the safety of her huge heart / harp in a way that should be unbearably twee and forced but never does. She's quiet as death but the crowd are rapt; she's very stareable. She plays favourites from the two albums and leaves as softly as she came.
I'm not hungover but I wish I was. This is perfect music for soothing and swaying.
It's Nick Cave again, but he plays too m,any songs from his first set. He's great to watch but we've seen him and people are starting to get twitchy. After honey bee, the last of us head back to the chalets and prepare for the 5.45 bus back to work.
All the Elvises are leaving the building.
*The diving line between Mayhem and Mayhew (as in Christopher, as in Mescalin experiments on TV) is a theme running through my drug-addled mind on the second day, while waiting for Neubauten. It's flashing back even as I type
All photos nicked from Flickr people - mine were all shite or undigested.