After the long drive down from London to the somerset coastal town of Minehead, we pulled up in the place we’d be calling home for the next 3 nights… Butlins!!! As the DiR team arrived at the check-in desk we couldn’t help but get excited at the prospect of reviving our childhood spirits and living a festival in luxury style.
Nestling down in our deluxe 3rd floor chalet in Palm Tree Place complete with shower, fully fitted kitchen, comfy beds and most importantly TOWELS!!! We were perfectly placed about 2 minutes from the main arena and 2 minutes from the swimming pool complex.
Wrenching ourselves away from watching TV and having a few beers (newly chilled in our fridge/freezer) and a couple of burgers (freshly cooked on our cooker) we headed to check out the stages and start our festival music consumption.
Shuffling into the vast pavilion complex we were greeted by an all-in one entertainment complex complete with 3 indoor stages, innumerable bars, arcade games, a bowling alley, pool hall, plenty of fast food eateries. Ignoring the multitude of distractions we headed to see our first band of the weekend, Surfer Blood on the Main Stage.
If you have ever heard a Surfer Blood song, you probably know what they look like before seeing them! Clean cut Californian yacht club types who ooze pretentiousness! Their music wasn’t bad, surf happy melodies served of a bed of fuzzy guitars and reverb soaked vocals. Music was pretty decent, yet I found them generally irritating lacking in energy and spirit. Having liked them on record, this was a disappointing set which dosed down their pop and upped their noise…something which didn’t work for me.
Heading away from the vast space of the Main Stage we headed to the Centre Stage venue (weird?) to see one of the multitudes of Pavement sideline projects playing this weekend! Once our eyes had adjusted to the darkness of the massive club venue, Spiral Stairs appeared. These guys were founded by Pavement guitarist Scott Kannberg and play blues rooted riff rock with catchy pop sensibilities. This was a great little set which was upbeat and shared good time feelings.
Their energy was incessant and you clearly felt they were enjoying playing for the smallish crowd that had gathered. A well received surprise and an early highlight of the weekend.
Taking a break we nestled down at a table to enjoy the next band up on Centre Stage, The Walkmen. Their American indie laced with some noisy rock was just the ticket! They had just the right amount of feedback and noise to balance the poppier side of their sound. They were however plagued by technical issues and had to depart stage after playing a few teaser chords of their biggest hit, the barnstorming rocker The Rat. This aside this was a good set from a band that have haven’t quite reached the heights they are capable of.
Broken Social Scene was next on our radar back at the Main Stage. This huge ensemble of people play very agreeable and booming indie pop which is very much at ease in this large arena sized venue. A bright set paced with happy pop music which was some of the most polished of the weekend. However they lose marks for being rather unmemorable. I can only remember a couple of real standout tracks including Texico Bitches, with the rest fading into a lull of endless melody. Still I enjoyed my time with these guys, drifting into their pot of blissful optimistic tunes.
Broken Social Scene
While waiting for our next band we got involved in a short chat with some ‘I’m ATP born and bred, hence cooler than you’ types in which they, not only proved themselves to be righteous idiots in saying “oh I guess this is your 1st ATP then” using the most weedy of condescending tones, but also pedantic prats in correcting a total stranger on the pronunciation of Matt Groening. Still once DiR.net man Crumbs the ‘King of Camberwell’ returned with the beers, they cowered slyly off into the encroaching darkness. Note to self, avoid talking to ATP folks in skinny jeans bearing pubescent facial hair and a mop top haircut.
Mission of Burma arrived and began the onslaught. They made one hell of a racket which I found to be a long way from the riff focused approach of their studio output. The set was messy and vocally they failed to make any impression! The riffs found it hard to cut through the feedback noise doing nothing for their appeal. So disappointed with their efforts, I decided my time would be better off refueling at BK. However in my absence Mr. Flowers reported, sighting as crazy a scene he saw all weekend ignited towards the very end of the set, people were dancing and everything!
Mission of Burma
Having waited up for Quasi in the wee hours I can’t help but think that time would have been better spent catching up on some sleep. As soon as we emerged from Centre Stage, I could remember almost nothing from this mundane set. Tiredness on my part did not contribute to a positive review, but despite that there is very little i can recommend. In fact the wiser half of the DiR.net quartet did infact head back for some late night tv while myself and Mr. Flowers powered on downstairs to Reds.
We had missed the majority of the Marble Valley set on the Reds thirds stage but this didn’t stop this from becoming one of the better bands of the day. Their lively pop and hyperactive stage antics were the perfect dose to bring us out of our Quasi induced coma. Plenty of sing-a-long moments and fun tunes spread an optimistic party atmosphere throughout. Match this with the sense they loved just being on stage and you have a great, all be it short show.
Returning to our chalet, the leather sofa and a ready made cup of tea I sat and wondered why more festivals aren’t like ATP!
Day two to follow shortly.
The Spiral Stairs set was the highlight of the day for me. I loved how they played loads of Preston School Of Industry songs: Whalebones, Falling Away, Caught In The Rain, probably some other ones that I forgot. Totally unexpected for me, although in hindsight it seems a fairly obvious thing for Kannberg to do in a set!
The Marble Valley gig was an unexpected highlight too, despite only catching the last few songs – they sound so much better live, and Bob Nastanovich joining the festivities for the final song (was it Duche Dog-e-Dog?) to create his own brand of on stage havoc just added to the fun.