Archive for June, 2010

ATP Pavement Festival: Day 3

After a dip in the swimming pool complex with its incredible cool water slides, (with rather long queues and dramatic names like The Black Hole & The Master Blaster) then having watched the Monaco GP we were ready for day 3.

It started quite slow really with Pierced Arrows, who were devoid of life and energy. They played basic bluesy riffs with weak vocals that failed on most levels to captivate the audience.

Arriving at the ‘normal’ Wax Fang I was slightly disappointed that they didn’t always wear afros and 70’s style glam wear. Their set was a mix of tight riffs melded together with huge sound that really worked here on the Main Stage. They played with a lively spring in their steps and had the backing of the crowd, most I expect were here (like me) on the back of their stunning Prince show. The only down side was their material wasn’t particularly memorable post-performance, but this did not dampen their spirited performance.

Boris

After yesterdays gargantuan effort, we thought we’d check out the weekends second performance from Boris, this time performing their so called ‘classic’ album, Feedbacker. Given an album title like that and Boris’s sound you can imagine what it sounded like.

In fact I have to imagine also, as I fell fast asleep during the first song after sitting down for a rest (As it turns out 3 out of the 4 recharged our batteries during this show).  45 Minutes later I awoke to find a desolate and empty arena. I promptly headed out to find the rest of the DiR team who were busy putting a huge hole in the Pizza Hut buffet selection, much to the annoyance of other customers.

We didn’t really see anything for a while after this, brief sweeps past The Clean weren’t attractive enough to warrant our full attention, neither was the uber-northern song smith Terry Reid (Who looked like a cross between Pat Butcher and Jack Duckworth ). We returned to the fold to see the outspoken legend that is Mark E. Smith and his iconic band The Fall.

The Fall

Never one to shy away from controversy, Mark decided to pull the majority of his set from his latest album which despite its decent standard was somewhat of a disappointment. Very few popular songs were played as even Mr. Flowers (a self confessed Fall freak) didn’t recognise a single tune!Still the set they did perform was typical Fall. Musically tight and vocally shocking with Mark’s grumbles coming across as clearly as radio Belgium in a electrical storm. Nothing he did made much sense. From wandering around aimlessly on stage, twiddling dials he should never be let near, pulling out his band member’s amps or erratically attacking their instruments. Still it made for good comedy value at least.

We all wondered if we would hear a song we knew in the encore. Not surprisingly the answer was no! The crowd shuffled away in dismay while we stood and pondered what to do next, which turned out to be a master stroke as The Fall unexpectedly returned for a 2nd encore! This time they got it spot on, playing a song we knew…We Are Spata F.C.. From being quite a way back, we were suddenly right down the front for this cool tune. But as quickly as they returned they buggered off again. This wasn’t a bad show, I’d just expected more…a lot more.

After flitting back and forwards between Enablers and The Raincoats, chilling outside in the cool air enjoying relative peace was the most engaging option. After all I was waiting for the old school punk attitude of The Authorities.

The Authorities

These guys looked every one of their aging years but don’t let that fool you into thinking they are past it. They invoke the sound of punks early days of three chord wonders, crunching melodies, male dominated thinking and tracks of no more than 3 minutes long. They were on top form and blasted their way through some top punk numbers. Showing no signs of nostalgia, they clearly felt it was still 1972 and we were all willing to peek inside the time warp which had opened up onstage. A 30 second guitar rattle brought about the end to a high octane set as they powered down the final amp of ATP Pavement 2010.

ATP have the right idea when it comes to festivals! Civilised, laid back and comfortable, things not normally associated with festivals. I guess that’s why it this weekend was such a success despite a lineup which was barely got us excited before arrival. A long drive awaited us in the morning, but we all knew we’d be back soon for another installment of ATP genius!

ATP Pavement Festival: Day 2

Not being woken up by a blazing dawn sun, a drunk girl falling on your tent over, or a drunk bloke relieving himself in the remnants of your bonfire was by far the least interesting but most pleasant way to start day 2 at a music festival. Rolling out of bed and beginning the almighty fry up was The Docktor who rustled us up a feast (Note: 4 blokes sharing 3 cans of baked beans with their for breakfast is not advised for those with sensitive noses or a strong gag reflex). To work it off we hit the sandy coastline for some beach football! After all it was a rather unusual glorious sunny day! A few bruises and an abundance of sand in all manner of bodily crevices later, we caught wind of a secret gig going on.

Not being able resist the urge of the secret gig we were treated to an extra special show from Wax Fang @ Reds who were set to perform the entirety of Prince’s timeless album Purple Rain.

Wax Fang as Prince

Complete with comedy wigs, 70’s flares and more than required bodily hair on show Wax Fang both looked and sounded simply amazing. Their Prince routine was perfect, from the shrieking vocals right down to the note perfect solo’s and ambient keyboards. This was tongue in cheek delight and as they played hit after hit such as When Doves Cry, & I Would Die For You. Despite playing covers this was a guaranteed highlight for the festival as they faded slowly out with the fully extended version of the epic Purple Rain, the entire crowd swaying hands aloft to cheer this inspired performance.

Later that afternoon we had the biggest clash of the weekend, music or the FA Cup Final. I was the only one who made it away from the TV as I headed out to catch Blitzen Trapper. I was so glad I did! Their Americana influenced folk was at times beautiful and bold, while always being catchy and melodic. Lead singer sounded very close to a less nasally Bob Dylan but more or less managed to steer clear of the obvious comparisons. Their instrumentation was excellent and they did not get overpowered by the size of the arena, their music suited this perfectly. On the whole a very impressive performance that I really enjoyed.

Blitzen Trapper

It was at this point I found myself pondered over the weekend’s stage schedule structure. Most bands played for at least 45 minutes each with most being granted 1 hour. Now this is a good thing if you happen to like the bands that are on, but with a limited number of bands over the 3 days, 37, this leans itself to being quite restrictive.

On the plus side though if you missed the start of a set It didn’t matter so much as they would be playing for ages anyways. Looks like this was one debate I was not going to solve in a hurry so I decided to stick my head into Centre Stage for Saccarine Trust, before promptly removing it again realising the last 30 mins for the Cup Final & lunch was a more profitable use of time.

Fiery Furnaces

Disappointed after a Pompy defeat our next band of the day were up on the Main Stage. I have to admit that I went into this show with rampaging negative bias against Fiery Furnaces. Their brand of twisted indie is not the most approachable, unless you have an arty streak or a connoisseur complex. But I can say they’re live shows are a blast. Kicking into their tunes with wistful breeziness and rampaging a noisy fed back amp the combo of pop and rock was ideal. Melody wise they had big enough progressions to keep everyone nodding their heads (Apparently dancing at ATP is un cool), and enough catchy guitar licks to make me happy. This was a huge surprise, as they dropped their sweetness and blasted their way through a very entertaining set!

Boris

We quickly shuffled our way through the crowds, we had a date with Boris. The gargantuan Japanese noise rock behemoths had some technical problems in setting up and were late in getting started, but it was well worth the wait. If Spinal Tap turn it to ’11’ then Boris have their amps set to 111 as this was the most epically loud show the earth has ever seen. A drum kick sounded like a firework exploding, a bass thump was making my clothes move and the power chords where like a head gremlin playing the migraine march on your frontal lobe!

When this audio wall hit’s you square in the face, it sends you flying into a dizzying sonic spiral of intense rock energy which is astoundingly great. The songs themselves were very lucidly progressive, with heavy sections counterbalanced with some inventive and beautiful melodies. The greatest compliment to Boris was evident in the crowd. Despite near deafening volumes which could knock planets out orbit…nobody was going anywhere! Instead they were putting fingers in their ears and remaining down the front sharing the epic sounds.

Now for the reason we were all here, it was time for Pavement on a Main Stage filled to capacity (you can almost feel the desolation on the rest of the site). In one form we’d seen all the Pavement members bar front man Steven Malkmus himself over the weekend already, (Spiral Stairs, Marble Valley) so when they finally got down to their actual set it felt like we were pretty acquainted with them already.

The biggest cheers of the weekend greeted them as they made their way onstage and began playing a solid all round set of their greatest hits. Their pop sound was rougher live, but this made for a far better performance. With so much joy in the room there was a lot to love and little to fault in this show. Throwing in classic tracks like their biggest hit Cut Your Hair, Stereo and Gold Soundz, Pavement were lapping up energy from the crowd and flinging it right back.

This felt like a great return for the American indie heroes, but with a room full of people who signed up to their ATP curated festival and sold out the event before announcing any bands except themselves, I ask “was it going to be any different?” Nonetheless a superb showing for the weekends main headliner!

Monotonix

After chilling out for a while on the sofa with a few of our beers, we arrived at Reds and looked on is disbelief! The queue to get in was snaking around the smokers hangout with no indication of movement. Of course everyone was here to see the fiery DIY garage rock of those crazy Israelis’, Monotonix. After asking the door security informed us that the venue was full! 5 minutes later as we walked past him into the venue I wondered what on earth is going on?

Sit Quietly

This bewilderment was to continue once inside. Monotonix were sitting on their own stage, in only a their shorts and full chests of hair in the middle of the floor with the crowd all sitting down around them. They sounded immense! None of it made the slight  bit of sense, but their three piece rock captured the spirit of beer soaked garage rock and roll ethics which is so lacking in the modern era. After about 15 minutes this spirit was too hard to ignore as the seated crowd stood up, overcome with the desire to rock out!

Sadly this was quickly brought to a halt as Butlins security stepped in and dragged Monotonix off stage, citing capacity problems and accusing the band of inciting violence. A lot of unhappy faces booed them which was unfair as they did nothing wrong, the hatred was rife and if the crowd was to kick off against the security team they would have had serious trouble on their hands. Thankfully we were at ATP not Reading festival so everyone trotted off mumbling and grumbling about the appalling security operation and health & safety gone mad.

Atlas Sound

Saddened we headed upstairs to an extremely packed Centre stage where a lone American was onstage. Atlas Sound was an incredibly annoying, whiny, overly American youth who did little or nothing to impress any of the DiR.net posse. The atmosphere was weak and uninspiring almost as much as his in between song nonsense. A lacklustre showing which was one of the most dull of the weekend.

Still Flyin’

It’s 1am and the final band took to the stage. Still Flyin’ in more of a collective than a band. With 12 members on stage you get the jist why. They had 2 trumpeters, 2 percussion, 4 singers, a keyboardist, a guitarist, a bas player and a random guy whose job it was to shake a ball shaped maraca and bound about stage. It comes as no surprise then that they play pop. This was an extremely joyous set with a carnival atmosphere that had people bopping along into the wee hours. Their reggae influenced, almost ska-indie pop was great fun way to round off day 2.#

ATP Pavement Festival: Day 1

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.

Surfer Blood

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.

Spiral Stairs

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.

The Walkmen

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.

Quasi

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.

Marble Valley

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.

Biffy Clyro @ Hammersmith Apollo

6th May 2010

With a huge Wembley arena show beckoning in the future of the hottest Scotsmen since Sean Connery, this was one of the last chances to see Biffy up close. Their support this evening came from a band I saw last week at The Camden Crawl RoloTomassi & fellow Scotsmen The Twilight Sad.

Rolo Tomassi I felt were a strange choice of support. Their in your face aggression and non-sensical yelping doesn’t sit with most rock fans, let alone pop fans! They got a warm reception, but that could be because the crowd were intimidated by their thrashy math-rock. They were better here in the indoor setting and armed with the epic swirling electro vibes at the heart of their new material they are onto something good.

Rolo Tomassi

With Rolo departed The Twlight Sad arrived. Personally I’d rather have listened to another hour of Rolo! These Scottish miserablists were pretentious and extremely boring. They sound like an chronically depressed Snow Patrol covering Sonic Youth. No real songs were to be found…just incessant noise and the occasional strong accent. They were aimless on stage, had very little presence and the biggest cheer came when they powered down their amps, bringing to a close the worst set I”ve witnessed for quite some time!

Biffy Clyro rode the wave of ovation to centre stage and begun wiping out the Twilight Sad induced trance by flying straight into That Golden Rule, setting the tone for a lively and accomplished performance. Their Prog gone Pop-Rock philosophy was ever present as their off kilter guitar licks and galloping bass lines proved their musical engine was revving in 5th gear.Not being the most chatty of frontmen, Simon Neil makes up for this with his powerful musical lust and enthusiasm (I could easily give or take the barechested-ness though).

The majority of tonight’s set list has come from their last two commercially successful albums, latest single Bubbles and radio pop classic Mountains were played remarkably early in the set. This only goes to prove their success and repertoire quality since ‘going mainstream‘. This is not to say they have totally abandoned their early works. They played a brilliantly creative version of Glitter & Trauma and the sublime Bodies In Flight to please the old guard.

Flying straight back into the newer material they played heavily upon their latest  album and DiR.net album of 2009, Only Revolutions which made the DiR crew happy! The abundance of sky soaring choruses from their material was astonishing. Hammersmith witnessed a very vocal performance tonight from band and crowd alike.

Returning in a flurry of fireworks and a mighty morphing stage for their encore Biffy upped the ante once more with more big rock tunes. Saturday Superhouse sparked some lively dance moves, the beautiful acoustic version of Machines was solemn poignant and the biggest cheer of the night goes to the mighty Captain. As they faded into the night ready to take on bigger arenas in the winter. Biffy will no doubt become big arena stars as their music is already begging for the larger venue crowds. I’m just glad I caught them when I did!