The Null Device
ATP vs. Pitchfork
This blog has been quiet recently, as your humble correspondent spent the past few days off the grid, attending the ATP vs. Pitchfork festival
at Camber Sands (site of the famous Bowlie Weekender).
The festival was great. Being set in a holiday camp (where, presumably, working-class families went to spend their holidays in the days after the 1950s consumer boom but before cheap flights), camping in mud and queueing to relieve oneself into a pit did not enter into the equation; instead, the attendees stayed in chalets (which, despite the name, aren't wooden cabins of Alpine design, but blocks of somewhat minimal one-bedroom flats; my one reminded me of the first flat I ever rented). While the facilities were mass-market, the music wasn't; the bands themselves were chosen by ATP and Pitchfork, hence the standards were quite reasonable, if perhaps a bit hipsterish in places. As well as bands, there were DJs in various venues, and in the chalets, the TVs carried two extra stations of cult films, documentaries and shorts, one programmed by ATP and the other by Pitchfork.
Anyway. some highlights were:
- The Clientele - As dreamy and ethereal as I remember them; music with the texture of honey-golden sunshine through gossamer. Their new songs may have more energetic drums or guitars, but that's still not enough to break away from the la-la land of Alistair's vocal languor. These guys most specifically don't rock.
- Vampire Weekend - Yes, they're a scions of America's elite taking the music of the global downtrodden and using it to sing songs about their disgustingly privileged lives in Cape Cod and at expensive colleges, and liking them invalidates one's right-on credibility, but they are quite good at what they do (which is making danceable pop grooves) and entertaining to watch/listen to, even if one is aware of the inappropriateness of the juxtaposition between medium and message.
- Fuck Buttons - Two guys in hipster attire making electronic drones with a laptop (Mac, of course) and circuit-bent toys, and then fashioning the noises into passable dance music. Not bad. One has to wonder who Buttons was/is, and how he/she/they feel about all this.
- Glass Candy - Former hardcore punks who got really into 1980s Italo-disco and brought some of the hardcore punk energy with them. The floor was a mosh pit with crowd surfing and all. As for Glass Candy (i.e., DJ Johnny Jewell and singer Ida No), they were great. Afterward it was pointed out to me that they are influenced not only by Italian disco but also by the aesthetic of Italian horror films, in particular those of Dario Argento.
- Even - Yes, the Australian indie-rock/power-pop outfit. They struck me as very Australian and very competent at what they do. The bloke looks like quite the part of the veteran Aussie rocker; a solid tradesman in that respected and established of entertainment trades. They've done the hard yards on the long way of rock'n'roll, though haven't reached the top; perhaps if they were 10 years younger, NME would pick them up and make them the next Jet, though right now, they're more like a dependable brand of a traditional product than the Next Big Thing.
- Yeasayer - They seemed epic and prog-rocky; one to look into.
- Los Campesinos! - They were ace. When introducing Knee Deep At ATP, Gareth told the audience that this was their equivalent of playing Wembley, and he's not going to say too much in case he starts crying. They played with terrific enthusiasm and were lots of fun to watch, not to mention musically really good. One of the highlights of the festival.
- Hot Chip - They got the crowd dancing, though people didn't dance as immediately as in Hay-on-Wye last year. Perhaps those Guardian readers really know how to get down? A more likely cause would have been the lack of working air conditioning in the room on that night, though despite that, people did get down.
- Jens Lekman - He opened on Sunday. He had a backing band comprised mostly of cute Swedish girls in colour-coordinated outfits. Everyone wore a brass key around their neck, whose significance is apparently a secret. As he played, Jens instructed the sound engineer, one Steffan, on what to think about when mixing songs: for I'm Leaving You Because I Don't Love You, it was about his last breakup, for Black Cab, about being a teenager and catching public transport, and for Sipping On That Sweet Nectar, about his first kiss. Anyway, Jens' set was really good; the man is an adroit entertainer.
- A Place To Bury Strangers - very loud, and a bit Mary Chain-esque. Not bad.
- Of Montreal - They were brilliant as before. They had the psychedelic costumes, the dancers/psychodramatic performers and the visuals, and played an hour's worth of songs, mostly from their past 2 albums. I also saw the mirrorball ninja guy wandering around the festival site in full costume a few hours earlier, playing on the adventure playground.
- Harmonia were very impressive; three older German men (the oldest of whom is in his 70s, apparently), seated behind tables covered with electronics, and producing immersive ambient soundscapes, of the sort that all the ambient artists who followed took off, only usually not as well. I stayed for the whole thing, which unfortunately clashed with Caribou. I did manage to see the end of Caribou's encore, and that was quite impressive too; droney electronics with mad percussion.
I greatly enjoyed it, and will definitely consider going to a future ATP. (Next weekend's one at Minehead's out of the question, though, being somewhat too soon. I probably won't make it to the New York one in September either.)
Anyway, there are photos here.
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