So what's next for leftfield festival fans? - Articles - Soundblab

So what's next for leftfield festival fans?

by Steve Reynolds Rating: Release Date:

It's taken a while to write up, but now I've got the Christmas grog and bowls of crisps out of the way I can finally submit my review of ATP.

It’s fair to say that ATP is as far removed from the mainstream British festivals as you can find. With a focus on bands not immediately in the public eye and, in certain cases, scant record sales to boot, it could be deemed as being twee and only for an idiosyncratic few. Capturing an ability to deliver something above the norm and scratch below the surface and beyond, its testament to the promoters love of the underground coupled with, at times (when it’s failed to deliver), pure blind loyalty and a backs-against-the-wall approach that has maintained its attraction for 14 years.

However, all good things have to come to an end and Barry Hogan (ATP’s founder) has decided to call time on the ATP UK festivals with End of an Era Parts 1 and 2 over successive weekends. Held at the less-than-salubrious Pontins Camber Sands, with its grotty chalets and lack of a good coat of paint, I am here to see Part 2 unfold and draw the curtain on what’s been a highly colourful and successful festival.

Arriving around 4pm and being blasted with a healthy slap of cold seaside air, I think the best place to hideout is the chalet. Eek – I couldn’t be more wrong. What with its dowdy demeanour and permanently cold feel, the only thing it's good for is as a place to get your head down at the end of a night’s music. So after some hanging around and constant salivating at the choice of bands on show, I see the beautifully sparse French female three-piece Les Colettes. Fresh from supporting Nick Cave, they put on a really captivating show with an uncompromising air of confidence. A strong marker of what’s to come over the next 2.5 days.

ATP has had to work quite cleverly to ensure all your favourite bands don’t clash and they’ve pitched it just right on day one. The brooding, ethereal electronica of Eaux on Stage 2 enables me to warm up enough to march to Stage 1 to see Fuck Buttons absolutely murder Stage 1. Their bellicose, hypnotic, no-nonsense approach and frenzied beats take Friday to the next level. 

Shellac continue in a similar vein: harsh, angular, shredding riffs and Albini spitting bile. They put in an anxious but gripping set but what they do is the complete opposite to tonight’s headliners Slint.  Purveyors of post rock, their musical murmurings, subtle arrangement and mumbled lyrics could be deemed as being more akin to background music, but when you pay attention to the way they unveil their most vital album, Spiderland, you can understand why their influence still stands steadfast today.  They end with their best, the layered, stripped simplicity of ‘Good Morning Captain’, a suitable end to a brilliant first day.

Day one brings a slightly numbed head, fuzzed by drinking far too much real ale, but the thought of the first full day of bands, a full English breakfast and a couple of pints in the Green Owl soon eradicates any trace of a day-sapping hangover. Once suitably refreshed, it’s off to see the long-overdue return of The Dismemberment Plan, whose much-anticipated return draws a decent crowd for the opening slot on the main stage. They give us an hour of bouncy, dry, sarcastic power-pop, full of zest and energy which defies a bunch of blokes nearing middle-age. 

Following a spot of booze, there is a chance to take in the sights of Camber Sands… Ok, that’s it and we’re back for Hookworms. 2013 has been a huge year for them and they don’t fail to cough up the goods, mainly drawn from their majestic debut Pearl Mystic.  Psych, Drone, fuzz all perfectly melded together by MJ’s contorted yelps and screams.  This band has youth on their side and can only kick on from here.

After a sweep through the amusements, it’s the return of The Pop Group, memorable for being involved in the post-punk era and releasing the feather-ruffling Y. They mixed the anger of Mark Stewart's street-poet lyrics with dub groove and abrasive guitar-lines and have not lost any of their edge. In fact, the years seem to have galvanised their sound. Stewart is in a playful mood and seems to wallow in taking centre-stage. He is a Mark E Smith-like figure, recalling all his bitter vitriol. Outstanding.

Loop see out day two.  Lead-man Robert Hampson was hounded out of retirement by Barry Hogan for ATP. Hogan was right to do so. They drive out a 90-minute set of droning landscapes of dark beauty. Back in the late 80s, Loop were revered as one of the main protagonists of psychedelic and discordant trance-guitar, along with Spacemen 3, and stood out from  their peers. The years have been very kind to them as they storm it. Apparently, a major tour is coming next year. Bring it on.

So the end of ATP is near as day three begins, and after the ubiquitous chalet parties the night before, all is quite on the Sunday. Once the frost and cold is singed by the cold autumn sun, it’s time for an eclectic and highbrow line-up for the curtain closer.  However, I am demanding a certain level of quality control and only start the day when the evergreen Girls Against Boys roll onto the second stage at 6.45. 

Scott McCloud is humbled by the turnout and his band of merry men are still belligerent in their delivery of post-hardcore.  McCloud likes to say fuck a lot. In fact, I think he may have patented the damn word, he uses it so much. He even invites us to meet him afterwards for a chin wag. Thanks Scott, and we duly did.

I only manage about 30 minutes of Goat before I find their sound and vision slightly unkind to my ears, so I pull up a pew and take a break in readiness for ATP closers, Mogwai. Mogwai are a band at the top of their game at the moment. Buoyed by the Les Revenants soundtrack, they put in an almost two-hour show, drawing from all their albums over a 16 year period. 

It’s incredible to believe that their debut, Young Team, came out in 1997 and it’s interesting to hear how much they have broadened their sound, using a heavy artillery of electronica as demonstrated on their last ‘real’ album, Hardcore Will Never Die… There are quite a few tracks from this album tonight:  The sturdy ‘Rano Pano’, the monolithic ‘Death Rays’, and the driving thuds of ‘George Square Thatcher Death Party’. 

They close out their show with ‘Mogwai Fear Satan’, 16 minutes of quiet and loud, and it’s a fitting finale to a weekend that has demonstrated how important ATP has become in the UK festival calendar. The problem is now: what the hell are they gonna find to replace such a jewel in the leftfield musical crown?

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