Nightmare Before Christmas - My Bloody Valentine,All Tomorrow's Parties,EPMD,Sun Ra Arkestra Live Review @ Butlins Somerwest World (Minehead) - 04 Dec 2009
Pos (De La Soul) by Simon Godley link
In search of sea, sand and the Skyline Pavilion, some six thousand souls once more descend upon this sleepy North Somerset town. To the Butlins holiday camp on the shoreline of Warren Road is where they are heading, as the All Tomorrow's Parties people move into the beginning of their tenth birthday celebrations and this family entertainment centre is once more given over to a long weekend of music, media and occasional madness. Now firmly established in a thrice-yearly groove this festival follows the now time-honoured tradition of having a named curator choose all the acts that will appear over its three day duration. Nick Cave, Vincent Gallo, Portishead and The Flaming Lips are on an impressive roster of previous honours and both Pavement and Matt Groening will be presiding over next May's two events, but this time round it is the turn of my bloody valentine. In addition to selecting all of the performers to appear on the three stages over the weekend, mbv will also choose the films for the dedicated ATP TV channels which are beamed straight into your very own private chalets and yet will still have time to play three consecutive nights on the Skyline Pavilion's Centre Stage (four if you include the sound check on the Thursday evening).
Upon booking in, and in addition to everything else that may await you, you have the choice of opting for one of the three my bloody valentine shows given that they have chosen to play the Pavilion's, limited capacity, second stage, scene of many a Tots' Disco, Super Slam Wrestling bouts and countless comedy acts in the very worst Ted Rogers' tradition. The shocking pink wristband screamed Sunday night and it seemed to make for a perfect bookend to the weekend but as that time grew ever closer so increased the sense of foreboding. Tales of auditory shattering volume fell upon deaf ones which even the distribution of ear plugs beforehand could not quite assuage. I imagine this is what having a heart attack is like. Sheets of incessant sound rolled from the stage; relentless waves of foaming noise. Your chest reverberated as you tried to distinguish an upper from a lower register, whilst simultaneously trying to perfect the art of breathing. It all eventually got to be far too much. I am sure I heard "When You Sleep" in amongst that discordant torrent of noise but I couldn't swear to that. I can say, though, that it was impossible to do so afterwards, such was the ringing in my ears.
Yet it had all seemed so much more relaxed when the king of Butlins and beyond, Josh T. Pearson had played to a handful of people from the very same stage fifty hours beforehand. This wouldn't be the last time you would see of the former Lift to Experience frontman, though. Whilst he wasn't in a regulation red and white striped shirt, blue trousers and bobble hat if you had been playing "Where's Wally?" with him throughout the weekend the trip would have ultimately paid for itself twice over. He was here, there and everywhere such is the proximity with which you can enjoy the space with the performers as we live cheek by jowl with each other over the weekend in our two, three, four, five, six and seven bed chalets.
De La Soul with their twenty year celebration of all things 3 Feet High and Rising, opened up proceedings on the main Pavilion stage. A cavern of space, surrounded as it is by Burger King, Costa coffee, one armed bandits and Finnigan's fish and chip restaurant it makes for an unlikely location for live music. But the band's joy was contagious and the crowd was happy and more than hip to hop to the triumvirate's exhortations to party like it was two thousand and nine. Such is the wide range of differing musical styles and tastes of this festival the next band up on the main stage is Primal Scream. We know this because Bobby Gillespie tells us who they are and, what's more, that they are going to kick our fuckin' ass. I once saw him retreat from the old Town & Country stage in Leeds with his tail between his skinny legs after being sprayed by a plastic pint pot full of beer so I wasn't immediately convinced by his bold assertion. But give the man from Stoke Newington who once complained to his local council about the loud noise emanating from a local pub his due, he was almost right. They charged through "Kill All Hippies", "Jailbird" and "Burning Wheel" in the manner in which their sound check in the afternoon had threatened, managed to lose their way in the middle but still rallied for a triple fusillade encore of "Damaged", "Loaded" and "Accelerator". And even a direct hit with yet another pint pot from the crowd didn't deter the Bobster this time. Good old Bobby, striking a blow for civil disobedience.
Saturday afternoon ebbed and flowed around a full English breakfast in Minehead town centre, a scene of tranquillity, gentility, middle class and even more middle aged charm, Roman Polanski films and a delightful little blast of West coast psychedelic pop courtesy of The Tyde. Despite leaving this earth, quite probably for Saturn, in 1993, Sun Ra lives on through his Arkestra. Led by 86 year old Marshall Allen, the band still ooze the great man's philosophy and consciousness. Theirs was a holy vibration of colour and cosmic travel and to paraphrase George Clinton if Mr Ra was out to lunch then we'll most definitely eat here, thank you very much. Harmony Rockets, replete with Mercury Rev main men Jonathan Donahue and Grasshopper (who, the following day, would also be naming that tune on his clarinet in an incredibly tough pop quiz in the Crazy Horse bar), performed "Paralyzed Mind of the Archangel Void". It was a trip, much like the later one with my bloody valentine, into the farthest reaches of an unrelenting and occasionally epic sound.
Having veered in and out of the pastel coloured Pastels, the shlock horror of The Horrors and J Mascis's marvellously uncompromising pedal to the metal take on how an electric guitar really should be played, the scene was well and truly set for Sonic Youth. The Burger King, coffee and fish bars spilled out their paying customers into the mid-evening gloom of the Pavilion and there was a real sense of expectancy in the air. I am unsure whether it was their choice of songs or just the sea air but what ensued was lacklustre and something of a disappointment. The set did splutter into life and occasionally threatened to catch fire but after an hour or so, Thurston, Kim and co. were on their way back to their deluxe chalets and the fag-end of X Factor. On the journey home to our very own Pacific Wharf, the plug was also pulled on a guerrilla gig briefly kicking up a storm between the Londis and the Bake n Bite stores. It had been one of those days, I guess.
Sunday morning and we are coming down to the delicate beauty of Gemma Hayes. Her set, including a wonderful Kate Bush cover was over far, far too soon and suddenly it seemed a very long time until Dirty Three later that evening. That was not to take account, though, of the afternoon showing of Grey Gardens, a deeply unsettling yet strangely apposite film given the immediate surroundings about idiosyncratic behaviour and faded glamour by the seaside. Surfacing from that shrouded vision of social isolation and back into the Skyline Pavilion was equally strange, but the reassuring presence of Warren Ellis was to be on hand. Released from his day job in the Bad Seeds he revels in the musical and oratory freedom this vehicle gives him. His hallucinatory, in-between-song tales of social dysfunction and the majestic, classical flourishes of the Dirty Three's music sit comfortably hand in hand. "Everything's Fucked", concludes Warren Ellis, and promptly dedicates the song to Mr Josh T. Pearson who for what seems like the first time over the weekend is nowhere to be seen. Maybe, just maybe he is bracing himself for one final blast of my bloody valentine and the sad end to yet another wonderfully expressive Nightmare before Christmas.
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