Welcome Home, ATP returns to Camber Sands

All Tomorrows Parties - Nightmare Before Christmas 2012 review

published: Fri 21st Dec 2012

around the festival site (1)

Friday 30th November to Sunday 2nd December 2012
Camber Sands Holiday Centre, New Lydd Road, Camber Sands, Nr. Rye, Sussex, TN31 7RL, England MAP
£180 per person
daily capacity: 6000
last updated: Fri 30th Nov 2012

around the festival site (1)
After a 5 year sabbatical in Minehead, ATP returned back to Camber Sands where it all began in 2000. . . the banner at the entrance suitably read 'Welcome Home ATP'. My own attendance started with the move to Minehead 5 years ago so I was interested to experience what many seemed to consider a better venue for the event. The recently refurbished Pontins represented a much more basic and compact site to Minehead, without the diversity of outlets - comforts or corporate monsters, depending on your take - available at Butlins. Goodbye Costa-lot Coffee, hello (empty?) vending machine. On the plus side all the chalets were self-catering with fridges, ovens, kettles and all the basics.

around the festival site (2)
The site had two stages in one central complex, Stage 1 could take the whole capacity of the festival, though didn't have too much of a big stage feel or sound to it. The smaller Stage 2 brought some queues over the weekend to get in, but usually had the better sound and ambience to it as smaller stages tend to. The Queen Vic pub in the same complex was used to host most of the other parts of the programme, Book Bingo with Lord Sinclair, Pop Quiz with Lord Sinclair, Book Club discussions, Karaoke and DJ's. As ever, there was also a band-curated cinema and full TV schedule streamed to the chalets. Overall Camber Sands seemed to make for a friendlier feel to the festival, with many people getting out off-site when the bands weren't on. There seemed to be a stronger than ever attendance from the Continent, N. America and further afield, notably Japan.

In the year of their 20th anniversary as a band, and 10 years after curating their first event at Pontins, ATP favourites ('house band') Shellac seemed a natural choice to kick start the Camber Sands revival. Steve Albini and Bob Weston both have busy day-jobs as sound engineers, which presumably accounts for the relative scarcity of Shellac live appearances over the years. They are relative stalwarts as regards appearances at these events however, and only ever seem to play ATP festivals. This includes a highly recommended appearance at Primavera Sound (ATP Stage) each year. Anyway, cue a weekend of all things post-punk, post-rock, underground and avant-garde. Many of the bands Shellac featured back in 2002 made a return, notably Mission of Burma, Wire, Nina Nastasia, Kim Deal, Zeni Geva, and Melt Banana. (Mostly) staggered line-ups between the nearby stages meant you could hop between bands if you wished.

Misjudging the journey along the South Coast I missed the opening sets of Shellac, Helen Money, and Stnnng!, though heard good reports from all three shows. It thus fell to Oxbow to kick-start musical proceedings for me, and they did so in typically energetic style complete with their stripped-down 8-piece string/brass orchestra. An on-form Eugene Robinson growled, sneered (and drooled!) his way around stage for a great opening set. Having seen Oxbow perform with the full orchestra a couple of months back at Supersonic, the stripped-down orchestra seems to work more coherently for their tunes, sounding much better to my ears this time. As pivotal predecessors to the 90's Riot Grrrl scene, I was delighted to finally catch Scrawl play a live set of their upbeat Alt. Rock tunes. One of a number of bands appearing over the weekend that you could describe as highly influential, without necessarily the widespread recognition to go with it.

Japanese 4-piece Mono closed the main stage in typically epic post-rock style, drawing mainly from latest releases 'For My Parents' and 'Hymn to the Immortal Wind'. Theirs was the usual emotional rollercoaster of a set, unhurriedly building their sound from simple, hypnotic guitar melodies to roaring percussion-heavy crescendo climaxes for each number. Mono are a band that are particularly best appreciated live for the wide dynamic range in sound in the hands of the right soundman, tonight all seemed good. Having said that their live shows are very much a listening experience; they remain seated and there's not much of a stage show to speak of. After an enjoyable post-punk set by duo Prinzhorn Dance School on Stage 2, DJs played out Stage 2 and The Queen Vic. into the early hours, the spontaneous chalet parties for which the festival is famed started to flare sporadically around the same time.

review by: Jason Wood

photos by: Jason Wood

Friday 30th November to Sunday 2nd December 2012
Camber Sands Holiday Centre, New Lydd Road, Camber Sands, Nr. Rye, Sussex, TN31 7RL, England MAP
£180 per person
daily capacity: 6000
last updated: Fri 30th Nov 2012

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