Jeff Mangums' acoustics wow, a frenetic Friday night line-up follows

All Tomorrows Parties curated by Jeff Mangum 2012 review

published: Tue 20th Mar 2012

around the festival site (1)

Friday 9th to Sunday 11th March 2012
Butlins Resort, Minehead, Somerset, TA24 5SH, England MAP
£170 per person
daily capacity: 6000
last updated: Fri 3rd Feb 2012

Guest curators for ATP tend to be chosen as those that have musically diverse record collections, giving rise to a similarly varied line-up of chosen artists for the festival. ATP maintains a loyal fan base, artists and fans still mingle and everyone stays in the same accommodation to present a more level playing field, not seen at many other festivals. Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel) seemed to fit the bill perfectly with a suitably eclectic chosen line-up.

around the festival site (1)
Having said that, this is one of the few festivals I'm happy to attend without necessarily the line-up being the first priority. This event was rescheduled from December to the consternation of some, a welcome breather to others who were due to attend the original consecutive weekends (. . .not for the fainthearted by experience). Happily, most of the bands were still able to attend, and there were also some welcome editions, not least Mike Watt.

Butlins as a venue itself offers up all the extra activities you'd expect of a holiday venue, for those not in self-catering there are plenty of food outlets onsite, or there's a short walk to the adjacent supermarket, or a stroll along the seafront into the town of Minehead itself. Personally, I never seem to find time for the other parts of the program: Book Club, curated cinema and TV, Rock N Roll & Book Bingo/Quiz with Lord Sinclair, and all those distractions youÂ’d expect at a holiday camp e.g. pool, Crazy Golf and so on.

Once again the arena-like Pavilion Stage was dropped in favour of using the more intimate surroundings (and much better sound) of Centre, Reds and Crazy Horse stages. As probably the most popular and anticipated acts, Jeff Mangum, Joanna Newsom, and Boredoms all opted to play two shows over the course of the weekend.

The assembled mass of 12-piece (brass-leaning) collective band Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise opened the event, starting but not finishing on Centre Stage. A suitably fun set to kick off proceedings, in the true spirit of ATP they later took their show to the audience, and Pied Piper style, around the festival site. Their connections with The Apples in Stereo, The Olivia Tremor Control and Jeff Mangum/Neutral Milk Hotel also meant that this was to be a busy weekend of appearances for many of the band members.

Charlemagne Palestine
Charlemagne Palestine, flanked by his guitar case packed with toys, followed in an unusual sort of set. He employed instruments ranging from wine glasses to an iPhone, though was more reminiscent of a Silver Apples performance during the keyboard parts. Always good value at any festival, Robyn Hitchcock drew the weekend's first big crowd on Crazy Horse performing his 1984 album 'I Often Dream of Trains'.

Jeff Mangum's highly anticipated set saw him start low-key on his own with just acoustic guitar. He was joined later by members of Neutral Milk Hotel/Elephant 6 in the form of a brass section and musical saw, the sound building as the show progressed. A suitably respecting quiet audience seemed to hang on his every note and joined in enthusiastically when encouraged by Jeff to sing along. Much of the set were from his Neutral Milk Hotel works, a quality set.

Jeff Mangum set list #1: Two-Headed Boy Pt. 2 - Holland, 1945 - Song Against Sex - Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone - Engine - The King of Carrot Flowers Pt. 1 - The King of Carrot Flowers Pts. 2 & 3 - Oh Comely - Ghost - Naomi - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea - Two-Headed Boy - The Fool

The rest of the evening was a fairly full-on and welcome assault on the senses that required a fair amount of stage hopping to catch them all, thankfully the staggered stage times meant you could at least catch a bit of everyone if you so wished.

The Fall first upped the ante on Centre, Mark E. Smith on good form and occasionally looking like he was even enjoying himself on his walkabouts; he spent much of the set looking for a microphone that worked, tweaking amps and other people's instruments, and generally being obscure as is his way. The set drew mainly from recent albums Imperial Wax Solvent, Our Future Your Clutter and Ersatz G.B., but also included fan-favourites such as Strychnine (Sonics) and Psychic Dancehall. The first mosh pit formed, a feature of the remaining bands of the evening. Half Japanese continued the high tempo, powering through their unconventional noise-punk set.

Thurston Moore
Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore put on typically solid performance of his solo Alternative works. Probably the most experienced live performer at the festival, everything is unforced and flows naturally, a real Pro at work. His guitar sounds were accompanied by violin on this occasion; unusually there was lots of banter in the (sometimes long) pauses between songs.

Class of '78 punk veterans Mike Watt & George Hurley played a well-received set of Minutemen tunes as a duet. They admitted to having done a fair amount of practicing beforehand, presumably many songs not played in years. A drum and bass set not in the usual understanding of those words, and a rare treat.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosionfinished the evening with their usual high energy Alt. Blues, another crowd pleasing set; the audience seemingly tireless nearer the front. Not a run of bands to sooth you to sleep in the early hours then, the chalet parties commenced soon after the close.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
review by: Jason Wood

photos by: Jason Wood

Friday 9th to Sunday 11th March 2012
Butlins Resort, Minehead, Somerset, TA24 5SH, England MAP
£170 per person
daily capacity: 6000
last updated: Fri 3rd Feb 2012


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