Mark Rowland: It had been months since we placed the order for four tickets to All Tomorrows Parties this May. It cost a small fortune, as I recall, but it had to be done; the legendary Pavement had reformed and were curating the festival. Now, we’re all huge fans of Pavement. Personally, they are one of my favourite bands of all time. I love them – they’re the right mix of weird and pop to appeal to my tastes perfectly. I stupidly never got round to seeing them the first time around and I knew that this would be my only chance. So I took it.

With regards to the festival itself, it was my first ATP (I’m not sure how I’ve managed to avoid going for so long). When we arrived, Butlins Minehead appeared to be just that; Butlins. By the end of the weekend, it was one of my favourite places in the world – we stayed in the Minehead area for a couple of days after the festival, and every time I caught a glimpse of the ugly, white spires that held up the resorts Marquee area I felt a pang of sadness. My heart kept sinking. I couldn’t believe it was all over.

One last comment about the general festival area; I thought that the programme of films laid on both at the chalets and at the cinema was absolutely fantastic. Unfortunately I didn’t get to watch much of it, thanks to all the damn bands!

Ben Howarth: Odd that a festival that will clearly defend its indie reputation to the death should find itself in such a corporate venue - logos everywhere. But then, who doesn’t like a Pizza Hut once in a while?
But Minehead Butlins is much better than Camber Sands Pontins, where ATP briefly found itself. More stages, more space and more to do made for a much better atmosphere. There seemed to be far fewer people just sat around getting pissed with just half an eye on the bands.

Jamie Rowland: I like a Pizza Hut once in a while, but I don’t like it when they say there’s no all you can eat buffet and then roll it out after you’ve ordered. I’m still livid.

I just want to point out, for the record, that there was a bowling tournament between the PennyBlack writers, and I won. I just want all of you to know that officially, in case you ever run into any of these chancers and they tell you different.


AVI BUFFALO

BH : They almost passed me by at the time, struck by ‘first band of the festival’ syndrome. But, they must have left some effect, because when their music came on in a café two weekends later, I realised I remembered the tune perfectly. Frenzied, unaffected indie guitar rock, from a remarkably young band who hopefully won’t mature too quickly!

Sarah Johnson: It must be incredibly daunting to kick off a festival but you’d never know it to watch Avi Buffalo. They looked like they were enjoying every moment of their set and the crowd, full of excitement for the weekend, gave them a great response. They are a young band, but that’s not obvious from their music. Although they haven’t mastered how to bring a new dimension to their sound live, they sounded as good as their album and what more can you ask for.

JR: To be honest, I don’t think I quite had my gig-head on yet when Avi Buffalo took to the stage – we’d only arrived in Minehead a short time before and then we were straight into the live music. As such, I can’t remember this band’s set as well as those that followed it, although I can say I did enjoy it and that their single “What’s In It For” was a real highlight.

MR: I was a little more clued up on a lot of the bands than the others, partly because I’d done a bit of research, like that saddo that I am. It was also partly that I had already picked up on some of the bands, thanks to my constant surfing of music blogs when I really shouldn’t be. Avi Buffalo were one of the bands that I’d heard of. They definitely didn’t disappoint; it’s astounding that someone so young (Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg is only about 19) can write such accomplished and mature sounding songs. A great start.

SURFER BLOOD

BH : A bunch of slackers, for sure - they really weren’t taking themselves at all seriously, and guitarist Thomas Fekete’s sticking up hair offered telltale evidence that he’d arrived onstage straight from being asleep in his chalet.

“Ever been present at the pinnacle of a career before?” asked bassist Brian Black at one point, eyeing a pleasingly large mainstream crowd. I’m not sure I was though - they couldn’t really decide if they were a power-pop band, an ironic indie band or aspiring stadium rockers, but that resulted in effortlessly catchy pop songs, more complex than the band’s detached delivery suggested. Quite what the dude in the Argentinian football top with an afro playing inaudible keyboards really added, I do not know, however.

SJ: After only being vaguely aware of Surfer Blood, they crashed through all expectations and were a highlight of the event. Their presence on stage was charged, fun and got the audience moving.

JR: Surfer Blood were one of three bands whose albums I bought immediately upon returning from ATP – and what a great album it is! They played a great set, and a good deal of that was because they seemed to be having a really good time. As with most of the bands we saw, Surfer Blood seemed to be really revelling in the festival atmosphere.

Indie-pop to get your foot tapping and your hands a’clapping, played with vigour and a real sense of fun. Two fat thumbs up!

MR: At the risk of sounding like a bit of a show-off, I was already a fan of Surfer Blood and was really looking forward to see them live. They were great, slowing the songs down slightly and letting their fantastic Beach Boys via the Pixies melodies breathe a little. They were clearly enjoying themselves, and their energy was infectious. Their album ‘Astro Coast’ is a great debut. Hopefully they can build on all that potential on their next album.

CALEXICO

BH: When did this bunch of morbid country rockers turn their music into Spanish styled party music? Great tunes, great covers, excellent musicianship - Glastonbury are missing a trick not booking them every year. A set I simply defy anyone not to have enjoyed - although I don’t think there was anyone who enjoyed it any more than the band did themselves.

SJ: Calexico were the biggest surprise of the weekend. After dismissing them as ‘too country’ the only reason to be right at the front of the crowd was that they opened for Broken Social Scene – how wrong I was. They were simply one of the best bands I’ve seen live.

Their music is a fiery mix of genres with influences from all over the globe. And their Spanish guitarist, DePedro, has to be one of the coolest men on the planet.

JR: I’m a big Calexico fan, so this was the first set I was really looking forward to. I knew it would be an enjoyable set, but just like these guys I was blown away by just how good they actually were.

The band were loving it, the crowd were loving them and the music had a really fun, festive feel that filled the sizeable space of the Pavillion with a really positive atmosphere. Add to that brilliant covers of Love’s ‘Along Again, Or’ and ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ and you’ve got a pretty bloody awesome set. Definitely stole Friday from under the noses of the headliners.

As for DePedro – what a cool guy. I’d like a little one of him in my shirt pocket to tell me how to talk to girls.

MR: Totally agree about DePedro; the guy would sweat cool, if he was uncool enough to sweat. I also agree that Calexico’s set was a pleasant surprise. I love the band, but had never seen them live. I had no idea they were so great live. Definitely the best band of the Friday night.

BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE

BH: We were in the front row by this point, an inspired move. I was genuinely buzzing after Calexico and this caught the mood too. In between, I was still a bit giddy even when I was queuing for the loos. Odd. Their new album is all set to be the soundtrack to my summer, and they played most of it, so what more could one ask? The music was marvellous. The running commentary from two teenage boys stood behind us was not!

SJ: The atmosphere as Broken Social Scene entered the stage was incredible. They favoured tracks off their new album, but this didn’t put off the crowd as their new album is perhaps their best yet.

With the core members still packing out the stage they managed to keep the pace right to the end of the show and were a fitting crescendo for the main stage.

JR: Now I really am a big, big, geeky fan of BSS (see? I even call them BSS) and after Calexico’s barnstorming performance, I was psyched up and ready to be blown away.

And it was a great set, with the band mainly sticking to material from the new album – as one might expect. But I have to say, from a personal point of view, I’ve seen them play before and they were so much better. I’d say that the last time I saw them was probably one of the best gigs of my life mind you, so not easy to live up to. But yeah, for me it was good, but not quite up to my expectations, so I was left feeling a little disappointed.

Probably it wasn’t improved by the spotty teens behind us. An example of the sort of Mensa-level conversation they subjected us to:

(Lisa Lobsinger comes to the front of the stage to perform ‘All to All’)

Spotty Youth 1: Oh, she’d get it.
Spotty Youth 2: Yeah mate, definitely.

Probably not from you, pus-face.

MR: Acne-faced ignorant youths aside, I really enjoyed this set. I’d made a point, however, of buying the new album and familiarizing myself with it beforehand, so I knew the songs pretty well. For those who hadn’t listened to the album a lot before the weekend, it may have been a bit disappointing. I was slightly gutted that they didn’t play ‘Chase Scene’ off the new album, because it had been stuck in my head all day.

MISSION OF BURMA

BH: Considering they’d brought their own specialist soundman (Bob Weston, he of Shellac bass player fame), you wonder how the sound was quite so awful. The piercing feedback was really rather painful - and I’m a Dinosaur Jr fan! From a safer refuge at the back, ‘the one I recognised at the end’ sounded alright, though.

SJ: Bit too loud so I gave them a miss and called it a night. What can I say? Festival fun takes it out of me.

JR: I stayed up front for this one and at times it was so loud I thought I could feel my brain haemorrhaging. Perhaps the room was a little small for that much volume and the band were also having bass amp issues throughout which maybe affected their set for the worse. Overall though, I enjoyed it – eardrums be damned.

MR: Was it incredibly loud? Yes. Was the bass playing up? Unfortunately, yes. Is the central stage at Butlins Minehead built for excessive volume? Not really. But despite these things, Mission of Burma were excellent. No ‘Academy Fight Song’, unfortunately, but the band closed with ‘That’s When I Reach for My Revolver’ and we were treated to rocked up versions of the band’s countless other great tracks; ‘This is Not a Photograph’ was a real highlight for me. Anyone who says they were too loud has wimpy ears.

QUASI

BH: I was an old man in a chair for this one - my eyes drooped and my legs wearied! But the tunes were ace - another one of these revered US indie bands that I’ve never quite got round to listening to, but who are revered for a reason. I really should have joined Jamie in forcing myself to stand up and go back closer to the stage.

JR: Being the youngest and most virulent of the Pennyblack team at ATP, I left the old-timer squares behind for this one and set off into the crowd alone. It was a great set, even though my knowledge of Quasi’s oeuvre is limited to a couple of albums. Everyone cheered when they played ‘You’ve Fucked Yourself’

MR: Quasi’s most recent album, ‘American Gong’, is really great; the band have come in their own since going in a more guitar-based direction. What I heard was absolutely brilliant, but unfortunately, my glasses broke, and I had to spend the rest of their set trying to fix them. Rock ‘n’ roll!

TIMES NEW VIKING

BH: Hmm… it was late. I’d just eaten a curry that was restorative, but entirely devoid of taste, and I can’t really remember anything about the music at all. It was fast and short. I do, however, remember the singer from Surfer Blood crowd surfing, getting attacked by the bouncers and staggering past us in the crowd looking spaced out.

MR: I like these; noisy lo-fi punky pop, with plenty of cheap keyboard sounds thrown in for good measure. They were really fun to watch, powering through their short songs at a rate of knots. I managed to pick out ‘City on Drugs’ in the middle of it all, which has a great keyboard riff. It was also great to see members of several bands down the front with everyone else. It really captured the (supposedly) ego-free spirit of ATP.











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