Wednesday, December 31, 2008

ATP Part Two: The Only Parties I'll Ever Need...

Awake the next morning and before shoving off in Dublin Zack, Pat and I pay our respects at the Phil Lynott statue. Consider our ode, to this black man, delivered.

Arrival in Galway was marked with rain, as was every other thing we would do for the three days we were in Irish land. Club provided an apartment around the corner, we dropped off our bags there and caught our breath before heading back for soundcheck.

My main memory of this apartment will be having tracked dirty water onto the hardwood floor and not caring about cleaning it up, as there was no matt to wipe my heels on anyway.

Post check we sit around and bask in the glory of free internet at the club. Ventured across the street for a medium pepperoni pizza that was satisfying. Opening band Disconnect4 wasn't my cup of tea and for the 25 or so people there the Dirtbombs were only vaguely theirs.

Post-show rainy load-out and then back to the apartment where Zack, Pat, Ko and I watched a reality show about producing porn movies, "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" and the VH1's "Supergroup" all while downing orange juice and Cadbury chocolate (me) or 3/4's of a big bag of Doritos (Pat).

Woke up early to shower and the joy of having my own room that night was that I also had my own shower. Turn on the faucet and let it run to get the hot water flowing…after twenty minutes it's apparent there's no hot water and the extremity of the cold water (read: biting) means I won't be showering this morn.

Breakfast at Subway, spicy Italian. Worldwide consistency must be admired in a franchise.

I saw approximately two blocks of Belfast. The club was a decent enough place and after soundcheck we checked into our hotel a block away. With absolutely no energy, we nap for the two hours before our set. We play swell enough to warrant an encore, but just barely.

Straight back to the hotel and watching Ewen McGregor's Long Way Down continent-spanning motorcycle trip through Africa that is truly inspiring and interesting and makes me feel that any complaining I have about touring is nothing compared to what these guys have gone through. See also Austin Vince's extraordinary (and earlier) documentaries Terra Circa and Terra Firma. In fact, I need copies of those too if you're looking to cross me off your Christmas list.

Early lobby call at 6:15 so we can make the ferry. All goes well and I space out on the boat while listening to the soundtrack to The Wizard of Oz and I don't recall much else 'til we arrive at the Faversham after dark.

The club was a step above most other English spaces, with attached restaurant, free internet it was seemingly constructed to actually be a performance space. How uncommon. Backstage was ill-lit and crowded, but had a good talk with the Hipshakes (last-minute add-ons to the gig) before they did their high-energy, mid-Nineties Midwest-style garage punk rock. They're released more records I can keep track of and they will only get better with age.

I stayed backstage for thee Vicars, but was told they ended their set by all piling on top of each other, as if we needed to top it.

The first run of the set was not very good…there's been a weird drop-out on one of the strings on Zack's bass and it happens at the oddest and most infrequent times. Mick bungled the intro to "Underdog" and Zack's mic wasn't on for the intro to "Ode to a Black Man". I think there was a string broken somewhere.

At that point, we could've just as easily dialed it in and I'm sure the crowd would not have known any better. We trudged through and it got easier, but by no means a fantastic performance. We redeemed ourselves with a particularly spirited encore which found both drumsets on the dance floor, facing each other with bass drums abutting, rolling off the lilt of "Granny's Little Chicken" to a suddenly juvenated (there was nothing "re" about it) crowd. We'd salvaged it. Yipee.

Stayed that night at some guest house with Rockdentist crashing on the floor. Woke early for breakfast, was told I was too late. Couldn't find bath towels, only once the front desk handed me some did I see the ones in our room (and why they weren't located in the bathroom is beyond me). Password for the Internet didn't work. They made all of us breakfast late as we'd been misinformed as to the time…I rocked beans and toast and jam and orange juice.

Drive to Minehead would be punctuated by us dropping off former tour manager Louisa at the Sheffield train station, as she'd had tequila the night before and couldn't bring herself to make it to ATP with us like she'd planned. Conversation between Zack and I on the reasoning behind record collecting was spirited and civil.

We arrived at the festival after dark and due to my sleeping habits, I wouldn't see daylight at Minehead at all during my time there. We walked into the main room just in time to hear the 1983 version of the Melvins finish their set. Big Business followed them the inevitable momentum loss of blowing an amp, I enjoyed watching them.

We played next and our performance was, in my opinion, flawless. I think we managed to win over some metalheads, which is always an accomplishment.

After breakdown/load-out, we made way to our respective chalets. I don't know what image that conjures to the British, but for me it means a stand-alone cabin with a quaint fireplace, made of wood, somehow related to skiing. At ATP, your chalet resembles a Super 8 motel, one unit tacked next to another in a long line of ticky-tacky little boxes. Apartment, maybe, chalet…come on.

After a hearty beef stew meal at the artists' food compound, made way to check out the bands. The Locust was completely unlike anything I could ever see myself listening to…with costumes. Isis was equally as uninteresting. The two minutes I watched of White Noise looked not to have any qualities resembling intriguing.

Excited for the Meat Puppets, once they started playing I instantly reminded myself "oh yeah…they're like acid country or something." The highlights, not only of the night, but what I'd assume to be their entire catalog, were "Oh Me", "Plateau", "Backwater" and "Lake of Fire."

Discerning eyes will say "But Ben, those are the only Meat Puppets' songs you know." And to that, I cannot argue. But the reason I know them is because those seem to be only songs of theirs that do not have a 3-minute long, noodle-y guitar breakdown tucked smack dab in the middle of something enjoyable. Those four songs are perfect in their succinct, clear and digestible presentation and I didn't mind sifting through their other (read: long) songs to hear them.

I was encouraged by Coady from the Melvins to come and join Porn onstage for their big, noisy finale…to just grab a drum and just start banging sort of thing. He also passed on the hot tip that Thurston Moore would most likely be joining them as well. Hot shit.

Unluckily, my pass only granted me backstage access (or stage access, I guess) to the big room upstairs while Porn was playing the small room downstairs. I had no way to get ahold of anyone to sneak me in, so instead I watched enviously as Thurston jammed drum sticks underneath his bass strings. Sigh.

I was really geeked to catch Os Mutantes. Once I got upstairs to see them I was immediately smacked with the aura of a bad 1970's Las Vegas review. Lots of flashy costumes, bad sound, possible plastic surgery and music that was completely unfamiliar to me found me lasting no more than four songs. Had I the patience to wait another hour and twenty minutes to see "Bat Macumba" and/or the other hit (or if they just put them earlier in the set) I'm sure I'd have been satisfied. Why Sergio Dias' guitar was not the loudest thing in the mix was also befuddling…his fuzztone single-handedly shook the foundation of the Brazilian establishment in the 1960's. His guitar mixed so low was akin to asking Jimi Hendrix to play acoustic.

Skipped out to the cinema to catch Salo as had been recommended by some friends years ago. Let's just say it's not really a rah-rah party time movie. I watched no more than ten minutes before scooting out of there. Spent the rest of the night watching Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C. and Schwartzman in Spun and didn't fall asleep until around 5:45am.

I woke up at 5pm and loved it.

Walked in just in time to catch the Melvins set. What a blistering, bad-ass statement as to who's the boss. They focused mainly on shit from the past two albums, save for a sludge-tastic version of "Eyes Flies", and it really warmed my heart. They owned that stage.

The most fun thing about their set was the rest of the Dirtbombs getting to watch them. Ko and Zack had never seen them before, Pat not in 15 years or so. I honestly wouldn't peg ANY of them to like the show, but when I met up with them it was such an uplift to hear ALL of them gush about how much they loved it. The Dirtbombs, as a band, love the Melvins as a band and unanimously agree that they were the best performance of the weekend.

I was really excited to see the Butthole Surfers. I think most people in the room were, but for anyone who never saw them live the first time around it was probably solely based on Michael Azzerad's genius chapter dedicated to them in "Our Band Could Be Your Life." If ever was a piece of writing that could instantly make one adore a band, that is it.

After reading I searched out their early work religiously and when telling a friend I'd recently gotten into them, received the reply "Are into acid now too?"

They were old and boring live and didn't play any songs I recognized. I was hoping for at "Sweet Loaf" at least, but instead just got bad 80's freak rock. The performance soiled my once-high opinion of them. I wish I had not watched them.

I was equally as unimpressed by Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. I didn't think I would recognize any of their songs, but nothing about their performance had the smallest hint of captivation. It was more going-through-the-motions. Lydia Lunch, whom I had perceived to be this razor-sharp, effete queen of the No Wave scene instead came off as a surly, foul-mouthed Jersey housewife cursing out the referee at her son's soccer match.

Back at the Super 8 for dinner (Chinese beef and rice) and spinning records with Rockdentist. Was a good time just laying about not worried about the schedule as there was nothing else that eve I wanted to see, although felt a need to try and check out the Soul Savers with some of the Spiritualized band doing time there.

Instead, I fell asleep. Woke up and Zack, Rockdentist and I ventured to Crazy Horse. En route we were warned of a house gig by a group dubbing themselves Bad Guys, right down the block from our room. The badly British dance party at Crazy Horse was laughable. Points for dropping Saul Williams' "List of Demands" and was cool to chat with Manish from MOJO for a second.

We left quickly, poised to check out the house party. We ran into Jared from the Melvins and told him to follow. By the time we got to the room there were a good Pied Piper amount following. We walked into a solidly packed room where a drummer, guitarist and singer were playing for about twenty people. I was slowly able to get further and further in as people filed out.

I quite liked the music they were playing…the guitarist especially with wicked fuzz leads taking control of it all. After a bit people started to climb in through the window and someone stepped on the plug for the amplifier in doing so, rendering the guitar done for the night.

While dudes fruitlessly tried to fix the plug, someone plugged in an Ipod and started jamming AC/DC. Zack and Jared had climbed through the window at this point and raided the kitchen. Out of nowhere, I feel myself hit by chunks of bread, thrown by those two. More and more people begin to file in through the window and what had started as a full room had quickly turned into a room with absolutely not an extra square foot to move. In a spot that would compare to the size of most people's living room there were roughly thirty freaks, just waiting for something.

Zack and Jared then began throwing handfuls of corn flakes. It seemed to degenerate into complete mayhem at that point. The drummer from Torche had commandeered the kit and began pounding out a crowd-riling rhythm that, when coupled with the background noise of the Ipod, found the room erupt into full-fledged chaos.

People crowd surfing with their bodies mere inches from the ceiling, falling into the drums, any available liquid poured onto the drum skins for maximal mid-Eighties metal video effects, taking long swigs from bottles of booze handed to them by random strangers, immediately vomiting said booze…it was so retarded and exciting and foreign at the same time that all I could do was sit there wide-eyed, smiling, enjoying the absurdity of it all.

After a spell (was it twenty minutes? Forty-five?) it became apparent that this drum explosion would continue whether it actually should or not and our crew dispersed from the scene. I guess it would be another half-hour or so before security would finally show up and shut the thing down. Rumor was that the guys were even saying "Yeah, just come back in ten minutes, we'll have the party going again."

My time spent in the middle of that anarchy was the most fun I'd have the whole weekend and probably my entire year of touring.

With van call at 5am we didn't have much time after the house party to do much else. We packed our bags and said goodbye to Rockdentist as we filed down the long, confusing route to the van. Looking through the window of the party room as we passed by was a handful of the Bad Guys dudes surveying the damages to a table and trying to prop it up so as to hopefully momentarily fool someone into thinking everything was the norm.

Zack had apparently stopped to take photos through some windows and got separated from the rest of the group. Instead of searching us out he went back to our room and waited for us to grab him there. This took about 15 minutes in the 5am freeze. Once we'd gathered our stray little sheep, it was in the van for the interminable drive/ferry to Rotterdam.


Kirky said...

Hell, the Leeds gig wasn't your best but my friends and I loved it. Best band playing live today IMO.

Anonymous said...

Agreed!! When are you coming back?

Dillon said...

Where's yer year-end lists we've all grown accustomed to?

Aaron said...

Bat Macumba rules...that one would might have been ok even with the guitar low...too bad.

Stuart London said...


I just realised why I had your blog bookmarked, it's 'cause I saw the bit about our chalet gig. I'm the singer in bad guys. Thanks for coming. We got fined 450 quid and chucked out of the festival for that (although we snuck back in) but it was worth it. Was a real good laugh.

We played a flash gig in Trafalgar Square a few days ago, which got shut down and then allowed to go on, which was a first. If you're interested, the vid is here:

Skip forward thirteen minutes 'cause it's just me waiting around at the beginning. Anyway, glad you had fun in the chalet.