Tired, sore, slightly deaf, and dreading work tomorrow – all of the usual post-ATP symptoms in place then! Another really enjoyable weekend with some a lovely crowd, and some excellent music, though also some pretty average stuff too. There was lots of talk in our apartment, and with most of the folk we talked to, about the whole thing being a bit one speed this year – pretty much all of the bands (with the exception of Omar Souleyman) were guitar-based, which at times made it all feel a bit samey, which was a shame. The couple we’d been to before had mixed up guitars, electronica, hip-hop, krautrock and more, which keeps things more interesting.
However, that sounds more negative than I mean to by quite a stretch. Friday was good, with Avi Buffalo kicking things off before Surfer Blood ruined their pretty nice music with some truly awful vocals – with a proper front man they could be great! We swapped Surfer Blood for a bit of Spiral Stairs’ Greg Dulli-esque set before a spot of food and a bit of the technically excellent but really rather dull Calexico. I really do wish Burns and Convertino would go back to Howe Gelb, Giant Sand have struggled since they left, which was a shame after the strong ‘Chore of Enchantment’.
Anyhow, The Walkmen were next up for us, and were blessed with a brilliant front man, and were great fun – I’m looking forward to the new album. Broken Social Scene closed the main stage for the night with a set mostly from the new album, which was a bit of a shame, and a slightly mute performance from Kevin Drew. Not sure they suit the festival setting on that basis, but maybe it was just an off night.
Quasi were the best of the rest from the late shift, though there was a slightly surprising lack of Malkmas on stage with those who double as The Jicks for him. I made it through a good chunk of Wooden Shjips too, and thought they were a slightly dull dirge, as when they played Camber Sands a couple of years ago. Stuart Braithwaite broke Quasi and Shijps for me, and seemed to be sticking a decent enough set together, though my allergy to Irish bars prevented a longer stay.
On the note of DJs though, it was a feature of the weekend that the level of DJing skill was pretty low. Though I didn’t see it myself, Mike Joyce sounded like a comedy act rather than a DJ, showing a total lack of skill with the cross-fader. Still the dance scene always was a little too loose for Pavement, as it goes…
Saturday was a day that had a great streak, from Wax Fang’s superb Purple Rain set, to Fiery Furnaces, through a very enjoyable and funny Mark Eitzel set, a solid turn from Camera Obscura before a beautifully loud set from Boris, who used the whole of Butlin’s supply of dry ice in one go, and a good best of set from Pavement themselves. After the spoiling that The Breeders gave last season, good as Pavement were, it felt a bit disappointing that they didn’t really do anything special for their turn, and in fact didn’t really guest with anyone else over the weekend (Spiral Stairs’ gooning about during Broken Social Scene, and SM’s pretty unenthusiastic hiding in the shadows routine during Endless Boogie’s victorious Sunday night turn). There was nothing wrong with their set, but it just wasn’t as special as you’d kind of have hoped for.
Post-Pavement, Saturday sort of fizzled out for me a bit – Venom P Stinger felt like a bit of a waste of Jim White (though you could watch him for hours), Faust were fine, but just didn’t excite (though I should have listened to them before getting to Minehead, to be fair). Monotonix had a big queue outside, and we didn’t get in because some stupid buggery around security demanding that everyone sat through their set, and that not working out. Sounds silly. Atlas Sound was fine, but far too downbeat for midnight, when some hip-hop or dance music would have been far better.
Omar Souleyman sounded like the sort of thing you hear on the radio of a cab in Cairo, which isn’t really my bag, but he did look cool! That didn’t sustain us for very long though, and the pilgrimage to Still Flyin’ started. These people were, in simple terms, absolute crap. How many Bezes (I guess that’s the plural) can one band sustain? To steal a phrase, they looked like a three grand shopping spree in American Apparel, but sounded like nothing you’d be interested in. I don’t know who thought these people would be interesting, or could keep a Saturday night moving, but my God were they wrong. I had to do some quality bad dancing, drink a lot of beer, and stay up until half six in the morning just to forget as much of them as possible…
I’ve gone on for far too long already, but suffice to say, Sunday lifted the spirits after the one speed sound of Saturdaynight, with The Dodos putting in a really great set, and Terry Reid offering a set of what, for me, were really surprisingly enjoyable songs. Terry was joined by Matt Sweeney for three songs, with Sweeney also joining Endless Boogie for a spell later in the night. On the evidence of these (and his work with Chavez, more so than his Bonnie Prince Billy stuff), its a shame that he wasn’t given a slot of his own at some point. We only saw a couple of songs from Enablers, but I’ll be following them up on the strength of those, and we finished with Endless Boogie, who were the sort of fun that you want late in the evening.
On the whole then, a good festival, but one lacking in some variety, and where the curators seem to have seen it more as just a gig than an event that they should take part in from Friday to Sunday. I was pleased to see Mark Ibold at so many things though, and he seemed to be enjoying it lots, which is good.
On the whole, though, Kim and Kelly should write the curators handbook…