ATP (Jeff Mangum) Festival Review #1 – Friday

ATP festival held at Butlins in Minehead is an ingenious festival that has kept me coming back time and time again. You get to stay in self-catering or room only chalets with all the luxuries of home – no mud, so doesn’t matter if it rains and at the end of the day a comfy bed to collapse in. The line-ups are varied, fascinating and curated by a band, artist or even by the fans by an online voting system. This time Jeff Mangum from Neutral Milk Hotel picked the bill.

After a quick trip to the supermarket to get supplies for the weekend, we settled into our four berth self-catering chalet and cracked open a bottle of wine at a reasonable 3 o’clock in the afternoon. The first band started at 4.30pm so we settled down to snacking, drinking and checking out the line-up in the always well-designed info pack you get on arrival.

ATP Festival - Jeff Mangum: Line-up, Paper, TV/Cinema Guide, Wrist Band and Chalet Key Card

I was so happy to find the TV & Cinema guide had an awesome illustration of a crazy clown on – I love clowns, especially the weird ones! The pocket line-up was designed as a clock for each stage, with the bands like pieces of cake around the face. We had a proper newspaper too to leave on the coffee table and peruse over while on chill out time from the bands. You also each get a key card for your room and this year an attractive gold wrist band (which matched my shoes!).  To the bands then:


Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise – A big musical collection of around 12 people making big sounds in a folk, rock, big band, jam session style. A great way to start the festival, like a celebration of sound. They ended by creating a procession all around Butlins to bring in the musical weekend with a bang.


Charlemangne Palestine – he played the grand piano in a weird but wonderful way. Real minimalist music – at first you’re not sure what to think, then you get drawn into the subtleties of repetition and the slight changes building the music up and down. At the front of the stage he had a line of teddies and toys – well why not?


Young Marble Giants – this band I have heard about many a time, as they are also Cardiffians but I hadn’t seen them until I was 100 miles away from Cardiff. They played super short sweet songs all about emotional heavy stuff, very indie with a certain charm. Maybe not quite in my charm brackets but I can appreciate the appeal.


Joanna Newsom – I have to be careful here; how do I say something not too offensive? Maybe I should not say anything at all, as Christina Rossetti said “Silence is more musical than any song.” Well it sure is in Joanna Newsom’s case. Pathetic wailing cat comes to mind – oops I couldn’t help it!


The Raincoats – I wish I had seen these in the 70’s they sure do kick some ass. It makes me want to start a band, I like the idea of playing bass. I like the rhythm and groove, they sure know how to do some funky, punky sounds. Kurt Cobain loved The Raincoats and I bet if the singer has kids, they think their mum is the coolest mum in the world.


The Fall – put on an energetic, top notch show. The crowd, all grinning and dancing, had by 11pm got the festival faces really going. I think The Fall have a kind of madness to them, a bit unhinged and what better to do than, let your hair down, do silly dancing and go a bit mad. I am sure I even saw Mark E. Smith smile and do a little dance.


Half Japanese – I watched and I listened but I cannot think of one thing to say about them – a band on a stage. They had a film on ATP TV about them which looked interesting, it was called Half Japanese: The Band That Would Be King, maybe this should be my proper introduction to them at a later date. Anyone know these guys? Are they worth checking out?


Mike Watt & George Hurley performing songs from the Minuetmen – What a performance, what a tight and truly at-one-with-the-music pair of musicians. You can tell they have played together for a long time, and that they are only part of the bigger picture of the fabulous Minuetmen. I love their heavy funk/blues, it helped spawn and spread my love for many a groovy punk band (like Black Flag, Nomeansno and The Raincoats to mention a few). I feel privileged to see them for what they are now, let alone what they were like when the lead singer D. Boon was alive. Living legends!


The John Spencer Blues Explosion! – clad in tight pvc, leather and flinging there long hair or ego’s all over the stage was a wicked end to the Friday bands. What is it with Friday and blues bands? They go together like wine and cheese. I think the outro is a new record for me as the longest ever, all three did solo’s one after another for about half an hour. Confidence really does come in useful for these guys and I was right there with them soacking it all up. Also so much dancing made the late night pizza we had when we got in the chalet taste that much better.

Looking back at all the amazing bands I saw in one afternoon and evening, re-enforces why ATP festivals are addictive and good for your body, mind and soul. The quality of bands is second to none, with the variety like being a child in a sweet shop. You can never see all the bands on the line-up as you have to eat, drink and get easily distracted by the arcade machines, merchandise stalls and all the lovely people. Check out the ATP festival line-up with stage times and more about each act by clicking a band name on the full ATP festival line-up.

Saturday review coming soon….


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