Written on: by NDW (2 reviews written)
ATP / Bowlie2 at Butlins Holiday camp, Minehead, Somerset
Friday 10th to Sunday 12th December 2010
The event was curated by Belle and Sebastian
3 nights of gigs and accomodation included) for £175 per person.
The festival was a blast - and not all from the past.
But the array of acts were getting a bit long in the tooth overall, and far too many seemed to be Scottish.
Most likely being due to the members of the Belle and Sebastian becoming middle aged themselves.
The line up was split over three/four venues, plus cinema, quizes, interviews.
Abagail Grey, Belle & Sebastian, Crystal Castles, Daniel Kitson & Gavin Osborn, Dean Wareham plays Galaxie 500, Dirty Projectors, Edwyn Collins, Field Music, Foals, Frightened Rabbit, Howlin' Rain, Isobel Campbell with Mark Lanegan, Jenny And Johnny, Julian Cope, Mulatu Astatke, Silver Columns, Sons And Daughters, Steve Mason, Teenage Fanclub, The 1900s, The 1990s [sic], The Go! Team, The New Pornographers, The Vaselines, The Zombies, Those Dancing Days, Trembling Bells, Vashti Bunyan, Zoey Van Goey, Wild Beasts, Laetitia Sadier, Camera Obscura, Saint Etienne, Franz Ferdinand, Jane Weaver, and
First band I saw on the Friday night were Best Coast on the Centre Stage - the rather cheesy 1970s feel upstairs nightclub venue at Butlins Minehead.
For those of us who saw Throwing Muses or Belly in the nineties, this was much of the same; I almost felt she was channelling Kristen Hersh or Tanya Donelly at some points.
But Best Coast were excellent nevertheless - a wall of indie guitar noise, clever lyrics sung by a girl who could belt the tunes when required. Her only 'mistake' was to say that she was too hot in a stripey, woollen top - this caused several shouts of "take it off then".
Next we nipped downstairs to the Pavilion to catch Teenage Fanclub.
They haven't changed since I last saw them almost 20 years ago - they were excellent then and now. Three great songwriters, even if only one is a great singer too, make for strength in depth; if it worked the Beatles ...
One problem - if ever a band needed a name change, it is Teenage Fanclub; their only connection to teenagers nowadays would be their kids.
On returning upstairs to the Centre Stage, the Zombies appeared. Well, the two vital members of the band appeared:
Rod Argent - the only one of the original band to go on to later success, creating the raawk group Argent in the 1970s, then producing e.g. Tanita Tikaram (filed under where did she go after her debut album "Ancient Heart" and then "The Sweet Keeper"), etc
Colin Bluntstone, the singer.
The rest of the band appearing at Bowlie were ex members of Argent and some others.
It is unfair to demand members of a band who formed in 1962 to be too wild on stage at their age, but they proceeded to sample their many great songs including some of the legendary 1968 "Odessey & Oracle" album.
But then they played some Argent. I am glad I missed listening to most 1970s pompous progressive rock at the time (I liked Showaddywaddy), and am even more glad that I own zero Argent tracks now.
Oddly, Colin Bluntstone's voice appeared curiously unchanged in the 45 years since "Let her go" first reached number 2 in the charts. Murmurs were made by one fellow-Bowlie regarding the prospect of a recording of his singing being played.
Sarah Cracknell was delayed coming from a funeral in Oxford by a massive crash on the motorway - not involving the lovely songstress - so the Saint Etienne gig began late at 8.35pm and overran to 9.20pm.
As ever, Ms Cracknell looked sensational (she is 43, looks 33, and the short sparkly dress looked better on her than it would on most of the 23 year olds present), and she enchanted the crowd - or was that just my remaining hormones rampaging?
But Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs, the pair that complete the trio in the band, had the same stage presence as ever i.e. slightly less charisma than a disused bus stop. And that is combined.
St Etienne haven't had a hit single in the poptastic pop-parade since circa 1994 - but played all the well known songs, and were as great as ever, a time-warp great gig.
Alone, I went to see the electro-disco of Silver Columns in the nearby Reds venue. It was like listening to Erasure on speed - if you love a high energy and pop mix, these were your boys.
Not really my thing, but everyone else seemed to love them.
And there were slot machines right by the audience, just in case you wanted to play "penny falls" with 2p pieces in the middle of their set.
The Go! Team were great.
It showed that 2007's Proof of Youth album was not just their one great album, but they have even better and more recent tunes too.
The last act I saw of the evening was Steve Mason, once of the Beta band. I hated it. Ranting against government policies he doesn't like (gosh, original that - perhaps someone could reanimate Woodie Guthrie and give him this advice too), insulting the audience, etc.
All I kept thinking was "Beta testing" - they love to do it in IT, but he obviously doesn't understand the concept. This numpty was meant to have been involved in using technology in music in the 1990s, but it wasn't evident here, nor were musicianship, interest, or fun.
I did mean to see The 1990s on Saturday lunchtime, but forgot - perhaps after the night before, trying to get out of bed and in a semi-fit state for a gig at 12.30pm in the Reds bar was too much.
It is odd going into a venue that smells of stale beer at 1.15pm on a Saturday afternoon, but that was the time Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan were on Centre Stage.
As 95% of those at the festival love Belle & Sebastian (the other 5% of us don't mind them, honest), the audience were swooning over everything the ex-B&S cellist did.
They was excellent, I have to confess - and I hadn't even heard any of her solo work previously.
I missed Edwyn Collins at 3pm in the Centre Stage, as I went to the swimming complex.
Well, when was the last time you got to ride FOUR (yes, 4) different water slides without having to queue for ages?
When I found that his backing bands were members of Franz Ferdinand and Teenage Fanclub, I was impressed; but I still loved the swimming centre in the camp, I don't care.
My friends said Edwyn Collins (& supporting musicians) was great, and it is good to know his recovery from the brain haemorrhage in 2005 is going well.
I did make it in time to catch Julian Cope in the Pavilion soon after 4pm.
I have seen him thrice (why does no one use that word?) before.
Every gig, a different incarnation of St Julian arrives.
If you know what to expect i.e. the unexpected (a la Spanish Inquisition), then Mr Cope does not disappoint, but he is always (slightly) mad.
This weekend, he was in a black leather ensemble that would not be out of place in a Village-People concert.
The music was, well, Julian Cope; he defies categorisation. This time he played entirely solo, initially on keyboard, then on guitar.
At 4.45pm, I went back upstairs to the Centre Stage, to see the latter stage of Dean Wareham (of Galaxie 500).
Perhaps I was tired, perhaps I was missing the Black Hole water tunnel (very scary, pitch black with spooky noises) at the swimming pool, perhaps it was because I had never even heard of Galaxy 500. Anyway, it seemed musically adept, but not very exiting.
Probably just me wanting to eat and sleep.
I was about to return to the chalet for kip when I remembered Cynthia "Plaster Caster" Albritton was giving a talk at 6pm in the Crazy Horse venue.
The venue has awful 1970s fake wild west deep-brown wooden decor (toilet doors marked "squaws" and "braves"), and even has saloon door entrance to the main room.
But this legendary lady, her term for herself is a "recovering groupie", was fantastic.
She is a legend for casting male band member's members since the 1960s.
Her presentation was endearingly amateur but totally genuine. And shocking. I cannot recall the last time I saw three indie girlies in their early twenties shocked by the sexual frankness of a woman in her sixties.
As all my friends asked when I saw them later (none, err, 'came' with me to her show), did we did get to see and if desired (I did not) touch the plaster casts? Those casts supplied by the Plaster Casters of Chicago were of the willies of Jimmy Hendrix & Noel Redding, plus both breasts of Peaches.
This, I hate to type, was one of the most interesting events ("happenings, man" in hippy-speak) of the festival.
Along with most of the festival goers, I went to see Belle and Sebastian in the Pavilion at 8.15pm. They were much less twee than their recordings, and a lot more exiting to boot.
Then I went back to our luxury chalet for a kip - I am too old for much partying.
Our accommodation was surprisingly warm in a Somerset December for somewhere single-glazed and with thin 1950s walls.
Then I proceeded to sleep - until gone 9am Sunday morning, a mere 11 hours.
Which meant I missed the "mystery band" i.e. Franz Ferdinand at 11.45pm Saturday night.
It transpired as they played the smaller Centre Stage (the bigger Pavilion downstairs has a 10pm curfew due to being a large tent rather than a true building, so noise permeates too easily across town for Minehead residents), that many people did not get in due to restrictions in numbers attending.
So my friends queued but got in to see FF play just one (1) song. And then they had to leave the venue as the FF gig was over.
Perhaps sleep was not so foolish.
The Amphetamines in Reds bar on Sunday at 2.30pm were a great festival band, they will never be anything more career wise.
A ska-pop band, even with a fat bald bloke singing, it was a brilliant rebirth of Bad Manners. If the male singer had announced he was the son of Buster Bloodvessel, it would have been completely believable. A great band to have fun times listening and jumping around to.
Then I went for a walk on the beautiful Minehead beach in the winter sun, and measured the temperature of the sea. It was 5.1 degrees Celsius. This made me glad I had swum in the pool complex the day before, and not in the briny Bristol Channel.
The Vaselines, apparently loved by Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, were in the Pavilion on Sunday at 6.15pm.
Frances McKee told so many jokes about sex between songs that I wondered if I had walked into a comedy event by mistake.
Showing my age, I was shocked to see some parents in the crowd not ushering their ten year old children from the venue during these rather frank comments on sexual escapades. My friends commented on my prudery, but said it to me in unprude ways.
The Vaselines were excellent, but one wonders why a band would break up the week their first album was released.
Ms McKee ran a yoga class in the morning. I didn't go, but those who did seemed very chuffed to shout thanks to her during the evening gig.
Camera Obscura were good in the Pavilion on the Sunday evening, even if sounding a little too much like early B & S, for my liking anyway.
Upstairs in the Centre Stage room, Them Beatles came on stage at 10.15pm.
You would never guess this was a Beatles tribute band, as the chap posing as "Paul McCartney" was playing his bass guitar right-handed.
Whilst the band were unsurprisingly unoriginal, they were great. They played a couple of more obscure tracks - it was the first time I had listened to "Baby's in Black" for a very long time, and now I realise what a great song it is.
Weirdly, this was the only band I saw all weekend getting demands for an encore.
My feet were killing me by this stage, so I went to the (free) ABC cinema in the holiday camp, and saw the late night screening of the docudrama "The Runaways", the story of the eponymous 1970s girl rock-punk band.
A superb if shocking story of their rise and demise, and an excellent cinematic depiction of the story.
One cannot imagine the horror that is Simon Cowell and his dregs creating anything so fantastic yet scary as these five barely-legal age bitches and their borderline insane manager - would you let your 15 year old daughter go on tour with a load of other girls no more than 18 years old? Again, my middle age views are all too evident these days.
Overall, a top event.
Lots of great bands (only one I disliked), good venue except for the climbing tower & high ropes courses were shut for the winter season, easy parking, Tesco's and Morrison's supermarkets nearby to the camp ensured the Spar shops on site could not over-charge, millions of arcade machines, ten-pin bowling, free films, DJs playing until 4am, a late bar open until 6am (a friend of mine sat drinking with one of B+S until it shut on Sunday morning), pints were £3.50p and real ales were widely available, there is a Burger King if you like such fare (I don't, but many seemed to), and pleasant staff, accomodation included until 10am Monday 13th December.
Did I mention they had water slides in the swimming centre?
Bad things? Well, only a few and all rather minor. The hire centre was open from 12pm-1pm each day. All Butlins sports and activities were shut except crazy gold and the swimming centre. The Cornish Pasty place was charging a rip-off price of £2.95p, but oddly you could buy bigger and nicer pasties four doors along the main building on site. The Butlins hot-dogs and fish-and-chips were very expensive and tasted atrocious - so we hired a microwave for £3 per day and visited the shops instead.