Friday, 8 June 2012

Goodbye All Tomorrow's Parties at Minehead

Organisers of left field concerts and festivals All Tomorrow’s Parties have just announced that they have ended their 6 year partnership with Butlins in Minhead, who have hosted festivals in the out of season periods of winter and spring since the Thurston Moore curated Nightmare Before Christmas in December 2006, which brought Iggy and the Stooges, Sonic Youth, Charalambides, Dutch free jazz tenor noisenik Peter Brotzmann, and Jackie-O Motherfucker to the Wild West and pirate themed holiday camp on the shores of the Bristol Channel. It’s something of an end of an era for me. It was so easy to get to, and offered an opportunity to see many of my favourite artists as near to my doorstep as they were ever likely to get. Few tend to travel anywhere further than Bristol in the South West, and Exeter is certainly beyond the pale, understandably so given the City Council’s determination in the post war decades to knock down any reasonably sized concert venue in the centre of the town. Butlins might have seemed a bizarre setting for an idiosyncratic bill mixing the more exploratory indie bands with experimental music of all colours. But its very incongruity made for a strangely appropriate collision of worlds. It was always great to be able to wander out, buzzing with the excitement of a particularly memorable performance, the music still echoing in your head, and take a breath of air on the beach, looking across the channel at the lights marking the edge of Wales. Alright, so they were the lights of Barry airport and adjacent refineries, but it was easy enough to ignore that and hold on to the romantic dream. Coming into or leaving Minehead on the steam train was also a grand way to arrive or depart, noting the station platform that Ringo rang along in A Hard Day’s Night, and the one at Blue Anchor from which the protagonist of Chris Petit’s Radio On waits to make his weary way back to London at the end of his cross country road trip, the sounds of Kraftwerk’s Ohm Sweet Ohm playing over the credits. In fact, I saw this film at one of the Butlins festivals, allowing for a direct comparison on the way back the next day.

I went to five of the All Tomorrow’s Parties festivals in Minehead, although I never braved any of the winter Nightmare Before Christmas events. ATP vs the Fans in May 2007 was half chosen by the organisers, half, through a complex ballot system, by those who were attending. In 2008, Explosions In The Sky, who had been forced to pull out the previous year, curated. In 2009, it was The Breeders, and in 2010, Simpsons and Futurama creator and fan of weird music Matt Groening. Just when it seemed that the spring festivals were over in favour of staging two December events, Jeff Mangum’s 2011 Nightmare Before Christmas was cancelled and rescheduled to March 2012, when the weather turned out to be better than most of the May fests. It looks like this will have been my last Butlins ATP, and it was a fine one to go out on. Over the years I’ve seen a fantastic range of music from the following, many of whom I discovered for the first time through the festival:
Alexander Tucker
Amadou and Mariam
The American Contemporary Music Ensemble
Animal Collective
Atlas Sound (with Trish and James from Broadcast accompanying)
Bat For Lashes
Beach House
James Blackshaw
Blanck Mass
Bon Iver
The Books
The Boredoms (twice)
The Breeders
Brightblack Morning Light
Broken Social Scene
Coco Rosie
Cold Cave
Current 93
Deerhunter (twice)
Demdike Stare
Toumani Diabate
Dinosaur Jr.
Do Make Say Think
Echo and the Bunnymen
Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise
Explosions in the Sky
Four Tet
Gang of Four
Giant Sand
The Go Team
Grizzly Bear
Group Doueh
A Hawk and a Hacksaw
Zach Hill
Holy Fuck
Iggy and the Stooges
Iron and Wine
Daniel Johnston (twice)
Konono No.1
Lost in the Trees
The Magnetic Fields
Jeff Mangum
Melt Banana
Roscoe Mitchell
Juana Molina
Thurston Moore
Mount Eerie
The National
Joanna Newsom (twice)
The Octopus Project
Charlemagne Palestine
Pit Er Pat
The Raincoats (twice)
The Residents
Matana Roberts and Seb Rochford
Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions
She and Him
Patti Smith
Stars of the Lid
The Sun Ra Arkestra
Teenage Fanclub
Throwing Muses
Tiger Lillies
Tune Yards
World’s End Girlfriend
The XX
Yo La Tengo
Young Marble Giants

Well, nothing’s for ever, and it was damn good while it lasted.

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