The Best of Times (Part I)

What better way to forget the miserable political mess we’re in than to spend the weekend at Butlin’s, eh? What’s that? A weekend at Butlin’s packed with indie treats? Oh yes, you’re right, that is better… here’s the first of three recollections of the ATP Bowlie 2 weekend…


After a long wait at Taunton station in the dwindling light, we managed to squeeze onto a local bus after an hour or so and wended our way along the feet of the Quantocks in the gloaming. After passing Williton and Watchet, we drew into Butlins in Minehead around six, collecting our key passes and dropping off our bags before heading out to see The Zombies. Original members Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone (augmented by some more recent Zombies) gave a tour of their musical history.

While there were meandering diversions into seventies prog and stadium rock, the highlights – as anticipated – were the clutch of songs from their masterpiece ‘Odessey and Oracle‘, as well as ‘She’s Not There’. Blunstone still sings beautifully, like a breathier Eric Burdon, and Argent’s keyboard work was magical. Though at some points the set was cheesy (this song especially) and at others drawn out by lengthy explanations of songs’ origins or recording personnel, the best moments were breathtaking – ‘Care of Cell 44‘ and ‘Time of the Season’ (Bowlie version here) were incredible.

Next up for me were Foals. I’ve seen them live a lot over the last four years (though my interest had dwindled a bit because I found their second album a bit of a beach-cafe-style dirge). Live though, the tracks were played with the energy and tightness of the first album, qualities which were lacking in the last couple of shows I had seen. Standouts were still drawn from the first record – ‘Olympic Airways’ and ‘Two Steps Twice‘ were superb – but ‘Total Life Forever’ really grew into something beautiful too. I’ll be intrigued to see where they go next. I’ve always seen them as the last band of the post-punk revival, and as such heralding the move towards the more synthy, dancy successors; but there is potential for them to either work in some elements of the Fauxfrobeat trend (Fool’s Gold, Tall Ships) or to continue to drift towards an Ibiza sound.

I wasn’t fussed about The Go Team so I popped back to the chalet to watch the Review Show, then came back for a little look at The Phenomenal Handclap Band. They were a lot of fun, though I must say the music hasn’t particularly stayed with me. Mainly I recall they had a Jerry Garcia lookalike on bass, a Penelope Cruz wannabe as a singer and an identikit Brooklyn keyboardist, giving them a bit of a patchwork quilt aspect. They did sound pretty good, but only the counting song 15 to 20 was recognisable by me.

The Phenomenal Handclap Band

Steve Mason was next. He’s a very angry man! The former Beta Band frontman was stalking about the stage, circling like a caged tiger while he delivered barrages of sincere (though slightly vague) political invective. He played only one ‘nostalgic’ song, instead concentrating on his recent, Ian Brown-like output – slightly trancy, driving beats with mystical gnomic pronunciations over the top. And lots of percussion. And lots of bobbing from foot to foot. Enjoyable nonetheless, and good to see him back on stage after what have evidently been some very tough times.

Those Dancing Days

By this stage it was the wee hours and I was whiskyed up to the nines, but we hung around to see Those Dancing Days. Now, I may be being overly cynical, but I have to suspect this band were picked by a certain slightly creepy curator on the grounds that they are a load of tweeny looking Swedish girls who dance like they are on day release. Brilliantly, they are from a town called Nacka. They were likeable enough, thoroughly charming in fact, but they were nothing special musically and the singing was consistently pretty flat. This didn’t put off a largely male, largely middle-aged audience from leaning forward and slavering (see below). I’m sure they have all the right musical reference points but this was pretty sanitised and on the whole a bit pap. The drummer was tremendous though.

Those drooling days

Published in: on December 17, 2010 at 8:41 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Have to say that I actually think The Zombies were my Friday highlight, which seems odd, but I wasn’t really involved in Foals because I only saw half their set, and although the Go Team got everybody warmed up and happy, there’s nothing memorable about their music.

    So yes, Zombies for me, even including the prog beast that is ‘Hold your head up’ (here in cringemaking double-necked guitar glory):

    • Oh I agree; I’ve been listening to Odessey and Oracle over and over since I got back (interspersed with those many good songs B&S left out… grrr…). Magic.

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