The Best of Times (Part II)

Bowlie reminiscences continued…


Part of the fun of ATP is the onsite facilities – that is, the usual Butlins attractions. Not everything was available to us festival-goers, but I had packed my swimming kit and was keen to work off my expected hangover with some lengths. After two abortive attempts at nine and ten, we returned at eleven to find the pool open. There was something particularly sweet about mincing around in shorts, getting hosed in a tropical wave pool and going on a flume – all in the depths of winter. Our exertions were rewarded with a slap-up full English to see us right for the travails ahead.

Two harps, living in just one mind?

Of course, they weren’t travails at all – rather they were (sometimes exquisite) pleasures. My musical day began with Abigail Grey, who (for better or worse) were precisely how one might imagine a band not just curated, but crafted, by Belle and Sebastian. Two (two!) harps, some nice three-part harmonies and an unfortunately anonymous (and male) rhythm section. The talk of Inverness off the back of their Bowlie slot (so they said, and there’s no reason not to believe them), they made the sort of literate, diverting but safe folk-pop that goes down so well on Loose Ends. Just right for the time and place, mind.

Collins and supergroup

Then it was upstairs for the highlight of the weekend, a triumphant set from Edwyn Collins. Well, Edwyn Collins and friends, as there were some cracking little cameos from Ryan Jarman, Alex Kapranos and Nick McCarthy, but this was mainly about Mr Collins himself. Under the spotlight, and with the band already playing, he glided out – now, of course, supported by his trusty stick which at points is used as a rallying baton – to huge, warm applause, delivering a set of shimmering pop both beefed up by the orthodox rock line-up (this particularly added interesting new qualities to the Orange Juice songs) and made more serious by Edwyn’s even more pronounced baritone since his illness. I was choked when he made to leave during the last song of the regular set (only to attempt to exit via the wrong side of the stage, leading unintentionally to another curtain call), but then he was back for another!¬†Incidentally check out the video for ‘Do It Again’ here – and how good does Alex Kapranos look with that creepy moustache!? Amazing.

Coping with middle age admirably

Julian Cope, meanwhile, could not have been more different. Dressed in his trademark outfit (see above), he strutted and preened his way through two mini-sets – one with acoustic guitar (plus plenty of phaser), one with keys – before engaging in some aggro with the soundman over the scheduled cut-off point and departing in the middle of a passionate rant about the coalition. Instead of channelling D. H. Lawrence as he claimed, I think he had accidentally got Steve Mason’s ectoplasm through the post. The set was absurd, pompous and wonderfully entertaining. I recognised one song, but it didn’t matter. I was hanging on every daft/wise word.

Next up was another personal highlight: a mordant, trippy and very northern set from the marvellous Wild Beasts. ‘Two Dancers’ is still burning up a lot of my eartime after a year of heavy play; it never gets tired. ‘All the King’s Men’ and ‘Hooting and Howling’ were menacingly enjoyable, while the minor key stylings of ‘We Still Got the Taste Dancin’ on Our Tongues’ and ‘The Fun Powder Plot’ disguise something hypnotically intoxicating. The moment ‘Hooting and Howling’ breaks into a very exposed higher minor key is my favourite point of the album, and live it was stunning. Wonderful vocals and great instrumentation. My only quibble was the recurrent tendency of the group to slow down, sometimes audibly within a couple of bars. But no matter, it was a tremendous and entrancing set.

I feeled music

There was a race upstairs to catch Field Music, who were sandwiched between Wild Beasts and Dirty Projectors but on the other stage. The new material sounded much more gutsy live, and I did really enjoy it, though I was most chuffed when some of the old classics came out – especially ‘If only the moon were up’. The set was put together expertly, with some really inventive segues and juxtapositions. Also, the band looked rather more relaxed than my last encounter with them. Sometimes contrary but always interesting, I thought they were excellent live, and I’m going to hunt out the twin-solo-album which is the missing link in their output (at least on my shelf).

(to be continued…)

Published in: on December 20, 2010 at 6:51 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. Good assessments all. Alex Kapranos looks like my Dad circa 1973. Mortifying.

    Do check out School of Language and The Week That Was. I’m marginally more of a fan of the latter, but perhaps only for the gorgeous ‘Airport Line’. As for (Measure) live, they didn’t do any of my favourite songs from the album, i.e. none of the really autumnal chamber-pop (‘Measure’, ‘You and I’), nor the Rubix-cube marimba funk of ‘Let’s write a book’. As you say, contrary…

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