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All Tomorrow’s Parties 2000

Camber SandsI wasn’t going to review this since my memories are not too great due to the severe tiredness endured throughout My Rock Week. But it would be a shame if I was to forget one of the most fun weekends of my life. So I’ll do the best I can. I’ve always disliked festivals – expensive tickets, too many people, crap bands, hippy nonsense, drunken students and camping for goodness sake. I did quite enough camping as a child – no way am I doing it willingly.

So my only festival experiences so far have been one day at a free festival in Bristol and one day at T in the Park where we got in on the guest list so that when there weren’t any good bands on we could hide in Hospitality with Menswear, Ash and Rick Witter. Oh yes. But I was finally convinced by ATP – the line-up was the best I’d ever seen, you got to sleep in a chalet with a roof and loads of my friends were going. I also got offered a ticket at an opportune moment when I happened to have money and holiday time. So it was fate and I happily gave into it.

* * *


After too many hours on too many trains we eventually arrived in Rye. It amused me by being like Cullen and Holland, all twisty streets, old-fashioned sea cottages and fields. The occupants of Rye stared at this influx of strangely dressed kids – they didn’t understand who we all were. Someone on the bus asked me where we’d all come from. All over the world, I told her cheerfully and she passed this information on to her friend, disbelievingly. Camber Sands itself was the maddest, bizarrest fantasticest place to have a festival. Chalets, crazy golf, swings, seaside and shops.

After relinquishing David to the arms of alcohol abuse [who was never too be seen again until Sunday evening] I made it over for HOOD who weren’t as good as I’d wanted them to be. Only four songs and it didn’t work for me until the last song which was noisy and great. I caught a bit of RADAR BROTHERS who managed quite successfully to soundtrack the late afternoon sunshine then I got bored and wandered off back to the chalet only to get slightly lost and happen across the chalet of the Oedipus two doors down from mine. Feeding me from their fridge full of out-of-date mini Jaffa Cakes [genius!] we eventually decided to go see THE DELGADOS. Unfortunately I got a bit confused, lost Steve and ended up bumping into Matt Gringo instead.

So I missed the Delgados and instead saw LABRADFORD. They came on and played searing waves of painful noise that went straight for my spine and drove half the audience out of the room. I wasn’t exactly impressed but they continued to play this noise and gradually, like some weird kind of noise massage, it started to soothe and relax. I felt kind of refreshed and happy after that and agreed that STEREOLAB could be a good option. They were being kind of dull though – to me, Stereolab are bright and bubbly retro art pop and live they’re just like an indie band so I was kind of disappointed. We only lasted about ten minutes – ‘bloody ba-ba-ba song’, muttered Chris, succinctly, as they launched into another song and we escaped downstairs to await the arrival of GODSPEED YOU BLACK EMPEROR!

Here I finally met Jason who had helpfully written ‘Jason’ on his hand [this is a good way for people to recognise you, remember it] who solemnly handed me a balloon to throw about. Much balloon antics later, the room was completely packed out and the band started to play. Only, this didn’t sound like Godspeed. Indeed, it turned out we were being ‘treated’ to an impromptu set by Godspeed offshoot FLY PAN AM. Suffice to say it was decided to go upstairs and hide. Here we annoyed some people with the Gringo balloon and watched SUPER FURRY ANIMALS play some enthusiastic welsh songs. Then we ended up back at Gringo Towers watching the Sonic Youth movie and missed Godspeed altogether. Oh dear. Apparently they were great as well. Tom and Xoe rescued me late into the night and we wandered very vaguely in the direction of our chalets for rather a long time.

* * *


We were up in time to watch Pokemon [hurrah!] which was a very odd episode where Misty and Jessie enter a competition to win some really frightening Pokemon dolls. I then became increasingly aware of the fact that bands didn’t start until 4pm, leaving hours with no amusement on offer [how about next year the members of each chalet are forced to form a band over the weekend and then play on the Sunday?] Anyway I wandered off and chanced upon Gringo playing football. We then went down to the beach which I was not expecting to be impressed by, having lived by the sea forever, but it was a very pretty beach and I had a quite lovely time chatting in the sun with the perfect summer breeze. Astounding considering it had been snowing only days before.

Everyone was hyped up about seeing LIGAMENT which surprised me as I’d found them quite dull supporting Mogwai. However, they were fantastic – loud, shouty, noisy and fun. They played lots of songs with ligament in the title and brought a much-needed ROCK element to the festival.

Trail of DeadBefore our enthusiasm had dampened even slightly, …AND YOU WILL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF DEAD wandered onstage and did a bit of a soundcheck. A bunch of people started chanting “trail of the dead, trail of the dead” and Conrad turned round and stared, a look of shock on his face. I really don’t think they were expecting to have any fans in the UK yet. Anyway, hearts raced as TOD ran wild with limbs flailing and sharpened guitars at the ready. A bit short on the riot antics but the audience were left dazed and wide-eyed. And thus this day came to be known as ROCK day.

We ran downstairs to catch the last song of the last ever GANGER set but I found it pretty dull and uninspiring with the blood fizzing through my veins – I wanted to run around and hit things not listen to post-rock. However tiredness soon kicked in and I ended up watching the entire sets by PAN AMERICAN and THE FOR CARNATION, only I can’t remember anything about either. Except being really tired and sleepy near the end of it all and discovering that when I lifted one of my feet off the ground I started to fall over, and then testing this concept more times than was really necessary.

ShellacI got caught up in the SHELLAC anticipation fever sweeping the crowd and ended up too near the stage for such a small person as me. Just as the band were coming on I felt a wave of large crowd claustrophobia panic come over me and had to make a run for the sidelines to recover. But Shellac were so powerful and intense and just damn well amazing that I was soon inching my way back into the crowd to see what the hell was going on. They played hard and fast and loud and the little Q&A sections had the audience bonding.Quite simply they put on a show and a damn impressive one at that. So much so that it never even occurred to me to leave early for SONIC YOUTH and, in retrospect, I’m extremely thankful for that as we arrived upstairs to a wailing cacophany of noise.

Actually that makes it sound much better than it was. It was as if they had picked some pensioners off the street who had never seen musical instruments before and were just guessing how to play them. Kim Gordon did mention she’d been having difficulty making coffee in their chalet so maybe they were missing their caffeine buzz or something. I could point out that there were parts of the set that I enjoyed when they made some fantastic noises but that would be like offering excuses for a band whose arrogance disappointed so many people who’d been prepared to overlook a little self-indulgence in return for some wonder. Instead they seriously pissed off a number of longtime fans and ruined rock day for everyone. How they managed to get an encore I’ll never know and that they then had the cheek to play a proper song (i.e Sunday) is just frightening.

We then spent a very strange evening in the pub being harangued by wee Stuart Mogwai for calling Sonic Youth’s set “rubbish” and then confusing an already very confused Conrad Trail of Dead with our prospective interview concepts. Heh.

* * *


Again we were up bright and early and, um, I have no idea what I did until 4pm. I think the beach was involved at one point but that might have been later. So, anyway, the main stage was running an hour late and we were avoiding the second stage so we had a look in the merchandising room and I finally discovered the message board. duh.

TWO DOLLAR GUITAR were nice and depressing and just the thing you need on a Sunday afternoon when you’re completely exhausted and have been living on toast, coffee and ribena. I’m tempted to deny all knowledge of having seen BARDO POND as I can’t remember anything about them. And I feel bad about that as I know they must have been good. And being my first and only experience of Bardo Pond, I’m unable to make some stuff up. Er, not that I’ve done that about any of the other bands so far. Moving swiftly on, I decided not to stay and see SIGUR ROS as, although I had quite enjoyed their glacial charms previously that week they don’t compete with toast and coffee.

So, much happier, I made it back for PAPA M and managed to rediscover the Gringo lot by merely picking a spot at random and looking confused. And Papa M were wonderful. There was a respectful hush in the room as everyone gave their full concentration to the lovely sounds. Never has 45 minutes passed in such quiet joy. There’s so much thought and care and love goes into David Pajo’s playing that you can’t do anything else than clear your mind and breathe it all in.

By this point I was starting to feel very tired again so I thought I’d not bother with WIRE. Only I couldn’t think of anything better to do so I went back and watched them. And they were actually pretty great. Really really loud pounding noise and short songs and shouting. They played about four fantastic songs at the beginning then got a bit dull and ended with another four fantastic songs. So that was surprising but good.

MogwaiThen it was the long wait for the final band of the weekend – MOGWAI of course. I had evilly suggested that the technical problems that delayed all the main stage acts by an hour was actually a ruse to make sure everyone would come and see Mogwai si nce there’d be nothing else to do. Whether this was true or not, the room was very full by the time Mogwai took to the stage, setting the scene with a blue glow over the stage and white pinprick stars. It was basically the same set as Edinburgh but the practice had obviously done them good as they played even better. Which is pretty spectacular of them considering what a weekend they must have had. They were out to enjoy themselves with some rock poses and ill-advised political ranting whilst still letting us savour the quiet beauty of Stanley Kubrick and the new String Song. The Jewish Song still left me breathless – someone blew bubbles up to the ceiling and it felt pretty perfect to me.

Afterwards I got a bit drunk and insisted on telling Colin from Eska/Empire-Builder how much I loved his bands until he started to look at me funny. Then I had another strange conversation with wee stuart and basically stayed in the pub so long we were kicked out of the building by security. It was sad to discover that I still hadn’t figured out the correct route from Gringo Towers to my chalet and thus I ended up in the staff area. Luckily I got my bearings just as a staff bloke started following me asking if I was lost.

I would tell you my ‘hilarious’ anecdotes of the trip home but there weren’t any as David was asleep most of the time, waking only to spot Stuart Murdoch. I did manage the frightening total of 20 bands and 15 trains in 9 days though. I heartily recommend you go next year – apart from the bands there’s the whole mad experience of feeling like you now live in some bizarre utopian future town with lots of cool people. And as for the promised Shellac-curated 2002 ATP – I’m there already.

ATP website