All Tomorrow’s Parties – The Nightmare Before Xmas 2009 – Part 2

Day 2 of 2009’s Nightmare before Xmas and you get the impression that everyone in attendance woke up with a sore head, which was eased over breakfast and Muppet Treasure Island on one of the ATP TV Channels.  The two ATP TV channels broadcast cult films, music documentaries and obviously hangover-relieving programs for the mornings-after-the-nights-before, 24 hours a day over the weekend, with My Bloody Valentine responsible for the programming of the TV channel as well as choosing the bands to play.

It’s a very leisurely start to the day though, with the first band not starting until 2:15pm. The Tyde are that first band and in the fullness of time, the one resounding memory is of a singer wearing very, short shorts: it would be a distinct memory at any time but even more so in the middle of winter in the UK. Musically the band don’t offer any great shakes; it’s West Coast surf pop but seems out of place in the dark confines of the Centre Stage.

Compared to last night’s stale Buzzcocks set, The Membranes are a revelation, everything a punk band should be; there’s energy, verve, passion in abundance, a vitality that was so lacking when the Buzzcocks played. Obviously a large part of this would have to do with The Membranes re-grouping to play at ATP compared to the Mancunian punk icons having dragged themselves around the touring circuit far too many times and continued long past their use-by-date. While Buzzcocks could easily be accused of going through the motions for another pay day, The Membranes still sound fresh and in John Robb have a frontman with real fire in his belly. I take far too many photos of Robb at the expense of the rest of the band but it’s virtually impossible to stop and concentrate on anyone else on the stage.

Although Sun Ra might no longer be with us, the Sun Ra Arkestra provide one of those special ATP moments and performances that you just wouldn’t find at your average mainstream festival. It’s amusing watching the hipsters in the front few rows who all look slightly awkward as if they don’t quite know what they’re doing there and didn’t expect the band to sound like this.

Upstairs on the Centre Stage, Harmony Rockets perform their Paralyzed Mind Of The Archangel Void album in full. I don’t know anything about the band other than it’s a Mercury Rev side-band and have never heard of, let alone heard, the album. But regardless I head to see them and they turn out to be one of the highlights of the day. After the festival I add Paralyzed Mind Of The Archangel Void to my Amazon Wish List and finally get around to buying it in mid-2011, some 18+ months after seeing it performed. Sadly, whereas it’s a stunning piece of live music, a 42 minute instrumental that’s a perfect choice for a festival curated by MBV, it doesn’t have anything like the same impact when played at home on a CD player, even though it was recorded live.  AllMusic’s review calls it “…a trip into the furthest reaches of sound, a complete immersion into space noise and melodic chaos” but the noise just can’t be captured in a recording to do justice to the experience of seeing it actually performed live and in front of you.

The rest of the afternoon is spent catching 30 minutes of The Pastels on the Pavillion Stage, That Petrol Emotion at Red’s Bar and J Mascis & The Fog on the Centre Stage. Standing in the photo pit right in front of J and his massive Marshall amp stack is one of those times when I consider that I probably should be wearing ear plugs.

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