All Tomorrow’s Parties – The Nightmare Before Xmas 2009 – Part 3

Although there’s a heavy dose of indie rock’s heritage on show at ATP, there are a number of newer acts also playing the festival. The previous week the NME had announced that The Horrors had won their Album of the Year poll with Primary Colours. It was a surprising choice to me as it wasn’t an album that grabbed me and sounded like a watered down version of its obvious shoegaze influences crossed with the almost-manadtory-these-days U2 references. Seeing them play live for the first time did little to sway my opinion although they aren’t helped by the sound in the Pavillion Stage and watching them you’d never have thought they might be on an end-of-year high. They give the impression that it’s all too much of an effort for them.

Upstairs Pete Kember’s Spectrum is playing with the full band and puts in a far superior performance to his legendary solo show at The Step Inn a few years ago. He’s happy to be there and it shows. There’s no technical issues, there’s no unnecessary and unhelpful lambasting of the soundman and the healthy crowd is appreciative of his efforts. As expected he plays a few Spaceman 3 songs in his set including Revolution, Suicide, How You Satisfy Me and the band’s cover of Mudhoney’s When Tomorrow Hits. It’ll always be a shame that Brisbane didn’t get to experience this version of Pete Kember.

I like a lot of what Sonic Youth are about and what they do. I like the artistic approach they take to their music, I like the experimentation, I like the guitar tunings, I like how they’ve conducted themselves over the last few decades and their support of upcoming bands, there’s a tonne of photos of them that I really like, I like the videos, I like that they’ve always looked ‘cool’, I like the sound of Kim Gordon’s voice and Thurston Moore’s isn’t too bad either. They seem like really, really nice people. The only problems that I really have is that I’m not a very big fan of the music. I’ve never, ever been able to explain it and I’ve heard enough and seen them play enough to have been convinced if I was ever going to be convinced and if the band were ever going to make a breakthrough with me on a personal level. I don’t mind the songs but they’ve never really grabbed me in the same way just about every other music fan I know has been. In a lot of ways, there needs to be more bands like Sonic Youth; their positives make them an infinitely more interesting band than all the landfill indie that’s blighted the music scene over the last few years. Tonight is about as close as they get to that breakthrough though, although it has the added benefit of getting to photograph them for the first time, which is thrilling but so short and sweet. It’s also surprising given that the bulk of their set comes their latest album, The Eternal. The first three songs fly by and at the end I’m disappointed with the photos I’ve taken. Photographing the Pavillion Stage is difficult as the stage is so high and there’s a couple of speakers on stands set up in the photo pit that completely block certain angles and which you have to be mindful of every time you move around.

Although I’m enjoying Sonic Youth as much as I’ve ever have, I duck out before the end of their set to check out a bit of Robin Gutherie. He’s playing a solo set in Reds with a lot of chorus and delay and accompanied by visuals from a projector playing onto the back wall behind him. It’s pleasant enough, fairly ambient as you’d expect, and he’s in jovial form, but could do with a full band behind him to flesh it out more, and a vocalist. Say Liz Fraser.

Although My Bloody Valentine are the headlining curators, there’s still a couple of bands after them. Everything is on the Centre Stage so it means the stage has to be cleared and set up again so by the time No Age start, it’s heading towards 1am. I’m just not a fan of really late shows. You can do it with ease when you’re young, but the older you get the harder it becomes and the less you enjoy it. On top of that it’s been a long day and fairly alcoholic day and one that follows on from more of the same the day before. The main reason for sticking around is the rumour that Bob Mould will be making a guest appearance with the band and playing a couple of Husker Du songs. The rumour turns out to be true, although they only play a couple of songs, Zen Arcade’s Something I Learned Today and the band’s debut single In A Free Land but I manage to miss half of it thanks to being in the queue for the toilet.

It’s really late but there’s still one band to go: Fucked Up. This is the first time I’ve seen them and writing this post almost 2 1/2 years later it’s still the only time I’ve seen them play. They come out to Australia but I keep missing them, largely because they’ve played big shows I wasn’t interested in (supporting the Foo Fighters, my lack of interest solely due to their photo contract) or they’ve played festivals but clashed with the main headliner (playing at the same time as Iron Maiden at last year’s Soundwave). By the time they start it’s after 2:30am so I’m not really in the mood and only stay for a few songs before calling it a night. based on a very limited opinion from a very tired mind, they’re a faceless punk band fronted by a bald, fat man, who gets his shirt off at the first instance, crushes coke cans on his forehead and pours drinks over himself before jumping into the crowd. I’m left wondering what the far superior Sixfthick have to do to get to play a big and high profile festival like ATP.

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