All Tomorrow’s Parties – The Nightmare Before Xmas 2009 – Part 5

Into the home straight of MBV’s Nightmare Before Xmas weekend, although in reality it’s just the end of the first three days of the ATP adventure, with four days of In Between Days and the long weekend of Ten Years of ATP still to come. Again, no notes were written and it’s a long time ago to try and drag back a few memories of what happened, what was good, what was bad, and what was played.

EPMD play some old school style hip hop to a 99.9% white audience and although I’ve never heard of them before, they come across really well. Hip hop works so much better when it’s in more intimate surroundings like the Centre stage and when there’s a healthy crowd to pack out the room. Hip hop as it is is really difficult to photograph, with no one on stage standing still for even a few seconds but I manage to get a few shots that I like.

I had hoped for a full band show but Bob Mould steps onto the stage by himself and armed with only an acoustic guitar. He promises us some old stuff and some new stuff and instantly delivers on the older songs, with (from memory) Sugar’s Hoover Dam and Needle Hits E and Husker Du’s Hardly Getting Over It being in the first few songs played. Whereas Husker Du have attained a legendary status, Sugar have become one of the early Nineties forgotten bands, Northwest US grunge becoming the celebrated sound of nostalgia for that period at the expense of everything else.  Copper Blue (now amazingly/scarily 20 years old, and NME’s album of the year in 1992) and the Beaster EP are essential listening.

And then I have to go… ATP is generally not too bad for set clashes, with only two or three stages in action, it’s not like a lot of the Australian festivals where you have to make a choice between acts and get to see very little, if anything, of acts playing at the same time on other stages. But Bob Mould’s hour long set starting at 8:30pm doesn’t allow very much time to be spent in his company before the start of Dirty Three’s 8:45pm set. Although I get to see Dirty Three another couple of times over the next week and then get a couple more opportunities back in Australia (at Laneway and at their own show at The Tivoli) at the start of 2010, I need a really good excuse to not see them. Watching the Dirty Three I don’t really regret missing out on Bob Mould, but if he’d brought a full band with him and had cranked up the volume, it would have been a far more difficult decision and things might have been different.

School of Seven Bells have the unenviable task of playing on the Centre stage after My Bloody Valenine’s third and final show of the weekend. Having seen the band when they played at The Zoo earlier in 2009, I feared for the worst but they more than hold their own and are an excellent end to the weekend. Their setlist is largely from their debut album but they also play a couple of new songs. They have the benefit of really clear and loud sound, something they didn’t get when they played in Brisbane, and it means that all the songs come together beautifully.

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