ATP Mt Buller: Part 2

After the second time of climbing the hill I’m officially over it and it’s time to consider using the ski lifts, which are now in operation.

The reformed Primitive Calculators sound like a band that has only played once in almost 30 years (a warm up Melbourne show a few days earlier), with an initial sense of uncertainty emanating from those on stage, not helped by some technical issues.  When they start playing it’s hard to tell whether they are a serious band or a joke band, whether they are amazing or just plain terrible.  But with a combination of good humoured self-deprecation, some fine tuning of the sound and an increase in the volume from the speakers it all suddenly comes together beautifully, leaving no doubt that even after 30 years age and countless musical trends their impact hasn’t diminished.  It does make you think about just how good it must have sounded at their small club warm-up show and what it must have felt like to have seen this band back in the late 1970s.  Having been asked to play and talked up by Nick Cave, as having made a massive impression on him when he saw them play in Melbourne thirty years ago, both he and Warren Ellis watch from the side of the stage.

Primitive Calculators

Primitive Calculators

 Primitive Calculators

James Blood Ulmer brings another change in musical style and pace back down at the Amphitheatre stage, one man and his guitar simply playing the blues.  He’s got a music stand to help him out, an item that makes a regular appearance over the course of the festival, showing that even ageing musicians with a life-time of playing need a bit of help remembering the words.  I’m stood next to Bill Callahan as we watch and am tempted to ask why he’s not playing in Brisbane on this tour, but it seems a bit rude to ask, even if he is playing four shows in Sydney. 

James Blood Ulmer

James Blood Ulmer

A surprise to just about no one is that the ‘mystery’ act are Grinderman.  Although it always seemed on the cards that it would be them, I had been secretly hoping that it would turn out to the The Triffids, playing a warm up for their upcoming Leonard Cohen support slot and one-off Melbourne gig, but I guess that ATP needs to hold back some classic Australian bands for next year’s line-up.  The more optimistic were hedging on a Mt Buller appearance by Kylie, and whilst I think she is still in the country, relaxing after her December tour, it always seemed like that was going to be a real long shot.  A shame, as she could have done 45 minutes of ‘Indie Kylie‘ and cemented a legendary status upon ATP Mt Buller in its first year.  Maybe ATP are also saving her for next year… 

Despite allegedly having a new album in the works, Grinderman stick to songs from their first album, with Nick Cave still needing to have the lyrics to the songs on a music stand to help him out. They come out with all cylinders firing, the fervour of a band that has been waiting impatiently in the wings all day. Although all the photographers have had to sign a contract for Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds which restricts the time in the photo pit to the first song, nothing has been signed for Grinderman, and no one knows whether we’ll be able to stay for the standard three songs. However, our worst fears are realised as they finish ‘Depth Charge Ethel‘ and launch straight into ‘Get It On’ and we are escorted from the pit. Photographing in daylight does make it easier to get some good shots but with only one song it still feels like too much of a rush. 

Grinderman

Grinderman

Grinderman

It feels like the only way to alleviate the disappointment of only getting one song in the photo pit is to go on the ski lift and cunningly use the trip to get some aerial shots of Grinderman as I pass by the stage.  Not being too good with heights, the initial lurch away from the station and into the open air is slightly terrifying, not helped by the realisation that the bar holding you in is there largely for show.  But it doesn’t take long for fear to be replaced by exhilaration as, with camera primed, the chair advances towards the stage.  But in photography time is everything and I’ve managed to perfectly time my ride so that the optimum position for photographing the stage coincides with the end of the song, everyone stopping playing and roadies on stage to help out with changes in guitars.  So at the bottom of the hill I decide to stay on the lift, along with most of the others who have travelled down, much to the annoyance of the ski lift operators, who are obviously bored of telling the same people “one more time, then you HAVE to get off”, and the queue of people trying to avoid the walk up the hill.  Photographing the stage from the ski lift going back up the hill involves a small degree of contortion to face backwards, making it feel even less likely that the safety barrier is going to stop you from falling out. Photographing moving away from the stage is harder than on the trip down the hill and at the top I’m not sure if I’ve really got anything but although tempted to stay on the lift for another round-trip decide to go and watch the rest of Grinderman’s set.  They end with a ferocious ‘No Pussy Blues‘ which makes you wonder how they are going to top that for their second album.

Grinderman

Grinderman

Back at the bottom the hill The Necks are playing minimal jazz.  I keep waiting for something to happen, something to start, something to change, some build-up into a crescendo but nothing does before I get bored of photographing musicians who have spent the last ten minutes with their eyes shut.  It never gets above being anything but background music, but maybe that’s the point and you need to disassociate the music from the performance, relax on the grass and take in the vistas and setting sun.

The Necks

The Necks 

As the day moves into early evening it’s begins to get a bit colder, although I’m still surprised at the amount of people already wearing big coats, hats and scarves; it’s not THAT cold.  I make use of having some free time before Fuck Buttons and being near the ski lodge to go and download my memory cards onto my laptop, realising back there that the reason I’m not feeling the cold might be due to sunburn…

Downloading takes longer than expected, although this is due in part to also having a couple of drinks, so I end up missing the start of Fuck Buttons.  Security in the photo pit has been fairly lax during the day, with no enforcement of the three song rule, so they don’t seem that perturbed by my late showing.  Fuck Buttons are boring to photo from the pit, as you can’t see anything that they’re doing, and the photos are essentially two guys stood at a table.  Musically it sounds like Playstation game tunes from the 1990s, something that might have been used on the soundtrack to Wipeout.  As with Dead Meadow, it feels like their set is too early for them and too early for us. A later set, ideally one after sunset, would have at least meant the benefit of some sort of light show and the possibility of some more interesting photos.

Fuck Buttons

Fuck Buttons

More ATP Mt Buller photos on flickr.

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