June 19, 2010

The Milk-Eyed Mender - Joanna Newsom

A missive from Pastaman who attended this year's Matt Groening curated ATP. See Comments for full review of PVY's weekend thrills. (Psst. I think he likes her really).

THE DREADED CENTRE STAGE QUEUE - The biggest pisser of them all this, although it only happened the once this time, as we dutifully filed in line to be allowed into the presence of some harp playing Kate Bush tribute act currently milking critical acclaim. The DSCQ occurs when for whatever reason it is decided to clear that venue in readiness for the next act to set up. For the most part they don’t bother doing this, most acts will set up and sound check with an audience out front and some even dispense with the formality of leaving the stage for a brief period before making their official entrance. Not so Joanna Queuesome. A line started forming a good half hour before the end of Spiritualised main stage set on the Sunday night and by the time I’d joined it stretched the length of the Pavilion and out the back door and eventually to the end of the fun fair. And you couldn’t even get a go on the dodgems. By the time we were let in to the Centre Stage area and Joanna simpered and plinky-plonked her way into the first number she was almost half-an hour behind schedule, I was not kindly disposed and even less so when it meant the Raincoats playing over on Reds also had to be held back until the end of her set because “Joanna plays so quietly”. Grrrrrr
Aw, c'mon. With music this good how can you stay pissed off with the heaven sent harpist? And latest Have One On Me is her best yet: 3 discs and not a smidgeon of padding. Kate Bush comparison increasingly bang a good way. Though the smart-arse comparsion to make is with Roy Harper.

Oddi wrth y brawd
sing, harpy


Y Brawd said...

Review part 1

If you like music and music festivals then it’s difficult to know what to dislike about ATP. In addition to sometimes upwards of 50 acts your ticket buys you chalet (sorry, apartment) accommodation complete with bed(s), flushing toilet, hot running water and a TV programmed to two channels with hand picked schedules of groovy films, shows and documentaries. Ideal for people of a certain age whose excitement at the prospect of attending outdoor bashes is increasingly tempered by concerns about how hard the ground is going to be, or what state the bogs are going to be in by day two.

You probably know how it all works by now. The organisers give some cool person or persons (a curator) free rein to compile a bill of their choice and so create the biggest and most self-indulgent “me-fest” of its kind. It’s a simple yet brilliant idea. Except that it isn’t quite that straightforward. You’ll find that some of the same acts seem to crop up time and again, often because they are signed to or promoted by ATP records or else have simply developed a connection with the organisation. Moreover the curator’s “free rein” is further tempered by certain practical considerations such as artists’ availability and willingness to perform and whether the booking budget can be stretched far enough without serious knock on effects for the rest of the bill.

This is sort of what happened at the Matt Groening ATP last weekend, a bill that featured “only” 35 acts due, so I was told, to the fact that some of the headline acts did indeed cause the organisers to have to forage down the back of the sofa for spare-change. Still this is Groening we’re talking about. It had to be cool and that’s exactly how it turned out.

I’ll cut the crap and turn to the pros and cons of the weekend.


THE LINE-UP - From the earliest announcements it was clear that this was going to be one of the most weirdly eclectic and exciting bunch of acts assembled under one strangely conical roof and over three stages. Japanese nine-drummer post-punk electro-trance merchants would rub shoulders with Afro Beat legends, kooky masked psycho skronkers, cult artists of many genres and a good balance of both genders. Oh yes, and Iggy and the Stooges, unashamedly wringing the last potent dregs from their own Fountain of Legend.

MANAGEABLE NUMBERS (CROWD) – Unusually for ATPs attendance was about 500 below the event capacity of 6,000. Whilst this may not have pleased the organisers it sure as hell made it easier to get about, get a good look at the acts, queue for a beer etc.

REAL ALE BARS – What a pleasant surprise these were! On previous occasions ale drinkers like me had to quickly develop a taste for Tetley bitter or Guinness. Bearing in mind also that this was the first time in over 30 years I’d attended a festival out of the company of a specialist type of potent smoking mixture (!) it wasn’t something I was particularly looking forward to. However Exmoor Ales did their thing, with several varieties of tasty beer which you suspect might have been a bit weaker than the advertised ABV. How else can I explain downing 20+ pints over the weekend and not even experience the suggestion of a hangover.

Y Brawd said...

Review part 2


SECURITY – This seemed a lot more in evidence this time, not just in terms of the number of goons but their size and presence, which made one think that something might have kicked off at previous events. There was a lot of border control style emptying of bags, many of which seemed to contain wet towels and swim wear as the pool and slides were well frequented.

SAME OLD MIX TAPE – When you’ve heard “Like A Hurricane” and “This Monkey’s Gone To Heaven” three times in the same evening, including once sat in the on-site Pizza Hut you never really want to here them again for a long, long while. What this job calls out for is a compiler with free access to hundreds of their favourite tunes. I guess a lot of us wouldn’t mind forming an orderly queue for that one.

And so to Pastaman’s Picks


IGGY AND THE STOOGES – On their last legs they may be but they still tore up the main stage. The man can work an audience alright.
BOREDOMS – Japanese trio supplemented by various drummers to form “Nine Drum Boadrum” - surprisingly musical, and stunningly entertaining.
THE RESIDENTS – They were more than just a cult legend to tick off the list – scary but fun. Now down to a trio.
AMADOU AND MARIAM – The pick of a fine crop of African acts. They shook the place up a treat.


BROADCAST – Ghostly electronica that would have been better-suited to 2am than at 5pm on the first day but worked well enough
LIARS – One of two or three acts I’d not heard much of before but who impressed
KOKONO NO 1 – Energetic Afro Beat played on little hand held xylophone type contraptions and played with fingers supplemented by a strong percussion section. The grooviest ice-cream van music you can imagine
SHONEN KNIFE – Infectious two minute nonsense power pop and one of the best feel good moments of the weekend – everyone seemed to be grinning like fools.
DANIEL JOHNSON – I get it now. Always thought he’d traded more on the Awwww Factor than the Awe Factor, but these were good songs, delivered in a style not dissimilar to Neil Young. A mostly solo acoustic set, which held up well on the main stage.


It would be unfair to single out Joanna Newsom as she really isn’t bad and probably wasn’t responsible for the nonsense of the queuing and the delayed set. No the only act I couldn’t get on with was PONYTAIL. It’s difficult to knock a band featuring one of the mighty Boadrum drummers and who play quite intricate pop/punk quite well. No it was their singer I could have gleefully strangled. It was as if she’d been kept in a box and force fed a diet of cheap pop and sweets for a week before being forced to wear a bib (I kid you not) and leap about screeching and gibbering for the best part of an hour. It went down well with the crowd, but me and the missus suddenly felt very old and out of place.

So there we have it, 11 bands I would be happy to see again, and probably about the same number I was pleased to have the chance to see once. All in all that’s not bad going.

Pastaman Vibration (ye-ah!) said...

Yes I have to admit to liking Joanna N (although not to the carried-away extent that a lot of the music press seem to).

Ah, yes Roy Harper! He supported JN on her recent dates at the Royal Festival Hall. Not sure if they performed a duet of Roy's "Only You" - if so then La Bush really should contemplate reporting her for identity theft!