ATP 2010

I 2010 skulle hele Sentralstyret dra for å representere ordenen på den britiske festivalen All Tomorrow's Parties i det sørlige England, men dessverre ble ridder Larsen forhindret fra å delta. Dette er dog vår rapport fra turen som ble publisert på det amerikanske nettstedet Mind Over Metal:

When it first was announced that the legendary Godspeed You! Black Emperor were curating one of the festivals of the event organizer All Tomorrow’s Parties in December, my mouth began to water. I consider GY!BE one of the premier acts in the twilight zone between post rock and heavy metal; their sound droning, dark, brooding, and able to roll over their listeners with ease. When I saw that they’d invited both Neurosis and Wolves In The Throne Room to join in on the fun, I knew I had to witness this spectacle by myself.

I must admit, the final line-up wasn’t quite as heavy as I’d liked it to be, but still there was quite a lot of stuff to drool at (in addition to the three aforementioned bands): Oneida, Bardo Pond, Dead C and more. The line-up fused heavy metal, noise and free jazz with singer/songwriters, indie rock and comedy (Weird Al did one of his first shows on European soil). After a posse had been summoned, we went by plane to London’s Stansted Airport, which was the only one open because of “winter chaos in the south of England”. We quickly found out that the British are quite scared of winter, because when we landed, the ground was scarcely covered by a thin layer of snow; the south of England was as green as early spring home in Norway. Well, at least we got into London and checked out the brilliant Shrinebuilder and Wolves In The Throne Room (as reported in another review).

We took the Friday morning train out of London’s busy rush hour traffic and in a matter of hours we were standing on the platform at the quiet Taunton Railway Station. The southwest of England is a rural paradise —places like Bath Spa(!) are wonderous places seemingly untouched by modern times. Medieval castles, brick houses from centuries past, rolling hills and misty sun all made our trip like a run through another dimension. Gorgeous.

However, our trip was not finished. We’d booked a lift with a coach from the All Tomorrow’s Parties organizer which took us through this rural farmland, past sleepy, small villages and into the coastal town Minehead (inhabitants 10,000). The festival site is just outside the middle of town in a holiday centre with restaurants, swimming pools, golf courses, and arcade halls. There’s no tent site at ATP events – instead you get access to an apartment with a number of beds when you buy the festival ticket. We soon checked into our apartment D17 at Pacific Wharf; a three-bedroom with 6 beds and a bath. Nice.

There’s four venues at the festival, all differing in size. The biggest, Pavillion, holds about 5-6,000 people. This is an open area, but it’s covered by a huge circus tent which gives the entire stage an indoor/outdoor feeling. The entire building is covered by wall-to-wall carpeting, cheezy brass railings and flashing neon lights from the arcade halls, restaurants like Finnigans (“Fish’n'chips and things”), Burger King, etc. Kitsch is it’s middle name. The other venues are Centre Stage that can hold 2,800 people, and the smaller and the more intimate clubs: Reds and Crazy Horse. There were huge, welcoming skinhead guards everywhere who controlled the crowd with a strict, fatherly, hooligan attitude. “Please show me the wristbands, lads” they said with the gruff voice of a Hell’s Angels biker and the smile of a loving grandparent.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor was not only the curator at the festival, they also played three concerts at the Centre Stage. I chose to miss out on quite a few bands in order to see their 3 two-hour gigs. The band consisted of three guitarists, two bassists, two drummers and a violinist, a floor filled with effects ‘n’ pedals and three analog film projectors visualising their hypnotizing soundscapes. Each of the three concerts started similarily; when the venue doors opened, the band started a improvised drone piece. It flowed and ebbed, taking hold of the audience and set up the proper atmosphere for the oncoming gig about 30 minutes later.

The band has been classified as one of the premier acts of the post rock genre and has spawned, for good or bad, a large number of followers. Their own records, the other bands they’ve founded after the band’s hiatus in the early noughties and their promotion of the Constellation record label has created a large cult following which at last has resulted in this seemingly short-lived awakening. However, I was lucky to be present at these three gigs, even though I had to stand in line for two hours on Sunday to experience the band from the front row. What I saw at the festival was a demonstration of force; I must admit that there’s only a couple of post-rock bands that have the same kind of unique vision as these Canadians, the rest are copycats.

The band played quite a few of the crowd’s favorites; the moods and setlists changed quite a bit each passing day. But Godspeed You! Black Emperor isn’t about what songs they play, but rather how one feels during their set.

The band seems to set up songs like they’re played on their records, but soon they were far away in a improvised, blissful daze. They shared glances, built upon each others loops and riffs and suddenly a simple violin melody could turn into a sonic maelstrom, raging guitars and a crowd nodding in united awe.

One of my definitive highlights this weekend was when I found out that Neurosis would not play one, but two concerts at the festival. The darkened Centre Stage was a great venue for the band’s filmed backdrop and, of course, the intense legends.

Every member is an important part of the band’s sound; whether it’s Dave Edwardson’s hard basslines, the primal drumming of Jason Roeder or Noah Landis’ ambient electronica.

But nonetheless, the twin tornadoes of Steve Von Till and Scott Kelly is the chief mesmerising vision. They command the crowd into headbanging submission, leading the band in a head-on assault on the senses.

On Saturday the road crew set up the twin drum sets in front Roeder’s rig. The crowd started whispering in hushed tones and most people familiar with the band’s output knew what was about to happen: “Through Silver In Blood”.There was no reason to turn back once Von Till started beating on his drums in a thundering duet with Roeder—it was magic.

The crowd loved every second of it, and when the song ended with Kelly joining Von Till on the drums, the crowd went into hypermode. Soon they ran through milestones from all ends of their glorious career.Even though I loved their first set, I felt that Sunday’s concert was better sequenced. Their setlist were perfect in both song choice and epic flow. When they reach the end, the set closer “Through Silver In Blood” felt like a incendiary blessing.

Neurosis is one of my favorite live acts; bloody loud and with a hypnotising visual show. These nights weren’t any different—their background films and blue lights felt close to occult. The fusion of the mind-altering music and darkened visuals made it fairly easy to go into a trance-like state and headbang in the speed of doom, synced with the rest of the audience.

I’ve been ambivalent to Bardo Pond‘s music for quite some time. I feel their records lack a proper drive to their sound, but I was positively surprised when they charmed their way onto the stage led by Isobel Sollenberger.

Instead of avant indie rock, their set turned into a droning, psychedelic heavy rock not unlike the music of Black Angels, US Christmas and Dead Meadow. Sollenbergers vocals was the beautiful counterpart to the harsh and hazy music.

I walked over to the big Pavillion stage and caught the beginning of “Weird” Al Yankovic‘s set; Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin looking quite cheekily at Al and saying “squeeze my lemon” and Al doing his standard raised eyebrow gimmick. I’m not that familiar with the man’s recorded output, having only seen his most popular videos in the eighties (Eat It, Fat, etc). But still, I stayed for the duration of the set because of the funny videos in-between the songs (as Yankovic changed clothes between most songs) making fun of celebrities like Celine Dion, Michael Stipe and others. He gets into the crowd for several minutes, singing a love song and dresses up in the famous fat suit for Fat.The end of the set was amazing and perfect for this festival crowd; the Imperial March from Star Wars, Darth Vader flanked by two stormtroopers and Yankovic and the band dressed as Obi-Wan Kenobis singing an ode to a little, green man, “Yoda, Yo-Yo-Yo-Yoda”.

After having enjoyed a british hot dog with onions and a nice glass of Tetley’s ale in the back of Centre Stage while enjoying Boban I Marko Markowich Orchestra and their infectious brand of serbian brass dance music, i looked forward to be yet again engulfed by the darkened magic of the amazing Wolves In The Throne Room. As the festival now drew to a close, the people still in search for a party happened to make the band’s concert one of the most packed sets of the entire weekend. There’s something about this band that make most other black metal bands unimportant and boring. Whether it’s their passion for the forest darkness, their beautiful fusion of black metal with drone, the dangerous feel of the occult at their shows, or d) all of the above, i always feel cleansed after their shows.

I almost didn’t have any life left in me when they started as I’d seen hard-hitting heavy metal for hours on end, been drinking every kind of ale at the festival and tried out every fat food they’d served. But, as the band started lighting their candles and setting up their attack, I felt invigorated and ready. As Nathan Weaver led the band and the audience through the final hours of the festival, I felt almost like being in another dimension. The crowd was warmly claustrophobic and the music was loud as hell itself… beautiful.

As I walked into the cold, refreshing night air toward our apartment, I knew I’d have liked to see more bands: I missed out on Oneida‘s ten-hour(!) set, The Sadies‘ at the tail end of Sunday night, and Philip Jeck‘s darkened turntablism. But in the end, I don’t care. In the short space of three days I had been hypnotized by Godspeed You! Black Emperor‘s instrumental nirvana three times, demolished by the awesome power of Neurosis twice, and surprised by Bardo Pond‘s heavy set. Weird Al made me laugh, Boban I Marko Markovic Orchestra made me want to dance and Wolves In The Throne Room brought out the moshpit for the first time.

A truly stunning festival full of kitsch, open-hearted people, great music, fat foods and lots of beer. Simply brilliant.