The first ATP at Minehead, the Nightmare Before Christmas, lived up to its name with tales of huge queues haunting the holiday camp survivors. But the only queue I encountered this weekend was for the water slide, and so we begin Sunday with a long wait into a short blast down a plastic tube and a headfirst crash into a shock of blue. Oh shit, how do I swim again? Bracing… One circuit of the whirlpool and the last vestiges of last night are washed away.
A highlight: we encounter Josh Pearson, now recast as a spindle-shanked shaman of the wave machine, exhorting the bobbing faithful from two floors up. ATP!
Papa M holds a sizeable crowd spellbound with his tender balladeering in the Centre Stage. A gentle start to the day. Back to the penny arcade pavilion for the rough edged majesty of the Dirty Three, curators of the weekend. Warren Ellis is a wild-bearded prophet forging lightning from his violin while Jim White flails thunder from the drums, the gathering storm to end one hundred years without rain.
The storm breaks with Silver Mount Zion Orchestra. They’re billed for a whopping two-hour set, which just might be long enough to get through, ooh, about one and a half Godspeed You! Black Emperor songs, for three of those infernal scions are ascending this silver peak. Apocalyptic drama in this prosaic atrium of white polythene and winking neon, a call to prayer in the dying days, yea! Fiddling while the very heavens burn…
And they’re gone, well shy of the two-hour mark, yet the enormity of an eternity warps around me… although the effect is somewhat diffused by the bilious carpet beneath my brothel creepers and the vvvVVVVRRRRMMMmmmmm of the racing arcade game at my back.
Might as well go see Mary Margaret O’Hara then. A wilful, playful, twitchy puppet with her strings tangled and tied, she reduces lyrics and singing to wails and squawks and throaty glissando, even abandoning words completely on one song, the sounds pulled from inside her to her apparent delight and paranoia. A five minute warning spooks her so much she abandons Year In Song half-way through, and mutters and giggles the intro to a shambolic and smokily delicate version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow that collapses in on itself in a whisper, and then she skitters off stage. Christ. That’s ATP, man.
Tactical thinking (and laziness): eschewing Cat Power gets me in for the start of one of the most anticipated shows in the ballroomesque Centre Stage. Say howdy to Ramblin‘ Bill Callaghan‘s gravel-on-a-tomb-lid-throated country’n'wistful, the highlight being a lollop thorugh A Man Needs a Woman or a Man to be a Man. An abrupt departure leaves the crowd wrongfooted, but it’s back to the sticky floor and Carlsberg while we wait for the second show by the golden-haired pixie with the silvery voice, and a weird way of singing out of the side of her face…
The adorable Joanna Newsom conjures wisps of silk and sawdust with her coruscating harp and swirling vocals. We’re entranced by her lilting tales of life and death and whisky and lace. We’re waltzing in a half-finished chapel beside a clear mountain stream, beguiled and bewitched. Well, I am.
After that, Mum Smokes sound y’know, alright, but this may just be the negative reinforcement in my brain of the worst, worst band name ever. It’s the red stage, it’s Sunday night, I don’t want to go home so I don’t. We gather for the last ‘act’ and the last act, the final curtain: Secretary.
Moist Paula Henderson is, by day, a secretary, and by night she is blows her horn… like some kind of crazy indie superheroine. She opens with musical typing, bashing out 100 words a minute of crashing beats. Yeahhhh, actually typing, on a MacBook, actually dressed as a secretary, and, like, when she types beats come out. And that telltale !ding! when she hits the end of the line. We hit the end of the line with this Secretary when she abandons the cute typing thing and pulls out – jaysus anything but that – a saxomaphone.
Chalet. Fast. Beers on board.
My last act unexpectedly screams in about now, a second, third and seventh wind arriving – ATP! – in one giddy rush of denial that this can’t be it! Not everyone has the spirit (the flesh is weak) so only a hardy pair abandon the chalet, and resisting the Tren Brothers‘ attempts to lull the world to sleep, we thrash out indiedisco nirvana in the Crazy Horse saloon for one last time. Thank you Minehead, and goodnight.