All Tomorrow’s Parties, Camber Sands – Weekend Two, Saturday 20th May 2006

Waking up on Saturday morning you bless the Festival Gods for creating one that houses you in chalets. As the wind batters the doors and windows you wonder quite how a tent would stand up to this kind of punishment. As I wallow in a hot bath with a cup of tea it dawns on me that this is definitely the way to do a festival. Especially with the self-catering fry up for breakfast that you didn’t have to sell your car to purchase.

As the bands don’t kick off till late afternoon, there’s plenty of time to admire the sights and sounds of Camber. Unfortunately the weather was against us and a trip to the beach resulted in being sandblasted and me picking sand out of my hair and glasses for the rest of the day. So a leisurely start to the day as cans of cheap larger are consumed and we amuse ourselves with ATP Television, which is programmed by the curators for the day as well, and copious games of Grass.

As we head over for the first band of the day, there seems to be a general feeling of goodwill around the site; everyone’s happy, drinking beer and enjoying the brief rays of sunshine that have illuminated the resort. However, things take a bit of downturn as we catch the Boredoms. These rather mad bunch of Japanese experimental musicians with three drum kits seem to go on forever without actually going anywhere. The music plods along in a dirge of repetitive beats with occasional wails from their MC / vocalist.

Things picked up with the Swedish retro/prog-rock Dungen. I really enjoyed their take on the 70’s style rock, complete with flute accompaniment and even though I couldn’t make out any of the lyrics (all sung in Swedish it sounded like to me!) their set moved along at an impressive pace with good humour and Sabbath riffs to keep the crowd happy (though my companions didn’t agree and went to play air hockey).

Hailing from San Diego you might expect Black Heart Procession’s music to be Californian sunshine fuelled rock, but instead they play a kind of alt-folk rock mix. At times it comes across as extremely ponderous and although the arrangements seem to be intricately pieced together it doesn’t quite work for me, there’s not enough momentum to keep the set going. I’ve had enough of the main stage so head downstairs for something a little different.

We’re treated to perfect early evening entertainment with The 1990’s; jangley, quirky guitar pop from Scotland with a twisted sense of humour. Blatantly, in places, ripping off Rolling Stones riffs, they do it with such humour and aplomb that you can only forgive them for it. Reminding me of a bastard love child of Gang of Four and Orange Juice, they go down really well with the crowd and they’re even cheeky enough to slip in another song over their allotted slot time. Great stuff.

Once their set is finished I make the walk upstairs with some trepidation to see The Fiery Furnaces. I’ve never really “got” them, I’ve seen them live before and they didn’t really do much for me and yet the album Blueberry Boat is an impressive collection of avant garde Americana. Tonight they seem to be a little more straight forward, Eleanor’s voice unusually strong but the whole setup doesn’t quite stand out, their experimental tendencies have been toned down, perhaps to please the more rock-centric crowd that’s around? After a couple of songs we head back downstairs for a couple of beers and, what turns out to be, the highlight of the day…

The Gossip are like if Tina Tuner fronted The White Stripes. All the ingredients for a belting good time are there; a woman with stage presence and set of lungs to match, catchy guitar riffs and pounding drums. Lead singer Beth Ditto stomps, marches and whirls around the stage wailing in a gospel tinged voice that you can’t quite believe. They may be art-punk but this is it at it’s most accessible and fun. The whole crowd is moving with her, smiles on faces and pure enjoyment is spilling out of the room and captivating other people as they walk by. This is why you go to festivals: to catch a band that you’ve never heard of before grab you by the balls and keep your attention.

After that Spoon are the perfect soundtrack to the comedown. Relatively unknown over here, these guys have been around for a while and have a very British air about them. They play cultured indie-rock with clever snappy lyrics and guitar solos duelling with their piano that makes them sound almost funky in places. They certainly deserve a bigger following and it’s a nice change in pace before the headliners.

I won’t mention comedian David Cross’ warm up before Sleater-Kinney come on… Suffice to say it was bad and went down like a lead balloon; there maybe an American feeling to proceedings, but the majority of punters aren’t and our sense of humour is markedly different. Anyway, once Sleater-Kinney have come on things get better. Heavily influenced by the previous night’s headliners, we’ve got alt-rock with a hint of grunge that’s not as radio friendly as, say, Hole’s final efforts. The sound is great with Corin Tucker’s wailing banshee vocals and fuzzed up guitars blasting through the speakers. I only own last years The Woods and the songs from that come through impressively; alt-rock bruisers of songs that assault your senses. A great way to end an impressive day of artists.

Except it’s not quite over. The infamous ATP indie-disco kicks off at 2am after another set by Lightning Bolt and a quick trip back to the chalet for beers to lubricate our dancing shoes is in order… We return to the chalet at 5.30am, our voices horse from singing, shouting and general mischief making that only drinking into the early hours can provide.

Richard Hughes

Updated: Jun 03, 2006

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