SUN BEATS DOWN ON LONDON TOWN: ATP MAY 2012
“SUN…BEATS…DOWN” bellows a slightly drunken Jack Laverick as he sits with myself, Stew Hardie and Tom “The Jew” Batham on the hills of Alexandra Palace in London, England. And he wasn’t wrong. It was hot in London. So hot, in fact, that I sacrificed my beloved, almost long hair, shaving it off in a mad and desperate attempt to cool the hell down. It didn’t matter though, the thirty degrees could have been minus for all we cared. For we were there for one reason only…. And that was ATP’s “Ill be your mirror” festival.
Within a few hours of wandering around the festival, it became apparent that Friday night was only going to be about one band in the eyes of many, and that band was Slayer. As the only night of the weekend that had acts performing in the “Great Hall”, you couldn’t turn left or right in the 8,000 strong crowd without seeing or hearing the word. “SLAAAAAAAAAYER”, is usually about all you’ll get when you ask a fan of their heroes, and tonight was no different.
As excited as I was to once again see the Thrash kings (especially as they were performing “Reign In Blood”, their signature album and a thrash metal classic, in its entirety) I felt that their energy and masses brought a somewhat over the top and at times unnecessary vibe to the rest of the slower, more alternative line-up.
First band of the night YOB performed a blistering 45 minute set in the West Hall, and a clearly awe struck Mike Scheidt blew minds with his never wavering vocal ranges. Just four songs later and they were gone and it was off to the Great Hall for the nights main acts. After travelling to Germany last year to see them, I knew what to expect from The Melvins, and I was beyond excited. They didn’t disappoint as Buzz Osborne and his crew hit the stage in a bluster of wild hair and wild west music. Opening track “Hung Bunny” sent chills down my spine, with Dale Crovers haunting chants over fuzz laced guitars echoed throughout. Unlike my experience Germany, which was a small punk club where everyone stood to attention, it seemed, there was a huge “Moshing” atmosphere. This was my first clue that the Slayerheads in the audience weren’t going to politely stand patiently during the other bands, a storm was brewing.
Next up was Stoner/Doom pioneers Sleep. Smoke filled the massive hall as Matt Pike appeared, shirtless and stoned, and churned out the opening riff to “Dopesmoker”. The place went berserk. Drifting seamlessly in and out of their two albums, It seemed the newly reunited band were as tight as ever, not missing a single beat. “If anyone out there has Hashish, now would be the time to light it” Bassist/Singer Al Cisneros announces, before ripping into “Holy Mountain”. After their set was over, the smoke had cleared, and Stew has recovered from the flying headbutt that came his way, we all sat outside. Exhausted. The previous night’s antics in Camden Town mixed with the beatings we had all received in the crowd had taken their toll, but now was not the time for rest. After a quick piss (no queue at the urinals, but a mile long row of bodies waiting for the cubicles, I wondered why this was, until I heard the fevered sniffing coming from each one, I figured Sleeps reunion must have been too much to take for some people) and a FIVE POUND pint, it was time to head on in and see Metal kings Slayer take the stage. They had already started as I made my way to the front, and hell was breaking loose. Like a black hole consuming galaxies, I could only watch in slight terror as masses of bodies circled around and around (A circle pit, they cleverly call it) engulfing more and more people by the second. The “Angel Of Death” resonated in my ear as I was thrown in, and it was in said pit I spent the rest of the night, being beaten and broken by big, angry, sweaty men. Slayer truly triumphed in their quest for metal dominance on this night, and every single person walked away from that night sore and satisfied…
A combination of the previous night’s beating mixed with heavy drinking and minimal sleeping made for a less than enthusiastic start on the Saturday. We almost missed one of the main attractions of the day, Floor, due to my sudden and immediate love for a place I liked to call “Chicken City”.
Chicken City was quite a restaurant. 2 burgers and 2 chips for £2… the tight cont in me couldn’t resist. So after a brief stop at that poultry palace, we hopped on the bus and caught most of three piece Sludge Heroes Floor. With two guitar players and no bass players, I wondered going into it all how heavy they would really come across… but heavy was not the word. My ears felt as if they may fall off of my head, my chest vibrated and my spirits soared as the trio ripped through a phenomenal 45 minute set. Finishing with (one of my favorite songs) “Ein”, they thanked us for witnessing their first ever UK show and head to the merchandise stand. I was lucky to have a chat with Guitar player Anthony Vialon there, and was surprised and amused to hear that he too was suffering from aches and pains of the previous nights crowd battering’s. Being as rough and as disgraced by the fact that we were not indeed drunk enough as we should be, we missed quite a few bands throughout the afternoon. However, seeing Can frontman Irmin Schmidt’s “DJ” set of unreleased material was a welcome break from the noise and heat served up from the other acts. Another afternoon highlight was teenage genius Balam Acab performing a one hour set that seemed to drift by in an electronic, dream like haze.
After all of that lying around, drinking £5 pints and rum from a bush, it was time to get heavy again. Grunge icons Mudhoney stormed the West Hall stage in a fuse of punk and energy, opening with cult classic “Touch Me I’m Sick”. Frontman Mark Arm delivered a terrific performance with an Iggy Pop like strut, and after witnessing the power and vitality the group possessed, it became clear why the band had been underground heroes for more than twenty years. New York trio Codeine were next on the stage, and their blend of melancholy lyrics and clean cut guitar served as a nice counter balance to the days heavier acts. Headliner Mogwai were clearly enjoying themselves as they took the stage. The co-curators of the festival closed the day with a set list of greatest hits and new tracks, and as was the case the night before with “SLAYEEEEEEEER” a room full of Mogwai maniacs lapped it up. And with that, it was back on the bus home…to Chicken City.
To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t arsed about Sunday that much. By this point, all of the bands I had wanted to see had been and gone, and the shenanigans that took place the night before, thanks to Ross Davidson, who stopped by to party until 5:30am, had left me (To quote Mudhoney) “Flat out fucked”. The previous night had almost ended with my face in the toilet as I tried to eat a 12 inch jalapeno pizza and then down a can of Special Brew. Not a good idea. And so stomach problems plagued me on this particular day of the Sabbath as a consequence. Demdike Stare offered a beautiful blend of electronic darkness and haunting visuals to begin the day… to which I lay on the ground and fell asleep to. Their dark melodies sent the mind wandering, and everyone in the venue (near enough) lay on the ground and soaked it all in. This was the only full set that I watched on the Sunday, after hearing great things I tried to check out The Make Up, however, with lyrics like “We’re gonna have a baby, gonna have baby, yeah we’re gonna have a baby” I didn’t feel like then was the time to indulge. Instead, myself and Jack casually wandered into what turned out to be one of the highlights of the entire weekend. Taking place in the ATP Cinema was an exclusive showing of Louis Theroux’s new documentary, “Twilight Of The Porn Star”, followed by a Q&A session with the man himself. I sat, fascinated for an hour or so listening to the man, someone I had always admired the work of, as he spoke of his life in journalism.
Feeling refreshed, the four of us sat outside, ate some ridiculously over priced food, smoked some tabs, and caught the last band of the night, the newly reformed Afghan Whigs. As exciting as it was to many there, I couldn’t get my head around them, so, like the wet blanket I am, I opted to sit outside and bask in the sun as it set on London town. It was there I met a gloriously drunk Londener, who’s name escapes me at this late date, who was there as a guest of the Whigs, doing the same as I. “I’m supposed to be ‘ere to see the Afghan Whigs, but I can’t really be arsed wiv em.” Charming.
ATP was a glorious experience. Not just the festival itself, but it’s surroundings. What better way to spend a weekend, getting drunk in a Palace with four of your closer friends, watching Heavy bands and documentaries about porn. Although a little pricey at £140 a ticket without accommodation, the “I’ll be your mirror” festival is one of the greater line ups the summer has to offer. There is something for everyone, whether its Slayer screaming about the holocaust or Louis Theroux talking about men ejaculating, a good time was had by all.