Five postcards from Butlins
#1 In the main pavilion, Warren Ellis jerks his stiltskin leg out at right angles, ducking and swooping with violin tucked under chin. Dirty Three deliver a roar of sound and feeling that seems to pull the wind out of all of us listening. Almost as if he’s embarrassed to be playing music of such force and intimacy, he fills his stage banter with apocryphal anti-explanations: “This is a song about trying to get crisps out of a vending machine… but finding you have no pound coins.”
#2 A sullen, grey afternoon. We find Josh T. Pearson (later to be crowned King of Butlins by Warren Ellis) holding court on Minehead’s barren strand, his beard twitching in the salty breeze. Earlier he’d delivered his desert sermons in a gust of fire, brimstone and spittle, pleading with the angels from under his cowboy hat while spinning a sandstorm of crackled guitar.
#3 In the drizzle we spy two Horrors in capes and impractical shoes, consulting a map of the chalets. Later onstage, the monochrome ones seem to win over a typically aloof ATP audience with a set drawn solely from the kraut-gaze gloompop album of 2009, Primary Colours. Though unwilling to offer any more solid approval than a collective raised eyebrow, the crowd swells to one of the biggest of the whole weekend.
#4 Very, very late on Sunday night, Lightning Bolt are making My Bloody Valentine sound like the Shangri-Las’ kid sisters. A rumbling monstrosity fronted by some horrific, mutilated head – through the dry ice we make out a bandaged ogre, beating the terrified shit out the drums like an organ-grinder’s monkey possessed. Aural itching powder for the tired and emotional, LB stir up the only genuine thrashpit situation of the festival.
#5 And then there’s My Bloody Valentine, doing all three nights on the smaller stage because they are clearly too loud to be let out to play in the main pavilion – louder than stupid, louder than hell, Kevin Shields’ curls just a frazzled halo above his unmoving body, shrouded in smoke, the band blasting out sonic weaponry that cleaves straight through the laughable standard-issue earplugs. We give up and pull them out, and sink under the weight of pure volume.