Music Features

ATP Pavement

When the My Bloody Valentine-curated Nightmare Before Christmas weekender drew to a close last December I felt pretty confident that I wouldn’t be returning to Minehead for another ATP any time soon. The long and tortuous car journey, the limited gastronomic options at Butlins, the frequently dismal Main Stage sound, and the dwindling quality of the line-ups had left me feeling pretty indifferent to what in many ways should be my dream festival. 

It took the increasingly tangible proposition of seeing a reformed Pavement to coax me out of my ATP retirement. I wasn’t sold at first - the line-up struck me as a little dull to be brutally honest - but fearful of missing a rare chance to see one of my all-time favourite bands I buckled, picking up a spare ticket from No Ripcord writer Neil Insh.


I plastered a hopeful smile on my face, said goodbye to my fiancee and four week old son (I know...negotiations were needed but we’re talking Pavement here!) and set my sights on the shabby resort town of Minehead, Somerset.

The first disappointment of the weekend was neither a lacklustre set nor a soggy burger, but a simple logistical error: we arrived too late to see Avi Buffalo, one of only four bands on Friday’s bill that excited me. As juvenile as the Sub Pop act can be at times, their youthful exuberance and psychedelic guitar flourishes would have been a hell of a lot more enjoyable than the experience of negotiating heavy festival traffic on the A39.

Further delays put pay to a brief glimpse of Calexico on the Main Stage, but we just made it to Stage Two in time to pick up a disappointing pint of local ale for The Walkmen’s set. The New York band performed admirably in the face of some unacceptable technical glitches, the most glaring of which curtailed a raucous version of The Rat just as it was threatening to truly explode. While the band remained composed, there was a distinct sense that the momentum had been snatched from their hands and the remainder of the set was more workmanlike than mind-blowing. A shame.

The Walkmen
The Walkmen © David Coleman 2010

A timetabling clash forced me to choose between Broken Social Scene and Wildbirds and Peacedrums with Voices. I’m sure a lot of people considered this a no-brainer and wandered over to watch BSS but I’m a huge W&P fan so I opted to check them out instead. My allegiance was rewarded with a soulful and inspired set comprised of new material and a handful of tracks from last year’s glorious The Snake.

Wildbirds & Peacedrums
Wildbirds & Peacedrums © David Coleman 2010

I’ve been itching to see Mission of Burma ever since they got back together and the Boston three-piece didn’t disappoint with a thrilling set of anthemic post-punk. A Don’t Look Back-style performance of Vs. would have been truly amazing, but a mixture of old classics (That’s When I Reach For My Revolver, This Is Not A Photograph) and muscular new tracks (Spider’s Web) seemed to go down well with the ATP crowd. Soaking up the first three songs from the photo pit was one of the highlights of my festival weekend; the omission of Academy Fight Song was my only quibble, and a minor one at that.

Mission of Burma
Mission of Burma © David Coleman 2010

I watched Quasi from the back of the room and enjoyed their performance in a tired, “I should really get some sleep after this” kind of way. And as I couldn’t care less about Wooden Shjips or Times New Viking, that’s exactly what I did.


This turned into something of a lazy day for me. I managed to catch seven bands, which sounds faintly respectable, but I only really paid attention to three. Still, ATP is more than just a music festival and a bit of beach football and goose baiting provided more enjoyment than I’d have derived from, say, The Drones. As I learned last time, you’ve really got to pace yourself at these things.

The first of the day’s highlights came in the unlikely form of Japanese sludge-rockers Boris. I’ll happily admit that I didn’t know a great deal about Boris beforehand, but I was mightily impressed by both their musicianship and their work ethic - in addition to playing an additional set on Sunday, the band members all put in lengthy shifts staffing their own merchandise table. The fact that I pondered buying a £150 vinyl box-set tells you just how much I enjoyed the Boris experience.

Boris © David Coleman 2010

Bradford Cox’s solo Atlas Sound show seemed to draw a mixed response. I would have preferred an electric Deerhunter set, but Cox’s acoustic, loop pedal inspired material entertained more than it frustrated. What really distinguished this performance from so many others at ATP was the level of interaction with the crowd; Cox might not be the most confident artist around, but he made a good stab at engaging with the crowd and told a few revealing and personal anecdotes, bringing a much-needed level of intimacy to the cavernous Stage Two. He also played a lovely cover of Pavement’s We Dance, which very nearly eclipsed the curators’ own version.

Atlas Sound
Atlas Sound © David Coleman 2010

I’d been waiting for over a decade to see Pavement live and the festival curators certainly rewarded my patience with an outrageously long headlining set. The band played close to thirty songs, covering every corner of their almost flawless catalogue and few genuine fans could have been disappointed by their choices. The first four studio albums were extremely well represented and there were two tracks each from Westing (By Musket and Sextant) (Box Elder, Debris Slide) and Terror Twilight (Spit On A Stranger, The Hexx). If I had to pick three standouts I’d go for Conduit For Sale (seriously, how great is Bob Nastanovich?), Summer Babe and Cut Your Hair, which sounded so celebratory and fresh, it was almost like hearing it for the first time all over again. I could easily pick three different songs to rave about on any other day, of course - it was that kind of set. The only dud was Spit On A Stranger, which sounded very lacklustre, but it really didn’t matter a great deal in the grand scheme of things.

 Pavement © David Coleman 2010

Saturday wasn’t all about indie-rock legends and Japanese visionaries , however - there were a handful of disappointments and calamities, which I feel duty bound to discuss here. 

While I’m normally rather fond of Camera Obscura’s twee indie-pop, their gentle melodies were simply too slight for the arena-sized Main Stage. French Navy sounded pretty impressive, but I was on the phone at the time which kind of took the shine off it.

Faust’s set washed over me without leaving too much of an impression. This may have had something to do with the fact that I was having a massage for a significant chunk of it; then again, would I have gone for a massage if it hadn’t been a bit, you know, dull?

The absolute worst moment of the day came during Omar Souleyman’s set when someone spilled a pint of beer on my camera, rendering it pretty much useless for the rest of the weekend. I had high hopes for Souleyman but ended up hating every minute of his high-octane set - the concept of Syrian dance music sounded so much better on paper. After a miserable stint in the Crazy Horse pub looking at my sticky mess of a camera I decided to call it a night. A good decision.


Sunday was a bit of a write-off for me. If you want an honest review of the day’s musical performances you should probably head elsewhere. I only managed to catch four bands and I didn’t really delight in any of them. In brief:

- The Clean are not a main stage band.

- Terry Reid seemed to fit in surprisingly well at Butlins. His mellow rock ballads provided pleasant background music but little else. 

- The Fall delivered the most disappointing set of the whole weekend. Anticipation turned to boredom in record time and I headed for the ale stand, never to return.

- The Raincoats... ok, they were pretty decent to be honest. If they’d played on Friday I would have really enjoyed them, but at 10pm on Sunday it just didn’t have the same effect.

The highlights of my day were both non-musical:

- Stone-masonry with Steve West. Yes, that’s right, Steve West of Pavement. Teaching stone-masonry to a bunch of awkward hipsters with ironic facial hair. Only at ATP.

- A delicious pub lunch in the Quantocks. Four of us jumped in the car and headed for the hills to enjoy a nutritious freshly cooked meal (and to get away from the festival for a few hours). I had a superb pork loin with crackling, which made me hate Butlins and its miserable food outlets even more. I also had the best pint of ale of the weekend in a small pub in West Porlock. I forgot to mention that the festival ale was decidedly average this time round.

Steve West
Steve West © David Coleman 2010

. . .

So am I glad I buckled and went to ATP Pavement? Of course I am. I saw Pavement and Mission of Burma for Christ’s sake! Plus I learned about stone-masonry with Steve West, had an awesome time with some great friends, and wrote off my camera. Oh, wait a minute...