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All Tomorrow's Parties, Butlins, Minehead


ATP has always been a connoisseur's festival. Held at a Butlins, you stay in a chalet and enjoy showers and accountable food vendors. More importantly, though, because it's run by fans of the obscure, you simply get to watch a better class of band. Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, is in charge of this particular iteration, which has a line-up more esoteric than ever.

Iggy and the Stooges headline the first night: they're on their usual belligerent form, pounding and hollering away. They're preceded by Built to Spill, another seminal band of a slightly younger vintage. These emo pioneers are a revelation, weaving gorgeous, savage soundscapes washed over by beguiling triple-guitar harmonies.

Top billed on Saturday night are The xx, who play a tight set. It's okay, but it hardly lends itself to festival-headlining grandiloquence. Instead, it burns slow and bass-heavy. They do manage a rather dry, laconic and unexpected cover of ATB's late-90s hit "9pm (Till I Come)", though.

The performance of the weekend is by Boredoms, an uncategorisable band from Japan. There are seven drum kits on stage, arranged around a seven-necked guitar standing there like a krautrock totem pole. These are furiously beaten by a select handful of drummers for a full 90 minutes of unremitting stick-to-skin violence. It is astonishing.

Daniel Johnston, introduced by Groening, cuts a forlorn figure, a small guy hunched over a very small guitar. He quivers as he plays, and slurs his words. It's arresting in an extremely lo-fi sort of way, but why he has such a good reputation is a mystery.

Spiritualized, though, are an event. There have to be 20 of them up there, including an eight-piece choir and a timpani. They play through their seminal Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, which becomes something extraordinary in a live orchestral context. It's massive: a wall of devotional sound blowing a capacity crowd practically off its feet.