All Tomorrow's Parties curated by Stewart Lee, festival review: 'A nightmare start'

Pontins, Prestatyn, North Wales

Daniel Dylan Wray
Tuesday 19 April 2016 14:22
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Charlotte Church performs at ATP curated by Stewart Lee
Charlotte Church performs at ATP curated by Stewart Lee

Comedian and writer Stewart Lee’s curated ATP got off to a nightmare start. John Cale, Saturday’s headliner, pulled out and issues with chalets meant they weren’t ready for four hours after initially stated. On top of this, Friday’s headliner, Roky Erickson, looked set to collapse as one of his bandmates paced the queue saying his band hadn’t been paid for a previous ATP-promoted show the night before. The whole festival looked set to crumble before it had begun.

Stewart Lee’s short stand-up set was mainly poking fun at the mess that ATP had seemingly found itself in stating “as if there’s going to be another one” which, given the news of this weekend’s Manchester events being cancelled due to a funding crisis suggest he’s right.

The dilapidated holiday site with its crumbling walls, antiquated interiors and so many missing letters from its pub sign you couldn’t even tell what it was originally called, proved an antithetical environment to some carefully curated alternative and experimental music. Liverpool’s Ex-Easter Island Head were a rousing early highlight, their neo-classical take on Glenn Branca-esque minimalism crept from contained ambience to euphoric expulsions.

Sleaford Mods injected some seething bile into the room with their performance whilst Richard Dawson’s unwaveringly unique and powerful take on folk music was astonishing to behold, his huge voice filling the room as he cast it out like it was a demon that needed ejecting from his body. On day two The Heads played the loudest set of the weekend by some stretch and The Fall were on excellent form despite leader Mark E Smith stopping the gig midway through and pulling his band off stage for a talking to, for them to up their performance. Charlotte Church’s Pop Dungeon was the surprise hit of the weekend, a genuinely incredible set with a full band playing a variety of pop hits from Nine Inch Nails to David Bowie and Beyoncé to Neutral Milk Hotel. It was a joyous and electrifying performance.

An exodus on day three occurred and everyone seemed to leave, the half-empty holiday camp taking on an eerie and slightly depressing air that felt emblematic of the festival’s dying moments. Sun Ra Arkestra brought some life and colour with their closing set but all the energy and enthusiasm of the audience that was there on Friday and Saturday seemed to have vanished, and the festival fizzed out on a whimper rather than a bang.

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