Oxford life. Thirtysomething challenges. Music leanings. Anything really.

Monday, April 25, 2005

2800 people converged in Pontin’s Holiday Camp in remote Camber Sands at the weekend for a cracking weekend at All Tomorrow’s Parties. This is the festival I have wanted to go to for many years, and this year I finally made it, thanks to Miles’ organisational skills.

And it was a cracker. Amongst the bizarre setting – rows and rows of near-indentical tatty chalet buildings and blue behemoth buildings, that had their hey-day sometime back in the Seventies I saw the most eclectic and exciting music ever.

Most importantly, I finally saw PJ Harvey. Beautiful, skanky, scary and wonderful, she was everything I expected her to be.

But beyond that, the list of surprise highlights is long. Afrirampo dazzled: two smiley Japanese punk chicks, screaming, thrashing, smiling, singing, bouncing and banging out barely recognisable songs, but whatever you would use to describe it, it was a noise worth hearing.

On the noise front, noone noised us better and more coolly than Merzbow: a technological tsunami that pummelled us for 60 minutes. On stage, Merzbow sat behind two Apple iBooks, virtually motionless.

What I loved about this was that the whole episode could just as easily have been a satire on avant-garde music. Here we were, stood listening to constant feedback, probably rupturing our ear-drums in the process, while a faceless Japanese guy apparently plays with his laptops – he could have been checking his email for all we know. In the crowd, there were even people wigging out to it.

Ludicrous piss-take or cutting edge? I’ll choose the latter.

How about Peaches, a living rubber sex-doll, dirty, erotic, and provocative?

Or Trapist with their Godspeed-like symphonies washing over us on a hazy Sunday afternoon.

Buck 65, a blues hip-hop solo artist, fingers tense with emotion, laying it on the line for us all.

It was the truest definition of eclectic I have ever come across; definitely one to return to.

Of course, no festival is complete without the randomness of festival life. Adjusting to life in chalets was great. A solid roof, shower, and good beds made us wonder why we suffer camping in all the other festivals.

I am now in post-festival haze mode, reflecting on a happy weekend and regretting those last five or six stellas...

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