Tag Archive: nightmare before christmas

prestatynI last posted on this blog 3 years ago after visiting Shellac’s ATP at Camber Sands. Life got too busy and I forgot about the blog.  I didn’t realise at the time it was to be my last ATP because they wound up the enterprise the following year.

It was a shame, ATP was my favourite festival, a chance to just immerse yourself in great music without having to endure the festival horror of pebbledashed portaloos and the Great British climate. A place where you can dance like a tit and not be judged too harshly. I was really pleased when earlier this year ATP started putting out the feelers over whether there was any interest in the festival being rebooted.

So I’ve just returned from The Chapman Brother’s Nightmare Before Christmas and the personal verdict is that it was chuffin’ brilliant.

The festival experience got off to a damp start on the A road crossing into North Wales where we were suddenly assailed by heavy rain and squally winds. We trundled into Pontins only to be greeted by security guards with sniffer dogs and a line of soggy and shivering punters queueing to collect their wrist bands. Along with the drab concrete chalet blocks and waterlogged carpark it seemed that Banksy had been substituted as the curator.

Security was a little more assertive this year, I was stopped twice returning to the park and asked to give my details and line up for the sniffer dog. I’m so used to revelling in a comfortable middle age that I’d forgotten what it’s like to be treated like a drug dealer. I guess from a distance I kinda look like Walter White.

On the whole security were friendly but twitchy. I was at the Oh Sees set on Sunday and they stopped the performance because security were being rough in ejecting a female. I guess this is what going to a gig is going to be like in the aftermath of the Bataclan murders, but it was a very minor negative on an otherwise friendly festival.

Pontins as a whole was a good experience, the chalets were basic but well heated and insulated (at least mine was) which was good considering the wind and the rain that rarely let up for the entire weekend.

Our chalet was across from the sea and I attempted a stroll along the sea  front but the waves were just thrashing against the sea defences and the wind would just propel you forwards. It certasinly blew the cobwebs away and I got a sand and saltwater exfoliating facial for free.

Everyone bar the security were really friendly and chilled. I can remember being grateful to a group of guys who had found a way of making those claw grabbing games deliver a prize each time. I was really pleased that I managed to get a day glo penguin and plastic piggy bank before the scales fell from my eyes and I realised I’d overestimated the monetary value of the tat I’d spent £2 securing. I cheered up by watching post gig Om rotating serenely on the Tea Cup Carousel in the arcade area.  They’d earlier given a cosmic set with deep sonorous bass and arabic scales, it felt kinda spacey, spiritual, shamanic et al . It sent me off into my own inner space where I too felt like I was slowly rotating in  a tea cup orbiting a super massive black hole.

The line up was very good, lot of surprises such as Mueran Humanos, Suuns and Chelsea Wolfe and the acts I was really looking forward to; Holly Herndon, Lightning Bolt and Blanck Mass really delivered the goods. It was true of a lot of the acts that they would lock into a motorik groove and you would just be enveloped in the music and get drawn into your own little head space. Great smashing super.

The gig spaces at Prestatyn were much better than the equivalents at Minehead, I had found Reds cramped and the stage in the dome too open, echoey and redolent of hotdog ming. Pyewackets and the Secret Stage felt more like a regular gig space and the PA systems were full and beefy.

I saw most of the bands and can’t think of a bad one, although I chickened out of Russell Haswell after just 5 seconds on scronking noise. I love noise gigs (hell I can even dance to Merzbow) but my synapses were needing something more emollient at the time. I made the decision not to fret about recording anything and just go with the experience, sometimes it’s better to forgo documenting everything and just enjoy the moment. So no reviews as such, just the bits that stood out.


Saw first Dead Rider. The park was still sparsely attended so there must of been just two dozen or so people at the performance. It was a shame because I liked their twisting loping style. Todd Rittmann prowled the stage giving of an aura of threat and nervous tension. They reminded me a little of Oxbow with the schizoid blues vibe. Very good.

I caught Chelsea Wolfe for the first time. Her music had a deep melancholic undercurrent, I felt myself drifting on a sea of resonant bass waves, slowly sinking in to the depths.

Lightning Bolt were a force of nature. they played on the stage rather than in the audience but their frenetic blast beats and manic fret abuse still felt very primal. My fillings are still vibrating from the aftershock.

My copilot Spookyfruit played me some Suuns on the drive up, Motorik on the motorway helps eat up the miles. They jammed with Jerusalem in my Heart and I found myself lapsing into my customary swaying to side to side with my eyes closed and mild synaesthesia. Nice.

Things start getting fuzzy now, I saw The Notwist perform Neon Golden with its fizzy fidgety beats and nagging pop hooks as well as The Album Leaf and Loop (who were surprisingly unhirsute, they’d been forever frozen in my minds eye in their 1989 hairier incarnation). They were much sharper and focussed than I anticipated, I guess I was expecting slow space rock jamming.

I wanted to see Micachu and the Shapes but I turned up at their time slot and found Xylouris White instead. I dunno whether they pulled out or rescheduled or was just too discombobulated to be in the right place at the right time.

As mentioned earlier the evening ended with rinsing the claw grabber machine of plushy tat and watching Om rovolving and rotating.


I’d been drinking absinth the night before (La Fee – highly recommended, smooth and sweet and delivers a nice glow to the chest, your body feels pissed but your mind feels clear). I woke up surprisingly energised and decided that walking along the sea front during a gale would be a good constitutional.

I dipped in and out of the bands that afternoon. Holly Herndon’s set stood out. She was accompanied by Mr Colin Self and some other guy (sorry can’t remember his name) puffing on an inhalator. Whilst the crunching bass tones and gated vocal fragments agitated the airspace Holly would type messages to the audience, it certainly created a feeling of connection between her and the crowd. Colin Self started a bout of very fierce dancing, pushing away against invisible walls and throwing shapes with a pulsing LED array in his gob like a mime artist on meth.

The two halves of the Fuck Buttons played separate sets. Andrew Hung’s performance was very bouncy and sproingy with a chip tune wonkiness. You couldn’t help grinning / gurning depending on level of intoxication. Blanck Mass were more epic and propulsive and it was impossible to stay still. Did I mention that I was doing a lot of “not staying still”, probably more so than any previous festival.

More bands, more beer, less focussed memories, more an impression of bass drum noises like hot tarmac poured onto contact mics, juddering bass waves pummelling my solar plexus the floor feeling progressvely spongier.


Pub quiz – came fourth, woo hoo. Good way to slowly recharge after two nights of excess and poor quality sleep.

Highlights – Follakzoid (Chilean Krautrock oh yes!)

Total control – they sound like a distillation of 80’s synth pop / rock, elements of The Normal , Warsaw, Wolfsheim but they seem to make a space of their own rather than seeming like a pastiche a la Primal Scream. I really liked their set, they have a really strong melodic edge, great choruses and hooks.

The final act I saw was also my favourite of the festival. Mueran Humanos were completely new to me but I thought their mix of motorik grooves and  Spanish declamations really absorbing. I can’t really add anymore to that other than seek out their music, me gusta mucho!

Until next time (hopefully there will be a next time).


I had a mellow start to Sunday. Rachel Grimes played early in the afternoon. She weaved beautiful melodies and arpeggios with her piano that served as a soothing balm for my sleep deprived nerves. There were occasional interruptions of coughs and bar staff dumping bottles but it didn’t mar the effect of the music. Shannon Wright joined her onstage for a duet and later Rachel and Helen Money accompanied Nina Nastasia. Nina played a sparse but moving guitar with bittersweet and sometimes bleakly honest lyrics. By contrast her between song banter encompassed twinkie envy and the Cronenburg horror that is the “snot sucker”. The venue was rammed but you felt like you were in some cosy snug on an open mic night.

I’d never heard of Alix before listening to the Shellac mixtape. Suitably intrigued I downloaded their album “Ground” and if you like swirly bluesy Italian boogie then I suggest you download it. Live they were wreathed in blue light and pummelled out a driving swaggering stomp. I’m converted 🙂

Gay Witch Abortion were a new one for me, at times they reminded me of Lightning Bolt with the frenetic drumming and fretstrangling interplay. Other times they reminded me of the Butthole Surfers circa Locust Abortion Technician. They were also freaking loud, I swear my crowns have been shaken loose.

Next up were The Ex Brass Unbound. I’d seen The Ex 2 for the first time 2 years earlier at the Godspeed you ! Black Emperor NBC. They were pretty amazing then and I was really keen to see them again. They knocked out a seriously good set, their tight sinuous rhythms backed with sax blarts and horn honking. They seemed possessed with an amazing energy and seemed to be having a ball. Their drummer sang a fantastic Ethiopian song and the sprung dance floor resonated to the synchronised dancing. The guy in front of me was getting very excitable and started incorporating river dance / freddie and the dreamers style footwork into his repertoire. No footage I’m afraid cuz I didnt stop dancing.

Luckily Shellac were less kinetic but no less entertaining. They played a 90 minute set, 20 minutes of which consisted of the ominous grind of The End of Radio and an Albini stream of consciousness “snare drum and I”.

The place erupted when they played Copper and ended as Steve and Bob bdismantled Todd’s drum kit as he played.

All in all a brilliant weekend. Highlights – Kim Deal, Turing Machine and The Ex. Cheap (but far from plentiful) beer, walking back the the chalet with a Buddha Bowl handwarmer, the stunning Friday night moon halo, walking past Kim Deal and thinking “that’s Kim Deal that is”. 

This is prolly the last ATP for a while, the mind is willing but the knees are f#*#**



I had a little stroll along the beach before any bands came on. There were some interesting properties along the promenade, ranging from boarded up and decrepit shacks to 70’s modernist constructions. The sea air helped to blow away the ming of stale fag smoke, booze and greasy sweat but then I undid all that by going to see The Cravats.

The Shend indulged in amiable banter between blasts of wonky dada punk. He seemed surprised by the size of the turnout, especially when we could of been watching the football. Seriously though, would you rather watch 22 overpaid ninnies kicking a ball and throwing tantrums or 45 minutes of off kilter anthems to ex mps or sellers (pressure not Peter)?

I liked the Cravats, I can’t work out why they didn’t register on my radar before, especially as they are supposedly a local band (to me). Nice sax work from Svor Naan too.

Buke and Gase used home made instruments (baritone ukele anyone?) and loop pedals to produce a fidgety and catchy racket. I especially liked hiccup. (On their Function Falls ep they do a very fine cover of Blue Monday – its worth checking out).

Bob Weston joijned them on stage for their final track, here’s a clippy.

 Next up for me was Red Fang – sweaty heavy duty rock mammoths pounding out loud as fuck bluesy Sabbath riffs. They rocked. Seriously hard.

Wire were kinda ok, I like their music but live I didn’t really connect. 

Kim Deal was one of my highlights. She played her first solo gig and seemed a lttle nervous but glad to play. She has an achingly beautiful voice and her songs were tender and moving. She talked about her mother’s Alzheimers and how she struggles to recognise her daughter before singing “Are you mine?”. If I wasn’t such a flinty hearted curmudgeon I might have shed a tear. 

Kim did a solo version of cannonball, vocalising the wo-wo-wuwu-woh guitar bit. She was even coaxed into singing Gigantic, despite not being sure about the guitar bits. It was one of my all time gig moments joining in with the audience on the chorus. (After 20 years I now realise I’d misheard the lyrics to Gigantic, my version of the chorus was a lot ruder).

And that was it for me on Saturday. I missed Melt Banana because of the queues and Neurosis’s grind didn’t really appeal to me at all.

This was my first visit to Camber Sands, all my previous ATPs have been at Minehead. The site at Pontins was smaller and more basic than Butlins but I thought the accomodation was a lot better at Pontins as we had fridge, oven and microwave.

Word of warning – the onsite catering is abysmal, I made the mistake of ordering a pizza on the first night. It was completely stone cold whilst my mate’s burger had pieces of bone in it. The only decent food on site was the stand serving “Buddha Bowls” – steaming mass of vegetable curry, kimchi and fried halloumi. Very tasty and filling it was too.

The venues at Pontins were better suited to live music than Butlins, I never liked the tiered table and chair set up at Minehead’s centre stage and the acoustics in the pavillion were not great. Pontins even had a sprung dance floor. Nice.

We arrived on site at around four o clock (it would have been earlier but finding a petrol station near camber was harder than anticipated).

Pontins seemed to have fubared the check in process. What took 5 minutes at Minehead took an hour and a half at Pontins. It meant I missed Shellac’s opening set, although Steve Albini walked past me afterwards. I was fairly grouchy at this point but I soon relaxed, the festival was smaller than previous years but very relaxed and friendly (not that Minehead was uptight or unfriendly, just Pontins was very laid back).

The first band I saw was Oxbow accompanied by a string section (Eugene said it should be Oxbow and Friends but of course Oxbow don’t have any friends). Oxbow as per usual were impassioned and primal. Lots of gurning and shadow boxing. Eugene carried out his usual slow strip tease but there was a noticeable reduction in the amount of underpant rummaging that I’ve become accustomed to. I tend to think Oxbox make a lot more sense live than on record, mainly because of the visual elements of Eugene et al’s performance add to experience. I thought they were very good.

Next up were Scrawl – they seemed really happy to be playing and they were pretty good too.

Turing Machine were feckin’ awesome – IMO math rock and techno are similar in their reliance of repetition and modulation to get you in that trance like groove. The venue was rammed and their was a miasma of evaporated sweat. Nancy Whang joined them on stage for their last number. They were prolly my fave performance that night. I know I went on to see Mono and Prinzhorn Dance School later that evening but I can’t remember a damn thing due to be excessively refreshed (c’mon I’d hard a busy few weeks at work so needed to unwind).

Turing Machine

I’m just finishing packing for ATP’s Nightmare Before Christmas at Camber Sands.
I’d originally signed up for the weekend curated by The National but when it was announced Shellac were going to curate the week before I switched tickets (well that’s what I’m assuming, I have anxieties about etickets being declined although Ive yet to have that happen).
I’m such an Albini nut yet this will be the first time I will see them play. The bill is terrific so I’m going to gorge on sound. There is a very nifty mixtape to give a taster for the weekend, I particularly like the Gay Witch Abortion, Scrawl and Buke and Gase. Enjoy:)

After the trippiness of Roll the Dice I went to see The Junior Boys at the centre stage. I had a neck massage while listening to them and it really helped to get me back down to earth. I kinda undid all the good work by going into see Omar Souleyman. The place was jumping to a relentless drum pulse and Souleyman worked the crowd up into a frenzy. Bloody brilliant.

Factory Floor are another band I’ve seen before but this time they were feckin’ brutal. There was no let up as you were pounded with gallumphing drum patterns and unforgiving sour acid burps. Nik Kolk’s disembodied moans and sighs added to the disorientation. It was pretty full on – I was bouncing away when there was a commotion behind me. People were grimacing and their appeared to be a soiled pair of long johns or diapers on the floor. Oh and a strong smell of faeces. Classy.

Once Factory Floor finished I was too. I shambled back to my pit and started decompression back to reality.

I regret making the decision to ditch my video camera. AT this stage in the festival there was a great party atmosphere. I was feeling relaxed and buzzing off the music from the last three days. I’d had some mild visual synaesthesia while watching Nissenenmondai the night before but I wasn’t expecting what happened when I went to see Roll the Dice.
They were two Swedes hunched over a modular synth set up. They played behind a gauzy back cloth which had images and shadows projected over it. I’d say there music is more hypnotic than danceable but I found myself swaying to it as it built up to a climax. The music was slow moving and eerie. Before long I started to feel little electric shocks coursing through my muscles. I found myself being really drawn into the music and felt my heart pounding as tingling waves rippled up my legs into my chest. If I was religious I would have said I had a spiritual experience. Someone asked me if I was ok cuz I guess I must of looked like I was tripping out, fair enough I probably was in a very altered state. I found it really difficult to verbalise just how awesome the music was I probably came across as some acid casualty. Needless to say this was my highlight of the festival – apologies to anyone who was weirded out by the sight of a middle aged beardy bloke apparently off his tits on something illegal.
I don’t have any footage of Roll The Dice from that night but here’s a clip from another show to give you an idea of what they are like.

(edit: I thought I would play RTD’s last record in the car as I went out for a drive. That was a big mistake. When “way out” came on I started feeling body waves again, my heart felt like it was going to jump out of my mouth and I felt weirdly euphoric. I definitely need to be careful playing this in the car.)

I had a very late start to the day so missed some of the earlier acts. First one I saw was Orchestra of Spheres. They shambled on wearing a variety of LED adorned headwear and commenced a tribal freakout. I really enjoyed it but my colleague Spooky Fruit though I was having an EAR PWR moment. (He has a theory that as a music festival progresses, my musical faculties disintegrate, the proof of this is my stated enjoyment of EAR PWR at Animal Collective’s ATP). For the record I think OOTS were good, here’s a short clip so you can see for yourself.

We left early to catch Sun Ra Arkestra. It’s not really fair for me to comment on them as I have a strong aversion to jazz, needless to say it didn’t flick my switch. We had a short break before seeing Roll The Dice and that’s when things started to go really strange.

Day 2 Part 2 : Freaky Dancing

I saw the Psychic Paramount next and they played a swirly psychedelic blues fug. Bitch Magnet were moody and unsettling but the highlight of the night was Underground Resistance. Apologies for the crappy footage but I was bouncing up and down to Mirage, personal favourite of mine. Techno Techno Techno 🙂

I’ve just returned from the latest Nightmare Before Christmas ATP event and I have to say that it was the best one I’ve been to so far.

I was a bit worried that it wouldn’t go ahead as the Jeff Mangum event which was scheduled for the weekend before was cancelled. There is an interview with David Yow on emusic.com where he says that ATP had made a loss at the I’ll Be Your Mirror event and were advised by their accountants to postpone the event till March. It would be a shame if ATP winds up bankrupt, there really is no festival like it. If you’ve not been then go! goddamit. Tickets are still available for the March event.

Les Savy Fav, Battles and Caribou curated a night each and this led to a varied mix of music. Maybe I was lucky in the bands I chose to see but there was no filler and all put in good performaces. I’m pretty sure I spotted William Bennet of Cut Hands and Whitehouse at some of the shows.

Unfortunately the curse of Butlin’s ever diminishing standard of accommodation  struck again. After a long drive to Minehead we got to our room to discover a tiny box room with one [supposedly] double bed. However, after getting no help from the Butlin’s staff the very nice ATP staff upgraded our room to a four berth apartment with a kitchen.

I will post up some video clips as the day goes on but apologies in advance, they are a bit ropey, partly because I was trying to dance and film at the same time. Also by day three I was very very “refreshed” so in the end couldn’t be arsed to try and film and just danced like a chimp with an itchy arse.