19 January 2009

ATP Sydney

The day started off with a slow ferry ride across the Inner Harbour to Sydney's Cockatoo Island. This turned out to be one of the best places to hold a festival, as it was previously a prison, reformatory, industrial compound, and shipyard. It was kind of like Alcatraz. The crowd was decidedly older, which meant no 17 year olds lying on the ground in an ecstacy-induced seizure (thanks, Field Day!). What I thought was most interesting is that the people at the festival weren't there for a party, or to be seen, or to watch the newest flash-in-the-pan-one-hit-dance-band (whattup MGMT?), but actually wanted to listen to the bands.

Ah yes, the bands. Upon originally hearing of an Australian ATP, I creamed jeans. Then I heard Nick Cave was curating it, which meant absolutely nothing to me. Then I saw the lineup, and became increasingly disappointed to find that both the Dirty Three and Bill Callahan were only playing the Mt Buller show (as if anybody actually knows where that is). Still. Harmonia. Spiritualized. Michael Gira. Robert Forster. Fuck Buttons. It can't be too bad. Right? RIGHT?

Right. It wasn't too bad at all.

Two weird skinny Japanese girls wearing red boas and war paint, wanting to have party at Nick Cave's house...in Melbourne...with family. One deep-throated a beer bottle. Lots of yelling and jibberish. They also played music (and were surprisingly competent).

Please have Akron/Family as backing band. Please have Akron/Family as backing band. Please have Akron/Family as backing band. What do you mean he's playing solo?? Three songs in and I left. Way too much negativity coming off that dude. Maybe he could take a hint from AKRON/FAMILY.

"We are Harmonia. We are from Germany." Uh oh. Live German music? This could be a non-stop flight to bored city. Laptops?! Shit! Nothing good can come out of seeing a live German laptop band. They make very very good music, and the fun stops there.

This was one of the best things I saw all day. I had never heard (of) this band before, and I will definitely be hearing more when I get a chance. Saxaphone, double bass, and regular rock band instrumentation. Fronted by ex-Saints guitarist who looks exactly like Rick Nielsen.

I guess the easiest way to explain this guy's music is this: if you like the Go-Betweens, you'll like Robert Forster. If you think the Go-Betweens are underwhelming, you'll think the same of this dude. Good time summer fun guy plays no frills pop/rock songs in the vein of REM, Big Dipper, and most things on Flying Nun.

This was probably my most anticipated act of the festival. Much to my surprise, they didn't play anything off the newest album except for "You Lie, You Cheat." Also to my surprise, they played "Walking With Jesus." I've only heard that song off the Spacemen 3's "Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs to" compilation, and hardly recognized it at first. Gone were the feedback and distortion, and present were slide guitar and gospel singers. This turned out to be a pretty great laid-back version of a song that has at least 10 different recorded versions. Now I love a good ear-splitting wall of guitar noise freakout, but fortunately there was plenty of that going on in the last ten minutes of the normally 4 1/2 minute "Take Me to the Other Side." The set was stellar, the backup singers were strutting in unison, and Jason Pierce was on target all throughout. I only wish they would have played longer.

Now it came decision time. Do we stay for another 4+ hours to watch Nick Cave (who I have nary an opinion on) and Fuck Buttons, or do we head home early and eat fish and chips? Fish and chips it is!

I caught a few minutes of the Saints while trying to decide what to do. Singer was smoking cigarettes in his pajamas and the guitarist is still wearing Rick Nielsen.

Cue ferry ride home and watching Michael Gira trying to evade paying the fare, only to get caught and act like a confused American tourist. Wah wah.