FESTIVAL REPORT: All Tomorrow's Parties curated by Deerhunter, June 21st-23rd 2013

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It always takes a few days for the dust to settle and to get your thoughts together after an instalment of All Tomorrow's Parties. This one was even more of a challenge for me as I had to work on Monday afternoon, so I was straight back into the ugly modern world with a bang. Now, over a week later, I'm still trawling through clips and pics and words on the internet.

After the Atlas Sound gig last summer, I knew this ATP festival would be special. That show, on top of one by Deerhunter several years ago, sealed it for me that Bradford Cox is a very formidable talent.

On paper it looked like a decent line-up, with a few naysayers grumbling that Deerhunter playing their three previous albums was not a strong enough draw, but in practice this turned out to be one of the best ATPs I have been to. There is no doubt that the factor that made this so special was Bradford Cox's very hands-on approach to curation. This always makes an ATP better of course, and the likes of Matt Groening, and more recently, Julian Koster of Neutral Milk Hotel (at Jeff Mangum's ATP) or the twins from the National have made great efforts to engage with other artists that they've chosen to appear.

Bradford took this practice to extremes - appearing on stage no less than five times on Friday night. We had his apologetic opening turn as Atlas Sound, where he sang over backing tracks instead of playing guitar, claiming quite reasonably that he had been too busy re-learning 60 Deerhunter songs. He then briefly helped re-unite Stereolab during Tim Gane's Cavern of Anti-Matter set by bringing out Laetitia for a version of 'Blue Milk', and filled the TBA slot in the programme himself, by jamming an improvised set with the Tom Tom Club. In fact only Martin Bramah's reinvigorated Blue Orchids escaped his attention, their own 'Dumb Magician' providing one of the early, Bradford-less highlights.

The Breeders playing the Last Splash was a treat in itself, with Kim Deal smiling like mad the whole way through it, and they augmented that album with a cover of Guided By Voices's 'Shocker in Gloomtown', a very liberal helping of songs from Pod, and the inevitable Cox cameo on 'I Just Want to Get Along'. All of that meant that I missed most of No Age, but on the three songs I saw they were on blistering form, and it seems they are back to a duo again. The first Deerhunter appearance of the weekend ended the main stage activity for Friday, with the whole of Cryptograms and then the Fluorescent Grey EP getting played, and sounding utterly incredible. I meant to make notes on this, but all I wrote for this slot was "completely brilliant", so there you go.

Due to the fact that our chalet was right outside the venue, Saturday began with the Microcastle soundcheck rumbling through the wall. Some songs were played three or four times as I drifted in and out of sleep.

Once inside, it was over to Ex Models to start the day with an impressive jolt of spiky noise. Featuring Kid Millions and Shahin Matia from Oneida, this lot hadn't been heard of for over five years, but today they revisited their last album Chrome Panthers and it sounded ace. If Bradford Cox was the ever present persona on Friday - and in fact he was standing in the crowd near me watching Ex Models - then Saturday was Oneida's turn, as they all appeared for a mesmerising improv set with the legendary Rhys Chatham as well. They had a lot of fun, with Chatham switching between trumpet and guitar and the band providing the intensity. I found it an infinitely better improv effort than Kim Gordon and Ikue Mori's set, which didn't connect with me at all.

Tom Tom Club provided the Saturday night fun antedote upstairs, dropping in a cover of 'You Sexy Thing' straight after 'Genius Of Love'. A most un-ATP move, but it went down very well. My enjoyment of Panda Bear downstairs was dampened by a packed and humid room, and whilst his set was all new material, I have to say that the songs I heard sounded awfully pretty.

Maybe because it is my favourite of their records, Deerhunter's Microcastle set seemed to go up a gear from the brilliant Cryptograms performance. Although they had a technical hitch, this enabled Bradford to tell stories, and when they came back they played a TWENTY minute version of 'Nothing Ever Happened' which got into to such a krautrock groove it sounded, in that moment, the best thing ever.

Someone realised that Deerhunter and the B-53s share a bassist and this meant that the tribute band's slot was moved until the end of the main stage festivities. It was strange to have a tribute band at an ATP but they were damn enjoyable and perfect for Saturday night. As well as the hits, their version of 'Give Me Back My Man' was so much fun.

Talking of fun, I spent the rest of the night in the over-subscribed party at Chalet 205, which was the sweatiest, most claustrophobic and most fun chalet party I have been to at ATP. A seemingly impossible number of people were at it and when I left, on the friendly suggestion of security staff, it was daylight and the seagulls were already prowling.

(l-r: William Basinski, Rhys Chatham, Laetitia Sadier)

I was appreciative of Sunday's quiet start, including an attempt at the quiz where I learnt that Bradford Cox and myself stopped getting on with the NME at precisely the same point - namely the appalling 0/10 review of Stereolab's 'Cobra and Phases Group' in 1999. I never bought a copy since, and it seems he had a similar reaction.

The actual Steve Reich was first on the main stage first for a performance of 'Clapping'. Musicians from the London Sinfonietta performed his music for the next hour (Electric Counterpoint and New York Counterpoint), ending with a '2x5' which with its conventional guitar-bass-drums-keys arrangement sounds not unlike post-rock. It made perfect sense to have Reich and his music at ATP, as he has inspired so many bands that have played the festival over the years.

Quiet Sunday continued with a lovely set from Laetitia Sadier who seemed relaxed and eager to talk to the crowd. She played a lot of her new album and then she introduced a new song dedicated to the much-missed Trish Keenan of Broadcast which I think must have had an impact on Bradford Cox, as Deerhunter's Halcyon Digest set later that evening was touched by the same air of melancholy.

Before that though, William Basinski created some sedate loops to a mostly reverential audience in the sticky second-stage area, and the great Michael Hurley played a great set to an initially small crowd on stage one. It felt to me that everyone who ventured in to hear his set stayed with it, and I know the comparison is back-to-front, but he reminded me a lot of the late Vic Chesnutt. Nice rants about YouTube and Monsanto as well!

One of the worst clashes happened later on Sunday, when Pere Ubu and Dan Deacon overlapped for fifteen minutes. Pere Ubu sounded on great form, David Thomas seated and chatting centre stage, giving out against claims that he is "grumpy". I left after a superb version of 'The Modern Dance' and got in position for Dan Deacon.

Even though I've seen his 'audience participation' act before, there is still something very special about it. He gets a crowd who are too cool for such things to dance and run around a packed venue at his bidding, which makes me think that there is some sort of magic in the air. His drummers, Jeremy Hyman (of Boredoms and Ponytail) and Kevin O'Meara, play a blinder as well, and the energy level and humidity meant that I had to go and get changed immediately afterwards.

It is left to the final Deerhunter set to bring the metaphorical curtain down on the main stage with their album Halcyon Digest. Until tonight this was probably my least favourite of the three (there's little between them though), but this set built up slowly, again seemingly in tune with the underlying Sunday "vibe". The big blow-out this time was 'Desire Lines' which was just fantastic, but the memorable moments come around 'Coronado' and 'He Would Have Laughed', two pieces written as a tribute to the late Jay Reatard and tonight the latter is also dedicated to Trish Keenan, a woman whose influence (and that of her band Broadcast) was felt strongly at this festival. Bradford made an impassioned and genuine speech about how this weekend was the best of his life - and having witnessed him enjoying himself so much I cannot argue with that.

Within the hour a skinny stage diver is carried aloft by the still lively crowd watching the edgy electronica of Black Dice close out stage two. Of course it's Bradford Cox, and the crowd gave him a final lap of the venue as he surfs overhead. He was there at the beginning and the end, and seemingly all points in between, and the efforts of him and his band made this one of the very best ATPs. As I said earlier, there was magic in the air.

Some previous ATP adventures
Curated by Jeff Mangum
ATP versus the Fans
Curated by Slint

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