ATP curated by Jeff Mangum – Itchy and Scratchy

ATP curated by Jeff Mangum – Saturday

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If Friday was a hyperkinetic younger sibling and Sunday a groovy, jazz-handed older cousin, then Saturday is the stoic friend who keeps you on the straight and narrow. Bookended by a weekend of fervour and polyrhythms, the second day of ATP presented itself like an antidote to the previous day’s excesses, a mollifying, pared down journey away from the snarling core of rambunctious punk and towards the cushioned heart of sober folk. It’s being driven by a glorious assortment of balladeers, with Joanna Newsom first up in the saddle to celebrate the quiet. Rolling out her meditative tonic she opens with ‘Bridges and Balloons’ – from 2004’s critically acclaimed debut ‘Milk-Eyed Mender’ – before a sprightly leap forward takes us to 2010’s ‘Have One On Me’, as “kindness prevails” on her new born hymnal ‘Esme’. Spirited away by lullabies and idylls laid bare, Newsom plays yo-yo with her trio of albums, temporarily shedding nymph-like layers to reveal flashes of a brawnier, moll-ish piano-led persona. But it’s as fragile as a house of cards and you daren’t breathe for fear you may disturb the peace.

Low offload their weighty Mormon souls to an audience awash with misty-eyed believers. A poignant dedication to the people of Syria heralds the start of a set of slowcore burners and gushing, heroic choruses. But are they no longer in the doldrums? Happily posing for pictures outside after the show, they appear to be riding a new wave of optimism and the tortured, heart-wrenching emotion – the soundtrack to a depressive episode for many an ATP goer – is largely absent tonight as the band step into the euphoric light. Peppered with the odd alt-country morsel, it’s a desultory ride which blows hot and cold throughout, lining up three snail’s pace tracks against a heady explosion of sonic colour, before winding back the dial again. But such is the mercurial nature of real emotion that this contrast is well-received by all. ‘Monkey’ and ‘Sunflower’ expel collective whoops but silence falls as darkness begins to wrap its jaws around the evening.

Multi-instrumentalist maven Yann Tiersen puts his film music on ice and leads us through hoops of swirling synth-pop melodies and crescendoing orchestral arrangements, making for a full-bodied, textured set of big band sounds. He’s a virtuoso without the pomp and ceremony, a confident performer with a varied grip who does avant-garde and populist in equal measure; last year’s ‘Skyline’ LP shows Tiersen at his most up-to-date. Flanked by a full band, he remains self-effacing and never grabs the spotlight, despite visibly savouring every moment of his time on his stage.

Obliterating the house of cards with one fell swoop, the inimitable stomp of Scratch Acid helps to dispense a much-needed adrenalin shot to those crowds of waning, fuzzy headed daytime drinkers. Like an electric power surge of cataclysmic, life-shattering proportions, the uncompromising roar of the reunited Austin band – with all four original members surprisingly still intact – shakes us all to the bone marrow and overzealous crowd surfers send Butlins’ security guards foaming at the mouth. A pit thick with the stench of sweat and enthusiasm was an open invitation for cuts and bruises but the beginning of the end of an unforgettable Saturday night.

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