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All Tomorrows Parties: Jeff Mangum

Just back from a fab All Tomorrow's Parties, this one curated by Jeff Mangum. As well as the bands, he curated quite an educational TV channel throughout the event - we got to learn about Chomsky, Zizek, the Bali islanders, oh and Monty Python on endless loop.

Some of the things I saw:

  • Elephant 6 Holiday Suprise - best thing about that was the ending, when they played a Sun Ra song and then started to process off the stage, led by the sousaphone player and the saw player (the saw player sticking his saw in the sousaphone and banging it!) - they led us outside singing the Sun Ra refrain, "This here, our invitation, we invite you, to our space world"...
  • Charlemagne Palestine played a wine glass nicely, but then when he settled into his long two-note piano tranceout it got really boring.
  • Joanna Newsom - quite amazing to see her play. That surprised me, I know her music but seeing her playing live, the intricacy of the harp and her twisty twindy vocals is kinda mesmerising. It's less interesting when she's playing the piano.
  • Matana Roberts and Seb Rochford did some delightful delicate free-jazz together. It's amazing watching Seb Rochford play, even when he isn't actually playing.
  • John Spencer Blues Explosion - amen to that.

That was all on the first day, fantastically enough. The best things about day two were:

  • Cream tea in town, with wortleberry jam, yum.
  • Flumes in the Butlin's swimming pool. The "space bowl" flume was brilliant. Word to the wise, if you're ever there...

Musically there wasn't much I planned to see on the second day. Two bands that are pretty new to me but I was looking forward to were Demdike Stare and Yamantaka // Sonic Titan. Both of them were a little bit underwhelming - Demdike Stare is atmospheric and has good video, but not sure it built up to much. Yamantaka were pretty good, especially their song "Queens", and they had some great costumery, with one of the singers looking like some big hair-creature out of a Studio Ghlibli film.

Sunday we had a lovely beef roast, though I cocked up the gravy so we had none. Then music. The Magic Band were a massive disappointment, not a credit to Beefheart's legacy IMHO, just some noodley noodle. However, they were bad enough that we went next door for Olivia Tremor Control who were fantastic. Their mixture of straight indie-pop and "musique concrete"-like sonic experimentation is just brill, neither of the two components losing out to the other.

Sun Ra Arkestra were also great fun, some great jazz ing. A bit more straightforward jazz than I might have expected, but with a notable appearance of a lovely electrical wind instrument, a buzzy little device played really well by the lead sax bloke.

Later on we joined a queue that had already been queueing for an hour to see Jeff Mangum. It was quite a pleasant queue and the ale people were delivering ale, so we didn't mind queueing for another three quarters of an hour (while Jeff played inside) and eventually went in to catch the last three tracks of his set, including "Two-headed boy" for which most of the crowd sang along. Lovely atmosphere in there. Though apparently the real closing event was a secret gig later that night where Jeff plus Elephant 6 crew, Sun Ra Arkestra and assorted others had a big old jam session...

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