All Tomorrow’s Parties: Nightmare Before Christmas- Butlins, Minehead – 9th -11th December



A rainy weekend at Butlins isn’t the most enthralling of concepts. It’s one associated more with distant memories of the year you couldn’t afford a proper holiday. However just as December struck, so did All Tomorrow’s Parties, the festival organizers who trusted Les Savy Fav, Battles and Caribou to curate one day each over the weekend in Camber Sands. I bloody love rainy weekends at Butlins.

Friday made a proper entrance. Les Savy Fav had put together a strong line up for the day at the holiday park. Surfer Blood brought their party vibes and beach bum bass lines to the main stage but couldn’t quite translate the spacey anthems of their LP to a live setting. The enthusiasm was there no doubt with a bizarrely stagnant crowd surf accompanying one of the later numbers. One of their latest offerings ‘I’m Not Ready’ will surely match up to their existing top hits but their live show might need a bit of polishing before they next hit the road as most of the punters seemed slightly disappointed with the show. With Gary Numan set to play day 2, Les Savy Fav had to provide some sort of throw back but nobody expected the newly reformed Archers Of Loaf who put on a reunion show that pulled in a big crowd for a band that you either know and love or, don’t really know whatsoever. I was the latter but the racing beats and storming vocal provided the most pleasant surprise of the weekend. They have only played a handful of reunited shows but I would seriously recommend any chance you get to see this band. Meanwhile at Reds Stage next door, Holy Fuck had the room snapping back at the Minehead cold with party condensation chewing up at the holiday park wallpaper. They know what they’re doing by now and their hits like ‘Red Lights’ and ‘The Pulse’ made for Friday’s second biggest party. They were beaten by Simian Mobile Disco’s dj set on the same stage. The effortless boogie enforcers had no trouble turning a stage built for red coats in to the coolest joint this side of Whitby. As for the curators of Fridays festivities? Explosions of silver confetti, catsuits and a magnificent noise that Butlins didn’t recover from till mid-Saturday. What more did you expect?

Saturday started with the downtown pulses of Washed Out disappointingly failing to translate to a live show. Their polished recorded sounds loses all its cool on stage. Tracks like ‘New Theory‘ and ‘Eyes Be Closed‘ have a colossal vacancy about them gets swallowed up in a little too much effort. Speaking of effort, ladies and gents, Gary Numan. ‘Cars‘ was played third, the crowd depleted. The man known for looking immaculate came out with tight everything and a need to thrust. Rather than drinking water, Numan would pour it in to his hands then sip from his hands before splashing his whole head. He also played ‘Are Friends Electric’. Did I mention he played ‘Cars’? Later in the day, Flying Lotus performed a set to end all sets. This man was hero worshipped by the electro connoisseurs and his scattered beats and throat rattling bass proved why. His own material is exceptional but his ability to dj surpassed all expectations. Treating the crowd to a hipper-than-thou OFWGKTA mash-up, a segment from his contribution to Radiohead’s ‘TKOL RMX‘ and, most triumphantly, closing the set with Waka Flocka Flames ‘Hard In Da Paint’. This is a man who knows his cool and is fast-becoming one of the most sought after craftsmen in electronic music. After an admittedly hungover early morning set, Battles returned once the sun went down to show why they were trusted with the curators role. Their set was like nothing else I saw all year. Spaced out chimes of their muffled popcorn keyboards building to such rapid crescendos. No vocalist necessary. The three musicians darted between instruments to create a unworldly sound that amplified just how good ‘Gloss Drop‘ was in the landscape of 2011. Older efforts like the Albarn-esque ‘Atlas‘ created the most excited crowd of the weekend and made for the best set of the weekend. After this, Matias Aguayo was bringing his fiesta to the second stage but his carnival sounds didn’t get the party started quite as much as they could have done but that might not be his fault. Everyone had just been to see bloody Battles.

The final day arrived and so did Caribou. An early morning set that was ambitious as expected. Everyone knew they were in for a treat when the words ‘Caribou Variation Ensemble’ graced our cardboard timecards and it certainly was some close to the weekend. One unsung highlight of the day were Junior Boys who have been doing this since 2004 now and their latest LP ‘Its All True’ proved why they’ve stuck it out. Their lo-fi beats and mellow stabs made for a perfect post-hangover pre-partying experience which is what the majority of punters needed. Toro Y Moi brought their latest album ‘Underneath The Pine’ to silky life with the super-cool synths and feverish beats straight from Columbia to Minehead. The main stage became funky town when the cheesy but irresistible ‘New Beat’ started pulsing through the crowd. Also on the final day, Connan Mockasin brought in an usual crowd of hero-worshippers and a gang of confused onlookers. Unfortunately I still can’t break out from the latter. Four Tet’s unhinged electro pulled in one of the biggest crowds of the weekend and festival-goers were still left speechless by the untapped oddity that is, Omar Souleyman. Caribou was a clever curator, Sunday was less work than its predecessors and all the bands bubbled away till Caribou brought his sounds to life with brass, more percussion than Faithless could even try to understand and a musical focus that will keep his music constantly fresh and exciting. The 10 song set came with little banter and what looked like little showmanship from a man who has organized a great day of exciting new electronic music but also found the time to chuck together an orchestral adaptation of his own material. Like it or not, this final offering from the Nightmare Before Christmas was certainly one of a kind.

Its refreshing to know that in a year when Example, DJ Fresh and David Guetta dragged dance kicking and screaming music to Reggie Yates‘ dungeon and made it the most formulaic and seemingly lost genre in music, when the right people play- that pulse and urge to move to intelligent and exciting electronic music hasn’t gone away. The trouble is, when these are all tomorrow’s parties- today looks pretty bleak.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.