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Butlins Heavy, Pt. I

12 Dec

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ATP’s Nightmare Before Christmas 2008 at Butlins in Minehead: leave it to Mike Patton & THE MELVINS to curate what had to be the most unorthodox ATP festival the UK has yet witnessed.

For once, heavy was well represented – not by mainline metallers, but rather by that odd/difficult end of beard-swinging hessians who visibly irked the SLAYER fans I had the pleasure of standing next to one evening. Also, there was a dearth of trad indie acts on parade, and the indie-aligned who did show up – THE BLACK HEART PROCESSION, SQUAREPUSHER, maybe BOSS HOG – were relegated to afterhours/second stage action. This must’ve bummed the skinny sweater contingent something fierce. And then: there were all manner of wha-the-fuh picks in the mix (JUNIOR BROWN, VOCAL SAMPLING, THE LABEQUE SISTERS . . .) getting everyone to scratch their heads at least a couple times over the weekend. Clearly, contrary is a musical esthetic that Mike and Buzzo both wallow in. And wallow we did.

But it was a fucking great weekend all the same. As I saw so many good bands, this post’ll haveta continue into another post next week. But let’s get started with a rundown of some of the hallowed ones who really sought fit to screw a nut straight into my headstock:

1) THE MELVINS 1983 – I just fucking love that these pillars of Modern Stoner/Sludge still stand proudly by their punker roots. This reconfigured lineup sought to recreate the very earliest MELVINS stirrings, and though they couldn’t lure Matt Lukin outta bass retirement, that didn’t bum their death trip one iota. Their songs at this point had a rapid, multichord gunfire attack I most associate with the GERMS (GI) rec, and at least one set of lyrics was about yr welfare running out – which really dated things. I mean c’mon: is welfare even part of the English language in Bush Jr. Amerikkka? Even when they slowed the beat down, it was in a gnarly slowcore vein that got me thinking D.I. doing “Richard Hung Himself” rather than anything SABBATHoid. A great little history lesson into the house that Buzzo built, and I bet it spun heads other than mine too.

2) TEENAGE JESUS & THE JERKS – Odd tableau vivant of long gone, late 70’s Lower East Side anticulture. James Sclavunos reinacted Bradley Field’s monomaniacal stare & snare, Lydia the 40-something Polish matron reinacted Lydia the mad teen runaway, and Thurston Moore made sure the bass sounded exactly like what he loves about their original 45s. They did every song they knew, and one twice (“when you’re this ugly you better be perfect”) and the set lasted 20 minutes. I dug every moment of it, but that’s what I say every time I come in contact with Lydia in a live setting. Hey: when’s she gonna corral THE WEIRDOS into revisiting that bitchen 13.13 LP with her?

3) THE MEAT PUPPETS – Had that couldn’t-give-a-fuck confidence that comes with knowing you’ve honed your thing to a sharp knife edge, these guys were a breath of fresh air at the end of long day of relentless rockin’. Oh man does Cris Kirkwood look to’ up and it’s no secret he ain’t much in the way of a bass player no more. But he was there at the beginning, his voice still sounds sweet, and it’s a brother thing I suppose. Anyway Curt is so fucking good at flatpickin’ they all can just ride on his coattails. I don’t actually own too many Pups recs, but I recognized most of the tunes: “Touchdown King”, “Plateau”, “Up On the Sun”, and a great and soaring rendition of “Look at the Rain” that had me grinning ear to ear. As I was really burnt by this point and some fool kept spilling his beer on me, I skipped out before the end. But what I witnessed was powerful enough to get me planning to explore all those Cobain-era records I’ve never bothered with.

4) JAMES BLOOD ULMER – Just James, sitting front and center in a suit, ringing out all alone with his voice and gtr. He strummed open tuned blues while simultaneously hammering-on lead jazzy lines/notes in true harmolodic fashion. The stuff from his recent Bad Blood In the City CD sounded especially powerful, separated entirely as it was from the annoying pro/tech impulses of producer Vernon LIVING COLOUR Reid. James is as deeply rooted as John Lee Hooker but somehow sounds futureforward and freewheeling all the same. Check out his great solo Birthright CD from 2005 for a taste of similar magic; by all means see him shred live while he still walks the earth.

5) FANTOMAS – I watched this performance with a bunch of very sweet but oh-so clueless Mike P. fans (“he’s so cute”). And like FAITH NO MORE and MR. BUNGLE before them, FANTOMAS was nuthin by a monumentally loud, complicated waste of my time. Yes they can stop on a dime, but so can MY SHITS, and that’s not a pleasurable sensation no how. Eggheads may love the near superhuman athletic ability it takes to perform such music, but I can’t ignore the ever-annoying presence of Patton’s pipes and ego. Anybody got any ideas how we can keep him away from the mic for good?

6) BIG BUSINESS – Bassist Jared Warren performed with an unassuming earthiness that reminded me of Mike Watt, and in tandem with drummer Coady Willis’ whirlwind Neil Peartisms I almost believed I was watching GONE tear it up after Ginn had stepped out back to smoke a fatty. Some guy named Dale Crover eventually stepped up to sling gtr over the top of their din, but honestly: this rhythm section woulda made anyone sound angelic. Somewhat expectedly, straighter-laced heads in the audience couldn’t seem to comprehend the depth of beauty unfolding right in front of them, but the seeds were planted. Fruit will follow, you’ll see.

———-

Shit I didn’t even get around to ranting about ISIS, MASTODON, THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS, THE DAMNED, or THE MELVINS 2008. Check back in a couple/3/4 days or so for Pt. II . . .

Thanks to curiouslypersistent for the nicely blurry ATP photo

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