Live Review

ATP Curated By The National

Like The National as a band, the weekend is awash with tender moments, intricate ideas, swirling, rich orchestral touches and wry self-deprecation.

You sometimes need to take a few steps back to realise what strange and wonderful things ATP Festivals are. A place where you can play 5-aside football with Local Natives in the morning and then watch a Music for Heart and Breath Chamber Music set standing next to one of The Antlers. (It’s also a place where your chalet has no shower, you have to pay for electricity and there are two plates for four people, but, you know, it all just seems to add to the ambience of the place).

That the first show I watch is a ‘velodrome’ featuring 14 cyclists with speakers attached to their bikes probably sums up the type of weekend we’re in for. It’s a work by Richard Reed Parry of Arcade Fire, a ‘surround sound, electro acoustic, performance piece based around moving bicycles and sonic art.’ It’s more interesting than arresting but it serves as the perfect opening for a fascinating festival line-up.

The National have put together a line up that in many is representative of their sound (indeed they’ve worked with many of them), with a few curveballs such as Tim Hecker and Boris added in. And the band are in full view for the entire weekend – you can see them watching each show and there are plenty of collaborations; Aaron Dessner joins Sharon Van Etten and Local Natives on stage.

Like The National as a band, the weekend is awash with tender moments, intricate ideas, swirling, rich orchestral touches and wry self-deprecation. The highlights? Kronos Quartet do two shows and both are magical. From Syrian and Scandinavian arrangements to sampled voices the variety and playing is amazing. They top it off by finishing with a demented and joyful cover of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’.

Elsewhere, Deerhoof, playing their final show of a long European tour, seem determined to go out with a bang. Satomi Matsuzaki is a beguiling frontwoman and the band offer a reminder of just how many superbly wonky rock songs they’ve created.

Japanese rockers Boris are larger than life, full of bizarre pace shifts and weird doom metal and fuzzed-out rock. Michael Rother is the opposite, almost static on stage as he plays Neu tracks, but is equally enthralling. His modesty and seeming disbelief at the joy he’s creating in the audience with his motorik grooves provides a lovely moment. The krautrock flavour Lower Dens have added on new album ‘Nootropics’ has provided them with a new dimension to their sound and this performance shows how far they’ve come.

Later I do an ‘indie relay’, going between The Antlers and Dark Dark Dark. The former have sound problems but the closing ‘Putting The Dog To Sleep’ is typically epic, while the latter provide a raft of captivating torch songs.

Suuns dirty dark guitar-dance music is perfect for a late Saturday night while Youth Lagoon, dressed in tie-dye gowns and delivering piano led grooves, are ideal for a Sunday afternoon.

Sharon Van Etten gets over sound problems to deliver an utterly enchanting set and honourable mentions must also go to Perfume Genius, Wild Beasts, Menonema and My Brightest Diamond. Yet the pinnacle is the curator’s late Sunday night set. They’re joined by Richard Reed Parry and composer Nico Muhly to play for a spellbinding two hours.

The set is filled mostly with ‘Boxer’ and ‘High Violet’ tracks but also features big hitters like ‘Abel’ and ‘Mr November’. They also showcase four new tracks. There’s the previously heard ‘I Need My Girl’, another called ‘Prime’ but the highlight is ‘Lola’, a gentle acoustic strum built upon the line ‘you should know me better than that’.

They finish with a mesmerising ‘About Today’ and their now traditional mic-less version of ‘Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks’. The crowd sings back at them in unison. It’s a spine tingling climax, and the perfect close to a fantastic festival.

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