Live Review | All Tomorrow Parties curated by Jeff Mangum, Butlins, Minehead, UK, 09-11.03.12
Not that there aren’t obvious pleasures in seeing bands you missed first time round – I’m glad I’ve seen Young Marble Giants and The Raincoats now – I have context; I have experience– but there is something profoundly peculiar in watching middle-aged musicians play their own music, composed in youth and naïvety and cheerful ineptitude, note-for-note 30-odd years later. That music was played by kids who were radiant with newness, whose youth was firing self-belief and fuck-it-isms at the world, who didn’t care if they couldn’t play ‘properly’ and were all the more glorious for it; what does it mean when these very same people, with decades of proficiency behind them, are recreating the same songs? And, unlike The Fall, say, aren’t continuing to make new music? Where does the musicianship go? Where is the wisdom and the effect of the passing years? Does it leave no mark? And although it’s undeniably enjoyable to see the songs of your youth played live it tends to be a show, rather than a revelation. It pushes different buttons. It might be unfair to cast Sebadoh, Scratch Acid, The Minutemen, Neutral Milk Hotel, Young Marble Giants or The Raincoats as merely reformed Showaddywaddyesque end-of-pier acts when their shows are so few and so good and so particular to context but it’s also worth remembering that sometimes it’s just fine to have good old-fashioned fun at the seaside.
Young Marble Giants were beautifully low-key, and like The Raincoats, appeared to be enjoying themselves immensely (I’ve written about both of these, The Fall and Joanna Newsom here.) There’s definitely more to be wrung from the experience by those who are here to revisit dearly-loved vinyl than those for whom this is new territory: memories and nostalgia add warm and fuzzy resonance to each chord struck.
The Fall have no time for look-back bores: they plough relentlessly through a set of old and new songs, the gruppe as shiny, fierce and full-on groove monster commanding a mosh pit roiling with sweaty bodies and exhilaration. And I’ve never seen such a high volume of Fall fans in one place: it’s like a lone inheritor of an obscure language suddenly finding themselves amongst a tribe of native speakers, an alterniverse where Mark E Smithisms are the lingua franca. Here, in the voluble intoxicated chatter of the outside smoking area, he is appreciated. Operation mind-fuck, indeed.