Atombombpocketknife: All Tomorrow's Parties

Better Propaganda editor Justin Sinkovich provides an account of his travels to the All Tomorrow's Parties Festival in Camber Sands, England.

Shellac invited my band, Atombombpocketknife, to play the All Tomorrow's Parties Festival in Camber Sands, England March 28, 2004. The festival, "curated" by other bands, featured two stages of hand- selected musicians. With Friday coordinated by Mogwai and Saturday by Tortoise, ABPK was scheduled for the Shellac curated Sunday show of Weekend One. We flew over Thursday night, missing that night's sleep to drink little bottles of wine and watch bad airline movies.

Arriving at Heathrow Int'l, we were met by Mike Tsulous, drummer of The Dishes. Mike was there to feed us drinks while guiding us through London's train system because we were all sleep deprived, loaded down with gear, and unfamiliar with one of the world's most complex public transportation systems. From The Tube, we took an hour-long train ride south to a small town near the festival called Rye. We then taxied to our boarding accommodations, a dilapidated old resort called The Camber Sands Holiday Centre. A few minutes walk from the beach; the resort was a complex of "chalets," or small suites with kitchens in them. We quickly checked in and threw our bags into the chalet. Looking on the schedule, we found that Trans Am had just started playing. The rest of the band napped and I darted out toward a huge, blue, abandoned, Ikea-looking building holding the music. Crossing the grounds, it was remarkably tranquil. I walked through a closed go-kart track as huge sea gulls cawed overhead. As soon as security let me in, everything changed. Complete sensory overload overtook my brain as slot machines and games flashed behind hundreds of indie kids rushing from one cavernous room to the other. I quickly pulled it together and headed toward the sound of Trans Am. When I entered the main stage room, I reeled back. The room was pitch black and packed with thousands of people. A flood of blue and purple lights beaconed from the distant stage. I declared to myself, "This isn't what I expected at all."

After watching Trans Am for a while, I felt the effects of our travels and went back to the chalet, only to find it full of sleeping band members. Finding an empty bed, I passed out. Next thing, I hear commotion and wake up to find our neighbors, Trans Am, infiltrating the premises. Pulled out of our beds, we were met with well wishing and beers. After getting properly in the mood, we headed toward the venue again. Unfortunately, we had missed most bands but got to the side of the stage for a mesmerizing Mogwai set. After Mogwai, we headed to the pub – the after- hours bar where most of the serious socializing went on. All of the American bands were on a different time schedule so we ended up staying there dancing all night.

We drank beers and danced, splitting our time between the pub and a set by DJ John Peel – how nice. I was starting to lose steam but I held out for kid606. He went on at around 3am and blew us all away. He laid down danceable tracks, bludgeoning them with breaks and noise, while standing on turntables and generally freaking out the whole time. No one has ever held my attention by standing behind turntables, laptops, and samplers until that moment – I was in heaven. It was amazing how many people were there that I see all the time in Chicago: Tortoise, Shellac, Azita, The Dishes, Bobby Conn and Prefuse 73. Everyone, for the better, was different at ATP though, celebrating and relaxing.

We woke up on Saturday, cooked breakfast and then raced out to the venue to catch the end of The Boredoms set. I'm really disappointed I didn't see more of it. They were incredible. The Dishes were next and Sarah the singer cleverly mocked, "Are you ready to see the last show from a band you've never heard of?" – brilliant. I released their final album on File 13 Records a few months ago and was sad to see one of my favorite bands depart. What a way to end a band though! I stayed at the front of the stage after The Dishes to prepare for one of my favorite bands ever, Lungfish. The band created an entrancing backdrop while Daniel Higgs sent shivers down me with almost every growling line. Few bands can put me in that heightened altered state that Lungfish does. It was really nice to talk to some younger audience members who had their first experience with the band during that set. After Lungfish, we raced to the downstairs stage to "see" Lightning Bolt. Of course, you couldn't really see them because they were set up at the back of the club behind thousands of people. I actually snuck up on the stage and watched from there. Nice.

We missed a lot of music Saturday, like Prefuse 73, Azita, and Nobukazu Takemura, because they didn't stagger the set times very well, which was strange. We went and grabbed some quick food back at the chalet, then darted back to the venue, settling in at the side of the stage for a beautiful Tortoise set. I admitted to Doug McCombs after the show that I hadn't seen them in a few years. It's weird how you take such treasures for granted here in Chicago. After Tortoise, we went to the pub and then to a party at one of the Mogwai chalets at around 4am and stayed until well past sunrise. Those details are a bit hazy.

We woke up on Sunday, three hours before our set time, not knowing that daylight savings was stealing an hour. I rushed to the food tent for lunch, grabbed my gear and headed toward the main stage. A Whisper In The Noise was playing melancholy songs, accompanied by strings and pianos, which seemed a nice way to clear to the cobwebs. We walked on stage to equipment we had never used. It took me a while to figure out a proper setting but I was very happy with the new Fender Twin and Marshall half stack. We began our set and things moved, as they usually do, in slow motion. Navigating through most of our new album, we all fed off the energy from the large crowd after expending all of our own. Then we simply unplugged and left the stage to Dead Meadow. Dead Meadow was great but I was in need of a shower. After a nice dinner with all of the bands swapping stories, compliments, and buffoonery, I darted off to the venue to catch some of Mclusky. They didn't really move me, but I wish I had given them more of a chance because I think their new album is really good. Arcwelder didn't really do much for me either but I still enjoyed watching them. I prepared a space beside the stage to see Uzeda and they were unbelievable. They are some of the most wonderful people on this planet and to see the guitarist Agostino play such brilliant guitar was inspiring. After the show, I hugged them and scurried upstairs for Shellac. I'll admit it; I've never really seen a full Shellac show. I saw them in a horrible sounding venue once and had to leave because I couldn't make sense of it. Shellac was one of the finer shows I've seen. Todd Trainer is now a favorite drummer of mine. We all went to the pub and danced the night away, basking in the moment and congratulating each other on a job well done. I woke up the next day to find most already gone. We took our time leaving and headed out for the rest of our English shows in London, Cambridge, and Birmingham. I'll always remember the All Tomorrow's Parties Festival as one of the best weekends of my life.
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