ATP Festival curated by The National
- By Greg Rose -
- Dec 11, 2012
"We curated everything this weekend. Not just the bands. Those beds in your chalets? We filled some sheets with gravel and let you sleep on them." While singer Matt Berninger was joking, almost everything about this ATP Festival had The National's fingerprints all over it.
Lots of people would dream of creating their own dream festival line-up - it just so happens The National have the friends to do it. Half of Brooklyn appeared on the bill, with most complementing - and complimenting - each other. If I'd had an extra layer for every time a band thanked the curators for inviting them, I would have been toasty.
Aaron Dessner spent almost as much time onstage as off it, making jubilant guest appearances with everyone from Sharon Van Etten to Local Natives. Long-time brothers-in-arms Nico Muhly, Owen Pallett and Richard Reed Parry were also earning their crust with multiple performances over the weekend. It all made for a cosy (or as cosy as is possible in such freezing weather), collaborative feel to the festival.
Arcade Fire stalwart Reed Parry got the event off on a surreally fitting note with a set involving bicycles wheeling around the Pontins main hall, before Muhly and Kronos Quartet added some refinement to the afternoon. Bear In Heaven upped the tempo with some wonderful dancing after Buke & Gase's patchy but well-received set on Stage Two. But the night belonged to Kurt Vile & The Violators, who filled the closing slot with nonchalant ease. It's peculiar having a headliner whose songs are as far away from singalongs as possible, but the old school alt-rock was a great accompaniment to the experimentation on show elsewhere.
Saturday's bands had a tough time measuring up to the cinema (a memorial hall with a backwards clock and photos of Elvis blue-tacked on the wall), where Casablanca on an overhead projector provided the ultimate hangover cure. The - let's be honest - god-awful, dilapidated venue was at its most charming too, as its proximity to the beautiful beach and amusement arcades provided much mirth.
Nevertheless, Michael Rother brought krautrock bang up to date before Van Etten showed how wonderfully her impeccable record 'Tramp' transfers to the live arena. The night belonged to Wild Beasts though, who gave their 'Smother' LP a send-off by playing it in full. Singer Hayden Thorpe remarked how 'High Violet' was the blueprint for the record, and the band returned to play all the old hits too. Sadly the football match between Wild Beasts and The National ("five boys from Brooklyn vs four lads from Yorkshire, let's see how that goes," said Thorpe) didn't happen.
Sunday afternoon was broken up by a raucous pop quiz and a small but sweet book club, before Perfume Genius provided some live evidence for the hype surrounding him. A Neil Young cover he hoped wouldn't be the highlight was indeed the highlight (sorry Mr Genius) but new 'Put Your Back N 2 It' material stood up well too. Pallett, Deerhoof and Local Natives all enhanced their reputations as the crowds geared up for the main event.
It was worth the wait. The National, playing their first big show in over a year, got into gear quickly by mixing new songs with the kind of gradual tension builds they are renowned for. Guest slots were plentiful, the Dessner's were chattier than usual and Berninger was nailing the crooning as well as the shouting. 'Fake Empire' - dedicated to President Obama - was a standout, along with a triumphant 'Bloodbuzz, Ohio and the closing a capella singalong of 'Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks'. To top it off, they promised to be back soon too.
All that was left to do was see some hilarious snippets of Ethan Lipton's set, survive the end of festival disco and trek all the way from Camber Sands to Rye Station in the dead of night to catch the first train, only once tripping over a dead fox. Somehow, an apt end to a brilliant, bizarre weekend.