Traditionally the All Tomorrow’s Parties team have painstakingly created mini universes for their events – holding them at holiday camps, ski resorts, islands and shopping malls to seal us in some safe alt-bubble.
However, there aren’t too many huffs of resignation that this year’s event has had to be downsized to St Kilda, split between the Prince Bandroom and the Palais. It’s a beautiful evening and it’s all pretty convenient, plus no one’s going to get lost on the way home. It’s perhaps easier to not ‘commit’ as deeply as you might have if you’d made some epic voyage into the middle of nowhere, but by gifting ticketholders a free ride at Luna Park, the organisers have made a stab at turning St Kilda as a whole into its playground.
There are a few hitches – as ever, you can’t take your beer from the Palais bar to your seat, forcing us to knock back beverages between sets, and there are some curious rules going on in the upper circle about where you can sit and whether or not you can stand, and the Prince Bandroom’s a bit like a battery farm, although we were warned to get in early. The set times run like clockwork, though – a clean, fast turnaround.
Of the 14 acts on today, we catch a bit of Melbourne’s Twerps – the ‘surprise’ band on the bill whose warm, melodic indie brings to mind the classic eighties acts of NZ’s Flying Nun label; and some of Mick Harvey’s Pop Crimes – a set devoted to the work of St Kilda hero Rowland S Howard. As with the tribute shows at the Memo earlier this year, he brings Harry Howard, Genevieve McGuckin, JP Shilo and Jonnine Standish on board for an emotional set. With the proposed local laneway in Howard’s honour still in the planning stages, it’s a poignant one, too.
We’ve read mixed reviews of other Television shows, as they relive their classic Marquee Moon album, minus Richard Lloyd. Ten, 15 years ago there was a massive revival of interest and surge of copy-cat bands, but the reception at tonight’s show proves the New Yorkers are still on everyone’s bucket list. They kick off with ‘See No Evil’, and we’re on tenterhooks for the first few songs as we wait to see if Tom Verlaine’s voice merely needs a few revs. Thankfully that’s all it is, and it’s a tight set – with no banter, of course – culminating in a version of ‘Marquee Moon’ that has the goosebumps rising.
There’s often an air of sheepish embarrassment around bands that have reformed. Absolutely not so the Scientists, who look like a band, full stop. The legacy of Kim Salmon’s yowl, the bleak humour and the sparse, swampy backdrop is echoed in wave after wave of Aussie bands up to the present day. They’ve emerged from hibernation a few times over the years – for All Tomorrow’s Parties events in the UK and New York – and they’re well appreciated here. The rendition of 1982’s ‘Swampland’ is nothing short of perfection.
‘Visceral’ is a word often wheeled out to describe the UK’s Fuck Buttons, but it’s an apt one. ATP first brought them over for the Mount Buller festival a few years back, and they became a talking point. The electronic duo’s live performance massively transcends what you’ll hear on record, with incredible visuals and massive projections (overshadowing what is essentially two ordinary-looking blokes doing some knob twiddling). And, of course, it’s so loud you’ll find yourself pinned to your seat.
Hopefully you’ve managed to retain that seat for the Breeders set, as they’re playing Last Splash from start to finish. As you’d hope, Kim Deal is chatty throughout, getting everyone on their feet. They’re so dedicated to recreating that classic 1993 album, they’ve even brought the original woodchimes over from Ohio. They wind up with non-Last Splash tracks ‘Safari’ and ‘Huffer’. It’s a feelgood end to a great day.