There is a lot to be said about a festival that manages to maintain a mostly solid line-up until the end. My fears of ATP being front-loaded this year, with heavyweights Iggy Pop, Public Enemy and Belle & Sebastian all appearing on Thursday, were proven wrong on Friday, with Mudhoney, JFDR, Drive Like Jehu, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Last night, I was further proven wrong.
Unsurprisingly, fans waxed lyrical about sets from Caterpillarmen and Lightning Bolt, but the first big show I caught was Loop’s. The South London legends band played loud and powerful atmospheric rock, constructing an enchanting wall of sound through their simple, repetitive guitar play. They were, at first, difficult to listen to, but the music slowly brought me to a fantastic meditative state as their performance progressed. The lights and heavy use of the fog machine made for interesting visuals, mystifying the band even when it wasn’t moving about too much. Singer and guitarist Robert Hampson then finished the set by tossing his guitar aside violently.
By the time I arrive to see Pink Street Boys at Andrews Theatre, the place is completely packed, the crowd anxiously chanting “Pee-Ess-Bee!” in anticipation of their arrival. Once they got going, their sound was brilliantly clear, given how goddamn dirty their sound can get. Frontman Axel Björnsson riled the audience up with his banter in between songs, such as with shouts of “fuck the police!”
Back at the main stage, Swans played their sludgy riffage, complete with nonsensical chanting vocals, and at times a bassoon. They sounded like a tribal cult that Indiana Jones would find chanting to summon Cthulhu or some other eldritch horror to this existence. The music ebbed and flowed, but didn’t have the same mesmerising effect on me as Loop did. There were no visuals, and the band members mostly stood still. There was an unfortunate buzzing sound throughout the set, and they, like GY!BE before them had problems with an amp.
And then they abruptly finished their set an hour earlier than had been advertised. Some people seemed genuinely relieved, complaining that they had been falling asleep. But then there was nothing on at either stage for another 45 minutes. I was tempted to just say fuck it and leave the festival, pissed at the poor time management, but I stayed, and was eventually grateful for that decision.
But I was not happy about Rythmatic, no, not one iota. In an attempt to alleviate my boredom, I decided to give this young pop-rock band a chance. They won this year’s Músiktilraunir, Iceland’s long standing battle of the bands competition, so I had some expectations of quality, but I found their show lacking any. Indeed, they did nothing for me. They formed a good rapport with some members of the crowd, and they had enough guts to try playing a newly made song, but I felt like I was wasting my battery life taking notes.
I left Rhytmatik feeling defeated, but when Ghostigital stepped onto the stage, my mood took a u-turn, and I found myself dancing and loving the avant garde spacey noise jazz techno. Einar Örn’s mad ranting was complemented by Curver Thoroddsen’s wacky beats, and I was worried I’d trip so hard that I’d pull the Flash.
And then performing at Andrews Theatre was Clipping., an experimental hip-hop trio. With thumping bass, strong noise elements, drones, and nimble rhymes, I was hooked. The crowd was digging it, too, dancing in the aisles and by their seats. Once I got over how fantastic the sound was, I started to appreciate the sheer intelligence that went into the lyrics. Take for example “Story 4: Sleeplessly Embracing” with its dark story of paedophilia, “Taking Off” with its lonely tale of the gangster life, and “Body & Blood” with its surprisingly female-empowering theme. I found a lot of depth in Clipping.’s set, and I fear I only managed to scratch the surface.
I caught a glimpse of Kiasmos as they played their brand of dreamy house music. A handful of people were frantically dancing, praying the festival wouldn’t come to an end. But like with all good things, ATP ended. If only the festival had had more female performers…
More from the GV’s ATP coverage
Trip provided by Reykjavík Excursions.