Lee Durbin gives us the lowdown on the 10 Years of ATP Festival, and here's to another 10 years of great festivals!

For all of the easy urges to dismiss Sunn O))) as self-serious miserablists, it was their set more than any other this past weekend that epitomised the running theme of 10 Years of ATP: raw, noisy, and unrelenting. Visually they functioned like a photographer’s nightmare, shrouded as they were in a dense cloud of fog and hidden beneath cowls, whilst the earth-shaking drones crashing down from the stage subdued the patient and appreciative audience. By the time singer Attila Csihar re-emerged for the final act of the performance, complete with finger-lasers and wielding a glass head, even the most incredulous spectators were transported to the band’s slower, deeper dimension of apocalyptic sound.
Of course it wasn’t all doom and gloom.

Headlining the opening night, Yeah Yeah Yeah’s brought as much noise as Sunn O))), but their energy was far more kinetic. Arriving half an hour late, a furious Karen O reacted to the boos of an expectant audience with a typically outspoken howl of “we just got here you motherfuckers!” After her trademark water-spurting, the lady in red and her band tore through their debut album and, despite an aborted attempt at “Zero” during the encore, they pulled it all off flawlessly, setting the bar high for the rest of the weekend. Only Lightning Bolt (the self-proclaimed “last band standing” on Sunday night, although Polvo could in fact claim that accolade) matched their messy ferocity, but there was plenty between the two worthy of recognition.

The double-whammy of Fuck Buttons followed by Tortoise late on Friday night would prove a tough act to follow. The Bristol duo brought a medley of tracks from new album Tarot Sport to the Centre Stage, eliciting a maelstrom of noise powerful enough to leave even Shellac’s Bob Weston dumbstruck as he undertook duties behind the mixing desk. Tortoise mixed old tunes with new, interplaying complex riffs and polyrhythmic percussion that extended right into the hand-clapping finale of the encore. One-time Tortoise member and former Slint guitarist Dave Pajo proved a worthy counterpoint early the next day as he guided a hungover audience through his accomplished Papa M debut Live From a Shark’s Cage, whilst fellow Slint vocalist Brian McMahan struck an equally mellow if slightly more brooding note with his sinfully underrated band The For Carnation later that evening.

Saturday on the Pavilion Stage saw a trio of arresting performances from ATP favourites. Japanese duo Afrirampo proved an instant hit with their colourful costumes, endearing stage antics and fierce noise rock. Dirty Three, who followed, were so impressed with the girls that they invited them on stage to distribute balloons into the crowd during the Australian trio’s closing song; Warren Ellis’ stage banter proved to be as charismatic as always (“what fucking beard?”), and the music was as raw and urgent as we’ve come to expect from these past festival curators. Battles took to the stage some time later and treated the crowd to a host of buoyant new material, interspersed with some classics that sounded significantly reworked �" it took me a couple of minutes to register “Atlas” before that drum beat cut in.

Besides the aforementioned highlight of Sunn O))), Sunday saw several strong performances from the likes of house band Shellac (in which Steve Albini informs us that Todd Trainer is, in fact, a machine made for two things: to play drums, and to fuck), Deerhoof (whose cover of The Velvet Underground song after which this festival was named provided a fitting musical tribute to this perennial event) and finally Lightning Bolt (where Afrirampo made yet another appearance, this time spitting water into the crowd against the backdrop of a ferocious squall from the noise duo).

After ten years, the ATP ‘brand’ continues to expand, with a growing roster of artists signed to the label, frequent live shows and festivals on both sides of the Atlantic that prove to be of a consistently high quality. Explosions in the Sky noted that there’s nothing else like it, or at least nothing else like it as good, and they’re right �" I keep saying that “this will be my last ATP” whenever I attend after looking with grim reservation at the rising ticket prices, but the value for money here cannot be overstated, and this weekend’s offering was nothing if not priceless. Here’s to another ten years!