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Festival preview: ATP presents Nightmare Before Christmas


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Though you may have thought the curtains were drawn on 2011’s festival season months ago, there is still the Nightmare Before Christmas to contend with next month.

Nightmare Before Christmas 2011The festival takes place from 9th to 11th December and is part of the series run by record label All Tomorrow’s Parties. The Nightmare edition offers music fans one last festive hurrah of the year, warmly held within the comfortable confines of the Butlins holiday camp in Minehead (Somerset).  Thankfully the site is commandeered by rockers and their fans, in place of the camp’s more traditional redcoat entertainers. Guests and bands stay in the chalets on site and are free to roam, interact together (no one counts as a VIP at Nightmare) and use the facilities—including the swimming pool, cinema, bowling alley and fun fair—as they see fit.

Extending the ATP tradition of guest curators even further, this year’s Nightmare features three cult bands each handpicking a day’s worth of bands for the line-up. This format gives each day of the weekend a distinct flavour and, if past ATP events are anything to go by, it should help to serve up strange and exotic collaborations and guest spots throughout the festival.  

On Friday, we’ll see the clown princes of punk rock Les Savy Fav running the show. Renowned for their bawdy and unpredictable performances led by Tim Farrington (a lug of epic and irrepressible verve), it is anyone’s guess how wild and unruly the headlining slot will get. No doubts about it being a blast though. Acts propping up their feral hosts include the thrumming San Fran duo Dodos, the stalwart Riot Grrrl figureheads who now comprise Wild Flag, shredding goddess Marnie Stern and No Age, who specialise in creating a maelstrom of noisy punk.

If Friday’s schedule represents the visceral leg of the festival, Saturday’s line-up is the thinking man’s Nightmare. Battles are at the helm here, having rebooted with their excellent album Gloss Drop earlier this year after their frontman Tyondai Braxton departed. Playing calculated, surging rhythms, the band’s new permutation is taut and mesmeric. They’ve invited the synth pioneer Gary Numan to join them, as well as other boundary pushing musicians like Flying Lotus (a favourite of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke) and The Field, who will keep the dancing spicy with their smart, arrhythmic beats. More straightforward, blissful pop is also represented by the luscious and lethargic sounding Washed Out and peppy New York indie band Cults, whose single ’Go Outside’ caused a stir this summer.  

Anyone who has been busy pulverising themselves throughout Friday and Saturday’s late night DJ sets should find cathartic Sunday curators Caribou the ideal festival closers. The Canadian dance outfit centres around brainy maestro Dan Snaith, but the act will be expanded past their normal touring regime in a rare performance by the ‘Vibration Ensemble’, which will also encompass a horn section, extra drummers and members of Sun Ra Arkestra and Four Tet (both of whom also play their own sets on Sunday). The fact that jazz veteran Pharoah Sanders and young hazy electronic artist Toro Y Moi are on the same roster demonstrates the variety of worldly talent joining Caribou’s roster.

The curators also arrange everything from a programme of films running at the Butlins cinema to book clubs and pop quizzes, whilst the DJs they invite keep the Crazy Horse club going till late each night. Altogether, the occasion means Minehead becomes a bizarrely intimate setting for spending a wintry December with fellow music lovers and an amazing, ragtag line-up of bands. 

More information and tickets for ATP’s Nightmare Before Christmas are available here, and prices include full festival tickets and accommodation in the Butlins chalets from Friday to Sunday.

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