Laughed the girl on the poster…’
It’s fair to say the defaced tourist board advert in Philip Larkin’s acerbic ‘Sunny Prestatyn’ didn’t do much to convince him of the town’s charms. Unfortunately for the Midlands miserablist, he died long before he was able to witness a much more persuasive poster when it comes to reasons to visit North Wales: the one for the inaugural Safe As Milk.
Admittedly it’s uncertain whether trad-jazz enthusiast Larkin would’ve truly appreciated the chaotic noise rock of Butthole Surfers or the thrusting electro of Dopplereffekt. More fool him if not, for Safe As Milk’s line-up might just be the most adventurous and exciting announced for 2017, putting even acclaimed European rivals like Unsound and Rewire in the shade.
If nothing else, it’s hard to imagine a more diverse set of artists ever being holed up in a Welsh holiday camp together. In fact, the only abiding thing they seem to have in common is a determination to push music forward. From English folk legend Shirley Collins to Syrian dabke specialist Omar Souleyman, Camberwell experimentalists (This Is Not) This Heat to Krautwerk pioneer Michael Rother, it’s a who’s who of musicians most likely to make you go ‘what’s that?’
Anyone who ever went to one of All Tomorrow’s Parties weekenders knows just how brain-meltingly fun holiday camp festivals can be (when they don’t go bust anyway). However, with the possible exception of Matt Groening’s 2010 blow-out, even the much-loved-then-much-hated ATP never boasted a bill as boldly international as this one. From Finnish prog-metallers Circle to Egyptian ravers Islam Chipsy & EEK, Georgian saz virtuoso Asiq Nargile to Ghanaian groove machine Ata Kak, Safe As Milk pays as little attention to geographical borders as it does the ones between genres. Cross-continental collaborations like those between Jeff Mills and Tony Allen, or German-Senegalese ensemble Mark Ernestus’ Ndagga Rhythm Force, are set to be especially explosive.
Alongside avant garde veterans Nurse With Wound, Martin Rev and The Residents, there’ll be plenty of young blood pumping into Prestatyn too. Artists such as Gaika, Guttersnipe, Basic Rhythm, Princess Nokia and Carla Dal Forno have all been dominating ‘ones to watch’ columns of late, while Blanck Mass, Actress and Grouper have between them put out some of the finest albums of the last few years.
The grub comes in a similarly wide range of flavours to the music, with a selection of Beefheart-themed beers on offer alongside the various food stalls – many a Safe As Milk Stout looks set to be quaffed over the weekend. There’ll be plenty of record stalls popping up on site too, selling the wares of performing artists as well as titles from labels like PAN, Blackest Ever Black, Ninja Tune and House Of Mythology.
Ultimately though, it’s all about that jaw-dropping line-up. We’ve ranted on for five hundred words and still haven’t mentioned the fact that Richard Dawson, Demdike Stare, Karen Gwyer, Rezzett, The Cosmic Dead and OOIOO are all set to cram your grateful ears with glorious sound too. Such is the curatorial discernment that you feel certain even the acts you haven’t heard of are guaranteed to be great as well. So there’s nothing else to do but stick on your Big Black Baby Shoes and do the Dropout Boogie all the way down that Yellow Brick Road to sunny Prestatyn*. (Aka the M56)
Safe As Milk festival takes place at Prestatyn Pontins from 21-23 April. Tickets, which include accommodation, are available here.