A month or two ago I stumbled across a couple of YouTube videos of Atari Teenage Riot at the Reading Festival in 1999. It’s one of the gigs that easily makes it into the ten best live performances that I’ve ever seen, and it’s one that’s stuck with me ever since. It might just be how ATR stood out amongst the more mainstream fare of the weekend, but after seeing them I went from simply appreciating them to being a fan.
Before I go any further, here are the videos in question.
Back in 1999 it was harder to hear new music. Downloading wasn’t a widespread thing yet, and it was harder to hear non-mainstream bands on the radio or see them on any of the music channels. Most of what I knew about ATR came from reading Kerrang!; a single that I’d picked up relatively cheap; and a track with Slayer on the Spawn soundtrack. I’d read about their live performances, particularly the one on a flat bed truck while being tear-gassed, and knew that I really couldn’t miss the chance to see them.
I remember it being early when they took the stage, around 11.30, which was earlier than any other band over the weekend. If I remember correctly, there weren’t any other bands on at the time either, which made for a surprisingly large crowd for the hour. I then remember having my youthful mind completely blown.
As is obvious from the videos, ATR aren’t for everyone. They sat in quite an odd place at the time. Dance and electronic music hadn’t crossed over into the more alternative areas yet – both Kerrang! and Metal Hammer had been given a hard time over featuring The Prodigy – and nu-metal’s use of dance beats and DJ’s in heavier music hadn’t hit the mainstream yet. ATR were a bewilderingly different proposition for many people, including me.
I fell in love with the band on the spot. The first thing I remember doing after they left the stage was wandering over to the merchandise stand and buying a shirt, even though it was a size smaller than I’d normally wear back in those days of baggy XL t-shirts. The longer term impact was in opening my eyes to a much wider range of music that I might otherwise have ignored. Ever since I’ve made a point of trying to take a chance on new bands at festivals, and always try to watch support bands,
I saw ATR again later that year, headlining this time in a smaller venue. They were excellent again,and I’ve been following them ever since, picking up their albums and following the solo work of Alec Empire, Nic Endo and Hanin Elias. They have a new album out at the moment, and I’ll pick that up in due course, as well as trying to see them again if they come anywhere near me.
It’s rare that I can pinpoint the moment that I changed from liking something to being a fan. It’s rarer still that I can share that moment with others.