Monday 1st May 2006 – The Ataris w/ Keith at Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth

I’ll be honest. There’s some of these gigs I’m writing about that I can remember next to nothing of. Others I’ll still remember clear as day another twenty years from now. This is one of those.

There are a multitude of reasons that certain shows stand out more than others. It could be because of something that happened that day, a definitive moment during the set perhaps. In this case it’s because I really enjoyed the gig, the two people I was with really didn’t and I spent the next few years explaining myself, and the band.

The Ataris didn’t really rise to prominence in the UK until their 2003 hits In This Diary and Boys Of Summer, that’s certainly how I came to know of them. Everything on the album So Long, Astoria was of a similar ilk to those singles. What had come before was relatively in keeping with the pop punk sound of the time. So when the band returned in 2006, taking things in a more shoe-gaze, indie rock direction it was bound to be met with some level of shock from a general audience.

Wikipedia reliably informs me that the first track to be released from the newly expanded seven piece line up was Whatever Lies Will Help You Rest via the band’s MySpace profile on Monday 24th April 2006, just a week before this gig. The casual debut was unlikely to have turned many heads. The real reveal came on Saturday 29th April when the band played prior to headliner My Chemical Romance on the main stage at Give It A Name Festival in the gargantuan Earls Court.

Announcing to 20,000 people turning up to hear a Don Henley cover that you’d changed things up a bit was bound to cause a few ripples.

I’m sure someone who discovered The Ataris through their subsequent 2007 album Welcome The Night, I’m yet to meet them. The record undeniably alienated a percentage of hardcore and passing fans (full disclaimer; a bit like the gig, I loved it) and I don’t believe it was until frontman/founder/custodian Kris Roe began to revisit the earlier material a few years later that people opened up to the band again.

I can sympathise with those who had paid the price of admission hoping to see the songs they were expecting. I also have infinitely more respect for an artist who chooses to play the music they want to, rather than feeling the need to placate anyone else. There are certainly more delicate ways to navigate this transition and to reasonably retain the same performing name than tearing off the plaster (band aid, American chums) in full view.

That’s not to say there wasn’t some continuity. Although darker, lyrically this new material was still quintessentially Kris Roe. The visuals that accompanied the live show (a rarity at this point time) were an evolution of the photography that lined the pages of the artwork for each of the previous records. I guess if you were into the band on this level, as I was, you might have more easily made those connections. There certainly wasn’t any call back to Boys Of Summer (their biggest hit) though, they didn’t even play it (despite the multiple awkward requests for it shouted by the audience).

Apologies to Keith, the support band for this show. I do vaguely remember their set, but the weight of that headline performance is what continues to bear heavy on my memory, for all the right and wrong reasons! What I will say is thank God it was move from Pyramids to Wedgewood, even I may have struggled to get onboard with it in that venue.

I probably took the below photo as some kind of proof that I was there to witness this monumental show in The Ataris history. In hindsight it’s proven easier to pretend I wasn’t and avoid the debate.

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