All Tomorrow’s Parties festivals, which run over two consecutive weekends in May, and then once again in December under the “Nightmare Before Christmas” moniker, are renowned for the diversity of their lineups, the unusual vibe of the holiday camp setting (no outdoor camping, what a joy!) and the range of stellar names in alternative music who have, over the years “curated” the festival (including Sonic Youth, Mogwai, Shellac, Autechre, Slint, The Shins….).

In 2007, one of the weekends was for the first time offered out to “the fans” to curate: anyone buying a ticket for the festival got to vote on who they wanted on the bill, and those with the most votes were added to the lineup (availability permitting). This year the voting option had been brought back for a second time (hence the “Pt. 2” bit of this year’s festival name) although with the twist that it could only be bands that had never previously played an ATP festival. A neat idea, and one that really fits well with the inclusive, un-starry feel to the festival, which is further increased by things like the absence of a backstage area, really making it feel like everybody: musicians, “stars”, organisers and festival-goers, is in it together. There’s nothing quite like queuing for a Costa Coffee behind Patti Smith, or spotting Shellac’s Todd Traynor buying a packet of cigarettes in the onsite grocers: both personal ATP “moments” from the last couple of years.

Opening proceedings on Friday, in the large Centre Stage (one of the three indoor stages at the venue), was Grouper. Comprising one woman on a chair with a guitar and effects boxes, surrounded by a circle of speakers and monitors, this was a gentle, often sombre, start to things. Using vocal and instrumental loops and recordings, as well as live playing, it was drowsy and soporific, and would have been better suited to an early evening slot or even a lazy Sunday afternoon comedown. Static crackled, strangely gentle white noise filled our ears: ATP was underway for another year.

Next was Casiotone For The Painfully Alone; a big grizzly bear of a man, all emotion, gruff-voiced, bringing his distinctly warm and human quality to synths (instruments that more commonly sound cold and unfeeling). Delivering each line as if he was just about to run out of breath, his set was an endearing series of short and to-the-point odes to love and loss, at first solo then, towards the end, joined by a live band, adding a further layer of richness to the sound.

What a great contrast, following this, to be thrown, slap bang, into one of the most amazing, high-octane and primal sets of the whole weekend, courtesy of HEALTH. Combining the organic noise of pulverising drumming of an almost tribal nature and noisy guitars with the shriek of in-your-face glitches and bleeps, this was harsh, abrasive and energising, an electro-percussive scream of anguish and rage. The incredible drummer; half caveman, half brick-shithouse - was key to the whipping up of the crowd into an early evening frenzy, and he was ably supported by the guitarist, clearly of the “throw yourself around the stage and strike rock god poses” school. Incendiary and enjoyably unsettling, with an unquantifiable but distinctly disturbing edge. Put this down as Highlight Of The Weekend Part 1.

After which, M83 on the large Pavilion Stage (the kind of indoor equivalent of the Main Stage at an outdoor festival, but in a big tented, well, pavilion, surrounded by Burger King and arcade games) could only disappoint. Their him/her breathy vocals and widescreen sounds didn’t translate brilliantly to the surroundings, nor did their kind of bland sweetness really hit the mark. Pausing only briefly to scratch heads and fail, once more, to “get” the appeal of Andrew WK (okay, you “like to party”, you’ve told us that: enough already), it was on to Highlight Of The Weekend Part 2, in the form of original (in many senses of the word) post-punk heroes Devo.

Surrounded by otherwise undoubtedly rational people who have decided, as the evening has worn on and alcohol consumption risen, that a red Devo “flowerpot hat” (actually modelled on Aztec Temples) is a perfectly reasonable merchandise purchase, the anticipation for the set builds, and is heightened by the obligatory video introduction; camp, slightly weird, satirical, that precedes the band’s arrival on stage. Once they appear, resplendent in yellow boiler suits and the aforementioned hats, they blow us all away from the off. Front man Mark Mothersbaugh is a little yellow ball of energy and fury, the entire band are tight as hell and alternately funky and tautly herky-jerky, as they rattle through highlights from their back catalogue. It is always telling when a band have the confidence not to hoard their best-known songs or greatest hits for the finale of their set, and so it was when, five songs in, they launched into ‘Whip It’ (at the same time shooting streams of coloured confetti into the delirious crowd, by now erupting into multiple moshpits), followed only a short while later by ‘Satisfaction’ and ‘Jocko Homo’.

Slowly stripping off (de-evolving?) until they are down to black tee shirts, shorts and curious shin/knee pads towards the end, this is a band that still undoubtedly have it, whatever “it” might be, in bucketloads; irreverent, arty, impassioned, clever and frighteningly, effortlessly proficient. The set ends with an appearance from unsettling man-mutant “Boogie Boy”, complete with falsetto singing and idiot prancing to ‘Beautiful World’. Wow.

In ‘Outside Love’, Pink Mountaintops have produced what is, for me, an early contender for album of the year. It was unfortunate, then, that the murky sound quality in Red Stage marred their set. The strength of their songs just about survived, but this was nevertheless, for me, something of a disappointment.

Rounding off Day One, we were lulled on our way to bed by the heavy, yet warm, sounds of Jesu. Playing in front of a beautifully soothing projected film of gently dappled woodland, this was lovely, mellow, yet at the same time epic and often very loud, with huge deep rumbling chords making the venue’s floor vibrate, and the occasional downplayed vocal recalling a quieter Evan Dando. Recommended, and a fitting end to an exemplary first day.

Saturday dawns, and a much more raucous start to the day is provided in the form of Lords, whose tuneful, metal-blues hybrid gets hungover heads banging to the big enjoyably pompous riffage and extended jams that somehow never outstay their welcome.

Next were two side-projects. First were the Retribution Gospel Choir (featuring Low’s Alan Sparhawk), whose blues-flecked F.M. rock failed to push the right buttons; then Qui, fronted by the aggressive, surly and Seriously Angry About Everything Jesus Lizard front man David Yow. This didn’t make for easy viewing or listening, with Yow prowling the stage, alternately snarling and sneering at the crowd, shouting semi-coherent lyrics like an American Mark E Smith, and telling a “non-joke joke” with no punchline.

A total shift in gear and mood next, for the very lovely Acorn, back on the Pavilion Stage. With a strong, clear, beautiful vocal and simple tuneful melodies and harmonies, this was one of those heartwarming, feel-good sets that are perfect for an outdoor (sunshine) setting, but still managed to create much the same atmosphere despite being indoors. Full of beguiling lyrical stories featuring fireflies, sunlight, county lines, constellations and gentle meditations on ageing (“I can see my years in your reflection”) that made you want to hang on every word, they managed to hit just the right note of intensity without becoming overwrought. A great warm hug of a set.

Just perfect to follow on from this, then, were Grizzly Bear, indubitably qualifiers for Ultimate Highlight Of The Weekend. Their magical, surreal beauty kicked in, on a wave of that siren-like androgynous vocal, and suddenly you felt like you were adrift, miles from Butlins or anywhere terrestrial. Mixing dream pop that is, well, dreamy, with a myriad of clever and unexpected quirks like major/minor key changes, melodic twists and jerks and twinkles from guitars and keys, the effect is unearthly, multi-techni-colour and luscious. This is music that sparkles and shimmers, soars and swoons and the band somehow manage to trigger those endorphin-producing parts of the brain with every single song that they perform. Quite simply, wonderful.

The reformed Harvey Milk, and their brand of tortured heavy riffage didn’t really take off, for me, after all the preceding grizzled joyfulness, so it was back to Pavilion for more gorgeousness in the form of Beirut. Managing to weave so many diverse foreign and unusual cultural and musical styles together in such an unforced, seamless and logical-sounding way is Zach Condon’s major gift and achievement; even in the effortless way that he can switch to singing in authentically-accented French for a Serge Gainsbourg cover. With probably the weekend’s widest selection of musical instruments on display (trumpets, tubas, accordions, trombones etc), this set was like a mini sunbaked overseas holiday, with Condon’s lovely vocal tying it all together, so that even during the solo segment one didn’t miss all the instrumental variety that had gone before. Compelling.

Errors were a strange and fun blending of post-rock and electro, with warm synths meeting chimey guitars like the strange lovechild of Mogwai and Holy Fuck. During their set I found myself grappling with contrived descriptions like “Post-Rave” and “Rock-Math-Trance”, before giving up and simply succumbing to the music’s joyous waves.

Rounding off the evening was another appearance from David Yow, this time in his main incarnation fronting The Jesus Lizard. Playing to a wildly enthusiastic crowd (they were now playing together for one of their first outings since their 2000 split), the band themselves were almost taken aback by their own success, with Yow at one point, sweetly, admitting “This is really weird: I didn’t think we were going to be this good”. The audience clearly agreed.

Sunday, the third and last day of the festival, seemed, on paper, to feature the least strong lineup. Despite their impressive, attention-grabbing opening number (which felt more like a set-closer or even encore), Shearwater failed to sustain our interest for very long, gradually tipping over from drama to melodrama as the set progressed.

Perhaps the day’s best discovery was that of Grails, in Centre Stage next. Coming on stage to eerie green lighting, atmospheric smoke and long, sustained synth and guitar notes, this was slow, statuesque and engrossing music from the off. With changing dynamics and moods; everything from ghostly, tormented drones to Eastern, sitar-flecked interludes, hard, crashing (post) rocking segments following on from intense, looped and layered vocals.

Emerging blinking into the light of the main pavilion, slightly disorientated after the Grails’ hypnotic performance, Parts & Labor were somehow both too conservative to be left-field, yet at the same time a little too mixed-up and changeable to be completely comfortable. Their set seemed full of moments that didn’t quite come off: songs would be crammed with a little too much excitement with a bit too little justification; relatively straightforward songs were drawn out with over the top extended jams at the end; a weak second vocal would be pointlessly added to the stronger main voice, and so on. Then another dud, in the form of Killing Joke’s chugging, blunderbuss approach to gothic punk, undoubtedly efficient and capable, but lacking in humour, human quirks or much else of appeal.

Better were Spiritualized, whose psychedelic agnostic gospel blues show exuded cool, despite the lack of communication between Jason Pierce and the audience, and had moments of real emotional punch when the backing singers ooh-ed their beautiful oohs, and the moving, swoonsome songs took flight.

By the end of their set it was all beginning to feel a little bit “end of term” around Butlins. Crowds seemed to have noticeably thinned as we walked around, with many people having apparently already headed for home, to ready themselves for the real world, and work, the following day. Undaunted, (or perhaps just in denial), we headed back to Red Stage, where the bonkers mixed-up Mae Shi were playing to a pretty healthy-sized crowd. Who they then proceeded to cover up, as you do, with a huge parachute. Mashing together electronic glitches with a pop-punk vocal, their schtick seemed to just about work, at their best they recalled a slightly-less-charming Dananananaykroyd, until their set ended, abruptly, and before the scheduled time.

All that remained, then, was a longer than anticipated wait to see This Will Destroy You. Dressed, like about three quarters of the male audience, in plaid shirts, their quietLOUD dynamic combined with electronic interjections (sometimes at near ear-wrecking volume), static radio crackle effects and guitar and bass rumblings all mark them out as purveyors of euphoric post-rock of the same school as (previous ATP curators and fellow Texans) Explosions In The Sky, and their ilk. Personally, I could listen to this kind of music, live, all night long, but, unfortunately all good things must end, and with their higgledy-piggledy keyboard sounds spilling out into the night, so did this set. And with it, for me, this year’s ATP ended also. Fans, you curated most excellently: another engrossing, befuddling, ridiculously-sharply-contrasting set of bands and musicians, some of whom will definitely stay with me for a long long time to come.