Let me begin by thinking back to a muddy, dilapidated day in August 2009; the third and final day of the All Points West music festival in Liberty State Park, New Jersey. Not only did the last day have a delayed opening, but overall, the organizers just couldn't pull together an impressive lineup or make it worth braving the ridiculous amounts of rain and mud. APW 2009 confirmed my suspicions of its lackluster potential. In its first two years of existence, the event lacked a certain charm that other fests around the country enjoy. Aside from the industry-centric CMJ, or small, admirable efforts like After The Jump or Siren Fest in Brooklyn, New York City does not have its own Pitchfork/Bonnaroo. But who cares? We're incredibly fortunate to have something that (most of) the rest of the country does not. Anyone who ignores the small gathering now happening annually at Monticello in the Catskill Mountains is looking in all the wrong places (or not reading the right music blogs). Just a few hours north of NYC is where the real magic happens, and trust the name: it's a party.
Most music fans have at least heard of All Tomorrow's Parties, the self proclaimed (and rightfully so called) "anti-festival" that happens in the UK every year in East Sussex and Sommerset. At first, ATP was an answer to the demand for a better means of collecting and experiencing multiple artists over a period of several days, eliminating corporate sponsorship, weather concerns and crappy sound with indoor shows. Lineups are "curated" by artists or notable famous personalities, bands and performers are hand-picked and often very, very on the money. Like a live-mix tape, the festivals take on a different personality every year. And the camp-based event, which puts artists and fans living together in the same space for an entire weekend, soon became more than just a "festival" to its attendees... it became an unidentifiable, surreal experience. Since 1999, founder Barry Hogan has kept ATP alive and free of the compromises associated with corporate sell-outs like Glastonbury and other large outdoors fests. It has since made a home in America, and recently started holding an ATP north of NYC at Kutsher's Country Club. 2008 was the first year an ATP was held on the east coast.
Part of the difficulty of getting the festival off the ground here in New York was getting people to leave the City, Hogan says. "I think the hardest task has been to educate people that its a getaway and like an anti-festival where the music sounds good through a decent PA and the line-up is incredible and you wont get rained on because its all indoors. It it is getting through to folks but we need to work on it so that it becomes a firm fixture in the festival diary every year." While I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't want to jump the dirty ship of the City to spend a weekend in the fresh air of the mountains listening to My Bloody Valentine, I see his point.
Part of the effort to educate (I'd imagine) included the creation of a film.The ambitious folks at Warp Films set out to document this experience and thus All Tomorrow's Parties
was born. "The idea came about in the early days of Warp Films existence, and it seemed a good fit ATP and Warp have a similar independent artist-driven ethos" says Hogan. The film is a documentary of the rich history of ATP, co-directed by filmmaker Jonathan Caouette, and filmed by "All Tomorrow's People," a moniker for attendees of the festival who contributed to the film. The feature itself contains the "raw and poignant" qualities that Hogan used to describe Caouette and his work. It was shot in super-8, with contributions from La Blogoteque
's Vincent Moon, who "loves ATP and has made 3 short films from recent events."
Creating All Tomorrows Parties
was a much longer process than it may seem, dating back to the beginning of the festival. The movie "has footage from the Bowlie weekender event in 1999 to the Slint event in 2005," with Caouette beginning his filming in 2006. The breadth of content is thanks to the people; over 200 attendees submitted their own recordings for the movie. And although ATP
doesn't quite use all 600 hours of footage, everyone who contributed is credited at the end. Hogan says, "these are All Tomorrow's People." And despite the impressive reach of the footage, one planned shot was left out. Hogan and the gang "wanted to use a split screen of the Samurai movie that GZA samples in Liquid Swords with him performing but [they] couldn't get clearance in time." That should give audiences an idea of what to expect from the film (i.e. awesome).
Hogan let on the thinking behind the film was very user experience oriented. "There were many ideas we considered like using a narrative etc. and talking heads but I love the way the direction went instead. The pace of it now is like experiencing the festival by arriving in the day time and going into night as if you were at the event and going back into the day. Like waking up at the event." Also, part of the recreation of experiencing ATP would have to include interaction with artists. The film is stocked with performances from past festival participants and curators, including Belle And Sebastian, Grizzly Bear, Sonic Youth, Battles, Portishead, Daniel Johnston, Grinderman, Lightning Bolt, David Cross, Animal Collective, The Boredoms, Les Savy Fav, Mogwai, Octopus Project, Slint, The Dirty Three, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Gossip, Iggy and the Stooges, A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Fuck Buttons, Micah P Hinson, Two Gallants, Mars Volta, and Akron/Family (just to name a few).
The film debuted to positive acclaim at SXSW, and has since premiered all over the world. Hogan is optimistic about the film's impact, saying "anyone that hasn't been to the festival will be encouraged to seek it out." I'd agree. With the success of current festivals in the UK, US and Australia, Hogan and the organizers hope to move the party to even more locations, including Japan. A festival out there would "be the icing on the cake" he says, but "until the right spot appears, I think it's best to wait." Judging by the work put into the film, not to mention the ten years of ATP, they won't miss their mark.
I could go on, but the film speaks for itself. "Go and see it. There is four years of blood, sweat and tears in there. You wont be disappointed." -joe puglisi