At the end of November, the UK Festival Awards will name 2009’s victors in what will be a rare instance of the results of democracy being categorically wrong. There is no dispute about which is the best festival in the country, or even the world – nothing can touch All Tomorrow’s Parties. Held at either Minehead’s Butlins or Camber Sands’ Pontins since 1999, bands such as Mogwai, Sleater-Kinney and Slint have curated the line-up, and next May, the newly reformed Pavement will take the helm. Over the past decade, “All Tomorrow’s People” – from renowned cinematographer Vincent Moon to fans – have been lovingly documenting the escapades of spectators and bands alike, brought together in a heartwarming keepsake film from Warp.
There’s no denying that both Butlins and Pontins are horrible places forgotten by time, but under an influx of beardy music lovers and a layer of fuzzy film, the documentary has the power to make them look nothing short of iconic – archive footage of marionettes set to Battles’ ‘Atlas’ is Grand Guignol for a Pitchfork crowd, Beth Ditto howling in a spectator’s face has all the white noise fervour of a deranged street preacher, and Animal Collective’s appearance is a faded souvenir of when they used to live up to their carnal nomenclature.
“It’s like taking your record collection and putting it on a stage,” a fan is overheard saying. “It’s a festival for people who are seriously into the same kind of music.” It’s true – what sets ATP apart from other festivals is its absolute lack of conflict – go to Glastonbury and the genuine music fans are second to Grazia readers who’ve heard that wellies and jumpsuits are a good look this year, and even smaller festivals like Green Man, utterly lovely as they are, can at times grate with the arguably incompatible mix of families and hedonists. ATP’s not like that at all – everyone’s there with the same agenda, often to see legendary bands coaxed out of hiatus by organiser Barry Hogan, and always to escape to a strange little corner of the country to dick around doing gymnastics off the balconies and hurtling down pathways in luggage cages.
The scenes of such shenanigans are as warm to watch as an old family film, as are those of Butlins’ tireless security guards looking perturbed as a fan screams “COME ON!” in Lightning Bolt drummer Brian Chippendale’s face as they play outside the Queen Vic, and trying to persuade A Hawk And A Hacksaw to stop playing the fiddle in the amusement arcade. Old footage of nuclear families visiting the holiday camps during their heyday is interspersed with the more modern scenes, and it’s easy to laugh at how comically quaint they look until you realise that in 30 years, your grandkids will watch this film and chuckle at the primitiveness of nan and grandad’s idea of fun. I look forward to that day.
All Tomorrow’s Parties is released on November 15th. However, if you pre-order you can get it shipped to you by 9th November here.
ATP DVD extras include:
- over 60 minutes of full length performance cuts
- commentary from ATP promoters Barry Hogan and Deborah Kee Higgins
- 40 page full colour booklet, including 10 years of ATP artwork and programme introductions
- the DVD is also a key that can be used to unlock exclusive bonus content online, including Vincent Moon’s footage from ATP New York, interviews, more full length performances and lots more