The allure of the smaller festival is obvious. Most punters with a genuine interest in music and community opt for more the intimate and less corporate event, time and again, as the perfect antidote to the thousands-heavy throngs that pervade the faceless big business models of the larger festivals. It goes without saying then that these punters are more than happy to revel in a festival experience that involves a few local favourites and the best of the new batch on the go too. It is unusual for the smaller events to host international line-ups of influential musical stalwarts, but that’s okay.
One festival bucks that trend, however, and has been doing so for 10 years now. Originally inspired by the Bowlie Weekender with Belle and Sebastian in 1999, All Tomorrow’s Parties has turned into something of a global phenomenon, in a sort of underground/for-those-in-the-know sort of way, and manages to present some of the biggest names from music past and present, always in an intimate location. All Tomorrow’s Parties is an experience like no other, and that experience has now made it on to the silver screen with ATP: The Film which is set to be screened in the IFI’s upcoming Stranger Than Fiction Documentary Festival. State spoke to festival founder Barry Hogan.
How did you realise that a small festival with such stellar line-ups was ever going to be feasible and did it take a long time to start making a profit on your original input?
The idea for ATP was to create an alternative to the bigger festivals such as Glastonbury, Reading and V Festival, which started the same year as ATP. I was frustrated with going to some of these festivals where only 3-4 bands were worth seeing and waiting around in a field with 50,000 other people to watch a band look far away and the sound disappear when the wind changed.
I designed ATP to be an event that I wanted to go to. I never set it up to become a money-making machine and we avoided sponsorship so we could keep integrity in the event and remain true to its goal of providing a great platform for old and new quality music, without selling our souls to the devil. That’s where most festivals go wrong. It stops becoming about the music and more about how much money people can make. But I do laugh when I see people like Vince Power advertising Hop Farm and trying to boast how much integrity he has, that he has no corporate branding and no sponsorship. They even advertise no sponsorship on their posters! We have been doing that for 10 years but it’s not like we are hoping we get an award for it.
ATP does make money from shows but like all promoters, we lose money too: it’s a gambling business, that’s for sure, but whatever money we make, we put it all back into the events and try and make each one better than the last. Our goal is to present each event like it’s our last one, so we give more than 100% to make the experience something fans will remember with fond memories. I think this has paid off because we have a very loyal crowd who have kept the ATP flame alight for 10 years.
ATP started off in Camber Sands and now events are taking place on a global scale: is this how you always envisioned it?
Yeah, I always thought that when we did the Bowlie Weekender (the pre-ATP event) we would take it around the world and tour it like a Lollapalooza style event by presenting bands such as Tortoise, Aphex Twin or Shellac. It never ever got like that but we are slowly setting up events in some amazing places, like the Catskills in New York and Mount Buller in Victoria, Australia. Both are unique settings that make each of these events an adventure.
Are there any plans for more international locations for the festival?
Not as yet, but if we could stage one in Japan, I think that would be the icing on the cake. We have looked at places out there but until the right spot appears, I think its best to wait.
State was at The Breeders’ ATP last month. Was it a thrill to hear Kim Deal thanking you for such a great experience and saying you are likely the only music promoter in the world who hears those words regularly? It’s obviously a great testament to the nature of the festival and how it operates.
That was so nice to hear and we have had people say some super kind words about us, but we treat bands with respect and I think that artists appreciate that. That’s the difference with ATP: we invite bands to stay all weekend and enjoy the event for three days, and compare that to something like T In The Park where say, you are someone like Lily Allen – you might have your dressing room for two hours and once your show is done, you have to leave so Primal Scream can take it over before they go on. We want all the artists to walk away with positive thoughts about the event, not to feel like they have been herded around like cattle.
How close has ATP come to creating the perfect line-up, in your eyes?
It’s hard to say which one is the perfect one, as they are all different interpretations of people’s musical tastes so it’s like comparing apples and oranges. My favourite event was probably The Dirty Three: the music that was presented that weekend was mind blowing and we had everything from Grinderman’s first ever show to Roscoe Mitchell of the Art Ensemble of Chicago to Low, and it was crazy, running from one stage to the next to try and catch stuff. I think this Christmas, when My Bloody Valentine curate, is already starting to look very special. Where else would you get to see Sun Ra, EPMD, MBV and Sonic Youth all on one bill?
ATP: The Film is being shown as part of the IFI Stranger Than Fiction Documentary Festival in Dublin. How did the film come about?
Both ourselves and Warp Films felt ATP deserved to be documented. 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. Luke Morris, the producer of the movie, asked Jonathan Caouette, who had made Tarnation a year or so earlier, to come on board and they developed this idea of using found and contributed fan and musicial footage to create a collage that would try to represent the spirit of the festival. Thurston Moore called All Tomorrow’s Parties the ultimate mix tape and we wanted Warp to convey that idea on film.
Was it long in the making?
Yes, it was a long process that was filmed from the very beginning, which has footage from the Bowlie Weekender event in 1999 to the Slint event in 2005, but Jonathan Cahouette began his shooting in 2006 and we ended up with about 600 hours of footage, with submissions and contributions from over 200 people. Although we only used footage from less than half of them in the final film, we still credited everyone on the end of the film. These are the All Tomorrow’s People.
It only has a select few screenings lined up thus far: are there plans to take it to many other film festivals etc.?
Yes, there are screenings lined up the Edinburgh Film Festival, The Los Angeles Film Festival and Melbourne, as well as a host of others. The reaction so far has been so positive and it’s refreshing to hear from ATP regulars that the makers of this film have captured the spirit of the festival perfectly in this movie and it has all been pulled together by Luke Morris who was the driving force in making this film what it is.
ATP: The Film is showing as part of the Stranger Than Fiction documentary film festival at the IFI, Dublin, on Saturday, June 20 at 9pm. See www.irishfilm.ie for more details. State has two pairs of tickets to giveaway, however. To win just email your name to