So last weekend I went to Butlins for "Ten Years of ATP", the tenth birthday party of the All Tomorrow's Parties music festival aka ATP.
I'm going to steal from Wikipedia to explain what ATP is all about.
Named after the song "All Tomorrow's Parties" by The Velvet Underground, it was founded by Barry Hogan in 1999 as an alternative to larger, more corporate festivals like Reading or Glastonbury, with a tendency towards post-rock, avant-garde, and underground hip hop, along with more traditional rock fare, but presented in an environment more intimate than a giant stadium or huge country field. ATP is a sponsorship-free festival where the organisers and artists stay in the same accommodation as the fans.
... Artists, usually musicians (but sometimes visual artists like Matt Groening or Jake and Dinos Chapman) are asked to curate the festival by inviting their favourite performers to play. The idea is that it is akin to dipping into the curator's record collection, or as Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth described it, "It's the ultimate mix tape". Steve Albini, a curator in 2002, has been quoted as stating that "There are three things in the world that I endorse: Abbey Road ... Nutter Butter Sandwich Cookies; and All Tomorrow's Parties," while Mike Patton stated it was his favourite gig of all time."
I've been to four ATPs so far; I would have been to more, but I only discovered its existence a couple of years ago - it's pretty underground. However, I'm proud to say that I'm one of All Tomorrow's People; you might recall me mentioning a film to which I contributed, also called "All Tomorrow's Parties" - well, that film is all about this festival.
If you've never been to an ATP before, I can't over-emphasise how good a fest it is.
It goes without saying that the music is fantastic, but this bit: "ATP is a sponsorship-free festival where the organisers and artists stay in the same accommodation as the fans" makes it a whole other world from, say, Glastonbury or Latitude.
There's no branding, no hard sell, no-one shoving leaflets in your face. There's no inaccessible VIP area, we're all staying together, and there's nothing more bizarrely wonderful than being in Butlins and seeing Four Tet buying loo roll, or having a grinning Mike Patton push in front of you in a queue, or watching Wu Tang Clan playing slot machines (these are real examples).
Anyway, for these 10th anniversary celebrations, past curators had been invited back as well as some of the most popular acts.
We managed to cram in shows by The Breeders, The Mars Volta, Shellac, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Battles, Dirty Three, Sunn 0))), Deerhoof, Tortoise, Mudhoney, Explosions in the Sky, Crispin Glover, The Magic Band (minus Captain Beefheart), múm, F*ck Buttons, Stephen Malkmus (from Pavement), Polvo, Afrirampo and Lightning Bolt.
Worst show was Karen O and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs - after coming on more than half an hour late (this is not the done thing at ATP, as the schedules are so tightly packed), her performance was comically bad, like a poor Nutbush City Limits-era Tina Turner.
Best music show was Tortoise - despite starting at 2 am, they energised the crowd with their glorious and beautiful set.
Best non-music show was Crispin Glover's Big Slide Show. Better known as George McFly from Back to the Future, his performance consisted of the maddest, funniest narration laid over slides from various eccentric tomes he has penned.
Glover also screened "What Is It?", a self-funded experimental film of his, and the first in a trilogy, and which frankly disturbed the bejeesus out of me.
Warren Ellis of Dirty Three, Grinderman and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Most frenetic show was Lightning Bolt guest-starring Afrirampo - I'm so glad I stood right at the back for this as much drumming, crowd-surfing, screaming, and stripping occurred.
Best music discovery was múm - I'd never heard of this Icelandic ensemble, but I don't think I've ever seen such a captivating and joyful performance.
Best non-music discovery was Wizard People, Dear Reader - ATP has its own TV channel which it pipes into the chalets and one of the things they screened was this hilarious version of the first Harry Potter film with a spoof soundtrack.
Most fun experience was The Breeders' happy, singalong set followed by the birthday cake that they wheeled out and the subsequent mini-party for festival organisers Barry Hogan, Deborah Kee Higgins and Shaun Kendrick.
Karen O even wrote on my face:
And last but not least, the most surreal experience by far was having Kelly Deal from The Breeders give me fertility advice, whilst we all knitted together in the bar.
Me and my friend knitting with Kelley Deal
All Tomorrow's Parties, the best weekend bar none. Thanks ATP!
Celebrity stalking par excellence
And if you're missing ATP TV, maybe this will help with the withdrawal symptoms: