Wednesday, 11 November 2009

gigsplurge 5: all tomorrow's parties curated by mogwai, april 2000

All Tomorrow's Parties curated by Mogwai, Camber Sands Pontin's, 7-9 April 2000

This was the first All Tomorrow's Parties (though, technically, not the first indie-hipster holiday-camp shindig: that honour went to Belle & Sebastian's Bowlie Weekender, 12 months before). Since 2000, ATP has become an unavoidable, faceless fixture on the indie circuit. Festivals on three continents; four in the UK this year; a series of standalone gigs, and the 'Don't Look Back' concept--a licence for anybody from Rodan upwards to print indie money. The final instalment in gigsplurge will cover their tenth anniversary festival, due in December.

At the time, festivals were failing: Phoenix, one of the big four, disappeared completely. The others narrowed their focus: Reading as a naff punk-metal showdown, with an occasional rap or pop act for throwing bottles of piss; Glastonbury as a Sunday-supplement bonanza; T in the Park as a bland boozefest. Right now, festivals are failing: the mid-decade boom of micro-festivals contracted quickly, with numerous outfits folding over the past two years through lack of bands, or lack of audience.

What did ATP do right? Their development is closely mirrored by the expansion across the decade of Pitchfork, with whom they are now closely involved. ATP followed Pitchfork's canny refinement of critical vision. Not always to the good: in a narrowly nationalistic sense, the 2000 festival was the only one which gave more than a cursory presence for British bands--though moving elsewhere hasn't hurt the business model. For the first half of the decade, ATP was frustrating for the overbooking of unlistenable post-rock nonsense; it's now frustrating because of a surfeit of highly competent Canadian side-projects.

The signs of impending enormity weren't immediately apparent in 2000, though that shouldn't reflect badly on the organisers. Postponed from September 1999 due to poor ticket sales, this was still as smoothly-organised a festival as I'd seen, and on a relatively new model. Casino was on telly from 3am. Nonetheless, compared with ATP's plush, colourful new venue at Butlin's Minehead, Camber Sands was cold, sandblown, and fuelled by electricity tickets sold from a front office disguised as a tree.

It was also in the middle of nowhere--although on a particularly tune-free morning the GMS team did make it as far as Rye, where we bought a board game based on Neighbours and the best of Kenny Rogers. The Kenny cover was beautiful--an artist's rendering of the big fella in an open blue tracksuit with nothing on underneath. If I could find it on the internets, I'd share.

Reviews to follow.

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