Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Review - Various - All Tomorrow's Parties - Directed by: Jonathan Caouette & ATP Films

Various - All Tomorrow's Parties - Directed by: Jonathan Caouette & ATP Films

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7 out of 10

You had to be there, that's the general feeling after watching the film marking 10 years of the All Tomorrow's Parties festival. Either because the performances were so good that film could never fully capture the moment, such as Grinderman's rampant 2007 set, or because eventually indifference settles in towards clips of strangers being drunk, performing covers of 'Maps' and making out during Seasick Steve and The Boredoms. Those are their festival stories, nobody else's, and it's not much different from being shown other people's holiday photos.

This film, though, would be nothing without the fans - a collaborative effort, film by fans, artists and filmmakers has been cut together by director Jonathan Caouette, most thrillingly at the start of the film when various footage of two different performances of 'Atlas' by Battles build to a rowdy climax. Most of the clips are from 2004 onwards, since when the availability of relatively cheap cameras and phones and YouTube has made everyone a potential documentary maker.

ATP's back story is covered briefly in a sequence where founder Barry Hogan watches himself being interviewed on The Culture Show. There are unanswered questions, such as how it stays sponsorship-free or how curators are chosen, but mini-manifestos from Jerry Garcia, Thurston Moore, Patti Smith and Iggy Pop certainly explain at least part of what ATP stands for - reclaiming rock & roll from big business and industry. It's worth considering during the clips of chalets bustling with ad hoc 'fan bands', an idea that has since been co-opted for multinational brands' for ad campaigns.

Audience and artists living, mingling and performing alongside each other (as Daniel Johnston, Lightning Bolt and Grizzly Bear are filmed doing) is a great part of ATP's appeal, but it's the action onstage that's the most exciting here, such as a lush version of 'The Boy With The Arab Strap' by original festival curators Belle & Sebastian, and invigorating, intense performances by Yeah Yeah Yeahs; a ritualistic, chaotic Stooges; and furiously funky and lo-fi Gossip. Les Savy Fav, who performed at the film's screening tour in October, brings the stage to the audience and together they sum up 10 years of ATP as good as anyone when they shout: "We were there when the world got great! We have to make it that way!"


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