All Tomorrow’s Parties: The Film screening with Les Savy Fav - The Deaf Institute, Manchester, 23/10/09
Les Savy Fav
There are two reasons why All Tomorrow’s Parties is the best festival around.
The first is beds, the second is showers. For the uninformed, punters at ATP stay in chalets, rather than the typical festival accommodation of tents. A prospect of a decent night’s sleep in a proper bed followed by a nice shower in the morning can make almost anything bearable; even the most hardened of Glastonbury fans would probably admit that a bed would be preferable to a sleeping bag on some rocks in a cheap tent. Somehow, what is ATP’s greatest selling point doesn’t really feature in the ATP film. But then a ninety minute shot of an empty chalet complete with basic cooking facilities, lounge and the aforementioned bed and shower wouldn’t make for a great film.
What ATP: The Film does manage to capture the sense of community that develops at their events. With the festival having a capacity of around 9,000, coupled with the fact that there are only two bars, the audience and bands are all pretty much stuck with each other. Compared to Reading Festival, where there’s a strong divide between VIP areas and the 180,000 fans, ATP sometimes comes across as one big happy family. Moments such as Grizzly Bear playing an acoustic set on the beach or Lightning Bolt playing an afternoon set outside of John Peel’s chalet capture the festival’s relaxed attitude and its lack of band/audience divide, which is at odds to the standard festival approach of band’s only turning up for their allotted set times and disappearing as soon as they’re done. Appearing in footage cribbed from the 2004 Dirty Three curated weekend, Warren Ellis confirms this ‘bands as fans’ approach by spending most of his camera time chasing after the various bands he booked for the weekend.
Compiled from both professional and amateur footage collected over the last ten years of the festival, shots of bands and punters are cut in with footage from the 1950s. The film opens with Battles’ performance of ‘Atlas’ from the 2007 weekend, which is synched up with snippets of dancing campers from Butlins’ heyday, replacing the typical ATP audience of beards and flannel shirts. Whilst ATP: The Film is very visually appealing, it doesn’t necessarily act as complete history of the festival, which is hardly surprising as to condense 10 years worth of music festival into an hour and a half would be a tall order. What ATP: The Film serves best as is an advert, or a briefing for the festival. The shots of indie kids watching obscure bands in the comfort of a holiday camp don’t always communicate the whole ten-year long history of the festival, but they certainly make you want to be a part of it. Until May 2010, I’ll have to make do with watching the film.
Also making an appearance in the film are tonight’s headliners Les Savy Fav. Les Savy Fav’s Tim Harrington knows how to put on a rock show. Opening with ‘The Equestrian’ he charges into the slightly muted audience, crawls around the floor and possibly humps someone at the front. The band plays on completely unfazed. The next song sees Harrington scale the balcony and then the rafters of The Deaf Institute, where he perches himself for a while, only to carefully climb back down to the balcony, as if he can hear everyone collectively thinking “don’t fall down, don’t fall down.” He ends his brief trip with a backflip onto the stage. Despite announcing that it was “awesome”, the rest of the band plays on completely unfazed. The rest of the set sees Harrington in various states of undress, spending more time in the audience than on the stage, swapping t shirts with one (un)lucky punter and generally rendering all other rock and roll front men completely obsolete. During all of this, the rest of the band plays on completely unfazed by what’s going on around them. For the encore, having whipped the crowd into a frenzy, Les Savy Fav have a lot to deliver the final blow. Delivering a final one-two punch of ‘The Sweat Descends’ and ‘Je T’aime’, which sees Harrington crowd surfing on a mattress he produced from back stage, Les Savy Fav confirms themselves as one of the best live acts around. Meanwhile, the rest of the band plays on completely unfazed.
Film = 7/10
Band = 8/10