No tomorrows' parties
June 16, 2016 7:46 AM   Subscribe

All Tomorrow's Parties, the independent festival organisation, is shutting down with immediate effect.

ATP was formed out of the Bowlie festival, which was curated by Belle & Sebastian in 1999, and proceeded to stage independent festivals, usually in seaside holiday camps, in Britain, the US, Australia and Iceland, as well as running a record label and organising other gigs. ATP's festivals featured curated line-ups of esteemed independent/alternative artists, and were characterised by an absence of commercialism; unlike other festivals, there was no corporate sponsors' presence.

They had had financial problems over recent years, which resulted in the cancellation of the Jabberwocky festival with a few days' notice, and more recently, artists including John Cale and Múm pulling out of their festivals due to lack of payment.

One immediate casualty of the bankruptcy is the fourth ATP Iceland festival, due to start on the first of July, which is now cancelled. Other gigs have been moved to different promoters.
posted by acb (26 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Boo. I had a good time in 2005 (Slint) and 2008 (Explosions in the Sky). I had held out hope of going back sometime in the future, even though my now elderly constitution probably could not take a weekend of drinking while wandering around a mostly abandoned holiday camp.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:51 AM on June 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not unexpected, if this recent Guardian report is anything to go by: All Tomorrow's Parties: where did it all go wrong?
posted by verstegan at 7:56 AM on June 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

I had many good memories from various ATPs: ATP Vs. Pitchfork at Camber Sands, last year's Nightmare Before Christmas, the Jeff Mangum one, Bowlie II, and all three ATP Icelands. I made friends, discovered great bands and took back many memories (and considerable band merchandise). So,


I just hope that, if ATP is dead, it stays dead, rather than LiveNation or AEG or someone buying the name at a bankruptcy auction and destroying every thoughtful thing it stood for.
posted by acb at 7:56 AM on June 16, 2016 [10 favorites]

In more immediate questions: what do I do in four days in Reykjavík? I'm guessing there'll be ATP refugees there who couldn't cancel their flights or get refunds. I wonder if anyone will organise sideshows by at least some of the Icelandic bands there.
posted by acb at 7:57 AM on June 16, 2016

Oh no, that makes me so sad. I was hoping to get to one of their Iceland festivals at some point, I thought I had time! I was also excited when they re-started their England festivals, and really wanted to go back to one. We had so much fun at the two we went to (see Robocop is Bleeding's comment).
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 8:07 AM on June 16, 2016

take it from someone pretty far into this industry these days -- festivals, especially "Alt" ones, are in deep deep trouble.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:23 AM on June 16, 2016

festivals, especially "Alt" ones, are in deep deep trouble.

There does seem to be quite a glut of them, and all within the same general season.
posted by Existential Dread at 8:25 AM on June 16, 2016

The pop ones will be OK, but anything involving multiple venues or stages of rock and roll bands are very likely to announce that they are cancelled or be radically reduced this year. I don't know why its all happening this year but its definitely connected somehow to SFX tanking, and AEG and LiveNation both trying to corner the market on outdoor single venue fests in major (and minor) markets.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:38 AM on June 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Is there more back story on this? Sad I could never make it to one. Alas my live does not exist at that level of awesomeness.
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:40 AM on June 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I wish all these festivals would die.

I just want to see one band at a time and I never get to because they are all tied up in festival contracts with ridiculous time and geopgraphic exclusions. Lollapalozaa and Riot Fest suck up a lot of the larger acts I'd be willing to see individually here in Chicago.

At the very least i would like the exclusive contracts prohibited somehow.
posted by srboisvert at 8:41 AM on June 16, 2016 [11 favorites]

> I just hope that, if ATP is dead, it stays dead, rather than LiveNation or AEG or someone buying the name at a bankruptcy auction...

The official announcement says that they've found promoters to pick up the remaining UK shows, so zombie ATP will shamble on for a while animated by forces which may be benevolent or malevolent. It remains to be seen.
posted by ardgedee at 8:42 AM on June 16, 2016

I was at Bowlie, and it's something I'll always remember, especially the message board where people left notes to arrange parties and describe missed connections, all back in the day when mobile phones were still not common. The ATP festival model is great: manageable crowds, easy access, good sleeping arrangements, proper toilets, great sound systems -- holiday camps know their stuff -- and random encounters with bands who are having just as much fun as you.

However, as verstegan's link makes clear, this was on the cards for a while: ATP has mostly survived for as long as it has because the bands and attendees willed it to continue and sucked up Barry Hogan's shambolic approach to organising venues and paying artists.

The profusion of more conventional "stages in a field" or "stages across downtown" festivals that sell a kajillion tickets is definitely a mixed blessing. If you've got the endurance and bladder control and tent-tolerance to go to a big festival, I'm sure it's great, but I've grown out of that. I was lucky to see the previous incarnation of Moogfest in Asheville, which allowed the city to punch above its weight and bring in top quality acts, and occasionally we'll get bands stopping off for small gigs who are en route to Bonnaroo or Hopscotch, but festival season now seems to run from May to September (plus SXSW in the spring). That means the mid-sized venues (1000 capacity or so) have pretty lean calendars over the summer: tribute bands, club nights, movie nights, Kevin Bacon.
posted by holgate at 8:53 AM on June 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

We don't seem to be having a problem with 'alt' festivals in general in the UK going bust, in fact it is the mainstream festivals that are losing custom to the boutique ones.
posted by asok at 8:55 AM on June 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Proximity is key - sure, it took forever and a day to drive out to Minehead (which I preferred over Camber Sands - Rye was surrounded by fields of bunnies with neurological disorders) on twisty tiny roads, but once you were there and checked in, you had everything you needed a few minutes walk from your base. Being able to go back to your room and regroup was one of the best parts of ATP. I can take a few hours of crowds and noise, but after that I need an hour of downtime to get my stamina back. I don't think there are any English-style holiday camps here in the States that could produce something similar.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:11 AM on June 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

At the very least i would like the exclusive contracts prohibited somehow.

The idea that ATP ever could ever have managed to draft a contract professionally enough to restrict artists' freedom, even had they wanted to, is pretty humourous.
posted by howfar at 9:31 AM on June 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

ATP was in trouble last time I went to Primavera two years ago (one of the stages has their name) and there were concerns then the stage could be named after a dead company, and months later, Jabberwocky was cancelled proving yes, it was too good to be true.

Unless a organizer is willing to charge upwards or €500 for a regular three-day pass, I don't think it's remotely possible to have a music festival with international musicians without some corporate sponsorship or external financing. There's a limit of how much anyone can do on good will alone, and ATP might have wasted a lot of it over the past couple of years.
posted by lmfsilva at 10:09 AM on June 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

For the sake of my remaining faith in humanity, I really hope Barry Hogan doesn't show up in the Mossack Fonseca papers.
posted by acb at 11:18 AM on June 16, 2016

Good. They should have stopped years ago.

They burnt so many contacts, and screwed people over so often that I'm surprised that they managed to get one of the two Pontins weekenders on this time around. Moving or cancelling festivals at short notice was near enough the expectation for the last couple of years.

Jabberwocky was a debacle - original venue gets announced before contracts are signed or deposits paid, and then moved to the Excel conference venue (with a mail touting the Dyson Airblades available there). The big ticket agencies wouldn't deal with them, so they'd been selling the tickets through some random Antipodean ticketing platform. Then when ATP cancelled days before the event due to poor ticket sales they tried to push people to the ticket company for refunds, who then tried to push people to ATP (as they were just a platform who had already passed the money on). Oh, and they'd been tweeting about being nearly sold out and pushing people to buy until the day before. Fans started setting up make up shows on short notice, and then ATP told bands they were holding them to their exclusive contracts... (!) Absolute debacle.

They announced the Stewart Lee and Drive Like Jehu weekenders for this year. Two similar line ups, two weekends apart. REALLY good idea that. Everyone knows ATP are a mess and Barry Hogan hasn't exactly got a good track record, but some people remember the good times, try to wish this away, and give him money.

Cue the music.

People spot that Pontins are taking bookings for the same weekends as the festivals for standard family breaks. People call and get told by Pontins that ATP is cancelled, mainly due to having not paid agreed sums. ATP claim this is all a misunderstanding, bluff and bluster, and eventually confirm that both weekenders will DEFINITELY happen at Pontins Prestatyn. Think it's around this time that people spotted Willwal had a debenture (short term loan) registered against it at Companies House.

Few weeks later, ATP announce that Drive Like Jehu is being moved to the Victoria Warehouse in Manchester. Because they've agreed with Pontins that it wouldn't work with other holidaymakers on the site. Not because they could only pay the deposit for one weekend or anything, oh no.

Victoria Warehouse - not a holiday camp with chalets which people have paid for. Still, not to worry, ATP say they will have accommodation for everyone within walking distance of the venue. Because large scale late bookings in cities are very cheap and affordable, right? So people start asking "where am I staying Barry?", and get stalling replies.

Get to the weekend of the Stewart Lee weekender, and it mostly happens. Headliners pull out due to ATP not honouring agreements, some bands don't play due to travel not being booked (I think from memory), other ones walk the ticket line telling people they haven't been paid, but it mainly happens. People still haven't been given details about accommodation for the Drive Like Jehu festival starting the following Friday, and find out the inevitable why on the Sunday of the Stewart Lee one, when Drive Like Jehu post this:

I'd recommend reading it, but it highlights are that ATP didn't book flights for bands, asked to postpone the festival to November, and had no funds to book the promised accommodation for people. Remember, this is five days before the festival is due to start. Or to put it as ATP did, they explored all the options with the bands, and came to the conclusion that it was not financially viable.

Not to worry though, ATP Iceland is a separate entity, not affected by this, and would DEFINITELY still go ahead. Scroll forward to today...

I don't think ATP or Barry Hogan are malicious, I just think they're staggeringly incompetent, and genuinely bury their collective heads in the sand when things start to go wrong. I just really hope they don't phoenix again and rip any more of my friends off.

Please, just let them die. If they come back again and announce a festival line up you really like, remember this, and don't give them any money.
posted by MattWPBS at 12:48 PM on June 16, 2016 [8 favorites]

To just add a quote from a friend - ATP's essentially the Kickstarter of festivals now. Give them some money, and they might put one on.
posted by MattWPBS at 12:49 PM on June 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Hearing that Stewart Lee was curating this year's made this the first festival in my life that I've ever wanted to attend. I didn't, ultimately, and losing my job right before the festival didn't help, but it was a shame to hear that big names pulled out at the last minute. This really is too bad.
posted by rorgy at 1:20 PM on June 16, 2016

To just add a quote from a friend - ATP's essentially the Kickstarter of festivals now. Give them some money, and they might put one on.

Of the ones I've bought tickets to, they had a 87.5% rate of coming good, and when they did, it was great. (The other 12.5% is ATP Iceland 2016, for which I had an early-bird ticket costing about £60.) So no hate for ATP from me.
posted by acb at 5:09 PM on June 16, 2016

Sigh, so the festival is never coming back to Asbury Park, NJ, then, huh...
posted by armacy at 5:35 PM on June 16, 2016

I really liked the musical side of ATP. They had some fantastic lineups both of artists I knew and artists I discovered through their festivals. But to my mind Hogan should not be running a business.

I don't think it's been mentioned in this thread but ATP already went bankrupt once before, owing a lot of money to artists and to others. Barry Hogan set up a new company (Wilwal Ltd) and bought the name and branding of ATP from the liquidators, and continued on as before. Which makes me wonder if he won't just do the same thing again.

I hope not. I'd love to see Hogan advising someone else on festival lineups and marketing and so on. But as a festival organiser? No. He doesn't pay bands. He flat-out lies to his audience. He announces festivals without having the venue booked - and keeps tickets on sale even when the venue itself had said the festival wasn't taking place.

He gets music sites to take down threads or articles that are critical of ATP, articles that later prove to be correct (this happened a lot on Drowned In Sound, for example). His company has been a train wreck for a while now and he has carried on as if everything was fine. (Their last annual report showed that they had 16 pounds in the bank - not 16,000 pounds, sixteen pounds and that they owed money to essentially a pay-day lending firm).

(But I accept reasonable people can disagree - for example I'd call the Mangum ATP a failure, even though it was enjoyable, because it was rescheduled which cost me a lot of money in train tickets. acb says it came good, presumably because to his mind the great lineup trumped the rescheduling. Certainly not an unreasonable argument).
posted by Pink Frost at 6:11 PM on June 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't think there are any English-style holiday camps here in the States that could produce something similar.

Kutsher's in upstate NY worked really well for ATP NY 2008 (per friends' reports), 2009, and 2010. (Except that they didn't make any money). The first night in 2009 I was physically and emotionally exhausted after Suicide played so I went upstairs to take a nap. I was completely out, but got a text saying the Jesus Lizard was about to start and was in the middle of it all ten minutes later.

Those were some of the most amazing festivals I had ever been to, all around. They felt too good to be true... because they were. I had been interested in trying other ATP festivals, but the cracks were starting to show and I was not prepared to travel for them anymore. Good thing I moved to NYC and was able to go to ATP Asbury Park in 2011, which was also, though the venues weren't quite as good and everything was a little more spread out. It did not have the holiday camp feel, but it was still good.

I was planning to go to Asbury Park 2012... and it was sad watching it, well, if not exactly fall apart, descend into the mess it became. It moved to Manhattan, not far from where I lived, and I no longer cared to go. I have plenty of friends that tried to go to other events that got burned worse, and that's the sort of thing that really broke this; most of their audience didn't trust them anymore.

They aimed for the stars, catering to music geeks with odd taste - because that's who they were - and for a while, they reached them.
posted by mountmccabe at 7:19 PM on June 16, 2016

Kutsher's in upstate NY worked really well for ATP NY 2008 (per friends' reports), 2009, and 2010.
I was there in 2008. The music was great but I couldn't believe the area hadn't been condemned. (It was a few years later.) It seriously felt like everybody had snuck into an abandoned property.
posted by dfan at 5:09 AM on June 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

The 2003 Long Beach ATP at the Queen Mary was a stormer of a festival. Sad to see it fade out like this.
posted by quartzcity at 7:38 AM on June 20, 2016

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