Earlier this year, while cheekily browsing through the dog-eared books at the Photographers Gallery, I stumbled across a volume containing a series of lurid technicolour photos of Butlins in the 50s. It was like a time capsule back to a more innocent era of bitter, Brylcream and buttery skin. Entitled Our True Intent Is All For Your Delight in a direct reference to the advertising slogan coined by the resort way back when, there was something in the weird syntax of that eerie Brave New World-like mantra that reminded me of ATP.


Founded by Barry Hogan ten years ago, ATP is single-handedly responsible for making the idea of spending a weekend with five of your stupidest friends in a hut made of asbestos lined up in uniform rows like a seaside resort Belsen seem like a real gas. In adopting Butlins as their home, they’ve made music festivals comfortable(ish - damp is a little sharp on the lungs) and clean, without ever losing any of the associated hedonism. Put simply, the true intent of ATP has been to fuck us all up delightfully, while soundtracking our descent into ruin with some of the best/awful/stupid/utterly ridiculous music ears have ever heard.

With a decade of getting it right under it’s belt, ATP have pieced together an eponymous film documenting just what goes on between and behind those Butlins chalet lines. And yes, of course they’ve promoted the film by leaning on that Our True Intent... mantra. Why wouldn’t they?

The film was screened at the Forum this Monday, directly followed by a pant-creaming performance by ATP-staples Les Savy Fav that confirmed, once again, that Tim Harrington is the sexiest fat man on the planet. But it was the film I was there to see.

I’ve been attending ATP festivals pretty regularly since ruining myself as its debut outing in 2000. Like most of the people gathered at the Forum, I was excited to see whether I or any of my friends had made the final cut. Sadly, I struck out, but the film didn’t completely lose its allure.

Without any conventional narrative arc to hold it together, other than a vague structure based around the breaking and dawning of three consecutive days and nights (like the weekends spent there, duh), All Tomorrow’s Parties is an exercise in montage, comprised of an even mixture of live performances, archive clips and, most successfully, fan footage. Interspersed between the clips of numerous bands of varying stature (The Octopus Project anyone?), we’re presented with what is essentially an indie You’ve been Framed: a girl falls from a balcony while a friend enquires in dulcet Northern tones: “what the fuck were you doing?”; group of boys crammed inside a metal luggage trolley smash their drunk faces into the concrete; a feeble indie kid sitting in a sink wails along to an acoustic guitar while his eyes roll so far back in his end he almost travels back through time. These are the best bits, although Lightning Bolt and Iggy Pop make suitably stirring cameos.

All Tomorrow’s Parties makes clear the obvious point that the best thing about music festivals is very rarely the music, even when that music is the most amazing music ever . As great as Sonic Youth and Battles and Shellac or whoever are, they’re never going to attempt to throw a chair through your chalet window because they’re convinced they’re caught in a scene from American Splendour or be found rolling around an arcade speaking to computer games with a patch of sylvia on their T shirt so large it looks like they’ve just run a marathon. Only your best friends do that (if you’re lucky).

ATP are currently touring the film around the UK, with Les Savy Fav in tow. More information on which can be found here. If you miss that, the DVD is available from 9th November. There are also three scheduled ATPs in the next 7 months, all of which, I’m told, are sold out. But still, see if you can blag some tickets here.