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'The Nightmare Before Christmas' All Tomorrow's Parties - December 2005 - curated by The Mars Volta


At the start of December, a Pontins holiday Camp near the small town of Rye in Sussex was once again taken over by hordes of alternative music fans for the year’s third and final All Tomorrow’s Parties festival. The festival has grown into a phonemenon and institution over the last five years or so, with thousands of people arriving from all over the British Isles and Europe and from as far as America and Japan to attend. ATP’s appeal is obvious and the festival works because of several factors.

The band had picked an awesome selection, with a typically vast array of styles, genres and aesthetics.

Its unique and inventive method of accumulating a line-up makes it very interesting – someone, be they artist (musical or otherwise) or group, is chosen as a curator and then proceeds to gather together the line-up of their choice – as a curator would collate pieces for an exhibition. The event takes place in a holiday camp, much better than a field for this time of year, and incredibly novel – how many people do you see at this festival playing air-hockey or on the 2p machines all weekend even while major acts are performing? The venue itself has a certain charm and appeal all of its own. But one of the most important reasons for the popularity of this festival, probably the most blindingly obvious factor, is the music. No matter who is curating the weekend it is generally accepted that it’ll be an amazing line-up – even if you’ve not heard of half the bands, in fact probably because you’ve not heard of half the bands, or you’ve heard of them but not what they sound like, and here you get a chance to see them.

I’m aware that The Mars Volta and their musical experimentations have roused mixed opinions and split music fans (or maybe more specifically, At The Drive-In fans) into lovers and haters (even within songs) but thoughts on the curators became almost irrelevant when considering whether or not to go to this festival. The band had picked an awesome selection, with a typically vast array of styles, genres and aesthetics including the intricate math structures of festival openers Battles (who in fact became first day headliners having been given a slot downstairs after mainstage Friday night headline act The Kills), the beastly epic metal of Mastodon (powering away in a metal double-bill frenzy after High On Fire on the Saturday) and the heart-warming leftfield folk/electonica of CocoRosie (on the more relaxed Sunday upstairs roster – including Michael Rother and The Cinematic Orchestra and Anthony and the Johnsons). What made this line-up even better was how you could make a link back to The Mars Volta, their members and their musical parts, for all of the acts there, threading it together and making the festival work well as a whole piece – as it should. This can be seen in the psychedelic ramblings found in Damo Suzuki and Acid Mother’s Temple or the punk/dub mix of Jai Alai Savant, The Locust’s spazmodic mentalism and Diamanda Galas’ incredibly affecting wailing.

The Nightmare Before Christmas’ 2005 was definitely another blinding success for the All Tomorrow’s Parties team.

With some incredibly impressive performances, a typicaly epic set from the curators and a great atmosphere – in the pub, in the club nights after the bands and in the chalet areas as well (home to many impromptu improvised musical gatherings) – it was a great weekend. ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ 2005 was definitely another blinding success for the All Tomorrow’s Parties team, who’s growth can also be seen into more and more events in England and across the pond and their own record label with acts such as Deerhoof, Bardo Pond and the Threnody Ensemble. ATP should keep going and going with all the support it gets from the attending public, press and artists and with the announced curators for the new year’s festival ‘The United Sounds of ATP’ being headlined by Devendra Banhart, Mudhoney and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on the first weekend (12th-14th May – with Comets On Fire, Flesh Eaters, Bert Jansch, Ex Models and Espers and more all confirmed to play) and The Shins, Sleater Kinney and Dinosaur Jr curating the second week (19th-21st May – with Dead Meadow, Gossip and Clinic among others in support) it looks like they’ll be more exciting weekends at Pontins very soon.

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