The All Tomorrow's Parties festival is a great idea. Each fest is curated by a band (or, on occasion, the festival itself or the fans) and the lineup is built around their taste.
All Tomorrow's Parties is a documentary that celebrates its ten year history. Unfortunately, the film is a mess. It's disjointed, uses lots of old stock footage and has no real narrative or chronology. There is an interview from a TV show in the 1970s with Patti Smith talking about the meaning of punk rock that is unnecessary. I learned exactly two things from this film: that the ATP festival was inspired by an idea from Stuart Murdoch (of Belle & Sebastian) from festival he put on in 1999 called Bowlie Weekender and that the festival has no corporate sponsorship. If I stopped at Wikipedia first, I probably wouldn't have learned anything. There is also no mention of how ATP has expanded into the United States (including being part of the Pitchfork Festival).
What the film gets right, though, is wonderous. Often the music is fantastic. It was spellbinding watching about a dozen people playing "air drums" to Lightning Bolt (a Mogwai selection) just a few inches away from Lightning Bolt's drummer. Grinderman, a Nick Cave vehicle, The Stooges, Battles (pictured), Fuck Buttons, The Boredoms and The Gossip are other highlights. The film also makes good use of its exclusive footage. It's painful to watch David Cross (a Sleater-Kinney pick) try to tell a promising joke about Jesus but get interrupted by a heckler, but it's nice to see him confront the heckler after his act.
Of all the bands to curate an ATP, Portishead had the most eclectic taste. Their lineup included a troubadour named Seasick Steve who didn't even know who Portishead was, but said his children liked them.
All Tomorrow's Parties plays at the Egyptian Theater on Tuesday, May 26 at 9:30 pm and on Thursday, May 28 at the Neptune at 4:30 pm.
Here's the trailer: