ATP (All Tomorrow’s Parties) is an international music festival that originates in the UK. All Tomorrow’s Parties Festivals have taken place in the UK, the USA, Australia and recently in Iceland. The festival sets itself apart from other major festivals by staying intimate, non-corporate and fan-friendly.
ATP Iceland took place in Ásbrú, a former NATO base near Keflavík airport in Iceland for the first time from the 28th of June to the 29th of June 2013. Various international and local artists performed, with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds headlining on the Saturday night. As well as music being played there were film showings, a pop quiz, a football match and a tour around the base on offer.
ATP in Iceland: Friday
Arriving on Friday to a predominantly Icelandic line-up it felt somewhat like being in a foreign country within Iceland. Street names are both in Icelandic and English (since the festival took place in a former American base) and the main space for the music, Atlantic Studios, was a huge former airplane hangar and truck mechanical repair area.
Lighting and sound that had been rigged up especially for this festival was exemplary. Three food stalls were outside selling hamburgers, hotdogs and sandwiches. A bar inside sold alcoholic, soft and hot drinks. The crowd was rather small, especially on the Friday, meaning short people like me could actually see the stage from afar and get up front without getting squished.
Friday festival highlights
On the Friday I spent all my time in Atlantic Studios. Mugison, Botnleðja and Thee Oh Sees were the highlights of the night.
Icelandic rocker Mugison played a mix of old and new songs, songs such as 'Pathetic Anthem' from Mugiboogie and ‘I Want You’ from Mugimama! Is This Monkey Music. He definitely rocked up the atmosphere – along with his drummer who almost stole the scene. The crowd went crazy when he played ‘Murr Murr’ as the final song.
The Icelandic Botnleðja (Silt) nursed my nostalgia for old-school ‘Brit-rock’. The band was immensely popular in Iceland in the 90’s and counted the members of Blur as their fans. In 1997 they toured with Blur around the UK, after Blur made their self-titled album Blur. It is said that ‘woo-hoo’ in Blur’s ‘Song 2’ is borrowed from the ‘woo-hoo’ in ‘Þið eruð frábær’ by Botnleðja.
Botnleðja took a break from playing from 2003 and returned this year with a new album. On stage they played all their hits on the other hand – in chronological order – to much praise by the audience who sang and danced away. They ended with a new song from the new album, assisted by their friends, most of whom had previously collaborated with them. Just as good as they ever were, they probably won over some new foreign fans this night.
The party continued with the American rockband Thee Oh Sees. The performance was very energetic with an entertaining leadman and a crazy drumsolo. Personally I didn’t know much about the band but that didn’t prevent me (and others) from enjoying their performance thoroughly.
At the end of the Friday night performances a local invited everyone around to hers for an afterparty, foreigners were just as welcome as the locals. Apparently the last people left the party around 8am.
Always make friends with the locals!
ATP in Iceland: Saturday
After not much sleep I managed to get up in time on Saturday to go to Andrew’s Theatre in order to watch My Neighbour Totoro, one of the films curated by Tilda Swinton for the festival. Unfortunately there were some technical difficulties and the screening was canceled. Instead there was a re-run of the movie Our Man Flint that had been shown the previous night, curated by Jim Jarmusch. Excellent choice of a movie.
I planned on taking part in the pop-quiz later that day but found myself distracted by a prolonged stay in a hot tub with some champagne. (Seriously, do get to know the locals!)
Saturday evening was much more busy than Friday night and I divided my time between Atlantic Studios and Andrew’s Theatre. Highlights of Saturday (besides Our Man Flint) were Amiina, Nick Cave and the spontaneous courtyard performance of Æla.
The Icelandic band Amiina played in an intimate seated setting within Andrew’s Theatre. Amiina is known for being an accompanying band to Sigur Rós, solely made up by women. Their music is hauntingly beautiful and an absolute joy to watch as they play on a saw and glasses filled with water. As a special treat they screened 2 Lotte Reiniger silhouette animation shadow puppetry films from 1922 and 1954, Cinderella and Aladdin and the Magic Lamp, with their own devised musical score. It was just a shame that many members of the audience left towards the end to catch Nick Cave and that was disturbing since they had to get up from their seats and leave. Amiina even had to promise their audience that the films they screened were very short so people wouldn’t miss out on Nick Cave. I for one stayed until the end and only missed out on the first 2 songs with Nick Cave.
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
Seeing as I stayed for all of Amiina’s set I actually missed out on seeing Nick Cave fall of the stage during the second song he played with the Bad Seeds. He seemed unharmed for the rest of the gig as they played a mix of rock songs and ballads. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds last played in Iceland in 1986, the expectations for this gig were high. Even though they’ve been playing for years they were still very tight and definitely delivered. Cave was on fire and kept bantering with the audience, joking about I-phones in the audience and dedicating a song to a pretty blonde in the front.
A little part of me was wishing he’d invite Björk onto stage (seeing as she was in the crowd) and see if she’d perform ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’ with him. That wish was not fulfilled but instead the band came back for an encore and performed Red Right Hand to a very pleased audience.
The Icelandic punk band Æla had an impromptu performance from a van in the courtyard. They were one of the first bands to perform on Friday night, when not a lot of people had gathered and got permission to do a 20 minute set in between Deerhoof and Chelsea Light Moving on the Saturday night. This was unannounced and although most people were taken by surprise it didn’t stop them from dancing like crazy in the late night sunshine.
All in all this was a fantastic festival in a unique setting. The weather was good, the music was (mainly) great and the atmosphere was friendly and relaxed. All Tomorrow's Parties in Iceland was a success.
I think it was fun to go out of Reykjavík for a music festival and take the time to spend a weekend in Keflavík, something I have never done before (and I dare say most people from Reykjavík haven’t done so either!). The festival area is a little outside the town of Keflavík so in the future I think the festival should arrange for a camping site close by – or a bike rental. Hopefully All Tomorrow's Parties in Iceland is here to stay.