It’s been 21 years since shoegaze pioneers My Bloody Valentine toured Australia, but thanks to Barry Hogan, local fans are squirming in anticipation.
Hogan, founder of atypical music festival All Tomorrow’s Parties (ATP), has been instrumental in the band’s return from obscurity, inviting My Bloody Valentine to curate line-ups in New York and the UK.
While there are over 25 acts on the roster, ATP’s latest Australian appearance (subtitled I’ll Be Your Mirror) was planned especially to fit in with My Bloody Valentine’s availability.
“One way to describe them is really loud,” explains Hogan. “They’re probably the loudest thing I’ve ever heard. It’s like a jet plane taking off.”
Despite working with the band regularly, Hogan shows the kind of excitement usually reserved for that of a diehard fan. And this is what sets his festivals apart.
All Tomorrow’s Parties – named after the droning Velvet Underground track – is intended to be ‘a mixtape for the stage’. Disenchanted with big UK festivals like Glastonbury and Reading featuring acts like “fuckin’ Chumbawumba”, Hogan conceived what he describes as an anti-festival.
With only 5000 tickets on sale, a counterintuitive venue and acts that tend to the cult favourite rather than the chart-friendly, ATP is as far away from the seething, muddy field as you can practicably get. “We would like to make it a more intimate and bespoke environment,” says Hogan. “For years people were being treated like cattle and that’s something we really wanted to avoid with ATP.”
While previous ATP shows experimented with unusual venues like Sydney’s Cockatoo Island and the Victorian ski resort at Mount Bulla, this year Hogan and his team settled on a sporting facility in Altona for the two-day event.
“We did want to go back to Mt Bulla, but they’ve got new management up there and I don’t think they were too receptive to having another rock festival after they did the man in black – which didn’t seem to go down too well,” says Hogan.
Hogan describes the Altona venue as retro, kitsch and kind of tacky in parts, but a nicer environment than just some field. “If you went there in the daytime, you’d be thinking, how could it be on here? But we’re going to transform it.”
Another curious aspect of Hogan’s festival is how bands are chosen. For the second day of I’ll Be Your Mirror, local legends The Drones have picked their personal favourites to go on show. Apparently, they’ll play early in the day so the band can watch their picks: Beasts of Bourbon, Lost Animal, Harmony and Einstürzende Neubauten, who’ll close the festival.
“By us inviting a curator, it’s just like them putting their record collection out there,” says Hogan. “It makes it more interesting than a festival book just making lists of what’s hot and what’s not. It’s a more creative exercise than just booking things that are going to make money.”
Hogan and ATP are, in part, responsible for kicking off the notion of the curated festival. But while he thinks the formula is still fresh for ATP, in his opinion the trend might have been taken a bit too far. “It does seem like there’s a bit of an epidemic of ‘curators’ at the moment,” he chances. “It’s like the guy in the bakery who says, ‘I’m curating cakes’,” and the guy in greengrocer says, “‘Yeah, I’ve curated the apples today’.”
Likewise, Hogan believes that festivals might be suffering from too much of a good thing: “There are too many festivals – the market is saturated,” he says. “The problem is that everybody who has bought a CD in JB Hi-Fi thinks they’re a promoter. They’ve got a friend with a field and they think to themselves, ‘Oh, I can do this’.”
But he still believes that Australia needs ATP and he and his wife and partner Deborah Kee Higgins (an Australian) are already planning a return to our shores once I’ll Be Your Mirror is over.
“For us to continue with ATP, I’d like to just bring stuff that you don’t normally get in Australia,” says Hogan. “It’s such a great place, and it feels kind of criminal that some acts just won’t come here and play. Whenever we come here, I’m always sad to leave.”
All Tomorrow’s Parties: I’ll Be Your Mirror runs from February 16 to 17 at the Westgate Entertainment Centre and Grand Star Reception in Altona. For tickets and further information, click here.