Festival Recap: The Magic Of All Tomorrow's Parties

The Horrors (clockwise from left), Public Enemy, and Swans, just a few of the artists featured at this year's All Tomorrow's Parties festival. (Gisel Florez for NPR)

All Tomorrow's Parties isn't like most music festivals: It looks for artists on the fringes sonically and aesthetically, with guest curators adding a personal touch. The festival, which began in 1999, is held in both the U.K. and the U.S. The American version took place this past weekend on the boardwalk of Asbury Park, N.J. Portishead picked the bands to play Saturday's shows, which included everything from the U.K. post-punk group The Horrors and messed-up dub-rock outfit The Pop Group to a massive, bludgeoning two-hour set by Swans.

On this episode of All Songs Considered, host Bob Boilen and NPR Music producer (and Viking's Choice blogger) Lars Gotrich look back at the festival not in a studio, not in a hotel room, but in Bob's car on the drive home to Washington, D.C.

We've recorded a number of sets from ATP 2011, which can be found here, with more to come. (In case you were wondering, both Portishead and Jeff Mangum passed on letting us post their performances.)

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Thinking Fellers Union Local 282

Hear the band's full performance from All Tomorrow's Parties.

Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 is the sound of spongy pop music hitting a brick wall. Playfully weird and fuzzy, this group of pop deviants has annoyed and delighted audiences since 1986.

The Album Leaf

Hear the band's full performance from All Tomorrow's Parties.

Delicate and full of space, The Album Leaf filled the Paramount Theatre with jazz- and classical-influenced post-rock that owes more to singer-songwriters than most in the genre.

Oneida Presents 'The Ocropolis III'

You'll be able to hear the band's eight-hour performance from All Tomorrow's Parties (yes, eight hours) later this week.

No other event over the weekend embodied the spirit of ATP more than Oneida's eight-hour improvisation centered on The Ocropolis III. It featured guest musicians from Portishead, Boredoms, Yo La Tengo and Guardian Alien.


Hear the band's full performance from All Tomorrow's Parties.

The blistering and artful noise-rock band never broke up; it just went away for 13 years. From all accounts, every time Swans hit the stage during its harrowing existence it was like a premonition of End Times.

The Horrors

Hear the band's full performance from All Tomorrow's Parties.

Even if the Goth-tinged post-punk band seemed slightly out of place at All Tomorrow's Parties, plenty of chatter surrounded The Horrors. Singer Faris Badwan channeled David Bowie over shimmering guitars and synths straight out of Bauhaus and The Jesus and Mary Chain.


Hear the band's full performance from All Tomorrow's Parties.

Earth is a live band truly invested in its craft. Like its moniker, Earth is huge, but without demands. Led by guitarist Dylan Carlson, the instrumental quartet gave a stirring, meditative performance at All Tomorrow's Parties, mostly culling from this year's excellent Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1.

Public Enemy

Hear the band's full performance at All Tomorrow's Parties.

Don't call Public Enemy a nostalgia act. Yes, the long-running hip-hop group still makes albums, still tours, still cares. But, more importantly, Public Enemy proved to be current at All Tomorrow's Parties, even when playing a two-hour set celebrating 20 years of bringing the noise.

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