Just Gimme Indie Nostalgia! ATP Festival Brings Hits of the ’90s to … Monticello!

atp Just Gimme Indie Nostalgia! ATP Festival Brings Hits of the 90s to … Monticello!Barry Hogan, the British music promoter, was at Bleecker Street Records last Thursday afternoon partaking in what seems like an archaic ritual: CD shopping.

“There’s too many good records here,” he said in his thick English accent (although the actual records, those measuring 12-inches across, were downstairs). He was perusing the “C” section, and picked up a disc by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. “I could do some real damage in this shop for sure.”

At 36, Mr. Hogan is hardly archaic himself. In fact, the festival he created nearly a decade ago, All Tomorrow’s Parties (commonly referred to as ATP), has become one of the most highly anticipated events of the indie music world.

Barry Hogan, the British music promoter, was at Bleecker Street Records last Thursday afternoon partaking in what seems like an archaic ritual: CD shopping.

“There’s too many good records here,” he said in his thick English accent (although the actual records, those measuring 12-inches across, were downstairs). He was perusing the “C” section, and picked up a disc by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. “I could do some real damage in this shop for sure.”

At 36, Mr. Hogan is hardly archaic himself. In fact, the festival he created nearly a decade ago, All Tomorrow’s Parties (commonly referred to as ATP), has become one of the most highly anticipated events of the indie music world. This weekend marks its first ever New York installment—although to the dismay of anyone who prefers not to venture above 14th Street, it’s taking place at a woodsy family vacation resort and country club in the Catskills of Monticello, N.Y.

Held on weekends in small, quirky venues, and often curated in part by a particular band or musician (this time, Kevin Shields has the honor), All Tomorrow’s Parties—named after the Velvet Underground song—provides a more intimate, perhaps classier, alternative to the standard rock mega-fest that massive outdoor concerts like Coachella, Lollapalooza (the post-2004 version, of course) and New York’s own Siren Festival have re-popularized in recent years. Since ATP’s inception in 1999, it’s hosted acts ranging from classic rock artists like Yoko Ono, Cheap Trick and Love, to contemporary indie stars like Sonic Youth, Modest Mouse, and Belle and Sebastian (who gave Mr. Hogan the idea for ATP in the first place).

This weekend people are flying in from countries as far away as Japan, Australia, England, Spain and Italy, to name a few, and Mr. Hogan said there’s a “healthy” New York draw as well. (Not surprisingly, he noted, many of the city’s ticket holders seem to be from Brooklyn.) The main attraction is Mr. Shields’ My Bloody Valentine, the recently reunited early ’90s fuzz-rock band from Ireland, which is making its first U.S. appearance in 16 years. As of Wednesday, all of the roughly 3,000 tickets had sold out.

“We try to make it intimate,” said Mr. Hogan of his preference for venues that are a bit off the beaten path, like the tiny seaside resort in the south of England where he sometimes holds the festival, or the deck of The Queen Mary, a legendary ocean liner now permanently docked in Long Beach, Calif. “Nobody wants to be stuck in a field with 50,000 people,” he said.

But ATP’s success boils down to a single element: nostalgia. Usually, the lineup is more or less a dream set list for people who got into cool music in the ’80s and ’90s. Between My Bloody Valentine and longtime indie staples like Low, Yo La Tengo and Dinosaur Jr., among various others, this weekend’s festival is like a long-lost mix tape made in one’s college dorm room. Most exciting, Mr. Hogan often convinces a band to do an entire set of one of its classic albums, a trend that has taken off in its own right since the idea first came to him one night in 2005 when he was sitting around drinking beer and listening to old records. That thought evolved into a concert series called “Don’t Look Back” (like the classic Bob Dylan documentary), which has featured everyone from Ennio Morricone to the Stooges to GZA from Wu-Tang Clan, and is typically held in conjunction with ATP. Among the artists joining in the fun this weekend are Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, doing his 1995 solo album Psychic Hearts (at Mr. Hogan’s behest, Sonic Youth did an entire tour last year of its 1988 masterpiece, Daydream Nation), and Built to Spill, doing 1997’s Perfect From Now On.

“I’m totally intrigued by the idea,” said Built to Spill frontman Doug Martsch, who is perhaps more excited to see the Meat Puppets perform their 1984 classic, Meat Puppets II, one of his favorite records of all time, “but mostly I’m just flattered that people are actually interested.”

So why are people so interested in rehashing the past? And what does it say about, well, new music?

“I think it says that on the one hand, indie rock has now become entrenched for a long enough amount of time for people to be nostalgic for it,” said Amy Phillips, senior news editor at Pitchfork Media, which hosted a “Don’t Look Back” series at its own festival last summer.

“Something can definitely be said for the fact that the way we consume music now isn’t as much of an ‘album’ experience as it was when a lot of these records came out. People certainly felt a strong connection to the notion of the album and they want to feel that way again,” she added.

“I think people are starving for it,” said Syd Butler, the bass player for New York’s Les Savy Fav, which has played several of ATP’s European incarnations and is also on this weekend’s bill. “For me it’s [Built to Spill's] Perfect From Now On—the time it came out, the culture of that time. It still has that feeling to me of buying a record and going to see a band live and growing with them. Now, it’s like, I listen to people’s MySpace pages.”

Back in the Village, Mr. Hogan, who’s been in town from England with his wife and business partner, Deborah, for the past month making preparations for the festival, was a bit more blunt.

“There are some good bands out there today, but a lot of the new stuff just doesn’t inspire me,” he said. “We’re not trying to promote what’s trendy and hip. This is all music we still listen to, things we want to hear. It’s like making a mix tape. You’re gonna put on what you love and things that are meaningful to you.”

Works for us!

ATP New York, Sept. 19-21, Kutsher’s Country Resort, Catskills, N.Y., atpfestival.com