I think there's 2 points being made here that aren't connected to each other. The Shellac ATP will be a blast. The one 10 years ago was a fantastic summer camp and some of the best gigs I have ever seen took place at it. I can't speak for anyone else but I'm not criticising the event or the people who run it, quite the opposite.
I'm just pointing out that the festival has had an adverse effect on the lowest-rung of 'underground' music in the UK in that it's pushed it to a separate level below that of what would have once been comparable music (in terms of how the music is presented and made) in the US. I don't think that's something that's deliberate but it's certainly taken place.
There's a assumption amongst people outside of the UK and some of the more mainstream festival-going crowds in the UK that the same opportunities are there for UK bands as US bands and so any failure to thrive is the bands' fault. Maybe it's because of the perceived similarities and connections between the UK and the US but this assumption is simply not true. Sure, some UK bands go and tour in the States but it costs a fortune to do it so those bands are invariably ones that are connected to larger labels - and by "larger" I don't mean "major", I just mean labels or management or publishers that are more able to front money to a band that isn't just for making records. Bands like Male Bonding (Sub Pop) and Lovvers (Witchita) or Mogwai (who do well from publishing) are good examples of that.
But if you are part of a cottage-industry music-making world in the UK and you want to just tour in a van and make records that sell a few hundred copies and you're happy with that then your horizons are really small. Matt already mentioned John Robb from the Membranes - he's written a lot of very relevant articles about how he's essentially written off America as a place he can go and play music and how he concentrates on other areas to tour instead because of the prohibitive Visa costs associated with doing it legit.
Up until earlier this year I played in a band that put it's music out through a Chicago label and that music sold well enough that we were able to look at touring the East Coast. The Visa alone for that tour cost nearly $3000 - for a 10 day tour. That's without even considering flights, equipment hire etc. My inability to rationalise that type of expense and my reluctance to change how we did the band so we could get someone else to advance us money to do the tour meant I ended up having to quit.
The opposite case isn't true though - if you're in a band in the US and you put out a record and there is interest overseas and sell a few hundred copies then it is feasible that you could go and play there without it bankrupting you. I played a show last night with Crazy Spirit, I doubt those guys will sell thousands of records and they're playing the same fleapits we all do but they're playing them overseas and they're having fun, getting out there and doing it on their own terms because the barriers aren't the same for them.
This feeling among most of my friends and contemporaries in the UK isn't just about ATP, it's about a long and constant battle to get people to take DIY music in the UK seriously and to show those that make it the same respect as they would bands from overseas. This discussion could have taken place in any number of threads, it's just that the ATP one has been something of a catalyst for bringing it out which has blurred the edges of things so it could be misconstrued that it's a direct criticism of the festival which I think really isn't the case here, not from my perspective anyhow.
154 wrote:Certain fractions of the UK scene have developed a bit of a reputation around here for being a bit touchy/resentful, more than any other region I've noticed. It's kind of intriguing.
If you think caring passionately about what you do and how what you do interacts with other people is touchy or resentful then I can live with that. I've tried to explain why some people might feel this way above so I hope that that satisfies your intrigue just a little.