All Points East - Friday and Saturday Review
From lightning storms to confetti canons, psychedelic graphic projections to a diverse and exciting line up 'All Points East' has already managed to establish itself as one to watch out for in the future, an excellent start to festival season.
When I first read the line up for APE I was certain that there had been an error. After all, how could a brand new festival score massive headliners like LCD Soundsystem, The XX and Bjork? Luckily, I had not been tricked. Headed up by the creators of Coachella this weekend felt like a curated piece of art in itself. The set up of the actual festival, situated in the gorgeous Victoria Park, was not particularly flashy but instead a focus was placed on the performances of the artists, each one a curated piece of art as well.
My weekend began with Confidence Man in the West Arena. To call it a tent would be too big of an understatement. One of the five stages at the festival, the West Arena created a definite intimacy and focus on the performers. This venue aided itself well to Confidence Man who seemed of another world as they threw their limbs in all directions with deadpan expressions, changing costumes after every other song. They attribute their success to the fact that they have "no idea what the fuck we're doing" and this freedom, sense of boundless enjoyment and enthusiasm is what made them such a treat to watch live.
Next in the West Arena was Superorganism. The eight-piece have always fascinated me with their DIY electro-pop vibe. When watching them it felt more appropriate to view them as a project rather than a band, with their set littered with video game like projections and light shows as they sang in rain macs coated in glitter. The energy in the room was palpable as people were transfixed on this glorious spectacle- one of my personal highlights of the two days.
Another highlight of mine was Young Fathers on the Main Stage. Throughout their entire set, their energy was infectious and managed to rally the whole crowd into a state of joy and dancing, a tough task for such a large audience. Later on the same stage Glass Animals attempted the same task but fell a little short of the same energy. Although they performed well there was something missing as they failed to create the same audience reaction as I have seen them achieve before. Perhaps they would have been better placed on one of the smaller stages.
On the smallest stage, the Firestone stage, was where I saw Yonaka. Yonaka astonded me with their volcanic mix of genres and refusal to fit into just one of them. The energy during their set showed just how excited they were to be there and as a result, we were excited for them to be there. It proved to be a ferocious and fiery set, Yonaka are carving their way to bigger things, and they want you to know it.
Phoenix proved to be a surprise success for me, playing on the North Stage. The atmosphere for their set was one I can't quite explain although i'll try my best. It felt as though everybody was feeling the same nostalgia and as Phoenix played their indie-pop sound you were transported to wherever you had listened to them previously, an emotional and honest performance.
By this point I had already squeezed in six different acts into one day and was hungry for more. Back on the Main Stage the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs performed to perfection. Again, it was a case of energy and enthusiasm and Karen O definitely brought her energy a-game. At times it felt almost as though she was trying to seduce the microphone as she sang all their hits, the intense sound of the crowd singing along adding to the vibe.
Finally, we reached the end of the day and it was time for the headline act for Friday: LCD Soundsystem. You could feel the anticipation from the crowd, crescendoing as they walked on stage and began their set. It was a mix of outstretched arms, bodies bouncing in all directions to the sound, eyes shut and heads nodding and shaking in time to music. It was simple. Pure and unadulterated joy and dancing. LCD Soundsystem performed with control and performed well, leading to the perfect end for the day, hordes of people simply dancing and smiling- an almost childlike freedom lying on everyone's faces.
Initially the line-up for Saturday had sold me on this festival but after the sheer amount of great acts on Friday I was unsure if the day as a whole could compete. How wrong I was. Once again, my day began in the West Arena, clothed by the familiar fabric and scaffolding, this time watching Her. I wasn't particularly familiar with this French-neo soul band, a duo until last year when sadly one half of Her, Simon Carpentier passed away to cancer. Tragedy doesn't seem to have hindered Victor Solf's now solo project, with his performance a soulful, smooth and emotional journey, an exploration of hope rather than fear or sadness.
As I left the tent the sun was blaring down and the crowd had begun to filter in, a significantly larger and more energetic atmosphere than the Friday this early on. I headed to the North Stage to watch Rex Orange County, a perfect side dish to the beating sun. His set was one of simplicity, joined only with a guitarist and drummer. There were no lights, no graphics, no dancers, it was purely about his music. Unfortunately, his set was hindered by poor sound quality with lots of feedback but the crowd remained on his side, singing over the feedback and cheering profusely when he brought his girlfriend, Thea on stage to promote her new song. Once again, I feel as though a smaller stage would have been better suited for him, not because he failed to deliver but more because he seemed somewhat uncomfortable and shy on such a large platform.
The heat of the sun and the crowds had lead to a palpable dip in energy and so I headed back to the West Arena for BADBADNOTGOOD and Lykke Li. Coming together in an entirely instrumental set, revving off of each other's instruments BADBADNOTGOOD provided a performance that was electric. Lykke Li managed to build off that established energy, using her electronic synths and dreamlike sounds to pull the crowd into a trance throughout the entirety of her set. Both of these acts pulled the audience into another world without using frills, just the simplicity of their music.
I don't think that I can quite put into the words how excited I was to see Lorde perform. All day I had been preparing myself for this moment but as she walked onto stage, followed by dancers in all white I knew that this would be extra special. As she performed a mix of 'Pure Heroine' and 'Melodrama', between tracks discussing what the songs mean to her, what it means to be alive and occasionally just staring into the audience and laughing, you could see how genuinely astounded she was by her success. The audience held an energy like nothing else I had felt at the festival. People on either sides of me were sobbing, dancing with all their heart or just staring in awe. Lorde is one of those artists who people seem to relate to so hard without idolising and you could feel that as the crowd belted out her songs and she floated across the stage singing. At one point I was lucky enough to go on my friend's shoulders and being in the air, surrounded by these fans and looking at Lorde's own intense facial expressions was enough to bring me to tears. In the air, the performance culminated in an explosion of confetti stars that read 'Melodrama Forever'. I couldn't agree more.
After that performance, for me, there was no way that The XX could compete but following the common theme of this weekend, I was proven wrong. I had been uncertain about how they would perform as headliners but the way they captivated and controlled the crowd was a sight to behold. It was in this slowness and dreaminess, the incredible light show and their obvious love of London (their hometown) that added to the magic of this set. There was a intensity and emotion to their performance merged with high tempo beats that created this confused but excited energy. As they finished their set with a 'Shelter/On Hold' remix, lightning struck the sky and the audience looked up into the flashing sky as vocals and Jamie XX's mix trickled into their ears. Even the sky agreed that this set was something out of this world.
Although unplanned this storm was a cataclysmic end to two days of things heightened - performances, energy, emotion and most importantly, excellent, excellent music. All Points East has shattered its way into becoming a big festival name and I hope it will continue in such a passionate and thoughtful way next year.