And here we have the inaugural All Points East festival - East London hipsters' answer to BST Hyde Park; uplifting Field Day in its wake and sleeping at night whilst doing it. AEG have flexed their muscles in a turf war and shown who is the big boy.
A good lineup packed with heavyweights at the top end. This is essentially cannibalising the Primavera market (since many Brits go to Barcelona each year anyway) as Bjork, Nick Cave and The National are amongst the high-billers. Why would the British Pitchfork market trek to glorious Barcelona when they can see the same bill (virtually) in glorious Hackney? The market is still over-saturated even without Glasto this year....
It's APE's first year - well, the first weekend is a "festival" stretched across all three days of the weekend. The next weekend is more "three separate gigs" with festival lineups and the only difference being the placard at the top of the stage switches from All Points East to Victoria Park.
The layout certainly owes more to BST than Field Day. There are numerous bars; so many in fact that there were barely any queues - this has more to do with the fact that the stalls have cleverly and seamlessly integrated Stripe contactless payments - which sped things up nicely. Even the loos were multiple - and there were many around the neighbouring streets of Hackney too. And they had loo paper and hand sanitiser in abundance! The food stalls were even Hackney-esque - it was hard not to see the words Vegan or Gluten-free every two metres... It seemed unnecessary to plonk some funfair rides smack in the middle - but they were popular all the same...
In terms of stages - rather confusingly the massive East stage was the main; the North stage was the secondary stage and there were other, more corporate branded stages like the JagerHaus hut and Firestone smaller stage. They still had some big acts to showcase; was fun to watch up-and-comers The Big Moon in Jagerhaus, or Warpaint DJ before their North stage set. All stages offered a diverse, multi-layered range of acts - though the earlier sets are very light in terms of names.
Weather was gloriously hot; interspersed with some furious God-like rage of lightning. Particularly during Bjork (the Lord almighty was displeased with the lack of hits in the set) who staged what can only be described as a very Bjork-esque performance - somewhere between Alice In Wonderland and a pretentious European movie; the crowd seemed bored and frequent conversations could be heard throughout. Bjork did treat us to "Human Behaviour", a hit she has not played in over ten years. Beck, relegated to the smaller stage (which was absolutely rammed) totally gave everyone what they wanted - hits / charm / spontaneity and most of all fun. He was the true headliner of the day.
It's interesting that APE decided to spread the second stage headliner across the two main stage acts - which means you had to choose who you wanted to miss - very annoying and very odd - and should have been disclosed earlier that you'd have to miss a portion of either St. Vincent or Nick Cave's set - or Beck and Bjork's...
LCD Soundsystem, maybe one of the most overrated bands in the indie scene, did little to dethrone Karen O and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs from being the true smash of the APE Friday. The YYYs were thrilling, exciting and full of guitar and NYC punk energy from an era that now depressingly seems retro. Guitars seems to be dying out, let alone rock in general - and yet here is Karen and co to remind us of what we are missing. A true delight. And why are Phoenix (not as massive here as the rest of the world) relegated to the second stage? No matter, they were phenomenal as always - Thomas Mars seemed to spend more time in the crowd or drinking in the crowd than on stage - but never wavered from pulsating Parisian rock/pop that has seen them headline Coachella in the past.
Friendly Fires and Future Islands, from both sides of the pond, powered through the sun in a frenetic collection of energy and force. It's good to see the Friendly Fires back and firing on all cylinders; it's wonderful to see how big Future Islands are becoming, in that they subbed The National on the main stage. The National themselves packed in a faithful following of crowd to the East Stage, but did little to convert the non-converted. You either like Matt Berninger's Anti-Front-Man or you don't.
Khruangbin haven't compromised with their Thai-Funk-Rock sound, and everytime you see them it's on a bigger stage with a bigger audience. They have a genuinely interesting sound, and are an extremely tight three-piece, fronted by the swaying Laura Lee and her grooving bass. Spoon, swaggering onto their afternoon set like some angry bikers invading the town, made us pay attention to their rock like we'd never heard rock before. They are bigger than the afternoon.
Courtney Barnett seems mildly overawed by the Main Stage epic scale, but delivers enough thrashing guitar-abandon to win over the crowd in the baking sun. Patti Smith has everyone united in rage and anger, from delivering "Ginsberg's Howl" to ending powerfully with "Them's Gloria". A legend gracing the stage. From legend to legendary - the act of the week was Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. From brooding to monstrous, exploding to subtle - on stage kicking his lyric sheets (and then asking the Roadie to retrieve them) or constantly invading the crowd and making them part of the performance, Cave was on the money from beginning to end. This was headline making at his best - and then he brought on Kylie to sing "Where The Wild Roses Grow".
In summary, APE has definitely had a successful first year. Good weather, and good organisation, marred only by strange set times for overlapping acts and a weaker smaller bill.
latest on this festival
joining Kraftwerk 3D, Iggy Pop, Johnny Marr, The Orb, Chromatics, Anna Calvi, Kim Gordon, & more
on Friday 22nd May