Shekha’s trip to All Points East was a staggering success for the inaugural weekend of this ambitious festival with food, dance, sunshine and lightning…
All Points East was clearly designed with as many people in mind as possible – the first three days seemed to target the (now adult) indie kids of the early 2000s, with headliners steeped in nostalgia – while locals and tourists alike enjoyed the week-long programme of community events.
Those new to festivals – this was a perfect introduction with a laid back crowd, huge headliners and a varied day programme in a relatively chilled atmosphere. The final three days of standalone gigs also appealed to music lovers, foodies and east London’s creative scene.
In a Word
There is little doubt that the inaugural All Points East was going to leave an impression. The 10-day strong extravaganza from Coachella promoter Goldenvoice and its parent company AEG, made a splash from the moment it was announced for, not only its big-ticket headliners but its length. Two weekends of huge names such as LCD Soundsystem, Björk, Nick Cave and Patti Smith, sandwiched a week filled with free events, workshops and delicious food in Victoria Park.
The first weekend passed by in a delightful haze of sunshine and dancing. Friday’s shaky start of hour-long queues and seemingly overstretched security meant we missed some of the bands we had hoped to see (here’s looking at you, Chromeo). But all was forgiven by the evening line-up, which strapped revellers to an emotional rollercoaster of early 2000s indie. A belting performance of post-punk anthems like Heads Will Roll and Gold Lion from Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O, whipped the crowd into a frenzied and nostalgic fervour, while the tears and phone flashlights were out in force for Maps – as ageing indie kids were transported to 15 years ago. LCD Soundsystem closed the night with a beautiful performance which floated over the festival in a euphoric soundscape of dance and gentle vocals.
Saturday’s line up was an exercise in how to deal with FOMO, with several strong acts grouped far too close together. Nevertheless, we saw an energetic performance from Kojey Radical, while BadBadNotGood utterly mesmerized with their genre-defying artistry. Lorde impressed audiences with her unique and self-assured pop but Soulwax or Justice should have ended the night in the place of The XX. The trio went down well with fans but was too laid-back to continue the electrifying momentum of the dance juggernauts that preceded them.
Sunday’s highlights included James Murphy and Soulwax’s perfect club, Despacio, which provided the ultimate soundtrack to a weekend of breathless dancing in near-complete darkness. A face-melting set from Flying Lotus, replete with 3D visuals (glasses were given out to people beforehand) is forever burned into our memories. And Beck completely lived up to the hype with a medley of hits, including an acoustic rendition of Debra and a great cover of Prince’s Raspberry Beret.
The three days came thundering to a close with Björk’s spectacular set which kicked off her Utopia world tour and was firmly rooted in tracks from the eponymous album. The stage, lushly transformed into an opulent garden, made the perfect backdrop for the dreamlike combination of sonorous glitch and delicate, faelike woodwind over which Björk’s unmistakable voice soared. Adding to the surreal atmosphere was a spectacular lightning show which spidered across the London sky, glimmering through clouds and illuminated by the moon – nature’s extremes a fitting companion for an artist known for pushing boundaries.
The bar keeps being raised for festival food and All Points East was no exception, with many familiar faces from the world of street markets and, perhaps confusingly so, a couple of chain traders too. Poptata provided the perfect carby combination of skin-on fries, sauce and cheese which came in hefty cones for a fiver. This was easily the best value meal for the first weekend which did test the limits of our patience in terms of ambitious mark-ups.
The Jägerhaus, Jägermeister’s pop up bar, with its thrilling mix of bands and a loft VIP section featuring a rather impressive shuffleboard, was the perfect afternoon hangout.While we were there, we learned some interesting facts about the iconic liqueur, which contains 56 botanicals and passes 383 quality checks before it gets on shop shelves! The cocktails we tried were also delicious, all creations by Jägermeister UK ambassador, Flo. Root56, a refreshing mix of Jägermeister, ginger beer and cucumber slices proved a fast favourite, indispersed with ice-cold shots to chase away the weekend humidity.
The halloumi fries stall did a roaring trade – we enjoyed ‘The Classic’ – a stack of deep-fried strips of squeaky, salty cheese topped with mint and offset by a wonderfully tart pomegranate molasses. Our third portion of fried food over the three days came from E8 Fish, whose Old Bay Seasoned fries were golden, crunchy and moreish.
A lamb wrap from Kalimera was delicious but far too overpriced for what was essentially a lamb patty wrapped in pitta with sauces and salad. While it hit the spot, the £8 price tag (£10 for added halloumi) for a portion which was barely bigger than my friend’s (already smaller than average) hand was hard to swallow. A dessert of peanut butter brownie from Bad Brownie Company had a great flavour profile but was slightly dehydrated from sitting all day in the open air.
Sadly, we didn’t get around to the vegan curry bowl or jackfruit burgers which both looked fantastic. Bratwurst with curry sauce and mustard was decent, but I would have preferred more of a char around the outside. Nevertheless, this cheerful stall, with a good array of condiments nicely captured the essence of bbq season.
Despite All Points East getting some flack for having corporate undertones and an eclectic line-up betraying a lack of real identity, as someone who is interested in lots of different things, I really have very few complaints about the festival. After Friday’s delays, the running of the first weekend was completely smooth, with an impressive number of things going on at any one time. Music acts were punctual, sound quality was brilliant and all the performers we saw brought their A game which made sets immersive and memorable.
The scheduling could have been smoother to cater for people who like a variety of genres (I shouldn’t have to choose between indie disco and dancehall all day if I like both), but ultimately the daytime line-up, filled with some complete gems, worked to bolster the bigger names ensuring each day was a solid showcase of music.
Food was varied and plentiful but value for money was completely ignored by a few traders (nobody should be paying £10 for a single pie and spoonful of mash at a stall marketed as traditional East End food). Although it may be wishful thinking to hope for otherwise, with a security team which confiscated everything from deodorant to crisps, the overpriced, paltry portions I saw at some places left a distinctly bitter taste.
I think it is too early to tell what All Points East is trying to be, and not sure it matters if it is trying to be any one type of festival – in a market saturated with competition, there are plenty of festivals that feel more impersonal than this one. What may help it along is more non-music style activities during the weekends as well as the weekdays to add a sense of scale, but this could equally crowd the days which are already rich with things to do. I look forward to next year!