Reviewed: All Points East 2019
All Points East is the first summer festival in the capital that really makes a mark in the calendar. Taking place over not one, but two weekends from 24th May – 2 June, it offers something for everyone, with the biggest acts in electronic, indie and rock music headlining, as well as smaller underground names from across these styles on show.
If you’re a music lover you’re likely to be drawn in to at least one of these days to get a piece of the action and as dance music heads we headed down to the Friday and Sunday, both days littered with some of the best names in the business during the first weekend. With stages curated by both Peggy Gou and Moxie on each day it was a mouthwatering blend of acts to come.
Based at London’s Victoria Park it’s in a great central location, a medium sized park lined with trees, gradual inclines, fountains with a relaxed feel. Walking into it for the first time you can imagine locals spending long summer days enjoying picnics on the grass.
It was easy to get to grips with the layout, it featured two large open-air traditional festival stages, North and East, these were at either end of the park and where the main acts would feature. Also there was the covered tent of the West Arena, the electronic music focused Ray-Ban Studios X Stage and two smaller stages, the Jagerhaus and Firestone. Navigation was simple and meant that you could make your way to see your favourite acts without worrying about missing parts of their set.
Arriving at the park on the Friday this easy-going vibe was maintained, with virtually no queue to get in and friendly security with a smile on their face. The sun was shining for the first set we caught, with Little Dragon lighting up the East stage as many watching chilled with a cider nodding their heads in approval. The laid-back beats and keys combined with the soulful, distinctive voice of vocalist Yukimi Nagano was a treat. She is a real talent and sounds just as good live on a big festival stage as she does on record. Their setlist included many of their most famous tracks with the infectious pop of ‘Ritual Union’ and ‘Lover Chanting’ received warmly, however the largest cheer came when the distinctive 808 loop of ‘Wildfire’ dropped, the instantly recognisable 2011 hit they made in collaboration with SBTRKT.
After taking a moment to take in the lush surroundings of the park and soak in the atmosphere via one of the raised viewing towers, we moved to the Ray-Ban Studios X Stage, where arguably one of the biggest DJs currently on the circuit, Peggy Gou, was making her mark. This was one of my favourite stages of the weekend, visually and aurally stunning, with a colossal cross like “X” full of lights covering the area. The sound system was tuned to perfection with low, rumbling bass and crisp highs. Peggy, clearly now at ease playing to large audiences, played a set that created a strong energy and made feet move. Extra touches like the GouTalk dancers on stage created a carnival-like feeling and her “Acid Journey” remix of the famous ‘At Night’ by Shakedown was met with raucous delight, the famous synth line raising spirits to optimum level.
Making our way over to the North stage, it was time to catch Primal Scream. A band who need little introduction since blowing up in the early nineties incorporating acid house into their psychedelic, garage-rock sound, it’s always exciting to see them performing live. A fantastic crowd made up of younger and older fans amassed to see them and this was already fast becoming one of the best aspects that of the festival. Due to the varied mix of artists, many of whom are not tied down to a specific genre, this was equally represented in those attending, adding to a pleasant environment. Primal Scream played a set laden with their best tracks, the intro sample, piano and guitar of “Loaded” immediately lifting the hairs on the back of the neck. The heavens opened mid-way through their set, but this did not matter one iota to the congregation who seemed to revel in the music more so due to this, every soaked member raised their arms aloft to the glorious, spine-tingling anthem “Come Together”. A fantastic display of how to hold a festival in the palm of your hands from the legendary Glaswegian’s, who continue to represent themselves as pioneers in merging sounds to create something completely unique.
It’s hard to sum up how much The Chemical Brothers mean to UK dance music and the many scenes that have been and gone during their time releasing music. As the sun started to set they launched into a headline set on the East stage that was a massive celebration of another act that does not stay tied down to one sound and are always at the very cutting edge. Playing a dazzling set that opened with intense classics like the acid heavy ‘Chemical Beats’ and ‘MAH’, the bar was set to the maximum from the outset and a huge crowd duly gathered to dance their socks off throughout. Moving from intensity to exhilaration, the gargantuan ‘Swoon’ and ‘Star Guitar’ provided moments of ecstasy, as groups of friends were mesmerized by the jaw-dropping visuals, including giant electric figures with a life of their own and stretched green lasers that engulfed Tom and Ed on the stage, both remaining utterly transfixed to their live setup during the performance.
Fresh tracks from their recent album ‘No Geography’ sounded just as epic and emotional as their older material and were equally as well received by the audience, using all their limbs to show their appreciation. Of course, the biggest reception and frenzy came when ‘Hey Boy Hey Girl’ and ‘Galvanize’, arguably two of electronica’s biggest singalong tracks ever were dropped, with pints flying and people going up on shoulders as they played out. Closing their two-hour set as if they were going to carry on for much longer and with fans who could have happily stayed for it, a mash up of ‘Leave Home/ Song to the Siren / Block Rockin’ Beats’ ended what was a perfect headline set.
Following a day’s recuperation, we headed to check out some more of what All Points East had to offer on day 3. Kicking the day off was the enigmatic Yves Tumor alongside his live band. An artist that is full of intrigue, under suitably murky skies on the North stage emerging out of mist in a Gucci suit, green wig and sunglasses he opened with the dark, moody beat of ‘Honesty’, his enchanting vocals drawing the early crowd in. From a slow, ethereal start including the mellow, somber tones of ‘Licking An Orchid’, he gradually built up the tension and passion in his performance, moving into the stirring ‘Lifetime’ and making his way on to the barrier to scream the poignant lyrics into the faces of those who were down the front. An impressive opening from a multi-faceted talent.
Over on the Ray-Ban Studios X stage the fast-rising DJ Moxie oversaw curation all day with her ‘On-Loop’ party and compilation brand taking over, bringing alongside her a wealth of diverse DJs including the legendary Andrew Weatherall, Galcher Lustwerk, Paquita Gordon and Octo Octa. Moxie must be respected for her forward-thinking approach to focusing on bringing the best female DJs to the fore through recognition and providing a platform for female artists on the lineups at her events, but this approach is not restricted just to playing, it’s also in the behind the scenes work where she advocates getting more women into promoting events, booking clubs and managing DJs. Regardless of this she is also one of the finest selectors out there and has built up a vast knowledge of every genre of dance floor orientated music, be it disco, house or techno, through her years of digging at London record stores and finding music to play at parties and her popular weekly radio show on NTS. Due to this she always knows how to work an audience and pick the right music for the moment. On this warm afternoon she was opening with equally vibrant house, the bouncy classic tech-house banger of Warren Clarke’s ‘4 AM Wake Up’ particularly getting the early afternoon ravers flocking underneath the gigantic X. Octo Octa followed, a DJ and producer who has also pioneered a refreshing approach to breaking down the gender barriers that surround the music industry and beyond. Her set epitomized this, with a fusion of deep house, breakbeat and minimal leaning techno that made the transition into the latter half of the day smooth, enjoyable and fun.
Jazz aficionado Kamasi Washington treated the crowd to an exquisite and tender journey through some of the finest pieces in his collection, the percussion, trombone, keys and vocals provided the perfect warm up to headline act James Blake. Unassumingly taking to the stage at his keyboard and microphone, James Blake ended the weekend in the most delicate manner, with those in attendance all the way to the back of the large field hooked on every lyric uttered by his captivating voice. He opened with ‘Assume Form’, a delicious soft track that develops into a gentle swaying piece and there were plenty of these emotive, tear-jerking moments created by Blake’s original score, but also a distinct sense of groove, particularly evident in ‘Timeless’ and ‘Where’s the Catch’, showing that James Blake is not just a one trick pony and more than capable of both headlining and holding the attention of a large festival. ‘Limit to Your Love’ was lapped up by those fans new and old alike, his ground-breaking track with its weighty, rattly sub bass line and mellow piano intertwining around his beautiful vocals. Ending with the affecting ‘Don’t Miss It’ and ‘Are You in Love?’, this was a set that again demonstrated the running theme of outstanding variety and diversity offered by this festival, appreciated by an audience that welcomed and loved all the sounds that were light, dark, soft and loud during the two days we attended. It was impossible not to leave feeling a warm glow inside at the healthy state of the scenes surrounding all the genres in display after what was such a positive experience.