By Phil Lawlor, Co-Founder, Big Sync Music for BEAST
As a music agency whose HQ is East London based, we were naturally excited to hear about the newest festival on the UK circuit – All Points East. This is a brand new, ten day live music and community event taking place at East London’s legendary and beautiful Victoria Park – a location that’s seen an open air music festival or two in its time. We went along on Sunday 27th May, the final day of the first weekend – headlined by Björk.
The event felt safe and well organised – this isn’t a country festival in a field but then it’s not trying to be. As a city festival with no camping, what it lacks in immerse-yourself escapism and anarchy, it makes up for in many other ways. Firstly, you can find your way around easily – it’s clearly signposted, easy to navigate and well thought-out. The wide variety of food and drink was all designed for a more adult audience with lots of boutique, gastro-style stalls. The event app allows you to buy credits and unlock extra touches throughout the festival such as upgrading to a special viewing area.
The line-up for all days was diverse with some of the coolest names in music from Friendly Fires to Father John Misty. Listening to Khruangbin, the Thai funk trio from Texas, felt very Woodstock in the sun and their best performance for us was Lady and Man. We’d been looking forward to Beck and we weren’t disappointed. Beck did a solid job, and pulled a crowd pleasing set of hits for a proper party atmosphere plus a superb cover of Raspberry Beret. He turned some initial tech difficulties into opportunities to interact with the crowd like a true professional, playing the harmonica and some solo pieces. Beck played to the crowd but no-one could deny the vibe when the whole the audience responded by singing along to nineties anthem, Loser.
Another highlight was the Flying Lotus 3D set featuring the Californian electronic artist FlyLo – who just happens to be the great-nephew of the late jazz pianist Alice Coltrane (wife of saxophonist John Coltrane). This was just one guy on a stage in a dark tent in front of a giant screen that was throwing out some intensely trippy, space-like visuals, that perfectly punctuated the music, further enhanced by our 3D glasses. I’m usually a bit suspicious of 3D glasses but it really did create a cinematic experience. I wonder what Coltrane would have said?
Björk put on an enchanted spectacle with an earth-mother theme that seemed to be in perfect sync with the weather. The rain held back and as giant orchids blossomed on stage in time to the music, a passing thunder storm gave us an additional, extraordinary light show – forked lightening and thunder claps revealing the London skyline under a dramatic full moon.
In contrast to Beck’s classic set, Björk only played a few older songs like 1993’s Human Behaviour and 1995’s Isobel. The rest of the set was dedicated to a lush visual interpretation of her 9th studio album, Utopia, about a world where tech and nature work together in harmony. Industrial techno and gabber percussion created the background pulse for the voluptuous blossoming of tropical flowers, supported by the softer sounds of harpists, birdsong and a band of seven dancing pixie flautists(!) plus, of course, Björk’s extraordinary voice. These elements of light and shade somehow really worked, you just had to go with it. I doubt she’ll win any new fans from this performance – this tour is for the hardcore Björk lovers. And there were no catchy melodies, since this is true free-form art that just has to be soaked up, in the same way as a late night avant garde film. I’ve never been her biggest fan but I do enjoy it when artists experiment and try new forms of expression. To headline a festival and take such a different approach was brave and beautiful – but then that’s Björk.
All Points East ends this weekend with three huge All Points East Presents headline shows – Catfish and the Bottlemen, The National, and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.