On a perfectly long summer Saturday All Points East Presents put on a strong show of classy set of acts far removed from the usual madness associated with one-dayers housed in Victoria Park.
APE comes across as a cooler version of BST in Hyde Park, ignoring nostalgia acts in favour indie acts with large, engaged followings. Tonight it was the run of arena-fillers The National fresh from their emotional and acclaimed set at Primavera, with strong support from War On Drugs, Future Islands, and Cat Power.
Sunday will see Nick Cave, Patti Smith, and St. Vincent do it all over again and nail another great line up for fans of guitar music.
The National have somehow become an arena-filler, with their emotionally dextrous and complex songs, mid-tempo grooves, and angsty delivery tugging the heartstrings of their fans who consume this live set with an almost cult-like fervour.
Playing a set mainly laced with songs from 2017s beautifully titled Sleep Well Beast, the band shimmered with indie singalong goodness on songs like The Day I Die and I Need My Girl.
Perhaps its their ability to tie killer singular lines to emotional soundscapes that allow audiences to connect so well with this band. Carin At The Liquor Store is a great example of this, with a hushed murmur of so blame it on me / I really dont care / its a foregone conclusion echoing around the park.
Things came to an emotional close with an acoustic version of Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks where frontman Matt Beringer left most of the singing to the pit at the front. Prior to that, War On Drugs frontman Adam Granduciel came onstage to help deliver About Today in memory of Frightened Rabbits Scott Hutchinson.
It capped off a ragged, emotionally raw performance that suited the heat of the night, and gave fans exactly what they turned up for.
More tears were shed, strangely, earlier in the day when Cat Power played a short and sweet, all dressed in black on the sunniest part of the day. After the crowds dispersed following the final notes of Good Woman, people were visibly balling their eyes out and seeking the help of their partners to walk. It was quite the scene.
The War On Drugs really stole the show, however. Their billing as the main act on the second stage was perhaps a little low, but it was perfectly timed as the sun set to a rich soundtrack of synths, acoustic guitars, and reverb-soaked vocals.
With a sound so lush and musical, with a relentless groove and an incredible amount of detail, the band are reminiscent of Springsteen in his prime – brooding, fragile, and dangerous. Eyes To The Wind could have been on Darkness On The Edge of town, and opens the set with its wishful piano chiming out across the dusty sunset.
Like The National, The War On Drugs have steadily built a large, engaged fanbase who lap up their off-piste indie rock like its going to run out. Strangest Thing is a gigantic festival song, its extended groove and progressive build up helping the boozy, sunburnt crowd to enjoy all the good emotions all at once.
Such is their progression as a band, songs like Buenos Aires Beach from 2008 sound new and fresh, slotting in to cuts from A Deeper Understanding and Lost In The Dream with ease.
Under The Pressure brings the biggest cheers as its iconic hi hat intro blasting in over a melee of synths and feedback before the main groove and (again) Springsteen-esque piano riff sends people up onto the shoulders of others, and arms throw into the air. It would be great to see this band go another notch higher next year and headline this festival. Heres hoping.
APE is a good day out. Its not without its issues – the stage timings mean that artists are constantly overlapping and its impossible to catch all of one without missing the other. Perhaps there could also be a little more diversity encouraged with the choices of the acts mainly appealing to a single demographic.
It would be a great improvement to put all of the main acts on a single stage, and provide a few more alternate spaces like the excellent Jagerhaus which was a welcome retreat from the burning sun to play some shuffle board, sip some interesting cocktails, and catch decent up-and-coming acts like Genghar or DJ Sets from acts like Warpaint who had played earlier on the main stage.
However, the concessions, vibe, and little details of this festival (who doesnt like boozy funfair rides after dark?!) are definitely noteworthy – you spend very little time queuing for food or drinks with a card-only policy making things whizz along and there are loads of clean toilets available at all hours.
With a few tweaks, and by continuing to put on bigger, more musical indie acts, this is one to watch for 2019 and beyond.
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