All Points East review – blockbuster festival makes a muted return

Victoria Park, London
Standout sets from the Chemical Brothers and Christine and the Queens salvage an opening weekend marred by sound issues

Once host to a plethora of summer festivals including Field Day and Lovebox, Victoria Park now hosts just one – the blockbuster All Points East, backed by Coachella super-promoters Goldenvoice: two weekends of music, with a programme of free community events on the site in between.

As with its first edition, the festival doesn’t have a distinct identity as much as a series of loose themes: for its first weekend, Friday has a dance music bent with the Chemical Brothers headlining; the Strokes are the centrepiece of a more indie-centric Saturday that runs the gamut from Interpol’s laconic rock to Primal Scream’s sweaty anthems, while Christine and the Queens play alongside artful electropop acts including James Blake and Toro y Moi on the Sunday.

While continuity plays second fiddle to corporate identity (Tinder and controversial tech giant Huawei are among the brands with a major presence here) and cut-price ticket deals perhaps hint at lacking sales, there are thankfully some standout sets along the way. Despite a downpour, the Chemical Brothers offer hordes of semi-retired ravers hits such as Hey Boy Hey Girl as well as newer material, such as Eve of Destruction, featuring the icy vocals and image of Norwegian singer Aurora.

‘Audience members can be heard shouting “turn it up”’ ... Julian Casablancas of the Strokes at All Points East.
‘Audience members can be heard shouting “turn it up”’ ... Julian Casablancas of the Strokes at All Points East. Photograph: Matthew Baker/Getty Images

Johnny Marr courts the Saturday crowd with a run of his own material as well as some Smiths cuts, offering a Morrissey-free way to enjoy How Soon Is Now? New jazz brightened up a drab Sunday, with a star turn from Miles Mosley on the double bass alongside Kamasi Washington and Ezra Collective’s hazy cover of Shanks & Bigfoot’s UK garage classic Sweet Like Chocolate proving particularly potent. Hot Chip deviate slightly from their Casio-bothering with a cover of Beastie Boys’ Sabotage; Róisín Murphy offers indefatigable art-pop; Dream Wife and Amyl and the Sniffers are punky yet lovable, and Yves Tumor delivers rocky noise experimentalism and plunderphonics while wearing one of the weekend’s best outfits: snakeskin trousers, bustier and lime green wig.

The main issue across the weekend, however, is sound that verges from tinny to non-existent. At the Strokes’ headline set on Saturday, audience members can be heard shouting “turn it up”, unable to hear Julian Casablancas’s stage patter and the music itself. Despite a set that brings together the band’s biggest hits, closing with Last Night, the mood is one of dissatisfaction, with the festival later releasing a statement that expressed “regret that a section of the audience didn’t have the audio experience that we expect for them”.

It comes down to the final headliner to end the embattled weekend on a high, and in that respect French megastar Christine and the Queens excels herself. Reworking her sold out arena shows for a smaller setting while retaining the visual drama, pyrotechnics, skilful matador moves and a dance break to Janet Jackson’s Nasty, the artist latterly known as Chris commands the stage with a focus and attention to detail reminiscent of Beyoncé’s Homecoming.

A rush of influences (samples included Marlon Riggs’s film Tongues Untied on race and sexuality, and Luniz’s I Got Five on It, recently revived by Jordan Peele’s Us) combined with Chris’s tender sad-pop and even a poignant, vocoder-spiked a capella cover of Bowie’s Heroes create a stunning end to proceedings. “You guys made me want to be utterly naked and vulnerable”, she said, offering a raw end to a weekend that could benefit from more soul-baring – and maybe some better speakers.


Hannah J Davies

The GuardianTramp

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