A new addition to an already packed schedule of UK festivals, the first ever All Points East brought crowds in their tens of thousands to Victoria Park for three days of blazing sunshine (and some epic evening lightning) as the sky lit up for headline performances from The xx and Bjork.
Spread across six different stages and with the sun beaming down on all three days, the genre-hopping line-up - Beck plays at the same time as The Black Madonna’s journey through funk, techno and acid - attracts an impressively varied crowd. Older couples dance alongside groups of trendy twenty-somethings and city workers in salmon pink suit jackets rub shoulders with leather-jacket-clad hipsters sporting perfectly twizzled moustaches: no two groups of people look the same - rather it’s an impressively all-ages mix of the crowds you’d find at Lovebox, Latitude and Field Day.
Hosted by Goldenvoice - the team behind Coachella - it’s clear that the organisers of All Points East want to create something just as musically varied but for the British crowd. That means curating a line-up that covers virtually every genre, including plenty of artists on the verge of breaking performing alongside iconic headline names.
The X Stage - a massive in the round structure with an incredible set of speakers in each corner - is a haven for house and techno lovers with sets from Mr G, Byron The Aquarius and DJ Tennis, who takes the crowd on a journey of feel-good disco (Goody Goody’s seductive 1978 classic ‘It Looks Like Love’), spiralling breaks (Jaydee’s ‘Plastic Dreams’) before switching to rave-y 90s acid (Josh Wink’s laser-heavy Tweekin Acid Funk Mix of ‘Higher State of Consciousness’).
The Jagerhaus, meanwhile, provides an intimate stage for fast-rising politically-driven trio Benin City to encourage dancing as a form of protest and Nigerian London-based Aadae to unite her audience with the instantly infectious Afro-beats-influenced soulful pop of ‘They Will Not Divide Us’. Next door in the garden, legendary DJ and dance music historian Bill Brewster is starting a disco party with funky selections like Ziggy Funk’s ‘One Evening’ getting everyone dancing together under the bright blue sky…
The West Arena - a massive, dome-shaped tent – welcomes the coolest, more alternative, artists on the line-up. Playing his first festival in the capital, French London-based rapper Octavian’s fusion of dancehall, rap and bass-heavy production on ‘Hands’ and ‘Party Here’ creates something that sounds fresh and uniquely new. Dutch-Iranian basketballer turned singer Sevdaliza’s enchanting fka Twigs-like trip-hop casts her as a modern day Janet Jackson before she crushes rose amid haunting final song ‘Human’. Sweden’s Lykke Li commands the stage effortlessly performing older fan favourites ‘No Rest for the Wicked’ and ‘I Follow Rivers’, uniting the packed tent in voice, and Kelela positions herself as the queen of futurist R&B as her unbeatable vocal destroys the competition during ‘Rewind’.
Over on the East Stage, there’s the return of some indie-pop favourites. Phoenix get everyone bopping along with a beer in hand to ‘Lisztomania’ and ‘Girlfriend’ as a giant inflatable eye rolls across the crowd and three girls wearing pink party hats hug each other while on their boyfriends’ shoulders. Despite being away for almost half a decade, Friendly Fires haven’t forgotten how to put on a great show full of hits as tireless frontman Ed Macfarlane bounces around the stage dripping with sweat. Another iconic band making their long-awaited return to London – giving it their all on the main stage – the Yeah Yeah Yeahs prove that rock and roll most certainly isn’t dead as effortlessly charismatic front-woman Karen O swings her microphone around and smashes it on the ground after a wild throwback of ‘Heads Will Roll’ and ‘Date With The Night’.
While the American trio’s set is a highlight, the real unifying moment of the entire festival comes when Korean-American producer and DJ Yaeji drops one of the biggest underground anthems of the last year, her own instantly unforgettable ‘Raingurl’, to a crowd of hundreds circling the gigantic X Stage. A master behind the decks and looking like she’s enjoying every minute, sweaty bodies are crammed tight as the infectious club anthem gets everyone bouncing, waving their arms in the air and singing back the earworm chorus: 2018 is going to be the year of Yaeji.
New Zealand’s Lorde - and her six faultlessly choreographed dancers who carry her overhead and throw her up in the air at one point - create a similarly euphoric and carefree atmosphere on the North Stage as green confetti explodes over the ecstatic crowd during a jubilant rendition of ‘Green Light’ for which she tells everyone to unleash their pain after hugging some superfans on the front row.
Watching The xx play their biggest hometown show to date is another of these moments - made even more striking by the lightning illuminating the sky. With smoke filling the stage and a curtain backdrop illuminated by neon colours, the Brixton trio deliver an emotive yet anthemic career-spanning show. The hushed ‘I Dare You’ has thousands of couples hugging and taking in the moment before guitarist/vocalist Oliver Sim gushes patriotically about falling in love with London all over again. ‘Shelter’ is given a more upbeat club-friendly reworking before the lightning strikes creating an eerie atmosphere during heartbreaking set closer ‘Angels’.
Exactly 24 hours later the lightning returns - just in time for the last show of the weekend. Conjuring a whole new planet onstage, it’s as if Icelandic goddess Bjork has worked her otherworldly magic to make her performance even more atmospheric and hypnotising. A fairytale-like utopia brought to life with perfectly-choreographed flute pixies, an enchanting harpist playing and eye-popping, Attenborough-style visuals, it’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen; it’s a fitting finale to an endlessly diverse weekend of music that marks All Points East as a serious contender for the UK festival crown.