A Magnificent Return To Live Music At All Points East

by Thomas Harvey

6th September, 2021

A magnanimous return to live music after a year of lockdown under COVID. A reminiscence of the greatest and worst memories of what being at a festival is really like. What All Points East lacked in sound quality and stage errors it made up for in its line-up; a testament to the metropolitan ocean of talented London based artists. 

Friday: Losing Your Head to London Grammar

What a moment to be screaming out the words to London Grammar; stood next to this girl Lauren who you just met but feel like you’ve known your whole life. Festivals are back and the bank holiday weekend was filled with parties, music and East London’s own alternative paradise All Points East Festival

Nothing could stop that freedom feeling, except maybe a few cutouts of sound and a sometimes demoralisingly quiet live performance. The fluctuation between extremely loud and barely audible sound was a hiccup in the flow of All Points East, but fortunately, the selection of artists on Friday made up for it. Split between five stages I watched artists across the site and between the main pillars of the East and West stages. 

Loraine James kick-started my day with their experimental/electronic sounds, DJ’ing underneath the arches that amounted to the 6Music Arena. Die-hard fans were evident, even if arrivals were slow to the festival as numbers increasingly began to pile in. Rising star Enny performed on the large West stage to a mass crowd of fans having recently collaborated with Jorja Smith and released her first EP Under Twenty Five. Incredibly grateful to be on stage, this energy was something I witnessed throughout the weekend. Artists have missed being live on stage and frankly, we have missed them too.  

The North arena was the only stage set underneath a typical festival-esque tent with my first visit for alternative duo Jadu Heart, whose haunting melodies and heavy riffs persisted through various sound feedback issues. Festivals are infamous for their bad sound with a difficulty of fast change-overs and therefore no time for a soundcheck, however, you’d hope measures can be put in place. Jadu Heart certainly had a fan base there who were willing to ignore any hiccups and enjoy some of their favourite songs like Burning Hour. One portion of vegan popcorn chicken later (it is East London don’t forget) and I was back for Läpsley, who took my favourite performance of the day, highlights including choreography, striking vocals and an equally beautiful blue dress since releasing her album, Through Water. 

More spine-tingling moments included hearing Celeste live for the first time on the East Stage and witnessing the wild energy of a Mura Masa set in the most packed together crowd of the day before a big sound cut out which certainly killed the mood for an electronic act whose changes are supposed to feel seamless! Fortunately, spirits could not be dulled and headliners London Grammar did not disappoint. With an ability to elevate senses into the heavens, lead singer Hannah Reid is forever humble and need not say any words to an audience that simply absorbs every note. Songs included, Metal and Dust, Lose Your Head and more. London Grammar proved the importance of live music bare to its core and without ego. Just simply beautiful live music. 

Saturday: Making Rainbows out of something painful with Arlo Parks 

London is the musical home to so many iconic and incredibly talented artists. We were fortunate to have performances from a large majority of them over this weekend. Saturday meant more of a focus on rap, Jazz and electronic musicians owning the stages and attendees were fully settled into the celebrations of the long weekend. 

Nubya Garcia graced the East stage armed with her saxophone and enigmatic live band, to set the tone for what was going to be a day of true artistic integrity. Jazz meets neo-soul with sultry lines of decadence and instrumental solos. It was a perfect warm hug and introduction to my day. I am a huge Little Simz fan and I was ecstatic to find out that she was going to be performing at All Points East on the West stage. Little Simz brought the blaze she’s known for with a performance that both enriched and further cemented her music as her truth of the times. Flying across the stage, she brought fast lines of bars and an appearance from vocalist Cleo Sol. Little Simz has just released her new album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert which is out now. 

Little Simz

The BMW Next Stage was a smaller stage set next to the East stage and home to several up and rising artists. I was tipped off by a friend to go and watch Alewya who recently featured on the song Where’s My Lighter with Little Simz. Alewya brought a lot of dance energy with drum and bass breaks and is certainly an artist to keep an eye on. Another artist on this stage was Priya Ragu who was recently featured on the new Jungle record. Ragu’s songs were incredibly catchy and reminiscent of Kaytranada style productions that made for a good dance. 

The name behind many household artists such as Ed Sheeran, FKA Twigs and more, Fred Again brought out his solo album Actual Life (April 14- December 17 2020) during lockdown with some incredible guest appearances including, Julia Michaels and The Blessed Madonna. Humbled by the turnout, the performance was an elevation of the narrative-driven stories of each song alongside photos and visuals that seemed like photos taken by friends or family behind the scenes. 

Kano by Michael-Fung-Photography

Kano didn’t hold back with his set on the East stage with a gospel choir and full backing of instrumentalists. His craftsmanship was highlighted by moments of pure musical bliss and having not heard many songs I was truly transfixed by his performance. A true performer in his element I would certainly go and watch him again and listen to his renowned album Hoodies All Summer. 

Saturday headliner Jamie XX brought a torrent of energy to a crowd that was raring to keep dancing after a year throughout lockdown. The XX family have defined the alternative music scene in London so it was an honour to have performances from other members including Romy during the day. With songs including Loud Places from the album In Colour and newer releases like Idontknow. Saturday night ended with euphoria and a continued feeling of gratitude to be able to dance.

Monday: Remembering how to mosh with Foals  

It wasn’t until the wall of death had been created that I realised I was going to be in it. Before I knew it I was catapulted through the air, remembering how good it feels to be pushed and punched in the face accidentally. Was it the right setting for Foals music? Perhaps not at some points, but let’s be honest since we all have so much pent up energy, I think we would have moshed to anything. 

Olivia Dean photographed by Tom Hancock

The final day of All Points East felt much busier. This could have been to do with a realisation of numbers or insurance for attendees over new regulations, but people were on their last legs of the bank holiday and either hadn’t stopped or were simply holding on for dear life. I was a combination of both. 

Superstars to be; Olivia Dean and Holly Humberstone graced the West Stage with afternoon sets to warm into the day. Holly took everything into her own hands with multiple instruments playing over a track and had a large chorus of crowd vocals to support her own for songs like Deep End

Holly Humberstone photographed by Jordan Curtis

It had taken me three days to adjust back to the festival but something I had learnt again by Monday was that sometimes you just have to make sacrifices to see those clashing acts. We ran across the site to see folk-pop band Flyte and catch the last half of their set for songs like I’ve Got A Girl. An absolutely stunning mix of vocals with a Beatles-like influence. 

One of the highlights of my weekend was Jade Bird who absolutely commanded the West stage with her performance and recent album release Different Kinds Of Light. Bold and full of vibrancy her performance was a reminder of what it takes to really pull off that performance on a big stage to a crowd who sometimes may not know many songs or may know them all! Whichever of those it is you have to give it that energy and we were taken aback. 

The rest of my day was a steady need to remain at the festivals biggest stage, the East stage. An enchanting performance by the flawless Lianne La Havas never disappoints hearing some of the songs off of self-titled Lianne La Havas including a wonderful cover of Radiohead’s Weird Fishes. The crowd was worn-out and tired but treading into the last big push of their bank holiday weekend either still drunk or taking it easier. The lighter sing-alongs were welcomed in preparation for the heavier acts to follow. 

Caribou is the electronic mastermind; who fuels catchy melodies alongside dance beats. His show on the East stage was full of vivacity and an expert light show that complimented the sun slowly descending into the evening. With everyone on their feet and using their last reserves, spirits were still high and I enjoyed listening and taking part in typical festival conversations with people that you’ll likely never see again.

As Caribou finished we took strides towards the front for the final headliner of the weekend, Foals. For some reason, a year away from live music had allowed me to forget that mosh pits exist and I was both thrilled and terrified. The set was full of big alternative rock songs and heavy riffs that permitted the formation of a wall of death inside the crowd. What felt like one hip-pop later and a whole lot of bruises, tumbles and pickups and we were moving towards the concluding songs of the weekend. Spanish Sahara was a highlight alongside many renowned classics from previous albums like What Went Wrong. Foals never disappoint. 

All Points East staged some of the best musical acts London has to offer across a multitude of days on one long weekend. Although it learned from mistakes, what it couldn’t deliver in sound, it certainly offered in performance. One can only hope that next year the sound can be improved upon much earlier in the game as opposed to slowly amongst the three days. I learnt once again how to retain stamina at a festival and also how much I appreciated having a bed to go back to after a long day. Freedom never sounded so sweet and live music never felt so good. Make sure you go out and champion your favourite acts, for them and for you. 

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