Praise the lord! There is a brand new festival in town and after two weekends spent revelling in London's Victoria Park, team NME can confirm it's a bloody blinder. With a lineup rivalling the most established in the festi-pack, here are all the highlights from both weekends at All Points East.
A hedonistic and balls-out daft experience of choreographed Eurovison nightmare, Confidence Man are the must-see live act of 2018.
We hailed their debut album 'Confident Music For Confident People' as "the perfect MDMAzing soundtrack to dance until sunrise, gurn through Brexit and rave until war is over". Live, they're all that and so much more. Confidence Man are quite simply one of the best festival bands on the circuit. (Andrew Trendell)
“It’s five long years since the Yeah Yeah Yeahs played Lahndaaaah!,” yowls Karen O, resplendent in a space-silver Pink Ladies bodysuit, Suzi Quattro In The 25th Century. And Christ we’ve missed them. It's been five long years in which po-faced glumtronica has become de rigueur, ‘alternative rock’ has been taken over by boybands and someone let Mumford & Sons headline Glastonbury. We’ve never needed Karen O to strut into the All Points East dressed like a Japanese biker goddess, stamp a flume of pink confetti out of the front of the stage and gargle a microphone while doing the crab more. (Mark Beaumont)
It’s very much a celebration of YYYs, rather than a rejuvenation. There are no new songs and only ‘Down Boy’ from 2007’s ‘Is Is’ EP could be considered a deep cut, an ominous, scarred blues rocker that finds Karen growling “down boy, down” with the sinister sexuality of Grace Jones training a rottweiler. But what a jolt-awake reminder of YYYs brilliance the set proves. ‘Pin’ all silvery savagery. ‘Black Tongue’ flipping genders with the line “boy you just a stupid bitch and girl you just a no good dick” way ahead of its time. ‘Gold Lion’ a masterclass in wasted glam. ‘Zero’ a tech rock stampede complete with Karen’s semi-legendary studded biker jacket and gigantic inflatable eyeballs bouncing around Victoria Park. (Mark Beaumont)
While bashful in case of any of his stage banter comes anywhere near close to the usual rockstar tropes and cliches, James Murphy has inadvertently become the iconic pin-up for the post-noughties slacker-art generation that pack out the fields of the inaugural All Points East. With a perfect blend of art and hedonism, ‘Dance Yrself Clean’ proves to be the ultimate anthem for the people of East London in a flawless and relentless set of dancefloor punk euphoria. While the new material from ‘American Dream’ stands up with aplomb to the genre-defying class of the likes of ‘Someone Great’ and ‘Tribulations’, it’s the euphoric heartache of ‘All My Friends’ that unites the masses arm-in-arm, howling in salute to Murphy as the icon we need, even if he doesn’t know it. (Andrew Trendell)
Their set also featured a cover of 'I Want Your Love' by Chic.
More cowbell? Then welcome back Friendly Fires, who act as a kind of bookmark in the history of the indie/electro crossover placed at around 2010. It’s remarkable to be reminded how simplistic it all was in those innocent times – the Wham! hooks, the Chic disco, all that funk-punk. But when Ed Macfarlane makes his coy asides (“Remember us?”) and loses his funky shit like a spasming Lou Bega during ‘Love Sick’, when the rainbow ticker tape and streamers greet the euphoric heights of ‘Jump In The Pool’ and ‘Paris’ scythes in on the edge of a laser beam, you’d happily sell Perfume Genius’s big synthy sploosh machine for ten minutes back at Trash. The sound of summers, past and future, rolled into one. (Mark Beaumont)
Showing off his immersive and mind-bending new live show, Flying Lotus used 3D effects and trippy visuals to enhance the already otherworldly realm of his celestially wonky hip-hop dream. (Andrew Trendell)
With the relatively humble slot of topping off the second stage, the Kiwi global pop phenomenon came all guns blazing to deliver an incredible onslaught of sophisticated trip-pop and all out dancefloor bangers. (Andrew Trendell)
Name a greater high than losing your shit to 'Green Light' on a crisp summer's evening. Go on. (Andrew Trendell)
Glorious sunshine baked each day, with a flourish of lightning on the horizon on a couple of the evenings.
The XX were Saturday night's APE headliners. “I’m feeling very patriotic,” Oliver Sim mutters ahead of his mid-set party piece ‘Fiction’, and a previously blissed out crowd suddenly tense, in case The xx’s stratospheric rise is about to take a sudden turn for the Morrissey. But no, he reminisces fondly about the royal wedding, celebrates the sunshine and entreats us to “celebrate your city, celebrate yourselves”, because The xx’s phenomenal success is built on binding people with tiny kindnesses and splayed vulnerabilities. “I think my heart just broke,” a grown man behind us says at one point in their set. Then, “did I say that out loud?” (Mark Beaumont)
It’s these gentle party pumpers that’ll keep the crowds coming back, but the cold and haunting likes of ‘Test Me’ and Romy’s closing ‘Angels’ that will stick in their souls, triumphs of atmosphere and restraint. If your heart didn’t break, you’re already dead. (Mark Beaumont)
Direct but adventurous, Yonaka are the future of young British rock. (Andrew Trendell)
A beautiful and bold mix of ska, reggae and straight-up 21st century pop music, Mina Rose delivered a summer-ready technicolour dream that proved that there's far, far more to her than the delicious goodness of 'Lemons And Limes'. (Andrew Trendell)
For masterclasses in merging melody with synthetic mania, however, look to APE’s old-timers. Soulwax fill every spare inch of their white cubist stage set with drummers and spinning silver heads and pump out an immense ‘NY Excuse’ like a legal writ demanding that they be given the Friday night headline slot instead of LCD Soundsystem. (Mark Beaumont)
Hailing from just down the road in Camden, Bakar picks up the punk, indie and garage rock legacy of the area's celebrated history and takes it racing into the future. It's a thrill to behold. (Andrew Trendell)
Off the back of their acclaimed 2017 album 'What Now', Sylvan Esso enhanced the sunshine with some sweet and shimmering electro-pop.
After collaborating with Daft Punk, Parcels are now eyeing up the dance rock throne themselves.
No pineapples allowed, just one hell of a good time.
You can't help but love Phoenix.
The best that Scottish hip-hop has to offer, bow down to Young Fathers.
With a smattering of R&B-driven gems from her upcoming new album 'So Sad So Sexy', Lykke Li brought her intoxicating brand of Scandinavian sultry melancholia to London's Victoria Park to showcase how 2018 could yet still belong to her. (Andrew Trendell)
“Here’s a story that’s as stupid as it is sad,” wrly drawls FJM to a sun-baked crowd introducing recent single ‘Mr Tillman’. “That’s my favourite combination”. We’re inclined to agree. With a career-spanning set driven by banter, loaded with heartache and drenched in melancholic but life-affirming melody, Father John Misty’s charisma and sheer class puts him a league of his own as a live act. Our favourite combination, he’s as charming as he is devastating. (Andrew Trendell)
Prone to meandering off into self-indulgence on record – his new album ‘God’s Favourite Customer’ is a welcome return to the succinct - occasionally Tillman’s songs trip over themselves live too. ‘I Love You, Honeybear’ is too busy to keep focus and ‘Pure Comedy’ loses its way after Tillman pauses the song to pretend Bjork’s going to pop on for a guest spot. But well-honed unpredictability works for Tillman, particularly at the point in the middle of standard country strumbler ‘Holy Shit’ when the song is suddenly obliterated by a burst of cosmic chaos that sounds like Bjork, annoyed at being roused early from her preparation petal, has ordered a drone strike of explosive pop plasma on the stage. That the song then returns as a beefed-up Hulk of itself is proof of Tillman’s cult-making credentials – he’ll see us through the hellfire and only come back stronger. Praise him, like you should. (Mark Beaumont)
Tune follows tune with an all-time feel good set of slacker rock anthems, with a little cover of Prince thrown in for good measure. This is the most fun you can have in the daylight hours - we only wish they'd turn it up a little louder. (Andrew Trendell)
The thing about Beck is that he has no bad songs. Tracks off his latest record, 'Colors' got the crowd going as much as 'Odelay' classics and with a finalé of 'Where it's At', there was no better warm-up for his old pal Bjork on the main stage.
A festival headline set from Björk is seldom seen in the UK, but flanked by an army of flautists before a nature-worshipping visual spectacular, Björk and her 'Utopia' project prove to be everything you'd expect: artful, esoteric, challenging and well worth the wait. (Andrew Trendell)
Bjork performed the classic 'Human Behaviour' for the first time in 11 years, and the Gods applauded with a lightning show in the tempestuous skies surrounding the festival.
It just wouldn't be a Frank Carter gig without getting up close and personal with the first few rows.
In a league of their own, Blossoms bring the indie pop class of 'Cool Like Me' to London. One day, they'll headline.
Van McCann soaks up the screams as Catfish & The Bottlemen headline APE Presents.
Having just released her debut album 'LoveLaws' as TT, Theresa Wayman got back with the girls for Warpaint's blissed out day at APE Presents with The National.
"This song is for the young people out there who are afraid of what is going on," Future Islands frontman Samuel T Herring told the crowd while introducing 'Balance'. "We are going to get through this together."
Amen. Growling, howling and dancing free of inhibitions, Future Islands make us all feel that little bit closer to a brighter tomorrow. (Andrew Trendell)
Name a more perfect summer evening festival band than The War On Drugs. Go on. You can't, can you?
Tonight was just the latest rung on the gradual but unstoppable ascent of the band who’ve played the long game and won. Always existing outside of trends and fads, they stand here tonight purely because they deserve it and the people want them to.
“There are no bells, no whistles, no gimmicks, just a flawless catalogue and a whole lotta love. This was their finest hour, but there will be so many more. No one can deny them that. God Bless The National. (Andrew Trendell)
To a crowd of over 35,000, The National's most triumphant UK show to date saw them invite The Staves on guest vocals for new song 'Light Years', while Adam Granduciel from The War On Drugs joined them for 'Terrible Love' and 'About Today'. The true highlight though, was the stripped back acoustic finale of 'Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks' - inviting the vast audience to howl back at them, arm in arm.
The first moment of summer fun on the closing day of APE Presents 2018 came from the effortlessly cool Courtney Barnett.
Pulling one of the biggest crowds of the entire festival, Patti Smith opened with a powerful reading of Alan Ginsberg’s 'Howl' before a 10-track masterclass in what it takes to be an icon. Packed with power, poetry and a call for universal freedom, it was a show for the ages.
A sultry sci-fi fever dream from a future headline and icon in the making. (Andrew Trendell)
Bringing out Kylie Minogue to duet on their classic 'Where The Wild Roses Grow' as well as inviting a mass stage invasion for the closing numbers, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds artfully struck that timeless balance between brute force and tenderness that makes them so seminal. Renowned for his demonic presence, tonight rendered Cave ever more human but no less striking. This was an arresting performance that no one present will ever forget. (Andrew Trendell)
Bad Seeds guitarist Jim Sclavunos recently spoke to NME about his work with the band, and described the band’s preparation for their current tour.
“For this tour, we’ve been rehearsing loads of ‘new old songs’. It remains to be seen, but we always try to have a few surprises”, he said.
“There’s at least one song there that we’ve never done live. There’s always a spontaneity to us. I’ve been playing in the band since 1994 and we’ve played a lot. Another part of it comes from our personal inclinations, other parts are from a directive from Nick. He always keeps a very high bar and we need to be responsive to the unexpected – and actively seek it out. That’s how we roll!”
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ setlist was:
Do You Love Me?
From Her to Eternity
Red Right Hand
Come Into My Sleep
Into My Arms
Girl in Amber
Where the Wild Roses Grow (with Kylie Minogue)
Push the Sky Away
London's newest addition to the festival circuit very much whetted our appetite for a summer of excellent music. See you in the fields.
With a licence for another four years, we can't wait to see what APE will do next. It'll be a hard one to beat. See you next year.