Just as 2021’s delayed festival season felt like it was finding its feet, summer is rolling to what feels like a premature close.
Every single event that has been able to open its gates over the last month has brought a fervent, feverish energy with it, with fans not only making up for lost time, but scrambling to savour every last drop before the season disappears. Maybe it’s this feeling – as well as the presence of thousands of revellers travelling back from a weekend at Reading Festival to continue the party for one more day – that makes the final day of All Points East 2021 feel like a proper celebration.
While the previous three days of All Points East have seen progressive headline bookings, giving London Grammar, Jorja Smith, Bicep and Kano their biggest shows to date, today’s finale has the whiff of a nostalgia fest for millennials, with Bombay Bicycle Club topping the bill alongside Foals: who air plenty of rarer cuts from their 2010 album ‘Total Life Forever’ as a belated 10th birthday live outing.
Though these headliners come later into the day, the Bank Holiday festivities begin with two artists that are part of the next generation carrying on the mantle. Straight from her Sunday night set in Reading, Holly Humberstone wakes up the West Stage – one of two cavernous main stages in Hackney’s Victoria Park this year – with a confidence and stature that defies her relative lack of live experience.
“This is my first real chance to meet people,” she tells the crowd, discussing how she released her first music just a month before lockdown began last spring. The rapturous response to the surging ‘Falling Asleep At The Wheel’ that follows makes her beam as she finally gets the real-world confirmation of her steady rise over the last year and a half.
If Holly Humberstone was one of lockdown’s breakout stars, then she was only pipped to top spot by Arlo Parks. While lockdown meant that the natural environment to listen to ‘Eugene’, ‘Black Dog’ et al was in your bedroom, Parks manages to translate the songs’ hushed intimacy to main stages without a hitch, largely down to her horn-assisted 9-piece band.
For many of those who grew up on a diet of Foals, Bombay Bicycle Club and their contemporaries, The Magic Gang are a new favourite, and the enormous crowd that spills out of the festival’s only tent stage proves it. Second album ‘Death Of The Party’, released last year, expanded the band’s jangly Beach Boys-esque indie-pop into new territories, but their penchant for a buoyant festival banger remains: ‘Think’ and ‘How Can I Compete’ close the set in one of the best-received double-whammies of the day.
Elsewhere, the energy continues in different ways. Set under a phenomenal spider-like construction, the 6 Music stage, has been curated by the station’s presenter and DJ Maryanne Hobbs for an ‘All Queens’ showcase: London DJ and producer Maya Jane Coles, Brooklyn house purveyor Octo Octa and Hobbs herself keep the beats running throughout.
For Springsteen-level bombast and heart-thumping, widescreen rock, Gang of Youths are the best around at the moment, and thrill their adopted hometown on the West Stage. Caribou, meanwhile, feels cut adrift from the rest of the festival – stylistically, at least – but ‘Odessa’, ‘Can’t Do Without You’ and ‘Sun’ can unite any festival crowd, especially one as keen and fervent as today’s.
Though nostalgia feels prevalent in the night’s pair of closing sets, neither Foals nor Bombay Bicycle Club are intent on just looking backwards. For the former, latter day singles ‘Carry Me’ and ‘Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You’) feel like the set’s defining moments, while Rae Morris joins them for a cover of Selena Gomez’s ‘Lose You To Love Me’ and their own track ‘Luna’.
By the time the London four-piece are joined by the London School of Samba to add flair to a rapturous performance of ‘Always Like This’, the band and crowd are positively beaming together. After five years defined by burnout and an ensuing hiatus, Bombay are now clearly having the most fun of their entire career, and it rubs off on the giddy thousands in attendance.
It’s then left to Foals to rubber-stamp a Bank Holiday Monday of chaos and jubilation, and who better to act as the growling, feral conductor than Yannis Philippakis, on fierce form tonight. The band’s 90-minute set has all the requisite festival anthems, while they also give a number of rarities from 2010 second album ‘Total Life Forever’ a live airing, and celebrate their ever-growing musical legacy.
On days like this, Yannis tells the crowd before ‘Spanish Sahara’, “we get to feel what it is to be human again.” A few minutes later, as the track avalanches towards chaos, he invites the crowd to “forget the horror here” in a visceral, communal exorcism – it’s a slice of light to carry with us through the looming winter months.