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"Keep It Hydrated, Keep It Fresh, Keep It Real": All Points East Misses The Mark In 2019

Wednesday, 05 June 2019 Written by Helen Payne

Photo: PM Legrand

“Keep it hydrated, keep it fresh, keep it real.”

Mac DeMarco had his bucket hat-wearing audience’s best interests at heart when he performed the psychedelic On The Level and fan-favourite Salad Days early in the evening on the final day of All Points East, a London festival already known for hosting killer line ups despite its comparative youth.

The goofy indie slacker, dressed in football shorts and an old white tee, entertained his audience with silly on-stage tricks and his effortlessly groovy tracks, as well as making up his own slogans in an attempt to fit in with a festival that’s more than a little bit partial to some corporate advertising.

Aside from the drinking water tasting like the rusty taps it dribbled from, we stuck to Mac’s orders as best we could. We tried to keep it real on a day specifically tailored towards introspective, emotive and poignant artists, we really did.

But keeping it real is difficult when every corner of the festival is peppered with advertising. Tinder-labelled iridescent sun visors littered the crowds, the controversial Huawei logo was plastered on the side of sound desks and an American Express viewing platform was available.

Although we were over the moon to have him in our presence, Ezra Furman voiced what everyone was thinking as he crashed around the stage in a dress, lipstick and pearls: “Why the hell have they invited me?” Furman yelled that rock ‘n’ roll isn’t dead and screeched out Suck The Blood From My Wound and Restless Year in his raspy vocals.

He took the piss out of the commercialised landscape before him, but thanked the organisers for the invitation anyway, which was a pretty exemplary summation of how the whole day panned out. The corporate side of things was impossible to ignore, even from the performers’ point of view, but the music was always bubbling under.

Spanning two weekends, the second edition of the “festival for the discerning music fan” honed in even more closely on genre-specific line ups for each day. The Chemical Brothers’ segment included electronic masterclasses from Peggy Gou, Jon Hopkins and Spiritualized. The Strokes headlined day two after their fellow early 2000s New York peers Interpol, as well as the Raconteurs and Johnny Marr, while Christine and the Queens helmed an electro-pop-fuelled Sunday after sets from James Blake, Metronomy and Beach House. So far, so good.

The line ups raised a few more eyebrows on the second weekend—Run The Jewels and Idles alongside Bring Me The Horizon and Sleeping With Sirens, grime legend Dizzee Rascal on the same bill as Mumford and Sons?— but were largely fantastic. Attendees bought into a specific vibe, rather than a smattering intended to please the many.

It’s a great premise. With Bon Iver placing an atmospheric Skinny Love-shaped full stop on proceedings, the rest of the final day was peppered with artists of a similarly brooding nature. Julien Baker’s somewhat brief set made us weep over on the North Stage, and Charlie Cunningham had us enticed with his percussive, expressive way of manipulating classical guitar tones in the early afternoon sun.

The Tallest Man on Earth took on the main stage completely alone, save for his trusty Gretsch 12-string, proving that even standing at only five-foot-something you can command as big a presence as you want. Surprisingly, this quieter, more reflective vibe worked just as well as what you’d normally expect in a festival setting.

There were no beery mass singalongs or death-defying mosh pits, with punters instead doing more sitting on the grass, engaging in emotional lyricism and drinking in spellbinding beats. This particular kind of indie fan apparently gets their kicks from absorbing a feeling of delight and completion when listening to slower, more contemplative songs.

Yet Furman’s comments lingered in the dusty London air long after Justin Vernon had closed his set by playing out new singles. While the curated line ups unreservedly brought in crowds and made tickets fly— old-skool ravers now leaving middle age, teenage hipsters, gangs of mid-twenties mates, and parents with their kids were among the festival-goers—the sterile branding of the site took away from any kind of character its incredible collection of artists may have offered.

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