Have you been searching your entire life for a concert experience that is as awesome and diverse as WPRB? Well you need to look no further than our home state of New Jersey, as the All Points West festival in Jersey City has delivered again. In its second year, the festival boasted the headliners of Jay-Z, Tool, and Coldplay, with daily line-ups that made even our music senses tingle. Furthermore, it is the first festival of its size to have the entire show filmed in 3D, using brand new technology from Cinedigm. Although the weekend’s weather was unpredictably harsh, ushering in Woodstock-reminiscent ponchos and mudslides, the fun just could not be rained out. So grab a cup of coffee, lean back in your recliner, and read on as I tell you the tale of the second annual All Points West festival.
All Points West is the east coast’s largest festival, drawing almost 75,000 people over three days. Unlike some other festivals, it does not allow entrants to pitch tents or stay overnight, leaving the focus on the music. Not to leave out any details, there were a number of pieces of artwork adorning the park, including a fiber-optic mirror-crested fountain, a shaded misting oasis crafted from wooden crates, and an amorphous lavender-tinted “solar pavilion.” However, this festival was all about the performers.
New this year, each day was brought in by a string of comedic acts, with the first day featuring the comedians Bo Burnham, Eugene Mirman, and Arj Barker. Following months of doing almost nothing, I was able to walk shuffle between the enormous distances between stages to catch most of the musical acts. The music started almost immediately as the Heartless Bastards attracted an indie rock crowd on the Bullet Stage, while The Knux tore up the main stage, the Blue Comet Stage, bringing fans up on the stage to dance and “put it in the air.”
Shortly after, I was able to experience one of the most interesting acts of the day, Shearwater, who played an entrancing set with members trading and picking up different instruments between nearly every song while singer Jonathan Meiberg’s Celtic vocals led the pack – definitely an act not to miss. As they lured in fans, Seasick Steve played his 3-string guitar on the main stage, getting the audience dancing with the tap of his foot, and holding dearly his bottle of Jack Daniels in between songs. I was able to catch a bit of Telepathe, two energetic girls playing psychedelic electronic music, before hurrying over to see Fleet Foxes, definitely one of the highlights of the day.
Their chorus of voices and celestial sounds seemed to awaken the gods, as dark clouds set in and the rain started for the day. “I feel like we’re a guild of wizards here to deliver an ominous warning,” joked frontman Robin Pecknold. Although the drizzles set in, the fun continued with indie band Ra Ra Riot delivering a lively and overall fun set of songs, complimented by the sight of two female string players, and the National had me tapping my foot to their good old American music. For the remainder of the day, one of the two second stages was dominated by popular hip-hop acts Organized Konfusion, Pharcyde, and Q-Tip. Not exactly my style, but they seemed to keep the audience going for hours on end.
The other second stage, the Queen of the Valley stage, featured multi-instrumentalist Xavier Rudd, popular LA rock band Carolina Liar, and ended with a number of hip hop/electronic acts. The nonstop dance music turned All Points West into a rave, with Flying Lotus, Peanut Butter Wolf, and hit duo MSTRKRFT, who kept the audience alive into the night until the city curfew put an end to the fun. Meanwhile, on the main stage, the band Vampire Weekend gave the audience what they were looking for after almost two hours of non-stop rain, turning the park grounds into a giant pit of mud. However, Vampire Weekend, who I was seeing for the first time, lifted my spirits with their lively and popular rock music, ending their set with a rendition of “Walcott” as their very own ode to Jersey.
After the rain stopped, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs stole the show and had the audience screaming as vocalist Karen O tore up the stage with her piercing and smooth voice. My personal favorite from them was a beautiful acoustic performance of their hit song “Maps.” Finally came the headliner, Jay Z, an artist not usually played on WPRB. He was a last-minute performer, filling in for the Beastie Boys, who couldn’t make it due to MCA’s recent cancer diagnosis. However, I must say that I was surprised with the quality of Jay-Z’s performance, bringing a full band on stage and enough energy for everyone in the audience of however many 20,000 people. As I left on Friday, I may have brushed a little dirt off of my shoulders, but my feet were nonetheless covered in mud.
Good news came Friday night for concertgoers, as the All Points West management allowed Friday ticketholders to come back either Saturday or Sunday for free because of the weather, just out of the good of their hearts, so a round of applause to them for actually caring about the audience. Thankfully Saturday started out with the sun shining, and the beautiful weather kept the day enjoyable, although the muddy grounds were just as gross as the day before. The comedians of the day included Jim Jeffries, Judah Freelander, and TV Duo Tim & Eric. Meanwhile, I took the chance to checkout Brooklyn locals Black Gold, an up-and-coming band whom I really enjoyed and had the chance to meet later in the day. Their performance was highly entertaining, as several girls painted in gold threw beach balls into the growing audience, and they kept the energy all throughout the weekend by offering ever-popular free massages at their own air-conditioned tent, the only band to have their own tent. Following them was a very melodic performance by …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, sporting two drummers for that extra bit of LOUD. The main stage featured the local stylings of the White Rabbits and a very hardcore performance by Cage the Elephant, as the frontman showed off his screaming vocal abilities.
Following them, the Cool Kids kept it cool with the main stage’s hip hop for the day. Speaking of hip hop, Ice-T made a surprise appearance as a backup rapper for performer Kool Keith. Enjoying his time as a hypeman, Ice-T also performed some of his own songs a cappella, to a huge audience response. They were followed by St. Vincent’s airy vocals and glassy guitars, with female-fronted folk group Neko Case finishing the day’s set. On the Queen of the Valley Stage, I was able to check out Chairlift, with their angelic dual vocals and synth-filled soundspace, as they belted out slow-aced yet heart-pounding electro rock. Following them, popular young group Tokyo Police Club was a great indie break in the electronic music of the stage, keeping it lively and rocking. However, Crystal Castles stole the show with a barrage of bright strobe lights and their recognizable electronic music that had everybody dancing.
Over on the main stage, the Arctic Monkeys played a great set, which was to be expected, but Ukranian group Gogol Bordello took the cake for the night with possibly the most enjoyable performance of the festival. Their gypsy music consisting of accordions, violins, and folk guitar was transformed on stage by pounding drums and the insurmountable energy of singer Eugene Hutz, easily matched by the rest of the band. I must admit that his performance had my hands in the air and my old feet doing new tricks.
I was not able to catch the next show by My Bloody Valentine, but from what I heard they were unimpressive at best, although I’m sure fans enjoyed them all the same. The headliner for the day was the unclassifiable Tool whose performance was, in a word, metal. Their performance was loud and heart stopping, with frontman Maynard Keenan remaining in the back of the stage, while gruesome artistic videos covered the stage and screens. I left this overwhelming performance with only The Ting Tings ringing out on second stage to cheer me up.
Sunday, the third and final day of the festival, started with a bang. Of thunder and lightning. As soon as I arrived at the festival, eager to head over to the press tent for an interview, the rain came pouring down and the gates remained closed. A few minutes later, the entire crowd was forced into the nearby ferry terminal as part of safety precautions due to the storms. But fans waited patiently for the comforting voice of the police megaphone, assuring us all that the show would go on. The gates finally opened about three hours later, a little after 4, and the crowd rushed in to the giant mudpit once more.
The day’s music was started by the Silversun Pickups, a personal favorite, who absolutely rocked the main stage and kept the crowd in high spirits for the rest of the day. Unfortunately, this meant that a bunch of the bands scheduled to play earlier were canceled, including hometown favorites Steel Train and the Gaslight Anthem, both bands that I was looking forward to seeing. On the Bullet stage, We Are Scientists continued with a blast of upbeat music, not leaving out their humorous antics in between. They were followed by Swedish band Mogwai, who played a series of great instrumentals, and the Black Keys, keeping things alive with only a guitar and drums. The energy they gave off made it seem like much more than just the duo. The Queen of the Valley stage featured an impressive lineup of electronic-type bands, however, my poor little feet were too tired from three days of rocking to walk over.
For all you electro-rock fans out there, you would surely have enjoyed the lineup of Hey Champ, La Roux, Lykke Li, Ghostland Observatory, and Etienne de Crecy. Back on the main stage was a series of English bands, started off by Elbow, who are quickly gaining popularity in the US and played a set that proved exactly why. Following them was Echo & the Bunnymen, who brought back the 80s UK punk era for just a little bit. A rare appearance in these parts, many fans came to see Echo alone.
Last but not least, were headlining superstars Coldplay, who drew probably the largest crowd of the event and did nothing but deliver great performance after performance for the rest of the night. They played all of their hits, and had the audience singing and dancing along, even in the giant pockets of mud that had formed throughout the day. On the second stage at the [poorly planned] same time, were the young and great MGMT, who couldn’t help but have the audience going crazy throughout their set, even playing a brand new song. Even though the day started in disappointment, the show surely did go on, and many of the big name acts delivered harder than ever to call this last day of the festival a raging success.
Along the way, I was able to speak with Gregg Flotlin from Free Yr Radio, who informed me that a number of interviews and recorded content will be available to us in the near future, so stay tuned for all of that great stuff coming to you on WPRB. And for those fans who were unable to make it to the festival, but want to cherish the good times anyways, all of the main stage acts were filmed in 3-D, which should prove for an interesting, if not tantamount experience, when it hits the big screen this fall. All in all, although the weather tried to get us down, All Points West still turned out to be one of the best concert experiences I have had, so watch out as it comes back next year, and be sure not to miss a minute of it!