Words by: Jake Krolick | Images by: Rod Snyder
All Points West Festival :: 08.08.08 – 08.10.08 :: Liberty State Park :: Jersey City, NJ
Music permeates my life! Notes ooze from every crack and pore on my body. I'll listen to it in almost any form as long as it moves me. I digest music in huge overflowing bites, sopped up like gravy with a biscuit. With an enduring stare, Lady Liberty guarded the green patch of land housing the first All Points West Festival. This weekend she bore witness to an event stacked with rising stars, torchbearers and pioneers venturing ahead of the rest. Radiohead doesn't so much break a mold as create a totally new one, shunning all that is bland and broadcasting passion and emotion in their performances, which are an all-encompassing Buddha of noise. On the flipside of this coin, jams guru and Jedi Trey Anastasio stepped back onstage with some familiar faces. This phoenix, back from his personal battles captivated with his axe creating a burst of inspiration thicker than the smog in Beijing.
| Thom Yorke - Radiohead :: APW 2008|
Friday, August 8
08.08.08 - In Chinese, eight is the luckiest of numbers.
Friday began with Norton, the smiling police dog, sniffing his way around the fence for bombs. This was a funny thought for some, but with so many people this close to lower Manhattan what else do you expect? Thankfully, there was nothing to worry about, and Norton lightened the mood by dropping a steamer near an APW welcome sign. The festival grounds were filled with massive art exhibitions including a bamboo tower, a puzzle piece version of Yoda's hut, brushed aluminum sculpture and countless other nooks and crannies of creativity poking out from the ground. New York City sat proudly in the distance, reflecting the light and weather all day. She lit up at night, beaming a smile of a hundred thousand glowing windows. Lady Liberty sat ten blocks off the main stage. Even with her back turned to the action, she was still involved in a huge way as many gave her shout-outs throughout the weekend. Rarely has the legendary statue sat so tangibly in front of us in this kind of setting. It made one stare at the ornate spires of Ellis Island and think about how my families immigrated here less than 100 years ago. Now, here we stood, tossing our arms to the sky as we rocked our cares away.
The music started dramatically as a clap of thunder struck a few short measures into Pawn Shop Roses' set. These Philadelphians slurred out the rock through whisky-baited breath as they crooned about "Second Hand Love." As the clouds moved out, Little Brother's Phonte and Big Pooh moved in with cries of "make some noise, New Jersey." In Jersey, this Durham, NC group's set came off as average pass-the- verse hip-hop. Their set included a shifty version of "When Everything is Fresh and New" that brought Phonte to his knees as he preached harmoniously, "But I got dreams, but dreams don't keep the lights on." Their set continued to swing in the breeze with its North Cackalacky swagger, but lacked the original punch needed to keep me focused. Digest a tiny taste, but if you don't dig it move on.
| The Go! Team :: APW 2008|
"Big thanks to those who bumped off work to join us," shouted Ninja, the vocalist for The Go! Team, a cheeky English band out of Brighton. This six-piece outfit with two drummers is a must for your late '70s/early '80s flavored parties or b-movie soundtracks. Ninja, Chi Fukami Taylor (drums) and Kaori Tsuchida (vocals, electric guitar) played musical chairs in a mash-up game of swap spots and instruments. "Look Alive" made the masses squirm to their mix of spirited chants, guitars and early Salt-n-Pepa style hip- hop.
Liela Moss from The Duke Spirit started the weekend's trend of sassy frontwomen. She requested that we keep our eyes closed during "Neptune's Call" as she quaked with the depth of the briny deep. Her performance was very similar to The Pixies' Kim Deal performing the harpy call in "Where Is My Mind." Moss was patient and chose her moments carefully to find the opportune points to let her low voice break into her high one.
The stage layout at APW was like staring down at your middle three fingers. If you pointed your hand across to NYC you had a rough stage map. On the far left was the Queen of the Valley Stage, in the middle was the Bullet Stage and the big brut on the end was the Blue Comet Stage. It was only about two football fields between all three stages total, so seeing bits of most performances from various stages was easily doable. Forro in the Dark absolutely blew me away. They were groovy before they even started playing. The New York masters brought the heart of Northeastern Brazil to Jersey and then spun it Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey style, creating the hippest, jazziest block party. Their take on Brazilian rumbas pulsed with liveliness as harmonic resonance surrounded the Bullet Stage. Guitarist Guilherme Monteiro jammed between our clapping hands as singer-percussionist Davi Vieira breathed out infectious "hey heys." Their song titles were exotic like "Forrowest" and "Limoeiro Do Norte," and their music was filled with sugary Latin beats with a definite guitar edge and jazzy undercurrent steaming up from the core. We moved in a slow hustle adapting to Jorge Continentino's punchy flute and Wayne Coyne look-a-like Mauro Refosco's single barrel drumbeats. Their rhythmic pulse pulled out the hottest sun of the day, browning our faces. Forro in the Dark is a band you must see!
| Forro in the Dark :: APW 2008|
Just as Forro was ending, you could hear Michael Franti still kicking his smoky dub-step-skank of "Rude Boys Back In Town." Franti's reggae moved the masses and even Lady Liberty shook her fine green backside in his direction as he tossed a nasty "Staying Alive" jam into the irie mix.
The Mates of State are sort of like the husband-wife equivalent of The Benevento/Russo Duo. Sure, they don't have a huge field filling sound, but what they lack in vastness they make up for in vocal harmonies. With their kids watching from the side stage, Kori Gardner (vocals and assorted keyed instruments) and Jason Hammel (vocals and assorted percussion) combined their layers to offer bouncing sounds in a set drawn primarily from their newest effort, Re-Arrange Us.
With a fast bit of footwork, I was back riding the Comet for the New Pornographers softly crafted intro to "My Rights Versus Yours." Carl Newman filled the set with Canadian anecdotes as the band showed they were not above poking fun at themselves and the crowd. Newman dug into everything from the stereotypical "Ehh" to Strange Brew references as he paraded Canadian indie rock around the main stage for all to enjoy. Their solid set featured the commercial-friendly "Bleeding Heart Show," and they dipped into a fast, crowd led sing-along of Blind Melon's "No Rain" before letting loose a grand version of "All the Old Showstoppers." This was their version of Southern rock with a grander, more majestic feel. They finished with a cover of Electric Light Orchestra's "Don't Bring Me Down," which brought on a fist pump that wouldn't quit.
| Duffy :: APW 2008|
Duffy followed the line of female temptresses. Her stank was on par with Eartha Kitt in a younger, more opaque body. She strutted across the Bullet Stage swinging her microphone during "Stepping Stone," as the band complimented her devilish Welsh accented cries with a slow sultry jam. She kicked he red pumps in time to her howl as she launched into a speedy version of "Mercy." If you dig U.K. pop princesses in the vein of Lily Allen, minus the gangster lean and Jägermeister tendencies, then you'll love Duffy.
I had previously written off CSS after listening to their self-titled debut. But after seeing LoveFoxxx perform the material off their new album, Donkey, I'll give them a second chance. Sure, it's raw and showy, but there is a definite appeal to the fluorescently attired glam punk pumped out of their live show. CSS is the epitome of quirky and as long as you don't take them too seriously you'll lose yourself in the moments they create. LoveFoxxx thanked us for coming to her stage before kicking out her self-proclaimed summer jam and finishing it with the cheer, "Liberty for everyone!"
The beats from Underworld's electronic mind fuck, courtesy of Karl Hyde, Rick Smith and Darren Price, seeped in through CSS, so it was off for a frontal lobotomy as Underworld kicked out the zeitgeist. They created wild soundtracks with Hyde wielding the axe and vocals as Smith and Price worked enormous mixing boards and synthesizers. Stateside electronic music features more of a grinding sound, but in the U.K. it's often a fast and prevalent thump. Underworld's beats slipped between the vocals and guitar loops, forming a dance only these Brits could create. Hyde's creeping, heavy English accent was fed through a massive amount of filters, creating rhythmic gibberish. They pushed out grand, sweeping club beats as they sent large, white foam pillars out from the back of the stage. The Sequin coated Hyde danced through their Trainspotting hit, "Born Slippy Nuxx" and "Jumbo."
I agreed with my new friend Vito when he said that "Andrew Bird rewrote the American Songbook in front of our eyes," and I shivered with goosebumps from the excitement of hearing such fine craft. I found myself open-mouthed as the multi-instrumentalist linked his instrument's tones with his vocals in a loving embrace. Bird switched modes at will, trading long, sweeping strokes of the violin for lazy, haunting whistles in an orchestration that was incredibly intricate. Bird approached the microphone, at points, like a blind man reaching out for a cane. Behind him sat some wild, spinning Victrola with double speakers. You could hear a multitude of genres and singers inside Bird's songs. "Non Animal," off his latest album of the same name, pulled in shades of a quirky Peter Gabriel tune with a Spanish tinge. Complexity flourished in Bird's music as it built to reverberating stanzas. There were touches of Cuban heat that leaked into the rhythms and passion at the heart of his music. "Skin Is Mine" was picked out bluegrass style on violin before Bird quickly exchanged four strings for six. His Avett Brothers qualities pushed through as he hammered heavily on guitar before revealing his tender side on "Tables and Chairs."
| Andrew Bird :: APW 2008|
There were fifteen minutes left in DJ Gregg Gillis' Girl Talk set after Bird finished. I'll try to describe the scene upon walking up to the Bullet Stage in two words: "Holy Fuck!!!" First, the stage was so packed with ass-shake that it was hard to tell where one lady started and another ended. Gillis created a dance factory on the stage, slicing off only the choicest cuts. Jay-Z's "Roc Boys" slammed into "Paranoid Android" and Tag Team's "Whoomp! (There It Is)" met its demise when faced with Daft Punk's "Digital Love." The crowd was barely connected to the park as they launched themselves up in unison as enough beach balls flew around to entertain most beaches on the East Coast. Gillis' show has become an event in the vein of The Flaming Lips, as his crew lobbed roll after roll of toilet paper into the crowd. The whole scene finished with Gillis bouncing over the crowd on an inflatable mattress (watch it here).
Radiohead has their game down like no other band. The light show alone was worth the ticket. Friday night's moments were poignant and sent big messages without Thom Yorke having to say a word. Yorke simply sat at a piano draped in the Tibetan flag for "Morning Bell." He filled the ballad with shame and angst against China, and poured it out over the water to ring into Lady Liberty's metal ears. Yorke made you feel like he was draining a pint of his blood every time he pushed into the mic and cocked his head. During "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi," hundreds of white lights acted as coked-up fireflies, all intermittently flashing their asses. The crystalline-shaped columns that hung from the stage glowed with an emerald green during "Lucky." Just imagine the Wizard of Oz's pad on a bad acid trip, except Yorke was our warlock this evening and his tribal dance and shake during "Nude" tugged at out chests. "Nude" was deeply thoughtful and featured superb timing, not only within the music but also in the stage show. Yorke's mood turned from serious to jovial as he exclaimed, "Welcome to our world." This marathon Radiohead show was for all of Lower Manhattan, which shimmered in the perfect, cool August evening, the silent partner to the already spectacular stage show.
| Radiohead (Friday Night) :: APW 2008|
Continue reading for Saturday coverage...
| APW 2008|