All Points East seemed to have descended like a monolith when news of it first surfaced a few weeks ago – arriving unheralded, its precise form and great size belied a designer with clear intentions which nevertheless remained entirely inscrutable. What does it want? Where had it come from? Why are so many international and local alternative music megastars coming to East London for the last long-weekend of Spring?
Both Lovebox and Field Day are vacating Victoria Park to make space for the gargantuan “event”, a 10-day behemoth running from May 25 to June 3. It’s being organised by Goldenvoice, the team behind Coachella, in partnership with British Summer Time’s organisers, AEG.
It kicks off with a traditional weekend festival and finishes with three nights of specially-curated gigs, with a community-focussed food and arts festival thrown in between as a kind of transmogrified intermission ice-cream stall. Already announced to headline one of those gigs is The National, with a stupefying support roster of The War on Drugs, Future Islands, Warpaint, and the Districts.
The line-up stays equally ridiculous for opening weekend, with the revenant LCD Soundsystem and Icelandic biophile Bjork headlining alongside London’s own The XX. There’s another Mercury-prize-winning Londoner further down the bill, Sampha, and the city’s most exciting young musician, Rex Orange County, is scheduled too. The remainder of the manifest is replete with international artists who anywhere else would be, and are, headliners in their own right, like Beck, Father John Misty, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Flying Lotus, and Lorde. Lykke Li is also set to play in what will be some of the first shows after releasing her new album, and the latest band to tumble off Oxford’s alternative-art-rock production line, Glass Animals, are among those also playing sets.
Though it’s true the lower echelons of the bill haven’t been released yet, the sheer density of high-quality artists on this bill is astounding. Wherever the money for this came from, there was a lot of it. An investment of this size in a first-time festival is quite a statement, and it could have ripples well beyond London’s festival scene. Lovebox have not yet confirmed that they will return in 2018, and Field Day are yet to announce a replacement venue.
Some of the best festivals in Europe are inner-city, like Sziget, Benicassim, and NOS Alive, so it’s hard not to see this stupidly-talent-laden line-up as a signal of intent from the organisers: we’ve dominated the US, now we’re coming for Europe. While Glastonbury and Reading and Leeds might not have to worry too much just yet, All Points East’s presence at least raises the question of their hegemony being under threat, meaning there’ll be little room left for poorly-chosen headliners like Mumford and Sons – which is good news for everybody.
Yet, last year’s Fyre Festival debacle showed that festivals which look too good to be true probably are. But with a site that’s a proven success, and experienced heads in charge, this might just be an exception. There’ll be plenty of people watching to see if All Points East lands smoothly, and if so, it could be the start of something big.