Victoria Park, London
The first All Points East, the event that’s taken over Field Day and Lovebox’s slots in Victoria Park, offers a no-frills take on the city park festival, with the focus squarely on the headliners: LCD Soundsystem, The xx and, in her first London show since the release of Utopia, Björk.
The rest is eclectic but indistinct: neither as edgy as Field Day nor as youthful as Lovebox, it’s a grab-bag of happy-go-lucky grooves (Tom Misch, Glass Animals), indie-rock oddballs (Beck, Father John Misty), buoyant rap and dancehall (Stefflon Don and the brilliantly charismatic Popcaan) and a hefty amount of dance acts who struggle to conquer two awkward stages. The vast West Arena never quite fills up, leaving the vibe lukewarm. Kelela’s awesome vocal acrobatics aren’t big enough without the assistance of the backing band she surely now deserves, while Dixon’s drifting techno is barely loud enough to mask a conversation. But with their enormous rig of lights, mirrors and amps, Justice have the clout – and the volume – to kick the stage into life on Saturday night.
At the X Stage, an outdoor spot with the DJ booth in the round, several technical hitches suggest a lack of planning. DJ Richard’s crunchy techno should turn any dancefloor into a sweatbox, but there’s no focal point for the drifting afternoon crowd and he’s had to use bits of cardboard to protect his decks from the sun. The atmosphere improves as night falls: Yaeji draws a big crowd for her blend of sensual house and cool-as-ice live vocals, while The Black Madonna does the business with fist-pumping festival techno. The bonus this weekend is the presence of Despacio, the bespoke sound system helmed for six hours each day by James Murphy and 2ManyDJs. Their Balearic mix of new wave, Afro-disco and low-tempo heaters makes time disappear inside a smoky, sweaty rave cave.
On the main stage on Friday, early ‘00s nostalgia is the theme. Seeing the Yeah Yeah Yeahs smash their equipment after Date With the Night feels like a postcard from a bygone age, but their rabid energy is a shot in the arm before the closing euphoria of LCD Soundsystem. “Most of what I say is a reminder we’re all gonna die,” quips James Murphy, nailing his band’s memento mori disco: life is stupid and short, but you can see all your friends tonight.
The xx try to convert the hushed intensity of their albums into a communal experience during their headline slot, but their low-key presence struggles to compel casual listeners. In stark contrast, Björk brings a menagerie of flutes, flora and rotating junglescapes to her sumptuous Sunday set, performing almost all of 2017’s Utopia from beneath an orchid-like headpiece. Adding a supernatural spark, an electrical storm lights up the sky throughout the show, as if her voice is summoning the elements. She only offers a few back catalogue hits (Isobel and Human Behaviour) but it’s a set that radiates joy and renewal under a summer full moon.