This past weekend we drove to Jersey again to see my sister and attend the first annual All Points West Music Festival. APW was supposed to be the northern US’s answer to Coachella and Bonnaroo. Plus, Radiohead was headlining and they weren’t playing too many other nothern U.S gigs, so we really wanted to go! We were also psyched that Grizzly Bear, CSS and Underworld were on the roster.
We drove down on Thursday evening and hung out with the sis, bro-in law and the nephews. They are getting cuter and more of a handful by the minute! We ate some yummy Indian food from a great place down the street from her.
Friday we got to the festival early…or at least we tried to. We took the train from the New Brunswick station, and then took 2 light rails to get to the festival. The festival website said there would be plenty of signs (there were none!), and that the light rails would take you DIRECTLY to the festival…well it didn’t. When we got to the park, it was literally over a mile to get to the festival. No exaggerating–it took us a 1/2 hour to walk there…in the heat…on the asphalt…with me and my big pregnant belly. No one else seemed too thrilled about having to walk, either. Bad form for APW.
When we got to the festival we discovered that the bands weren’t going to be staggered, thereby causing us to have to choose between one band vs. another instead of sneaking over to see bits and pieces of each. We were bummed! That kind of seemed like a rip off after we payed to see all of those bands.
You also weren’t allowed to bring in any outside food, an umbrella or a blanket. What kind of a festival is it if you can’t even sit on a blanket? what are you gonna do, smother someone with it? C’mon people…
they had a “beer garden” from which you could purchase crappy beer in a plastic cup for the “bargain” price of 10 dollars. Yes, that’s right, 10 bucks for warm, crappy beer! you could only drink it in a designanted area and you were only allowed 5 total drinks. With prices like that who could afford more? Not that I drank anything, but Chris had one…and that was enough for him.
Food selection was good-at least we were able to find a few good vegetarian things. We tried this interesting corn and mozzarella cake called a Repas, which was good, and we had veggie burritos and corn dogs. Food was overpriced but at festivals it always is.
The lack of any kind of shelter was concerning, as it poured several times throughout the day, intermixed with a scorching heat that made you feel like you were in a deep fryer (no shade or shelter plus 30,000 sweaty concert goers= purgatory!).
But enough bitching and moaning for a second. We’ll try to be positive for a minute and talk about the actual reason why we went…the music. Here’s a writeup of who we were able to catch:
First up was Pawn Shop Roses, a band that evoked a Black Crowes sound on a low-fi caliber. Not bad, not amazing either (1.5 stars). next up was Lowry, a band whose sound was so bad I can’t even guess what kind of image they were going after. Normally it would sound like a good idea to mix a violinist with a keyboard player and an electric guitar…but not if they were all playing out of harmony! Lowry…you kind of Blow-ry. (1/2 star).
Little Brother was playing next door at the Bullet Stage, playing hip-hop beats. The hip hop was too much like any other kind of hip-hop, not very unique, and way too many bitch-ho references to gain our interest. (1 star).
We were starting to get dissapointed in the lineup until The Duke Spirit came on and saved us from our ennui! Their sound evokes 60’s British rock with a female twist. The lead singer, Leila Moss, was sassy and sexy as all get out (think a young Debbie Harry with PJ Harvey’s wardrobe) and had unique, deep vocals. They had real stage presence, renewing our faith in the festival. (3 stars)
Next, we headed over to the main stage and grabbed a veggie burrito on the way–9 bucks but it tasted good. The Go! Team, an almost all-girl group dressed in 80’s garb, brought back the Bananarama revival. They looked like they were having a lot of fun but unfortunately the microphone volume wasn’t high enough, and we could barely hear them over the background noise. They do get some points for wardrobe selection though–high knee socks and all. (3 stars).
Despite the scorching heat by this time (at least the festival had the decency to have one “misting tent” to keep people cool), the festival was at an upswing. Michael Franti and Spearhead performed on the main stage, and their world/reggae mix is enough to get anyone moving. They have been festival performers for ages and it shows–these guys had it going on! (3.75 stars).
By the time Franti was wrapping up his set, it started to POUR. good thing we had our ponchos with us! Mates of State, however, were so cheerful that they made is forget all about the crappy weather. The duo from Connecticut have been performing on the indie scene for several years, are married and have 4 little daughters. The little girls were waiting at the side of the stage, and every once and a while they would pop out to wave at the crowds or dance along to their parents music, unbeknownst to their parents. They were very cute! Cheers to them for cheering us up and putting on a sweet, upbeat show (3.5-4 stars).
Forro in the Dark played next door, with an eclectic mix of Brazilian pop and African world jam beats. Fun, danceable stuff! (3.5 stars).
Since Duffy was too lazy to start on time (she gets a zero in our book for that), we headed over to the Queen of the Valley stage to await our beloved Grizzly Bear, whom, aside from Radiohead, we were most looking forward to.
They didn’t dissapoint as usual. Grizzly Bear is one of those rare bands that engages you from the first song to the last, and you are sad for the show to end instead of wearily wishing they’d stop already. They played a flawless set, complete with “Little Brother”, “The Knife”, and a couple of very cool new songs. Still wish they had played “Shift” and “Lullaby” but oh well, you can’t have it all…(4.5 stars)
CSS, those sassy Brazilians, were up next. The crowd went insane to their danceable beats and catchy/kitchsy song titles like “meeting Paris Hilton” and “Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death from above”. They threw balloons and confetti off the stage and were dressed in a wardrobe bizarre enough to make Bjork proud. A ton of fun!!! (3.5-4 stars)
The night was starting to come to a close, and folks crowded in for the big headliner-Radiohead.
Underworld kept the main stage going with techno that is any computer geek’s wet dream. They even had images from old games (like Asteroid) running on the video screens while they played. Chris, being an adorable computer geek, was in heaven! (4 stars).
By the time Radiohead was nearing their set, the crowd had grown to over 30,000 people strong. Radiohead made the 9 hour day of standing in the heat and rain and smelly crowds completely worth it. They put on a stunning 2 hour show, and came back for 2 encores.
The only unfortunate damper to the event was the incredibly loud and obnoxious drunken couple behind us. They came later in the day only for Radiohead, but were so drunk and loud that they weren’t even listening to the band and they would NOT shut up. At this point, we were so irritated because this is what we came all the way for to see, and I know most people felt the same way. Lots of eye rolling was pointed in their general direction. I finally had it, when I couldn’t even hear Radiohead over their endless sqwawking. I turned around and said to them “I know you guys might not realize it, but you’re talking so loud that most of us can hardly hear the band. Would you mind lowering your voices just a bit? I’m not trying to be a pain.”. Well, the girl looked me straight in the eyes and said “Ok, BITCH!!”. I was dumbfounded. Chris said “don’t you dare talk to my wife like that!”. I was feeling ready to punch this lady but I’m not that kind of gal. I calmly said “I’m not trying to be a bitch, I’m just asking if you guys wouldn’t mind keeping your voices down is all. We’re all here to enjoy the show”. Thank goodness her boyfriend had some sense and tried to calm her down. He apologized to us and said they’d try to keep it quieter. Thankfully they did! But that didn’t keep me from secretly wishing someone would throw her off the ferry later that night…
Radiohead played all of the songs from “In Rainbows”, a good amount of songs from “Kid A” intertwined with even a few faves from The Bends. It was amazing to see them and they made the dissapointments at the festival worthwhile.
After the show was a complete cluster of you-know-what. Imagine a good number of that 30,000 concert goers trekking it back to the light rail station–only to find that there were no extra light rails to be run that night, you’d just have to wait in an INSANELY long line to board the train and get home. People were shoving each other like it was doomsday, and even after Chris reprimanded a kid for rudely shoving me aside, he was met with only a snort. (A wee bit different from the attitude at Osheaga!). We waited in line for over an hour just to board the first train, and a good extra hour after that to board the second one. We almost missed the very last train by 5 minutes, which would have meant we’d have to wait another HOUR before another one ran. We were exhausted and spent and sick of crowds at this point, but we finally DID make it home–a good 3.5 hours LATER!!!
Not sure if APW is anything we’d ever plan on going through again, kids or no kids.
We spent the rest of the weekend relaxing with my sister and the nephews, who made us laugh with their antics. It’s always depressing when we have to leave them because times that we get to visit are few and far between, and the kids are growing up before our eyes. But we do hold on to the times we can and we have fun.