Technically, they were playing behind Lady Liberty, but she was clearly in view from all three stages at All Points West, the three day mega-festival held at Liberty State Park in New Jersey. This was the first big show like this I've attended (apart from the yearly Siren fest) since Lollapalooza '94 in Pittsburgh where the sound was bad, everyone was wasted and sod fights were the most memorable moments of the day.
Needless to say I'm not a big fan of these things in general, but a free ticket and prospect of seeing Radiohead for the first time since 1997 (Irving Plaza…that epic, celeb-packed show) was enough to get me out there on Friday. And no one was more shocked than myself when I had a great time with no major problems. There are plenty of full-on reviews out there so I'll just do a bullet point recap:
- I took the ferry out and found it to be no hassle at all. In fact it was an hour trip from my door to giving APW my ticket, less time than most people spent in line to get in to the MGMT show at McCarren Pool.
- Apart from a shower early in the day, the weather is perfect. And the downpour actually results in a rainbow, which seemed appropriate with Radiohead playing later.
- The experience reminded me a lot of SXSW, in that I spent a lot of time walking from stage to stage and only catching 20 minutes of any particular band, which was fine. These things are like a smorgasbord anyway.
- Lovefoxxx isn't the only artist to comment on being so close to Lady Liberty. Carl Newman of New Pornographers remarked, "That monster in Cloverfield must've been really strong to knock the head of the Statue of Liberty all the way to the Financial District!"
- Newman is definitely the quip-meister of the day. Looking down at the crowd, he said, "I recognize some of you guys from sound check. You've been here a long time. When do you go to the bathroom? People, please think of your neighbors in the crowd…don't shit. If it's yellow, keep it mellow. By that I mean smoke pot."
- CSS were fun even though the new album isn't so good. Lovefoxxx is following the Elton John Rule — the worse your material gets, the more outrageous your stage attire. Today she appears to have come dressed as a kids birthday party.
- I am beginning to warm to Grizzly Bear who play a lot of new material. One song, "Fine for Now," is sung by Daniel Rossen and sounds like indie Steely Dan — which is a good thing. (Stereogum has video.) They are kind of dull to watch but sound great.
- Actually everybody sounds great. I have never heard outdoor PAs sound this clear. Still don't like seeing bands play in daylight though.
- Underworld, especially, shouldn't have to play an afternoon set but the crowd doesn't seem to mind. They are going mental. Me, I've never understood Underworld's appeal — at least not as a live band. There is nothing to watch. Karl Hyde looks like Neil Diamond in a shiny coat. There are also giant inflatable dildos onstage. Not really, but that's what it looked like.
- Duffy, who's wearing enough makeup to see it 60 feet away, is boring when she's not being cheesy. Nice voice, but I'll take Adele any day.
- I miss Girl Talk in favor of relaxing with one of my five alloted beers before Radiohead but can see the mayhem in the distance: multitudes of flying inflatable things.
- I know some people were annoyed at the five-beer limit, but there was also nobody puking at the end of the night and everyone seemed in good spirits, so to speak, with a minimum of douchery.
- Radiohead really know how to do these gigantic shows right. Plexiglass tubes hang from the rafters and light up like neon, but also somehow have the ability to take on a candycane appearance too. And the Jumbotron use is inspired: split into six sections, with a fixed camera on each member of the band. Definitely added to the experience. Would I like to be close enough to see the sweat on Thom Yorke's face? Yes, but this is spectacular in it's own way. And the sound is immaculate.
- I opt to leave an hour into Radiohead's set to beat the crowd — some of whom won't get home till well after 1AM. Me, I'm back in Williamsburg before 11. Manhattan looks lovely at night from the ferry.
Some not-so-great pictures I took after the jump.