Radiohead, Trey Anastasio and Jack Johnson Highlight All Points West
The inaugural All Points West Music & Arts Festival to stake its claim as the New York Metropolitan Areas definitive large-scale music gathering over the weekend with mixed results. Held at the beautiful Liberty State Park, a green field overlooking The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Manhattans skyline from southern New Jersey, the multi-band gathering boasted three performance stages, a The Do LaBs electronic tent, a Sonic Forest and other leftover installations from the festivals West Coast counterpart Coachella. Though less than an hour from Wall Street by either train or ferry, All Points West fell short of a sellout on both Friday and Sunday. In fact, certain performance spaces were noticeably empty until headliners Radiohead and Jack Johnson took the stage, leading many fans to describe the event as more of an amphitheater show with bonus openers than a full-scale festival. All Points West did, however, reach capacity on Saturday thanks to ideal weather and high-profile names like Radiohead, Kings of Leon, Animal Collective, The Roots and Metric.
Radiohead remained at the eye of the storm throughout the weekend, offering a two-hour-plus set on both Friday and Saturday that boasted a unique eco-friendly light show. The groups performances took on a special meaning since the group last performed at Liberty State Park—-which is located directly across the Hudson from the World Trade Center—-just days before the September 11 terrorist attacks. While both of Radioheads performances relied heavily on material from 2007s influential In Rainbows, the groups sets were studies in contrast. Friday nights show focused on the groups more somber, introspective and melancholy songs like OK Computers Climbing Up the Walls and Pyramid Song, which was dedicated to ‘a very hectic city.. for when you’re looking for some peace.’ Other highlights included an energetic reading of ‘Paranoid Android’ from OK Computer and ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out),’ the evenings only selection from The Bends. Saturdays performance was decidedly more of an upbeat and rocking, including sing-a-longs like The Bends, Fake Plastic Trees and a show-closing Idioteque. Both shows equally captivated the audience and temporally erased most of the weekends other complaints.
Each day the festival also succeeded in offering a diverse mix of performances. Fridays festivities ranged from Brooklyn indie-rockers Grizzly Bear to Brazilian electro-rock sensations CSS to Canadian collective The New Pornographers. Festival-favorite Michael Franti honored his 21-yeard-old graffiti artist son, while the members Go! Team revealed to Relix/Jambands.com that they planned to begin work on a new album this fall. As is now custom, Girl Talk invited dozens of his fans onstage to dance while he manically jumped through a number of popular mash-ups. Indie-pop idol Duffy, violin-wiz Andrew Bird and seminal electronica group Underworld also fleshed out the days offerings.
Saturdays festivities were equally diverse, running from rising dance-punk stars Chromeo to experimental freak-folk favorites Animal Collective to hip-hop/folk/afro-beat MC KNAAN. Other highlights included Woodstock-area offspring The Felice Brothers, the Broken Social Scene offshoot Metric (whose singer Emily Haines offered a peace prayer after joking that shed rather be a hippie than a hipster) and The Roots, who nodded to the late Bernie Mac near the end of their particularly jazz set. The Kings of Leon was awarded direct opening duties for Radiohead and used the opportunity to preview material from its forthcoming release Only By The Night. Thom Yorke latter acknowledged the group during Radioheads set, joking that hes be famous if he was that good looking.
Sundays festivities was on the whole more jam-friendly, though indie-songstress Cat Power, psychedelic-rockers the Secret Machines and singer/songwriter Ben Jelen appealed to a portion of Friday and Saturdays primary audience. Headliner Jack Johnson also brought along a number of artists from his Brushfire label, including fellow California songwriter Matt Costa, Slowdrive founder Neil Halstead and rising indie-rockers Rogue Wave, the latter of whom ended its set with a brief drum jam that led into Lake Michigan. Jacksons longtime friend Ben Harper offered a penultimate mainstage that that mixed sing-a-longs like Diamonds on the Inside with material from 2007s _ Lifeline_. Though technical difficulties delayed Harpers show almost 30-minutes, the guitarist avoided a Kanye West debacle by apologizing to the crowd and his crew near the start of his show.
For many, however, the days festivities revolved around Trey Anastasio, who offered a performance with keyboardist Ray Paczkowski, drummer Russ Lawton and bassist Tony Markellis as Classic TAB. Like their intimate gig at the Music Hall of Williamsburg appearance Thursday, the four musicians played a clean, energetic, if not overly adventurous set that focused primarily on material from Anastasios 1999 trio tour like First Tube, Sand and Gotta Jiboo. In addition, he offered a smattering of solo cuts ranging from Cayman Review and Mr. Completely to the new, possible Phish song Alaska. Before Drifting, Anastasio also acknowledged his grandfather who arrived in the United States in 1910 via the nearby Ellis Island. The Trio stretched out especially well on grooves like Gotta Jiboo and Mr. Completely, helping Anastasio score the weekends only non-headliner encores: Heavy Things and Tuesday.
Jack Johnson closed All Points West with a two-hour performance that blossomed into something of a friends performance. A few songs into Johnsons set, his keyboardist Zach Gill—-a founding member of ALO—-took the microphone to invite Anastasio, one of his favorite musicians of all time, out for a breezy version of ‘Mudfootball.’ Soon after, Costa emerged for a take on ‘Fall Line that segued into his own Sunshine, and Gill later led Johnsons band through his new solo cut Family. The laid-back festival king—-whose headliner credits also include Coachella, Bonnaroo, Virgin and Outside Lands this summer along—-also ran through favorites like ‘Bubble Toes,’ ‘Flake’ and Banana Pancakes, along with a number of cuts from this springs Sleep Through the Static.
All Points West is slated to return to Liberty State Park in 2009.