All Points West: What You’ll See, What You’ll Get

All photos by Abbey Braden.

Goldenvoice’s grand experiment with bringing an indie-leaning outdoor summer festival to the one metropolitan area that doesn’t really need one kicked off yesterday. Before the band shots, we’re going to lay out what to expect from the day and the space and hopefully give you some last minute tips before you think about heading out today, tomorrow, or next year (if there is one).

As far as settings go, visually, you can’t deny a space that combines grass and clear views of both NYC’s skyline and Lady Liberty’s noble, shapely behind. But first you have to get there. Brandon, Abbey, and I took the ferry yesterday afternoon. If you didn’t buy your ride before via Ticketmaster, it was a $30 fare roundtrip (cash only), followed by a 50 minute wait in line for a boat…

… another 10 minutes docked, a 10 minute ride, and a 10 minute walk to the grounds from where we landed in Jersey. (Brandon and I calculated two hours from when we met at the Bedford L stop to when we actually walked through the festival gates.) You could also take the light rail, but then you won’t get views like this:

We’ve been hearing there are some alternate, untapped routes though so … share.

Once on the grounds prepare to have a great time, as long as you don’t need to get drunk to have a great time. Each 21+ drinking bracelet comes with 5 tabs. Don’t remove them; the bartenders do that (or else it’s useless). Those aren’t free drinks. Those are the only 5 drinks you can buy that day. Bands, fans in the trenches, it doesn’t matter — five and you’re out. Also, last call is at 8:30 (aka headliner’s first song). So if you need to be drunk to enjoy Animal Collective or whatever, I suggest dressing up in your finest Low Tolerance today (or packing some hooch of your own). But of course, here’s a list of official DOs and DON’Ts:

When it comes to field navigability and sound, the APW crew hit it right. Three stages, each angled toward the water and away from one another, successfully avoiding sound bleed issues while still being no more than a five minute walk from one mainstage to another. Even though the stage names are a little nerdy (Blue Comet, Bullet, and Queen Of The Valley), we can’t all be Bonnaroo (What? That?), and at least APW isn’t Lolla (only so many times you can say “the MySpace Stage is killing it today” without feeling the pain of 1,000 emos).

The food options are no worse than they are at Lolla (which is probably The Worst): you’ve got your signs reading “Rita’s Water Ice,” “Famous Dave’s BBQ,” and my personal favorite, “Chinese Food,” because as you know Chinese Food is a brand unto itself. As for field extras: There’s a DJ area bumping dance music with fixtures reminiscent of those found at Coachella (makes sense), a smoker’s lounge (probably giving out free American Spirits to those 21+), and other such tents with diversionary activities, best used to avoid rain if it comes.

There were people in balloon suits and people on stilts, but overall the fest operated at an oddly low energy level yesterday. The early day showers might have been part of the problem; with the overcast skies, the barren fields, and the rain during one of Mates Of States’ sadder songs, things were unavoidably depressing. The sun helped things later. (So did Girl talk.)

Most of my friends treated yesterday as “a dressed up Radiohead concert” and planned to come toward the evening. So despite the low numbers through the day, I figured the field at the Blue Comet stage still would be too small for a band that had fans camping out all day and stretching across Grant Park just six days ago. But put it this way: We ate dinner at 8:15, walked up and leaned on the fence in front of the jumbotron for Radiohead at 8:20. Maybe the rain and ferry scared people away, maybe the two nights of Radiohead spread the draw, maybe there just weren’t enough powerhouse bands, or maybe people realized that most of ‘em could be seen in small rooms in the NYC area in the weeks leading up, or the weeks after.

Let’s see how Saturday goes. But if you have a ticket, make sure to go. You can treat it as a dressed up Radiohead show too, if you want. The band was stunning (pics tk), played an 8 song encore, and you’ll never find a field more ripe for a front row Radiohead experience, no matter when you get there. We’re pulling the band shots together, so for now have a look at what it was like to float on a ferry, walk to and around the grounds, and take in the fixtures, all courtesy of the lens of Abbey Braden.