All Points West Wet 2009 In Photos

When APW presented its inaugural festival last year, we weren’t alone in taking issue with the experience: lack of food options, a fair but generally recycled undercard which played more like “a bunch of bands opening for Radiohead,” an extremely restricted/overpriced drink situation designed to keep people sober and make them feel uncomfortable by boozing in pens with views of zero stages but plenty of other people prioritizing beer over music. For a festival that was nicknamed “Coachella East” in its early planning stages, the incorporation of elements from Indio’s fest were superficial at best, a few structures that resembled Coachella’s decor but with no deep thought given to attendees’ comfort and convenience. Goldenvoice and AEG promised big changes to the festival’s layout this year, and they delivered: an impressive food court with options for all, rearranged stage orientation with a solid sound system, beer pens along the length of the mainstage field with perfectly unobstructed views (limit raised from 5 to 7 drinks, still stupidly expensive though), and a lineup that honestly is better than the one I’ll take in at Lollapalooza this weekend (but for one Depeche Mode). Ironically, Beastie Boys’ unfortunate cancellation helped in that last regard; the band’s scheduled headlining set was hardly unique to All Points West — but Jay-Z’s first US festival appearance and triumphant 28-song performance was the only of its kind. Video of some of that and some more thoughts:

On any other weekend, the biggest story probably would have been let’s say Jigga opening with a reverent “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn.” But when you have a quasi-destination festival (once you take the ferry to Liberty Island, you’re committed) and two days of intense rainstorms, there’s just no way around the All Points Wet puns. The deluge did exploit another area of shortsightedness on APW’s part: little rain preparedness. Few ponchos to be purchased on the grounds, and even on a sunny Saturday, navigating the muddy fields and barnyard smell was oppressive at best. There’s only so much you can do with a grassy field turned to mud, and some of these pictures demonstrate how it can make for a good time if you’re down with a bilious game of slip ‘n’ slide, but maybe some more planks to bridge the mud pits would be helpful.

You could blame mother nature on Friday, I’ll lay responsibility with Telepathe, whose excellently dark, witchy beats seemed to conjure instantly the gray clouds and high winds that would erupt into an outpour by the time Fleet Foxes presented their powerfully pastoral, lush harmonies. (The mystical feel of summoning rainstorms wasn’t lost on FF either, J. Tillman telling us they felt like “sorcerers” up there. Dry sorcerers.) The rain continued through sets from the National (appropriate), Matt Berninger rewarding the die-hard/mud-soaked crowd by wading deep into it with his mic, and Vampire Weekend, whose sunny African appropriations brought balance to the stormy experience.

The wetness broke in time for Karen O’s yoga moves, staying away all of Saturday for Arctic Monkeys Humbugged set and MBV’s deafening display, but returned on Sunday, forcing the cancellation of all acts with a start time before 4:30PM. The Sunday show did go on, though, the fest honoring Friday’s ticketholders as a sign of good will, culminating in what was reportedly a stellar set from Coldplay. In addition to just being Coldplay, the band covered “Billie Jean” (Michael Jackson’s dead, y’all) and took a cue from Uncle Jay with a less reverent spin on “(You’ve Got To) Fight For Your Right (To Party).” We’ve got videos of the ColdJay covers, and here’s a ton of photos of mud, bands, and more mud, most by a still soaking Abbey Braden.

Jay-Z – “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn”

Coldplay – “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)”

Coldplay – “Billie Jean”

sounds of buzz