London Grammar and Jorja Smith kick off All Points East at Victoria Park
The bucket hats and big grins are out in full force as thousands descend upon Victoria Park for the start of All Points East and a long weekend of music. It’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since there have been any festivals as we knew them, and the sense of near-normality is as apparent as the sequins, bold accessories and bright prints of the festival-goers. Today’s lineup is headlined by alt-indie group London Grammar, along with a wide range of genres, from Jorja Smith’s RnB and Celeste’s soul to Loyle Carner’s hiphop and Mura Masa’s electronica. Amongst the food trucks and fairground rides, it’s a sunny welcome back to loud, live music of beloved artists filling the neighbourhood air.
The grounds are filled with different stages, the BMW Play Next stage championing the artists of tomorrow, such as keyboard/loop-led Jodie Nicholson. The BBC 6 Music Stage hosts bands and DJs curated by some of the station’s best-loved presenters. Over on the main East Stage, singer-songwriter Celeste, named the BBC’s Sound of 2019, performs tracks from her chart-topping album Not Your Muse. Introducing her set with Ideal Woman, the black-and-white screen footage evokes a sense of old soul, further fuelled by jazz vibes and instruments such as the Hammond organ, cello and saxophone. Tell Me Something I Don’t Know is a slightly more upbeat, funk-filled performance, and Stop This Flame has the crowd dancing from the opening notes, much to the singer’s delight. This is an artist who lets her magnificent voice take the spotlight; it might not be an obvious festival fit on paper, but the minimalist approach moulds a perfectly chilled afternoon show.
One of the headliners is RnB and neo-soul act Jorja Smith, who energetically leads the festival transition from day to night with a vibrant set that includes hits from critically-acclaimed debut Lost and Found and latest project Be Right Back. “This is crazy, it’s been like two years,” she admits, summing up the audience’s sentiment before launching into crowdpleaser Blue Lights. Despite some forgotten lyrics, it’s obvious that the Brit award-winner is having a remarkable time, never taking herself too seriously. The performance is varied and dynamic, the soft and slow a capella intro to Teenage Fantasy contrasting with a surprise duet of 1000 Nights with rapper Jaykae. Prior knowledge of her music isn’t even required to enjoy the show. Ever the entertainer, Smith raps, dances amongst her troupe, collaborates with guests and starts a party in the park that culminates in On My Mind and a tropical palm tree backdrop.
Last but not least, London Grammar take to the stage with the same orchestral track that opened their latest release Californian Soil, setting a semi-serious tone alongside earthy red imagery painting the stage. It’s the first festival circuit with Hannah Reid firmly as band lead, and the singer belts out multiple tracks from the album, such as Lord It’s a Feeling, How Does It Feel and I Need the Night. The audience might not be familiar enough with it to sing along, but older hits like Strong capture their full attention instantly. A mostly mellow ambience is sometimes punctuated by rocky outros of instrumental explosions that bring a different energy altogether. With concluding instructions to “hold the hand of the person next to you”, laser beams fill the east London sky as the synth and electro-beats of Lose Your Head eventually fade to a full stop.
All Points East festival champions British talent and boasts the ability to switch seamlessly between styles and sounds. Whether crowds are there for that festival feeling (finally), or getting back to the music, there is probably something for everyone. And with two more days to go, it’s only just getting started.
Photos: Virginie Viche
For further information about All Points East visit the festival’s website here.