800 miles and a week a way from Lollapalooza, the All Points West Music Festival in Jersey City is kind of like a breath of fresh, albeit strange, air. If dealing with coked up Rage fans hurling themselves about Grant Park is taxing, and merciless NIN devotees crushing all in their path in their rush towards the stage strains your nerves, the following week’s All Points West Music and Arts Festival – smaller, more accessible, and with twice as much Radiohead – might be a more appealing option.
For those – like myself – who had been waiting to see Radiohead for almost a decade, the prospect of seeing them not once, not twice, but three times in the space of a week is enough to make anyone freak out. That and, though not as strong as Lollapalooza’s, APW’s lineup was still excellent; Girl Talk, Animal Collective, CSS, Chromeo (yes, Chromeo god dammit), the Roots, Nicole Atkins — all bands not yet at the apex of their popularity, but well on their way.
As Lollapalooza was only a week earlier and featured a swath of the same artists, it’s impossible not to continually compare it to All Points West. Most notably, Lollapalooza’s ubiquitous “Ask Me!” volunteers at were replaced at APW by art in varying flavors of “bizarre”, from quasi-phallic, stainless steel statues with Swiss cheese-style holes, to women and men clad entirely in balloons, to a one hundred foot tall bamboo tower that looked more as if it belonged at Burning Man than on the shores of the Hudson.
As for the music, confined to three stages (“Blue Comet”, “Bullet” and “Queen of the Valley”) and staggered well, the shows ranged in quality, as expected. Chromeo, Girl Talk, Animal Collective, Kings of Leon, Metric, Nicole Atkins, and others all had solid sets; and then there was the necessary spattering of generic rock bands such as Exit 105. In a smaller setting, Exit 105 might have fared better, but an early time slot and indistinguishable songs assured a crowd size continually in flux.
The fact that Radiohead played twice — Friday and Saturday — was APW’s huge selling point (despite Jack Johnson techically being a “co-headliner”). The good news is, even if the Exit 105s came and went, Radiohead alone would make the price of the ticket (which was not insubstantial) worth it. The art installations around the fairgrounds made it seem, at points, as if the concert organizers were trying too hard to make it a memorable three days, when the music alone would have been enough, but it wasn’t enough to be distracting, and, come on – how can a chick wearing balloons not put a bit of a smile on your face?
It will be interesting to see if APW returns for a sophomore outing — hopefully it will, and it will be interesting to see what changes and what stays the same to keep concert-goers on their toes with the festival season already well underway. Good luck, APW.