Block rocking tweaks…

AEG Presents drew the very best out of its considerable team to stretch the Victoria Park canvas tighter still at All Points East’s second edition. Event Industry News sees The Chemical Brothers’ dazzling headline set put a marker down on night one.

Last year, AEG Presents brought its game-changing British Summer Time ingenuity across town. Stellar, stirring stage designs, super sharp sound, scenic ‘shop front’ bars, great food, a stomping line-up and a telling mid-week mix of free to attend events for locals, together with an East End twist. 

All Points East Mk1 comprised sell-out shows and five-star reviews but AEG Presents always wants more for its customers. So, just the other side of the congratulations, the message to event production agency Loudsound, to LarMac Live (technical production/artists liaison) and to the supply chain, was: ‘what can we improve?’

“First-year shows are really tricky,” Ian ‘Lar’ Greenway, director at LarMac Live, says on site. “There’s this overlap of creative process and custom fabrication work, which inevitably [runs into] the build, and there are only so many people able to input into that.

“We’ve got a bit smarter with how we crew it, how we access it, how we build the thing, but there are no fundamental changes. That’s not saying we got it perfect last year but we didn’t get two-thirds of it wrong and it’s nice being given that mantle by the client saying ‘we know it was great but you’ve got to make it greater’.

“The way to do that is to tweak and polish here and there rather than rip it all up and start again.”

The Loudsound team, steered by operations director, Steve Reynolds, and event managers, Beth Smith and Mike Trasmundi, works with AEG Presents’ Jim King, Jenny Hamada and Oscar Thornton, taking on their vision for what All Points East should look like. 

Loudsound then designs the site, draws everything up and procures the creative production, working on bar designs with Spacial Installations and stage designs with Star Events and Hangman.

“We look at the logistics, make sure everything’s good from a customer journey point of view, with Peppermint in terms of how the bars operate and with Sourced Markets to make sure traders get the best footfall,” Reynolds says.

Difference a year makes

Walking through the main entrance to All Points East, with an eye out for 2019 tweaks, first up is the X Stage. 

Sponsored by Ray Ban this year, Star Events’ groundbreaking structure is a little taller and the floating DJ platform has gone. Instead, there’s a 10m Orbit between two of the X’s giant legs. 

“Having a band day there, in the middle of the weekend, rather than three DJ days, was the main reason for the switch,” Greenway says. “We needed a performance deck with a roof on, a traditional set-up, and it’s created much more of a destination venue than 2018’s in-the-round feel.”

Beyond the X, All Points East stage names are compass points. In size order it’s East, a 20m VerTech, North, an Orbit with a Hollywood Bowl-style finish, and West, a 17m span, 3 bay VerTech ground support set in, deep breath, a new to site 55m by 95m AJ Big Top Hire 8 pole tensile tent.

“We take the X Stage and the West Stage out on [the first] Sunday night,” Greenway continues. “East and North stay fully laden, ready to do shows. We receive our Friday night artists on Thursday, put that in with good time, then we go into another three-show weekend. So it’s a non-stop rolling programme but very different iterations of entertainment.” 

Heading to the main stage I’m struck, still, by Spacial Installations’ work, theming the bars and concessions en route to the main stage. 

Spacial’s designs brought, and bring, a brilliant edge to British Summer Time’s arena and the company is a perfect fit across town too. Record shops and rock ‘n’ roll style ‘shop fronts’ to the bars amplify All Points East’s theme and Spacial has been hard at work to make its method efficient and sustainable.

“Launching the business in 2006 we wanted to do something with containers,” Spacial Installations’ director, Chris Coulton, says. “In Hyde Park the fascias are prefabbed onto the side of the containers so we can just roll them onto site, which is a massive time saver.” 

At All Points East, it’s a two-storey system, container on the bottom and another on top. AEG has bought the ground level units, which Spacial adapted for every eventuality, so you can open up the sides for service, while containers for the top level are hired in and unaltered.  

Like British Summer Time the bars at All Points East are well-stocked and well-staffed so the wait time for a drink, even at peak periods, is much, much better than festival-goers are used to.

Huawei towers

The most visible change for All Points East 2019 is the black steel-effect towers at the East Stage front of house positions. 

Built by Star Events using its British Summer Time towers technology, the 6m by 6m units, replete with internal rigging capacity, are topped by Huawei-sponsored terraces.

Sitting well above the crowd, the platforms provide prime viewing for Huawei guests in front of stage left and artists’ guests in front of stage right.

On the East Stage itself, production teams and the turnaround of acts benefit from more storage space while a fairly sizeable change to the stage dock helps with the transport arrangements.

“Our biggest show here is seven or eight trucks on a headline act, which is big for a 40,000 cap show,” Greenway explains. “We’re not at that 12-truck dock stage here, All Points East never will and never should be, so we made a couple of access changes and a couple of storage changes which has allowed punchier artists to come in. It makes the promoter conversation a little easier when we’re talking to them about who they’re going into contract with and it helps them throw the net out wider rather than letting the production dictate who they book.” 

Unsound judgement

The elephant in the park for All Points East 2019 was the criticism levelled at organisers by a small section of the main stage audience unhappy with sound levels for the Strokes’ headline set on the festival’s day two.

Set close to a residential area, noise management consultant Vanguardia and Capital Sound’s roles are crucial in creating a great experience for customers while managing All Points East’s impact off-site.

Capital proved the viability of the site 10 years ago. It demonstrated that the London Electronic Dance Festival (LED) and Field Day could deliver sound pressure levels of up to 101dB(A) while reducing offsite levels to 75dB(A) and just the slightest bit of digging by complainants would reveal that the award-winning Martin Audio MLA loudspeaker array was unchanged from its universally praised 2018 incarnation. Thirteen MLA elements plus an MLD Downfill either side with a side hang of eight MLA Compact on stage right only. 

The area stage left, where the wheelchair users’ compound sits, is the closest to local housing and Capital provides two small speakers there running on a radio link. 

The system whole is underpinned by 14 MLX subs in a broadside cardioid array, eight Martin Audio DD12s, which have become the standard front fills, and a total of 28 MLA Compact on the three delay towers, with the rear one boosted by three Martin Audio SX218 subwoofers. 

“The third delay was sited at 115 metres and I find this addition creates warmth and punch past that point,” Capital’s account manager, Martin Connolly, says.

Shan Hira, FOH sound engineer for The Chemical Brothers, who mixed their show on his own Midas XL4, is a big fan of the All Points East PA. 

“I am always looking for an even coverage, clarity in the tops, and punchy, weighty subs and MLA did a good job all round,” Hira says. “The system was set up well and the sub coverage was even due to a well-placed sub array.”

Russ Miller, FOH engineer for Johnny Marr, who played the East Stage a couple of hours before the Strokes on the Saturday, has a similar opinion. 

“I thought MLA sounded great,” he comments. “Punchy and hi-fi without being harsh. It was well set up and I’m pretty sure I employed zero EQ to my mix.” Miller also highlights the system’s advantages, namely that MLA makes it possible for higher levels to be achieved within the bowl area while reducing substantially offsite. 

“[Victoria Park] is always going to be a difficult site given the proximity to houses but as modern live engineers, we should be aware that government levels will continue to decrease so we need to be vigilant and mix smarter. MLA goes a long way to making that possible while still being exciting for the crowd.” 

Connolly adds, “Field Day and LED provided the original template, and barring minor tweaks to ensure the sound levels conform at the two offsite measurement positions set by [acoustics consultants] Vanguardia. We now have a winning formula.” 

Capital provides sound for the four principal stages, and the VIP area, with the MLA at work on the East and the North, hangs at the latter comprising 11 MLA elements and a single MLD Downfill per side. 

The Star Events’ masts are wrapped by Hangman, their extremities sprayed black to amplify the PA, and the stage, and hide the structural elements.   

There were changes on the stage too with much more storage on the right to help with turnarounds. The ever-decreasing arches bring a brilliant Hollywood Bowl-style but they limit what can move around at the back, so Star created an extra zone there to make it more manageable. 

The stage itself is pushed back 10m into the trees, which means building over picnic tables rooted into the ground. In addition, the front of house structure moves stage right which all helps to open up the arena. 

“Rather than it being in a nook on a fenceline we wanted to create a much more defined bowl rather than an ad hoc stage,” Greenway says. “It has this semi-permanent feel now. You look at it in a photo at night and it belongs there, just like the Hollywood Bowl. 

“The staging world is so disparate in terms of the quality of product and when you’re trying to put really stellar overlay onto a show, and by that I mean the spit and polish, making everything look like it belongs and has actually been cared about, you’ve got to have a supplier that is willing to put the legwork in, from quote through to delivery. 

“All the processes, all the specs, all of the design is built into the nature of the project so it has to be dealt with as such and Star Events, and its project manager Gav Scott, do a great job. They get the polish.” 

You’re never really far from anything at All Points East, which is one of the reasons the Victoria Park site works so well. It’s a pinball effect. You can touch every stage in less than 10 minutes from the ‘mall’. That middle ground, where there’s no stage activity but there’s great food and a couple of sponsor tricks, a couple of nice add-ons, is the heartbeat of the site and performers/performances take people to the East, North, West and X from there. 

Community chest

“We came into a very difficult environment from a community point of view last year, in terms of their perception of events in Victoria Park,” Reynolds says.

“We went out and engaged with people, listening to what the problems were. We committed to reducing the community impact, reducing anti-social behaviour, reducing crime, reducing sound issues and we delivered on every single one of those promises. So it was great to able to go back to the communities this time and say, ‘You asked us to do these things and this is what we did’.

To that end, the Neighbourhood piece that sits in between the two show weekends, which Jenny Hamada curates and pulls together, plays a big role in providing something tangible for the local area. 

“We know we’re an inconvenience, we’ve got the park closed for a month, but by the way here’s your free festival for four days. It’s such a positive story about what AEG can give back to the community,“ Reynolds says. 

“We build the show for two weeks, we’ve got a dead spot of three days because we’re really putting in the Friday show on the next Thursday then we’ve got probably the UK’s biggest show infrastructure in a field, redundant, so let’s use it,” Greenway adds. “They open the doors with free cinema, they do yoga at 10am, all this quirky community stuff, and it works really well. 

“The benefit here is our Monday is a Bank Holiday and there’s generally a bit more motivation to go and enjoy some cinema and some interesting food stalls.” 

Conclusion

Just about the first festival out of the traps, The Chemical Brothers opened the show on 24th May this year, All Points East is a hard act to follow. As much as anything else that’s a tribute to the team AEG Presents, Loudsound and LarMac Live put together to deliver it. 

“We rely on familiarity and we rely on people’s expertise,” Greenway says. “Dropping a show into one field is completely different from dropping a show in another field. The nuances and quirks that come with different clients/local authorities/working practices, once you’ve got the people that understand the product and understand the level of expectation that AEG Presents has on this you keep hold of them and nurture them. We’re in this together.” Just before The Chemical Brothers hit the East Stage with their cinematic set, fittingly focused on new album No Geography, it started raining, hard. The low black cloud seemed to sit just above Victoria Park for 15 minutes. And nobody cared a single bit.

Molly joined the editorial team in March 2019. She has several years’ experience working in broadcast and journalism, as well as marketing and PR. Past experience includes working for the BBC and independent publishing houses. If you have a story you think Molly might be interested in, please email: molly@eventindustrynews.com