Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds plug straight into their audience on the last night of All Points East.
Drummer Jim Sclavunos beats the intro to Get Ready for Love and for two hours plus that’s the overriding emotion, to-and-fro.
The ever-evolving, currently six-piece, Bad Seeds, plus wonderful backing singers, draw from all corners of the catalogue, Tupelo to Bright Horses, while, apart from occasional turns at the piano, Cave the showman covers every space on the stage with his Elvis meets Iggy Pop fervour.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have played here before of course, closing the first edition of the festival in 2018, but there’s even more adulation among an even greater spread of ages in front of them this time, hands young and older reaching up for the singer throughout, beseechingly.
It’s a coup for All Points East (APE) to have bookers, and an event, that can get an act like this, at the very top of its game, still, for a one and only UK show in 2022.
Since Event Industry News reviewed the festival, pre-Covid, AEG Presents and considerable company beat the odds/the clock to bring All Points East out of pandemic mothballs from Friday August 27 to Monday August 30 last year.
While it’s back up to two weekends this time, six show days split either side of free to attend In The Neighbourhood events – outdoor cinema, creative workshops, yoga drop-ins, theatre, wellbeing sessions et al – the fourth APE in five years stayed with the shift from beginning to end of the season. And no regrets.
The alignment with Rock en Seine and AEG Presents’ new Bristol event, Forwards Festival, co-promoted with Team Love, highlights the August/early September window as an increasingly attractive period for artists and sponsors.
On site, fantastic to see bars serving cans rather than pouring pints into plastic cups, a sustainability shift which slashes the wait time, and good food options, plenty of them plant-based. But it’s the stellar line-ups on each of the show days and the consummate delivery – those AEG stamps of authenticity – that fix this festival on so many want lists.
All Points East 2022 is more woofers and tweeters than bells and whistles. The imposing Huawei towers are gone from in front of the East Stage, particularly welcome for sightline-searching audience crossing the compass to catch the headliner – there’s 10 minutes between the end of Michael Kiwanuka’s West Stage set and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds starting on the East. No sign of Spacial Installations’ amazing shopfront masks across the concessions either, which removes the ‘boutique’ effect and adds more clear water between APE and British Summer Time Hyde Park (BST).
“After 2019, we looked at every aspect of [All Points East],” Oscar Thornton, senior event manager at AEG Presents European Festivals, explains. “The creative and production overlays were [the product] of a flexible progression which, as part of the post-pandemic review, we wanted to ensure improved our sustainability, especially reducing the movement of large trucks in and out of what is a public park. This allowed a reduction in build and break impact for the community and put the budget where it was most effective for fans, artists, and the community.
“We moved away from the FOH towers on the East Stage due to Huawei not being involved. It is something we are looking to bring back in future years with a partner,” he adds.
Singers & players
“All Points East stands for great line-ups playing on great production, delivering amazing performances for fans,” Oscar Thornton tells this magazine.
“The bookings team does a top job delivering on that vision with the style and direction of the acts across each day, booking a wider platform of artists and ensuring it’s not just about the headliners.”
Certainly, from former Palma Violets’ man Chilli Jesson who opened the West Stage with a fabulous half an hour or so right through to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, via Starcrawler, Spiritualized, Colleen Murphy, Robert Glasper, Aldous Harding, Kae Tempest, Anna Calvi and a whole lot more, show day six didn’t stop.
Proper Productions – bastion of British Summer Time – came east last year to look after everything from the barricade back in terms of technical production as well as artist liaison, which the company took on in year two of Hyde Park – 2014 – working to the principle, ‘if you’re going to do artist stuff you need to do all the artist stuff’. A commitment that cuts the complications, the flaws, inherent when there are too many teams taking on individual elements of the advance.
A pleasure then to catch up with Proper Productions’ Mark Ward.
“The summer event calendar was really compressed in 2021, obviously, and movingAll Points East from May to the August Bank Holiday saw AEG and Loudsound as it was then, LS Events as it is now, ask us if we were around,” he explains. “That was at the end of Covid when everyone was wondering ‘are we going to be able to do it or aren’t we’? So, we were on standby until the message came, ‘We want to do it in five weeks. Are you up for it?’
“There’s a very clear understanding with AEG and LS Events that [British Summer Time and All Points East] are not the same show,” Ward continues. “[This is] kind of the cooler, younger sibling of BST. Partly that’s location, partly that’s the booking policy. It’s supposed to do a different thing and that pervades everything it is. There’s a similarity too though, in that it changes fundamentally from one day to the next. It’s not an absolute musical style policy of ‘it’s all going to be like this’. We’ve gone from Disclosure yesterday to Nick Cave today. We all get that means a very different vibe backstage, onstage and in the audience area.”
The weeks between Hyde Park and Victoria Park provided enough time to dig into the 2022 detail but, Ward stresses, Proper Productions had done an awful lot of work on All Points East before going into BST. Crucially, among the similarities between the festivals are telling numbers of the same people and suppliers.
“There is a great team on both sites,” Mark Ward nods. “We all get that you don’t have as much time to build a city festival as you do if you’re on a greenfield site in the middle of nowhere, but Tower Hamlets Council has always been great, they get what doing shows like ATP takes.
“This is a much bigger site than Hyde Park and it’s a more complicated show to pull off in many ways – there are seven stages, for one, and we run all of them – but we’re certainly not chasing our tails to get it built on time.”
The East Stage and the X Stage, Star Live’s stunning piece of engineering, are the two principal platforms in the same place on the map as they were in 2019, the latter reaching its considerable potential since 6 Music took on the controls last year – Gaudi with Zoe Devlin Love followed by Don Letts? Completely fabulous.
From there, it’s all change. The North Stage is in a big top – Jehnny Beth and Sleaford Mods among the run of popular players under that canvas on ATP 2022’s final day – and West Stage has a markedly new makeup.
“A key consideration for us was delivering an enhanced production experience for the artists and thus what they could bring to the show for their fans,” Oscar Thornton says. “The decision to move the stage locations was the first step. It allowed us to mirror the East Stage with an identical VerTech at the west of the site and it meant improved sound levels.
“The new West Stage was able to hit over 100dB, which for a city-based event is great, and it removed any concern for artists that one stage was superior to the other.”
“The ‘Hollywood Bowl’ styled Orbit stage was replaced with a 20m VerTech back in 2021 and given a new home at West of the site, matching the stage at East,” Star Live project manager, Gav Scott, says. “That in turn meant a move for the Big Top to the old location of the Orbit stage (North). Those geographical changes worked well, spreading the audience, and avoiding the ‘main stage’ tag.
“The key change for 2022 was to the East Stage which grew to accommodate the imposing Tame Impala lighting rig. This show required a stage with a 15m trim, which meant a lift of 4m from the standard spec. In engineering terms this increased the wind area and in turn meant we had to increase the stage depth and add a lot more weight into the substructure.”
While the East and West stages were pretty much balanced in terms of sound levels, the former turning slightly from its sensitive southern flank to contain any spill, celebrated audio specialist Capital Sound, now a part of Solotech UK, took two separate approaches.
Martin Audio’s multi-award-winning MLA system delivered via an adjusted 13 MLA and a single MLD (downfill) box on each side of the East Stage, with side hangs of nine MLA stage right and eight on stage left. Frontfills comprised eight Martin Audio XD12, with 20 MLX subs.
Further back, five delay points were populated by 46 MLA Compact with six MLX subwoofers on the last two positions. Stage sidefills comprised four SXHF218 subwoofers, and a pair each of Martin Audio TORUS T1215 and T1230 constant curvature boxes.
Meanwhile, out west, there was a first APE opportunity for Martin Audio’s 3-way bi-amp, 2 x 12” large format line array.
“After the huge success of BST at Hyde Park, where it was featured for the first time, we took the decision to run WPL [as the main PA] on the West Stage, along with WPC—and the new SXHF218 subs in a castellated cardioid array,” Solotech senior project manager, Martin Connolly, explained. “It was a huge success.”
“The combination of Capital Sound’s expertise and Martin Audio’s advanced control technology has proven time and again that challenging sites such as Victoria Park and Hyde Park, once considered unworkable, are entirely viable when it comes to staging front line events,” Mark Ward added.
AEG Presents is a big business, it can and does look out for its team, honouring commitments through the recent health crisis by way of example. But it’s the suppliers and the individuals gathered under the All Points East umbrella that gives a festival like this the capacity to truly deliver for paying guests and for locals. That’s something worth having.
“Good night. Thank you,” Nick Cave waves an arm as the Bad Seeds’ set wraps with The Weeping Song, and the beatific faces heading for home afterwards seem to say much the same thing. Great show. Great festival.