Festival Review: Bon Iver @ All Points East – Victoria Park, London

Photo Credit: Tom Hancock

The honour of closing this year’s All Points East festival lay in the hands of Justin Vernon and his band of merry men, topping a bill of indie, folk and lo-fi belters. Sunday’s set followed on from five other one-day APE events this month, which included The Strokes, Bring Me The Horizon, The Chemical Brothers, Mumford & Sons and Christine & The Queens as headliners.

Photo Credit: Rory James

Whilst Bon Iver may not be the most energetic of the bunch, their set was a psychedelic, synth and guitar-driven master show, covering Vernon’s full discography and ending with the unexpected surprise that new work is on its way. Following the usual, bursting and exploding opening track of ‘Perth’, old songs such as ‘Towers’, ‘Minnesota, WI’ and the sumptuous, hair-raising ‘Creature Fear’ were plumped up with his now customary auto-tune vocals and abstract electronica, whilst inevitable crowd favourites ‘Skinny Love’ and ‘Holocene’ were allowed their moment to swoop and swirl across the London evening sky, without too much alteration.

Photo Credit: Jordan Curtis Hughes

It was the performance of tracks from their latest record however, that came to the fore, with much of 2016’s 22, A Million being showcased. Following a glorious, heart-thumping rendition of ‘Blood Bank’, a run of tracks including ‘666 ʇ’, ‘8 (circle)’ and the stirring, looped and layered harmonies of ‘Woods’ created a momentous period within the set.

Granted, it would have been a joy to hear a few more from For Emma, or even a run-out of 80’s clad ‘Beth/Rest’, but this was a carefully crafted setlist, keeping all attendees satisfied and allowing Vernon, Carey and co. to just do their thing flawlessly, with few interjections. And what a way to close a set – not by performing two new tracks, but leaving the stage, hitting the play button and letting the jaws drop across the departing crowd, with the realisation that a new LP may very well be on its way…well played, Vernon, well played!

Photo Credit: Rory James

Elsewhere in Victoria Park, the APE patrons were treated to a stirring set from Icelandic genius John Grant, jingle-jangle shoegaze from the incredible Mac DeMarco, and indie-belters from the ever-brilliant Snail Mail. A particular stand-out was Julien Baker, who, accompanied by a single violinist, had a mid-afternoon crowd completely at one with her heart-wrenching, fragile songs. Later on, the likes of Ry X had the crowd ‘ooo-ing’ along to hit ‘Berlin’ and other similar-sounding numbers, whilst Kristian Matsson, aka The Tallest Man On Earth, had us swooning, whooping and hollering at his one-man show which included performances of ‘The Gardener’ and ‘King Of Spain’ – yes. please.

Photo Credit: Jordan Curtis Hughes

It was a fine Sunday evening with fine performances by all. The beer flowed, Mac had us bouncing, Baker had us weeping, Vernon had us revelling and ex-snooker player Steve Davis did a DJ set – what else could you ask for!?

Dom Kay

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