By Mawuse Ziegbe
The 2009 All Points West Music and Arts Festival in New Jersey’s Liberty State Park was kinda like an open-air high school lunchroom where shaggy rockers, glittery rappers, and freewheeling artsy kids all held court in their respective corners. Spotty showers soaked the first day of the weekend-long festival which left dedicated (a.k.a. fool-headed) fans tramping through glutinous mud to the sounds of Vampire Weekend, The Knux and Peanut Butter Wolf. The Pharcyde rocked loopy hits like “Runnin’” and “Passin’ Me By.” The original line-up was in full effect – including a formerly dreadlocked Tre sporting an appropriately Jersey Corleone hat – and showed love to J. Dilla by playing Slum Village jams like “Raise It Up.” Q-Tip deployed his trademark energy, grooving through Tribe’s hits and busting out a quirky yet charming cover of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature.”
Jay-Z is typically a crap live performer who relies on smugness versus stage presence to energize a crowd. But at his first U.S. festival show, he was actually entertaining – or rather the 40-foot visuals, bajillion-piece band, and scores of “Oh snap!”-inducing hits staved off boredom. He even played more chill gems like “Jigga My N*gga,” “Feelin’ It” and “Streets Is Watching.” He also drove the crowd into a tizzy with a bold verse from his upcoming Blueprint 3 which name-checked former partner Damon Dash and crazy-talking MC The Game.
Saturday, I checked out the sprawling outdoor art and liked some cool pieces that used re-purposed materials and what-not. But unless it provided shade, most of the kids weren’t into it. The beer gardens were actually more like beer pens enclosed by chain link fences where you could sit in the mud and nurse your Bud Light like some drunkity farmer. St. Vincent’s warbling, distorted pop was my personal highlight. She had the most adorable nerdlinger band which included a flautist and a violinist who also hopped on the keys and sax. She was loverly as she plucked hazy melodies like “Laughing With A Mouth of Blood” and “The Strangers” as the sun sank into dusk. Despite the CGI gremlin visuals and the fact that I’ve never shopped at Hot Topic, I actually enjoyed Tool’s haunting, gritty set.
By Sunday I was damn near delirious from the New Jersey to Brooklyn sojourn and thus not OK with the craptastic comedy that awaited me. It’s still 1994 in my head and I watch Janeane Garofalo’s delightfully self-deprecating turn in The Truth About Cats and Dogs way more than necessary. So a part of me died when she took a huge L with jokes about birthers, healthcare reform and other buzz-killers. She did bounce back a bit with a yarn about slathering hand sanitizer on her lady bits but the set still gave me the sads.
Lykke Li was her usual awesome self and bands I never gave a flip about like Silversun Pickups, We Are Scientists and Akron/Family were rather bangin.’ But the performance of the day and perhaps the weekend and perhaps my life was Coldplay. Yes, their Park Slope, hipster-dad rock is an easy mark for dick-joke comedians and usually only people with vaginas profess to be fans. But real talk, they were rad. Chris Martin is effortless and self-aware and the show erupted with pleasant surprises like twinkly lights and balloons filled with glitter. Plus, they have like 17 songs that you know all the words to but don’t realize it until you’re in the stands swaying, watching the clouds and promising never to do anything assholian again. Because ridding yourself of your assholian ways is the reason Jeebus invented Coldplay, rain boots and All Points West.