Top billing at this latest instalment of All Points East comes from the new elder statesmen of emotional indie, The National. With complex constructs of melancholy, their mellow sounds are the perfect accompaniment to the stereotypical rain-soaked streets of London. But today, they’re soundtracking a blistering summer afternoon.
Before that, sheltered in the protective shade of the Jagerhaus stage, Sorry bound their way through a blistering set that an eager crowd completely fall for. Later there’s more plucky, delight-filled tunings from Genghar who feel as unrelenting as the heat around them. Closing the stage, Pumarosa wildly summon a ferocity that is unmatched by any other. Over on the North Stage, a unity of feeling takes the spotlight; Broken Social Scene bring comfort with their welcoming sound. Soon after, Warpaint come out on top form with a set rife with cutting, ethereal favourites.
However, there’s another story to uncover over on the main stage – with a sizable crowd gathered, Future Islands frontman Samuel T Herring lassos the hearts of London. Delicate vocal melodies swiftly become demonic growls in a balance only he can perpetrate; no one conveys conviction quite like them. Pulsating dance beats and synths swirl around each other, but of course, Sam’s emotional deliverance isn’t saved just for the heart-wrenching lyrics; there’s also his trademark dancing. Through each skyward glance, chest-pounding thump and body roll, it’s as if he’s preaching the wonders and dangers of love.
With the sun hanging low in the sky, The National finally appear as if they’ve just walked out of the nearest Parisian wine bar. Swiftly after opener ‘Nobody Else Will Be There’, ‘The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness’ brings its darting edge, with the glitch-ridden guitar riff cutting through the descending night.
Every moment feels meticulously chosen. ‘Squalor Victoria’ becomes an ode to the very park that’s hosting them tonight, the utterly heart-wrenching ‘I Need My Girl’ instigates a mass yearning singalong. Not to mention ‘Graceless’, with its thundering and determined tempo, picks up the pieces of the heartbreak.
There’s even another airing of new song ‘Light Years’ with a little help from The Staves. It doesn’t change up The National’s formula as much as it reaches into the depths of where the darkness lies and twists it with a broken bottle.
While the bulk of the setlist perfectly sails through their rich back catalogue, the encore is where the tender-heartedness reaches a new level. A barrelling rendition of politically-driven ‘Mr November’, featuring Matt’s trademark crowd-invasion and repeated yelps of “I won’t fuck us over”, evokes an intimate unity.
As the chaos calms, the War On Drugs’ Adam Granduciel takes to the stage to aid in building the powerhouse of ‘Terrible Love’. Fan favourite ‘About Today’, tonight dedicated to the late Frightened Rabbits’ frontman Scott Hutchison, forms an emotional cherry on top of a stable, yet, fragile cake, before closing with a beautifully stripped back ‘Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks’, driven by the sweeping voices of the dedicated crowd.
Bringing songs that revel in loneliness, romanticising the fragility of the human spirit, there’s a delicious coating of irony in the fact a family several-thousand strong find solidarity in sad company. Tonight is a testament to the fact that no matter how deep and dark life can feel, you’re never really alone.