All Points West
Liberty State Park
Jersey City, New Jersey
It's taken me two hours to get this goddamn beer," said Jason Yeager, a 25-year-old fan from Jersey City, New Jersey – echoing a common complaint about the inaugural All Points West Festival at Liberty State Park in New Jersey. Radiohead, Jack Johnson, the Roots, Cat Power and many more tore through strong sets with the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline on the horizon. But despite the abundance of music, the state park's overwhelming security, almost endless beer lines and a five-brew limit left many fans and bands less than thrilled. "I hear they're not letting you get too drunk here," said Kings of Leon frontman Caleb Followill from the main stage. "Well, they didn't say anything to me, so I'm gonna have a drink."
All Points West, created by the same promoters as the annual Coachella festival, ran from August 8th to 10th, selling out its daily allotment of 30,000 tickets only once, for the Saturday show. (A three-day pass was priced at $258; single-day tickets went for $89.) Only 47 bands performed, compared to the 142 Coachella offered, and sales may have been affected by the concurrent Virgin Mobile Festival – with Foo Fighters and Kanye West – in Baltimore.
Despite solid Friday sets from Grizzly Bear and the New Pornographers – and the dance party Girl Talk got going on the second stage – opening day felt more like a state fair than a rock festival, with ample room to roam around. After Duffy belted out a moving cover of Solomon Burke's "Cry to Me," she begged, "Movement, please!" to a seemingly disconnected audience.
But Radiohead's 25-song set – featuring nuggets like "Idioteque," "Just" and "How to Disappear Completely" – was near-perfect, elevating the beer-deprived crowd and sending them home elated. (Radiohead performed the same trick on Night Two, with Thom Yorke dedicating "Airbag" to the Kings of Leon. "If we were that good-looking, we'd be famous," Yorke joked.) On Saturday, with the sun out and temperatures in the 80s, the vibe improved. Local New Wave crew the Virgins delivered a high-energy version of their single "Rich Girls," and folk rockers the Felice Brothers led a rowdy singalong on "Whiskey in My Whiskey." "I've heard complaints about lack of alcohol, and I'm a little nervous about going on right before Radiohead," said the Roots' ?uestlove, whose band rocked the second stage. "But I like the fact that we can see the New York City backdrop."
Backstage, the Kings went over set changes, adding their epic new jam, "Sex on Fire." "We've been playing huge festivals in Europe this summer, in front of 80,000 people," said Followill. "But this is an important show for us. It's our first one back in America."
Rain poured down on Sunday, but Cat Power and Ben Harper played through the weather to thousands of determined fans. "You have to meet the elements face to face," Harper said. "And bring the sunshine if there isn't any." After catching Harper's set, Johnson closed out APW with breezy takes on the Cars' "Just What I Needed" and Jimi Hendrix's "Remember" – before Trey Anastasio appeared to rip a solo on "Mudfootball." "Coming from Hawaii, we never get views like this," Johnson said. "It feels like you can grab New York and shake it up like a snow globe."
This story is from the September 4th, 2008 issue of Rolling Stone.