Why I No Longer Hate The Wombats But You Still Shouldn’t Go To All Points East 2020

Last week I drafted a blog about how February’s announcement that The Wombats will be headlining All Points East 2020 with The Kooks, justified boycotting the day festival.

Writing it made me really angry.

So angry that I felt it necessary to sit on it, and reflect on why I hate The Wombats so much.

Through reflection, I’ve realised that I don’t hate The Wombats, and their status as All Points East 2020 headliners is not a good reason to tell people to rip up their festival tickets (if yours is digital you can still smash up your phone – go on, I dare you).

Anyway, while you should still definitely NOT go to All Points East 2020, I’ll get to that in a bit.

Deconstructing why I hate The Wombats so much made me realise that actually, hating a band intensely is a real symptom of fanboyism / fangirlism / fanthemism. Because it’s the mirror-image of dogmatically repeating what you think is cool, and holding opinions that make no sense (the definition of fanboyism). Which makes sense, because that’s what music encourages you to do, by embedding lyrics and tunes in your head, over and over again.

But I don’t think dogmatism’s cool, so I decided to change my mind about The Wombats.

Here’s how I did it.

Why I Thought I Hated The Wombats

I started by rekindling my intense hatred for The Wombats.

This was achieved by spending most of last week listening to their first album, A Guide To Love, Loss and Desperation. Wanky title, isn’t it?

Listening to it again helped me distil this hatred into four key points, which I wrote down and then felt pretty stupid about.

Here are the reasons.

They’re stupid, aren’t they?

1. The Wombats’ Lyrics Really Make Me Cringe

I don’t know why, but the lyrics in Wombats’ songs always make me cringe.

Take the singles from their debut album: 

Kill The Director

Kill The Director involves the frontman finding himself in a situation that plays out as if it’s a romantic comedy or Eastenders episode, and references how ‘carrots help you see much better in the dark’.

I’ve always felt like the frontman Matthew Murphy’s prose would be perfect for a BBC funded Romcom, like, I dunno, a feature-length version of My Family, which is an awful idea, isn’t it?

Also carrots don’t help you see in the dark

Moving To New York

Moving To New York is about how Matthew Murphy is going to move to New York because he’s got insomnia.

My gripe with this song is that he sings it as if he hasn’t considered that the cost of Manhattan apartment (because he’d totally live in Manhattan) would make his insomnia worse.

It’s also like it was written in reaction to an episode in which Matthew Murphy’s parents forced him to revise for his General Studies AS-Level, and his very mature reaction was to run around the kitchen table, waving his hands in the air, saying that he was going to slit his wrists because General Studies is definitely way too hard.

Let’s Dance To Joy Division

Let’s Dance To Joy Division is apparently about how the singer was in a pub in Liverpool and everyone was dancing to Joy Division (it’s alluded that the song was Love Will Tear Us Apart Again, and I think fair to assume, because that’s probably the only Joy Division song that people who listen to The Wombats know).

The chorus hinges on how ironic dancing to Joy Division is, because I dunno, Joy Division songs are about being sad, and people never dance to sad songs when they’re happy. Yeah, that’s totally a reason people don’t dance to songs isn’t it?

So yeah, I don’t think there’s anything ironic about dancing to Joy Division, and in context it comes off as a song dedicated to what I assume is Matthew Murphy’s snarky, yet poorly justified, superiority complex.

As you can see, most of my hatred here is based on a completely imagined version of Matthew Murphy. It’s like he must have stolen my girlfriend back in 2006 (ha! I didn’t have a girlfriend).

And when I think about this, it’s totally unfair. Because he’s probably quite nice, and definitely writes better lyrics than I do.

2. My Sixth Form Tutor Said They Were Shit

My sixth form tutor, Mrs Blay, used to let us pick music to play during morning registration.

One morning, a girl I didn’t like kept requesting on The Wombats. Mrs Blay proceeded to say they were shit.

I didn’t like that girl. I really hated that girl. So by association, I started hating The Wombats.

3. They Remind Me Of Mid-2000s ‘Indie’ TopShop Girls Who Wouldn’t Go Out With Me

I remember The Wombats as a band liked by teenage girls who’s rock / indie credentials were store bought from TopShop in the early 2000s.

Remember that uniform of stupid hats, plaid shirts, skinny jeans, oversized sunglasses and unwavering sense of superiority (over the other girls, who just didn’t understand real music)?

I don’t know why, but this really annoyed me.

Perhaps it’s because at the time, the coolest attributes I had were owning a copy of the Pixies’ fourth LP, not understanding Daydream Nation and a pretentious aversion to Best Ofs. It was also that none of the girls appreciated just how cool all of those attributes were.

4. The Wombats Are Really Inoffensive

Listen to their songs.

They’re not hurting anyone are they?

I don’t know why, but I’ve always felt like music should like say something in a pseudo-it’s-not-saying-anything-but-it-makes-you-feel-better-about-listening-to-it sort of way.

Why? I don’t know. It’s just a stupid pretension.

Why The Wombats Are Not A Good Reason To Avoid All Points East 2020

Having written down the reasons I hated The Wombats, I realised that they’re all really, really stupid and I should stop hating The Wombats immediately.

I mean, the more I think about it, the more I’m sure that The Wombats are probably alright. 

It’s also impressive that they’ve managed to make a lot of money as a reasonably cookie cutter indie band, and are now headlining a reasonably big UK (day) festival almost fifteen years after they were relevant.

Finally, they’re getting a bunch of idiots to pay for their retirement, which I think we can all totally applaud.

Why You Still Shouldn’t Go To All Points East 2020

But although I’ve stopped hating The Wombats, I still don’t think you should go to All Points East 2020 and here’s why.

1. It’s Has-Been Central

With the exception of Tame Impala, all six days are a complete nostalgia trip.

When was the last time you heard anything good from Bombay Bicycle Club, Massive Attack, Thom Yorke, Kraftwerk, Iggy Pop, The Kooks or The Wombats?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t in the last decade?

So you already know that everyone there’s going to be reminiscing about how the last time they listened to [insert band] they could still see their penis / vagina over their now enormous beer gut. 

Is that how you want to spend two weekends?

Hanging out with those types?

2. The Free-Entry Activities Sound Shit

There’s food, there’s film, there’s a circus. There’s everything that you could think of.

That’s a quote from the video explaining All Points East’s new, free programme of mid-week activities. It’s like it justifies how the festival is now commandeering a large portion of Victoria Park for another weekend.

While I guess it’s great that they’re pretending to do something for the local community this year, it doesn’t sound like much.

Wait, let me rephrase that. It sounds like a completely hollow cop out.

I mean, how does food, film and a circus sound any better than sitting around in the sun with your friends, watching half naked people (cinema), drinking bottled beer (food), while Australians throw rugby balls in your direction (circus)?

It doesn’t sound any different at all. If anything, my version includes more nudity.

Also, they say this portion is free, but I’m sure the food isn’t going to be.

So it’s probably just another justification for them to charge vendors more for the privilege of selling overpriced food.

3. It’s STILL Commercialisation To The MAX

American Express and Firestone are still sponsoring the event.

Which means that there’ll be a special wristband area for twats who have American Express cards, or eat tires.

While I guess it’s a positive that such dickheads will be segregated from the wider crowd, the concept is still dreadful, and if you go to All Points East 2020, you’re endorsing it.

4. It Means You Don’t Read My Blog Enough

Last summer, I wrote the ONLY honest review about All Points East 2019

My review clearly explains why it was so bad last year.

While I’m not clairvoyant, given there are three more days of it this year, I can and will definitively predict that it’s going to be worse this year (or was there a whole two weeks last year? I really don’t remember)

Given the evidence, why would you go?

Why I’ll Probably Go To All Points East 2020 Anyway

So, now you know why it’s not The Wombats’ fault that All Points East 2020 is going to suck. It was going to anyway!

Also, you now know why you should revise your opinion of The Wombats too.

Despite all of these brilliant reasons not to go to the day festival, both you and I are probably still going to.

Because honestly, what else are we going to do? Balloons?

REVIEW: All Points East – Victoria Park, Saturday & Sunday – 25 & 26 May 2019

or how Henry learned that day festivals suck (AGAIN)

Thanks to my own initiative (a competition on Dice), I’d bagged entry to All Points East: London’s premier-early-summertime-day-festival in Victoria Park

I was now able to attend performances on both Saturday AND Sunday, which meant I had the chance to see at least two headliners: the Strokes AND Christine and the Queens.

It didn’t matter that I didn’t know who Christine and the Queens were (probably a French Queens of the Stone Age cover band). I’d finally won tickets to something and two at that!

Like a toddler that hadn’t been changed all day, I felt the urge to roll around and share the glory of my own majesty with everyone.

And what was the easiest way to do that? Reminiscing, stupid!

So I thought back to last year’s All Points East. Oh yeah, I went to that one too and what a time we had!

There was that duet between Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue. It was magical.

Then I remembered feeling totally inspired by Patti Smith’s wail to action. It was also magical.

And as I made sure that the memory was spread evenly across the carpet of my mind, I remembered that everyone had sung in a field of roses, roses without thorns and it was absolute bliss.

Why you should always think a little harder than you actually do

As the memory hit its climax, I remembered Patti Smith calling out to the audience:

Rise up, oh rise up my young flowers, if we all sing together we’ll break the machine and be free to love each other forever. It’s the sixties all over again. Yeah, we changed the world and it’s great now because of us.

Wait, the world isn’t great now, is it?

I then learned that everyone else had won tickets on Dice too.

Then my girlfriend said she didn’t want to come on Sunday.

Then I realised that I wasn’t going to be able to rub anyone’s face in the fact that I’d finally won something.

And then I started to remember that no, last year’s All Points East hadn’t been that good, had it?

I looked on the internet to confirm my suspicions. Reading this review on Resident Adviser just confirmed that people who write for RA take too much ecstasy (it really damages your brain).

Yep, it was confirmed. Last year had definitely been awful.

But I tried to not get myself down. I mean, it was going to be sunny. Maybe I could still drink too much and have a fun time?

Turns out I was wrong. Just like I had been wrong last year.

Having definitely experienced this before and now having absolutely no desire to experience it again, I decided to write down exactly why All Points East was an awful experience (AGAIN) and why I never want to go back, EVER AGAIN.

Henry’s list of things that you should definitely read before accepting tickets to go to All Points East

1. The people often suck

Why do a lot of the people at day festivals suck?

Because they’re the types who think the best place to see Foo Fighters is from the seated bit at the back of Greenwich O2.

It’s not. The best way to see Foo Fighters is sticking your head down a u-bend screaming Monkey Wrench.

I don’t need to labour this further. No, someone provided me with the perfect example while I was queuing on Saturday.

Get comfortable and I’ll set the scene:

To the left there was a poster boasting that Mumford & Sons’ latest LP was the Daily Telegraph’s 2018 Album of the Year. Even though I don’t think it was?

Ahead, there were swathes of white people and despite the overpowering scent of sun block, the back of everyone’s necks and ears were piglet pink.

All Points East - Entrance
I think Instagram invented ‘English people filters’ that help mask all the pink – All Points East: the queue

And get ready, because behind there stood the most disingenuous couple I have ever had the pleasure of eavesdropping on, EVER.

The mysterious couple’s All Points East queue conversation

The girl, “Oh, you know that babe that I’m totally obsessed with on Instagram? Yeah? Well she’s in Majorca and it looks so LUSH. She just looks so LUSH. She’s SO beefed right now. It’s really inspiring me. You know what? I’m gonna go beefer.”  

The guy, “Ah, babe this is why I love you so much. It would be my absolute pleasure to go beefer with you.

The girl then responded, “I LOVE YOU SO MUCH [BEEF] BABE.

Lucky for them, everyone’s cattle prods were confiscated at the entrance.

2. The bands don’t have a very good incentive to play well  

If someone wrote you a check for £50,000 and then said all you had to do was jump around the stage at the petting zoo, would you put on your best performance?

Probably not.

This year, it’s already been reported that the Strokes sounded like underwater karaoke. Look, it’s in the Independent.  

For some reason though, the Independent didn’t get in touch with me for a quote.

It’s a shame because I actually spent most of the Strokes’ performance standing to the right of the main stage – exactly where it sounded bad. I’m afraid that I need to testify that while the Strokes were hard to hear (and there was one hell of a lot of booing), it did not sound like underwater karaoke.

All Points East - the Strokes
Proof that I definitely saw the Strokes. Actually, it does look a little like underwater love – All Points East on Saturday

But I can tell you that it’s a shame it wasn’t underwater karaoke. If it had been, all the people who were singing, “nah-na-nahh-na-nah-nahhhh-nahhhhh,” to that guitar bit that everyone knows in 12:41 would have probably swallowed a little too much water.

3. The blatant commercialism

Is there anything more rock and roll than new tires, credit cards, electronic cigarettes and an inability to seduce someone in person (Tinder, I’m looking at you)?

Apparently not.

All Points East’s website describes the companies that sell all of these great things as partners not sponsors.

You know that’s the corporate way of saying ‘I’m with the band’.

And I hate to labour the point, but the adverts are so hard to ignore.

Here were my favourites:

  1. The Logic Vape tent (how is it ok to advertise vapes but it’s not ok to advertise cigarettes? All those vape adverts just remind everyone that they used to smoke real cigarettes. I mean, if I was working in Marlboro’s advertising department right now I’d just invent a vape that looks like a pack of Marlboro Reds and plaster that everywhere)
  2. The Huawei spying platform (yes, Huawei had a platform directly opposite the main stage, where else would it be?), and
  3. The totally Radical American Express card holders wristband that granted an ever so exclusive set of people access to an ever so exclusive tent at the side, filled with other people who also had American Express cards.

Can you imagine a tent full of people who only have two things in common: an Amex card and a desire to only hang out with other people who have Amex cards?

I bet the Amex tent’s great.

Who doesn’t love spending time at concerts comparing their Experian credit rating (by the way, it’s 300 (that means good 😉 ). How about you send me some money in the post?).

4. No one seems to be angry that it’s blatant commercialism

Let me tell you a story:

Once upon a time, at All Points East there was a Tinder Van.

Everyone walked past the Tinder Van and said, “Oh, sweet, it’s really useful that there’s a Tinder Van at All Points East. You know, somewhere you’re able to change partners when you fall out of love for forty minutes and both no longer want to see the same band. It’s just great that you’ll still have someone else’s back pocket to keep your hand warm in.

Then, when Interpol started playing Henry’s girlfriend went up to the Tinder Van and said, “Oh please Tinder Van, can I exchange this Henry for someone who doesn’t want to see Interpol?

And then the Tinder Van lady said “Oh no Henry’s girlfriend, I’m afraid not, this van is just for beer, but if you pull your top down a bit I’ll set you up with a new profile.

And in the end poor little Henry got abandoned at the carousel that looked like it was dancing to the end of the world.

Have you worked out what’s strange about that story yet? You guessed it, no one’s angry that I was abandoned.

All Points East - Tinder Van
The usual suspects at the Tinder Van @ All Points East

Want to hear something else people weren’t angry about?

There was this All Points East app that was meant to tell you when and where your favourite acts were playing. But it’s like they made sure it was completely web-based on purpose.

Of course it wasn’t going to work.

When have you ever had mobile data at a festival?!

The organisers clearly knew it wasn’t going to work. That’s why they hired a bunch of people to stand around with physical guides on really cool lanyards that cost £5 each.

My point here is that no one seemed to care that they were being ripped off. Or angry about anything. It was just kind of like everyone there wanted vanilla icecream and everyone got vanilla icecream.

5. The hypocrisy

I really wanted to see Parquet Courts on Saturday and I did. It was great. I think Parquet Courts are ace.

But, despite a solid performance of Tenderness, no one seemed to take the lyrics to heart.

All Points East - the Apocalypse
#plasticfree @ All Points East. It really looks like the apocalypse, doesn’t it? Were Parquet Courts not just singing about the end of the world?!

And like that magnificent band from New York City, this weekend, I too was left without a fix of a little tenderness.

Excerpt from Parquet Courts’ Tenderness

Nothing reminds the mind of power

Like the cheap odor of plastic

Leaking fumes we crave, consume, the rush it feels fantastic

But like power turns to mold, like a junkie going cold

I need the fix of a little tenderness

Redemption

But I’d be lying if I said there weren’t any good bits.

I mean Jarvis Cocker somehow managed to convince the Hamburglar to join his band.

All Points East - Jarvis Cocker and the Hamburglar
That is definitely Jarvis Cocker and that figure circled in red is definitely the HamburglarYou believe me right? @ All Points East

UPDATE: And here’s why you shouldn’t go to All Points East 2020.

Heat up the branding iron

or how Henry misinterpreted lukewarm as cool

A crucial step in my seven point plan to become the greatest copywriter EVER involved making sure that everyone in London knew I was the coolest kid in Hackney.

Out of 32 London boroughs, Hackney was definitely the coolest (how isn’t being 98% over the European legal limit for nitrogen dioxide emissions a middle finger straight up at the man?) and if I managed to become the coolest kid in Hackney, I’d probably be the coolest kid in London.

Easy.

Actually, it wasn’t.

I didn’t appreciate the challenge I’d set myself until I took a long look in the mirror.

Standing in my mirror staring spot I said, “mirror mirror, oh what do I see?

Knowing the answer, I gave it, “a 28 year old with great hair.

Suddenly an evil voice emanated from the frame, “look closer. What do you see?

A little confused, I replied, “unwavering determination?

The same voice hissed, “look closer and up a bit.

Then I saw it. I must have missed it because it wasn’t there – a hairline about to sink from mild recession into a deep and tragic depression. And this time the economy definitely wasn’t going to pick up – I didn’t have a job.

The priorities had changed. I needed a Turkish hair transplant stat. But before I could do that, I needed money.

Ah, money. For money I needed a job.

Damn.

Ok, the plan was back on. The parameters had just changed a bit.

I was going to have to become cool but without any hair.

Was that even possible?

Who’s the coolest bald guy?

I racked my brains.

Stumped, I put my favourite thinking record on, Sonic Youth’s Kill Yr Idols.

The title track roared:

I don’t know why,

You want to impress Christgau,

Ah let that shit die,

And find out a new goal.

Then it hit me.

The coolest guy in the world without any hair was Robert Christgau. You know, that guy who wrote all of those mean album reviews for Village Voice and publicly admitted that he knew nothing about music.

I didn’t know anything about music either! I was already qualified. PERFECT!

Robert Christgau almost bald
The self-ordained ‘Dean of American Rock Critics’ – ok, he’s got more hair than I let on. Maybe I wasn’t balding that much. (Photo by Joe Mabel – I found it on wikipedia)

And if I’d interpreted Sonic Youth’s lyrics correctly, he was so cool that even they hadn’t been able to impress him. I mean, he gave Confusion is Sex a C+ and that album’s radical.

I was going to emulate Robert Christgau. But how?

Becoming the dunce of British rock critics

To become the British Robert Christgau, I’d have to write music reviews.

But I didn’t know who any of the cool new bands were and had no desire to spend weekends scrolling through SoundCloud

Then it hit me.

I lived in London and there were loads of free gigs that only friends of the bands and weird groupies went to.

I could write reviews for those gigs!

It was a brilliant plan:

  1. Assuming I didn’t drink anything, it wouldn’t cost any money.
  2. It’d provide a ton of content for my great blog that’d make me look very, very cool.
  3. I’d be able to take pictures of grimy venues and put them on my Instagram account.
  4. Rolling Stone would probably give me a job and I’d be like that kid in the movie about the band who were in that aeroplane that falls out of the sky then the drummer tells everyone he’s gay (you guessed it, Almost Famous).

So I found three free gigs on Dice and went to them.

I then wrote about it here: Gig on Tuesday, Gig on Wednesday and Gig on Thursday.

I was becoming so cool already.

Then my father called.

Parents are made to inspire doubt

RING RING.

After picking up, my father just shouted at me.

Father Henry, “You need to stop doing those bloody music reviews Henry. They’re shit. It’s like you’re writing for Melody Maker.

I didn’t know what the Melody Maker was, but when he said that it was worse than NME I felt awful.

Why? Because NME’s a pile of shit and definitely not cool. I was worse than NME?! Surely not.

I took a look at NME’s best article ever, you know the one, their list of best 90’s EMO songs.

Jimmy Eat World before Jawbreaker?

I was reassured. Whoever wrote for NME was clearly an imbecile and I definitely wasn’t.

I still didn’t know what Melody Maker was though so I googled it.

Yes, Melody Maker was the Daily Telegraph of the music rags. I’m not even making this up, the editor actually wanted it to emulate the Daily Telegraph.

But, I mean, my music reviews weren’t overly long or complicated. I had an inkling that my father was acting out.

I was about to challenge him on it when my sister and mother said exactly the same thing: “Henry, you need to stop writing those music reviews. They’re just not very good.

Damn, all three of my readers had told me that half the content on my site wasn’t any good.

I took a moment to reflect. Looking over the reviews I just didn’t get what was wrong with them.

The exercise had even shown me how to publish threads on my new Twitter account.

What was going on?

Then I thought back to my copywriter training.

What did my readers have in common?

Understanding (and disregarding) your audience

Ohhh, yes! My father, my mother and my sister had never, ever been to a gig EVER and their favourite musicians were QT and Billy Bragg.

It was confirmed: their opinions didn’t matter!

I’d be damned if I was going to stop going to free gigs, drinking too much beer on a daily basis and writing bad music reviews about the bands I saw. 

Redemption sometimes comes in SMS (the joke doesn’t work if you don’t pronounce SMS as smeees. Get it? It sounds like threes)

And just as I realised that I was well on my way to becoming even cooler, I received a text from Dice.

I’d won tickets to All Points East.

Dice Tickets
I was sad. I really wanted to see the Courtneys.

The gods had spoken and they clearly wanted to read my review of everything that happened at All Points East.

I mean, it was clearly a sign and I couldn’t disappoint the gods now, could I?