The second annual All Points West Music & Arts Festival kicked off Friday at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, NJ, defined for a good part of the day by relentless wind and rain that added a little extra drama to the already newsworthy event. After the Beastie Boys' Adam "MCA" Yauch announced last week that he would be undergoing treatment for cancer and canceling the band's current tour plans, including Friday's headlining spot at All Points West, Jay-Z was hastily added to the bill for the rapper's U.S. festival debut.
It was with a roar of crowd approval, then, that Jay-Z opened his epic, full-band-supported 28-song set with "No Sleep till Brooklyn," off the Beasties' 1986 debut album "Licensed to Ill". He later dedicated the show to Yauch, saying he hopes for him to "get well soon" and that the Beastie Boys were "pioneers, one of the reasons I'm on this stage." He also paid tribute to the late Michael Jackson with a montage of photos and videos of a young Jackson along with an interlude recording of the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back". "If you take one thing from this concert, it should be that we don't mourn death, we celebrate life," Jay-Z said, noting his disapproval that Jackson's album sales hit record-breaking highs only after his death in June.
It was announced during Vampire Weekend's rain-soaked but well-attended 6 p.m. set on the main "Blue Comet" stage that due to the weather, single-day Friday tickets would be accepted for festival entry on Saturday and Sunday. This elicited quite a few cheers, presumably from those who had not already purchased weekend tickets. While the early afternoon had been hot and sunny, allowing for clear views of nearby Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, the storm clouds rolled in rapidly just as Fleet Foxes took the stage at 3:30 p.m. The wind, rain and thunder actually worked as fitting accompaniments to the band's dramatic harmonies, a fact not lost on the Foxes themselves. "We kind of look like a guild of wizards here to deliver an ominous warning," said drummer J. Tillman, one of several bearded members of the band. ""I'm going to leave the stage on a horse."
Other performers on Friday included the National, Peanut Butter Wolf, MSTRKRFT, Q-Tip and bluesman Seasick Steve, who captivated a good-sized early afternoon audience from the main stage with only a chair, a guitar and wild stories. A reunited Pharcyde drew a large crowd to the Bullet stage, where they performed favorites such as "Oh Shit" and a cover of Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative". The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who took the main stage before Jay-Z, turned up the energy and spectacle from earlier acts not only through vocalist Karen O's high-octane performance, but by adding a set piece, a giant inflatable blue eyeball, and tossing more like it into the crowd. Jumbotrons on either side of all three stages allowed for good visibility from almost any location on the fields.
Between the stages, festival sponsors also worked to woo fans to their tents-Toyota was giving free airbrush tattoos, while H&M gave out filled, reusable water bottles and provided cell phone charging stations.