“We love you London!” is a platitude shouted by nearly every touring band that comes to the capital, but for Haim, it seems to be genuinely true.
The band are headlining the Monday of All Points East 2023 ten years on from their debut album Days Are Gone, and they finally feel like they’ve arrived. They’re following a day stacked to the brim with some of the more interesting and left-field pop and rock artists touring at the moment.
The day gets kicked off on the main stage with Snail Mail, providing a glorious outlet of angsty, emotional rock. Singer and songwriter Lindsey Jordan feels like the kind of bandleader we’d all have wanted to be in our teens, spinning lyrical narratives that are authentic and heart-wrenching, over wonderfully grungy guitars.
She’s followed by a set from Avalon Emerson and The Charm – Emerson’s is a name more closely associated with Berghain than with Brixton Academy, with the techno DJ having established the synth-pop side project as an outlet for her more melodic impulses. Gunning for the crown of the most exciting set of the day; Emerson delivers genuinely evocative pop melodies, underpinned by pitch-perfect mixing and Avalon’s knowing lyrics. They’re a talent on the rise, and this feels like a set leading on to big things indeed.
The main stage plays host to Girl In Red, who is returning for a second time in this run of the festival (she also played on The Strokes’ Friday headline). Marie Ulven Ringheim feels an unlikely popstar, performing in a sweatshirt and jeans, but the fanbase she draws is undeniable. Hers is a set of bedroom pop and introspective acoustic numbers – one of which she tells the crowd she felt unable to play on the Friday due to the macho energy of the crowd. That’s nowhere to be found tonight, with a real feeling of community and communality as the sun comes down.
Then, it’s back over to the other side of the site for a packed out tent and a set from Confidence Man. The Australian duo really do feel like the sleeper hit of the past year – they’ve successfully transitioned from niche electronic concern to the Radio 1 playlist, and have done so with each single adding banger after banger to their arsenal. Their set glides effortlessly from club to Europop and back again, an impossibly camp confection of dance routines and outfit changes. It’s Marmite, of course – if you get it, it’s pure serotonin, but for plenty it’ll be impossible to see why they’re not just a forgotten Eurovision entry from the 90s. More fool them – it’s so much more fun to be inside ConMan’s universe than out.
Finally, then, Haim take to the stage. Walking on to the strains of Fergie’s ‘London Bridge’, it’s hard not to feel that we’re already in safe hands. The sisters transition effortlessly into the headlining slot, with a sound that’s everything you’d want big pop-rock to sound like. (The sound issues present throughout the festival’s other days seem to be absent here)
Singles from their latest album, Women In Music Pt 3, draw a rapturous
response, as do those from Days Are Gone. They’re comfortable entertainers, too – Este, Danielle and Alana trade jokes and comments with the ease that only siblings can, whilst impressing on the audience how absolutely thrilled they are to be here. They tell us how, when the only people attending their gigs were their parents, they somehow began to get radio play on XFM. Of how they travelled to London, started living in Hackney, and first got signed here. Their family are watching from the side of stage – it’s hard not to believe them when they say this headline is a big deal for them.
They translate that into the set with aplomb – the double-whammy encore of ‘The Wire’ and ‘The Steps’ goes ringing into the night, but credit must be given for a sublime version of ‘Summer Girl’ (with added sax solo) too.
The band perhaps don’t have the perception they deserve in the UK – this was a set of arena proportions, delivered by three performers who had the audience in the palm of their hand throughout. Haim have, quietly but surely, ascended into the realm of festival headliners, and about time, too – it’s exactly where they deserve to be.
Photo credit: Terrence O’Connor