All Things Go Fall Classic in Washington D.C. delivered an excellent festival packed with an impressive lineup that included Sylvan Esso, Sofi Tukker, Passion Pit, Bishop Briggs, Pop Etc, and the headliner Empire of the Sun. Now in its third iteration, All Things Go went on rain or shine at the Yards Park at the Capitol Riverfront. While the impressive lineup delivered musically, what was even more rewarding about this festival was the party.
It started with a gray, rainy day. Doors opened at 11:30 a.m., rain notwithstanding. The drizzle in the outdoor venue did not bother the few people trickling in to see Ace Cosgrove, a Maryland native who got the crowd to forget it was raining. The band delivered, but it was singer Adrian Aaron Eskridge Jr. who decided to jump in the middle of the crowd, joining the group of spectators in the friendliest mosh pit I’ve ever seen. Dancing and jumping as a group, Ace Cosgrove rapped socially conscious tunes on funk and reggae influences — a great way to kick off the day.
A few minutes later, the stage brightened with Sofi Tukker, an electro-pop duo based in New York. The duo is Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern, and their stage presence was refreshing. With sounds that make you want to move, their energy was contagious as the rain began to slowly turn from drizzle to downpour. Tukker was a revelation. My favorite track was from their performance was “Drinkee,” a catchy dance song that feels dreamy with vocals sung in Brazilian Portuguese and a touch of Tropicalia. “We love the rain,” said Tukker, “especially when we’re wearing white!” But their dancing wouldn’t stop and their fusion, electronic music could transport you from a pool party to an intense drum ‘n’ bass sonic soundscape.
As the rain picked up, the music mellowed out with POP ETC, an indie band with more introspective lyrics. As they were setting up for their set, the sound check quickly transitioned to the actual set with an “Are we starting now?” as they started playing. Chris Chu, the band leader later addressed the crowd, “How are you, D.C.? Here’s a song for you, you should appreciate. It’s called ‘I Wanted to Change the World, but The World Changed Me.’” And the crowd, which by now built by hundreds more cheered back. It was a strong set that included “Please, Don’t Forget Me,” “Running in Circles,” and a personal favorite, “Bad Break.”
As mud started to build at the Yards Park, it was Bishop Briggs’ turn to show off her repertoire. Hailing from England, the 24-year-old definitely showed why she is getting noticed as a breakout artist. Her song “River” about a passionate relationship was a standout in her set. The sounds that Briggs delivers are all alternative, melding several influences with clearly some electronica, hip-hop and pop. It was a solid set and one that the now growing audience certainly went crazy for.
After the Bishop Briggs set there was certainly a long lull. After a while, Tukker came back onstage for a DJ set. “There was a cancellation, so we’re back!” she announced. This is when All Things Go turned from a music festival to a full-on party. Later joined by Cosgrove and band members, there was a fun gap where people just danced their heart out. The rain finally dwindled and the crowds now filled the huge space in the thousands. The DJ set, an impromptu performance that even featured body surfing by Tukker kept the event going. There was even some freestyling by Cosgrove that featured a chanting chorus of “Fuck Trump!” over and over as crowds shouted along.
The next set was a personal favorite, Sylvan Esso. I’ve been waiting to see them live for what seems like an eternity, and they did not disappoint, adding new songs to older ones. The indie pop duo made up of Amelia Meath and producer Nick Sanborn raised the energy even more. “It’s been a while, D.C.,” said Meath, who true to her style, jumped and danced in with seductive energy. Their set included “Uncatena,” a personal favorite about platonic love and letter-writing, “Coffee,” “Hey Mami” and some new songs. Their set closed with “Radio.” It was such a happy and optimistic set, all I could see was smiling faces around me, some were so excited they high-fived around. There was dancing to the tunes of warm and fuzzy feelings.
As the night was about to end, the next act was Passion Pit. But before they went on, we were all rewarded with a stunning sunset, which lit up the back of the stage and reminded us that fall is one of the best seasons in the city, despite the rainy start. The band appeared on stage at 7 p.m. and Michael Angelakos announced, “We are Passion Pit, and we’re from Boston, Massachusetts.” Although their set experienced some sound problems early on, it was all quickly fixed. They played some of their more popular songs like “Take a Walk,” “Sleepyhead,” and “Lifted Up,” which was the standout of the night. The pumping performance kept the party going at the front of the stage, where even in cramped spaces, people didn’t stop dancing. At the back of the venue, the mud became almost a dance prop, with people sliding through their moves and jumping haphazardly.
Finally, it came time for the headliner. As the night set in, excitement built up and Empire of the Sun orchestrated an entrance worthy of gasps, screams and open jaws. Theatrical fog and an assembly of lighting with an installation that resembled a sunburst gave way to a foursome of backup dancers who showed up dressed in skin-tight golden suits. As they gyrated and held some glow sticks, the band made their way in. With Luke Steele wearing an Emperor’s suit and a tall crown and Nick Littlemore decked out in a shiny suit, the Australian duo’s show had production values that were absolutely outstanding. There were several costume changes by the backup dancers and a screen to the back of the show that showed images and animations on rotation that never repeated. It was like being inside a really cool music video. Some of those videos included an Oz-like character that played the role of the Emperor, talking at the audience from what seemed to be another planet. The performance (errr, spectacle?) by Empire of the Sun ended with the same dose of dramatic flair as it started; with smoke and lights and the band marching towards the light. And just like that the third music festival of All Things Go came to an end.
If you missed it, definitely look forward to next year. When all was said and done it seemed to me that the entire festival was a bargain. You get so much for just a ticket and in a single day traverse a musical landscape curated by people who obviously have definite taste and care about the music and run a tight ship even in the rain. Fall is an amazing time in the city, no doubt this music festival makes it even more special.