I had no intention of going to Panorama this year, even though I thought the lineup looked great. I just wasn’t in a place to drop over $300 for a 3-day pass and it didn’t look like I would be offered free tickets with my current job situation (I used to be spoiled). Plus my parents were coming down on Saturday so that hit the nail in the coffin in terms of me being able to attend this thing.
But late Thursday night my friend offered me 2 passes for Friday that he wasn’t planning to use. I scooped them up right away. Free music festival? I’m in. Although until about Friday afternoon I kept thinking this was at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, as was originally intended, but now essentially replaced with another festival in October. So now it was time to check out at least one day of the new NYC festival from the creators of Coachella and New Orleans Jazz Fest, and “competitor of the established Governor’s Ball, at the same location.
Originally I wanted to head there early to catch acts like Broken Social Scene, Preservation Hall Jazz Band (who I ended up seeing in another form later in the night), and Major Lazer (no idea on this one but heard good things). However, my girlfriend had to work a full day and I also was not exactly excited about walking around all day in 95-degree heat. Good luck to those attending Saturday and Sunday.
Just like Governor’s Ball in 2015, we headed up to 125th street via the subway then walked over the bridge to the festival. And just like Gov Ball, the setup was almost exactly the same in terms of main and side stages, food, bathroom and water stations (no lines!), and art/experiential exhibits. One thing I noticed immediately was the smaller crowd, which I thought would grow as the night progressed even though I was pretty sure the festival had not sold out yet at that point.
We arrived shortly before Alabama Shakes took the main, or “Panorama” stage. The sun was on its way down, and people looked like they were ready to have a great time. Brittany Howard and co then owned the stage for the next hour. Brittany’s voice and energy were on point as ever (I had seen them twice before), a true rock frontwoman. The played a wide variety of songs from both their debut, Boys and Girls, and follow up Sound and Color, plus that song everyone knows from Silver Linings Playbook. They noticeably left out,”Hold On” which has been the case for some time now, (reminding me of Radiohead’s “Creep.” Between the two large screens and a relatively small crowd, we had a great view of the set.
We then proceeded to explore the grounds a bit, and catch part of Schoolboy Q’s set, another artist I wasn’t too familiar with. I also heard there were some cool exhibits to check out but we, unfortunately, didn’t get a chance to see them. Afterward, we headed into the “dance tent” to watch part of DJ Khaled prior to Arcade Fire’s headlining set on the main stage. This was another artist I didn’t know anything about (I kept calling him DJ Kale), other than that he got his fame on Snapchat, and my age relation to the crowd further proved my distant from this new generation of artists. But the tent got way too overcrowded so we booked it to catch Arcade Fire. Again, sizable crowd but not overwhelming compared to other headlining festival sets I’ve been to, making me wonder how well this festival sold.
Arcade Fire is a band that I know has a notoriety, especially for their live shows, even though I haven’t listened to them much myself. I find their songs very polarizing, either I like them a lot or don’t care much for them. Needless to say, this was much anticipated, and they not only met but exceeded my expectations. seeing them live made me want to listen to their recorded music again. They blasted through their set, hitting songs almost equally from all 4 studio albums, and switching up parts and instruments between each song as they are known to do. I can’t speak much to the songs specifically, but heard many familiar ones, in between Win Butler’s semi-political rants about Trump and gentrification. The end of their set culminated with “Here Comes the Night Time,”a very fun and danceable number that ended with explosions of confetti everywhere, followed by their biggest hit and set closer “Wake Up.” Even people who’ve never heard of the band likely know this song, at least from the Where the Wild Things Are soundtrack. I personally love this song and was deeply excited to see it live. They killed it live, but as they were playing I noticed how more crowded the stage was with additional musicians. Slowly it became clear that it was Preservation Hall Jazz Band, primarily from seeing the name on the giant tuba. This was a special treat for me since I have a great affinity with New Orleans and never got to see them live even though they actually had a set earlier in the afternoon. As the song was ending, I was anticipating fireworks, as Gov Ball normally has and I figured would be a staple from an Arcade Fire performance, but there was no indication this was happening. As my girlfriend and I started to get our things and make our way home, the music didn’t stop, even though it was much quieter. They continued the chorus of “Wake Up,” but a more big band style version, and proceeded down into the midst of the crowd. Since we were near the back, they were slowly making their way towards us, reminding me again of the street performances in New Orleans. As they figured would be amidst of the crowd. Since we were near the back, they were slowly making their way tow staple from an Arcade Fire performance, but there was no indication this was happening. As my girlfriend and I started to get our things and make our way home, the music didn’t stop, even though it was much quieter. They continued the chorus of “Wake Up,” but a more big band style version. As they continued their way to the back of the crowd, they finished with “Wake Up” and I assumed the show was over. However, they went right into another song. After a few minutes, I realized it was David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel,” who they gave a small tribute to earlier in the night, and were heavily influenced by. This continued into “Suffragette City” and “Heroes” and as I turned around and followed them through the crowd, there was a huge digital cube with Bowie’ photo on each side. The performance culminated there, giving Bowie a New Orleans style funeral (also known as Second Line performance). Allegedly they had done something similar with Preservation Hall in NOLA, shortly after his death. This added another half hour to their performance, extended it past their 11pm curfew. It’s hard to describe how magical it felt, knowing that this is a once (well maybe twice), in a lifetime experience that will likely never happen again. It got a bit frustrating with everyone holding their phones in the air, as is the case when anything different, cool, and/or unique happens in life, but it still felt small and intimate, as only a thousand people or so stayed for the entire performance. As we walked back over the bridge to Astoria I knew this was something my friends would be jealous of. Another band to check off my list and overall a wonderful evening
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