Jul 23, 2016
9 Moments From Panorama Festival Day One, Ranked
For any music-loving New Yorker who has been attending Governors Ball for the last five years, the news that a brand new festival–held at the exact same location and only a couple weeks later–was sort of an odd revelation. How would it be different? Was it really necessary to have two? Do they really both still have to use the God-awful location of Randall’s Island? Would this new Goldenvoice powerhouse festival mean the end of Governors Ball?
While yesterday didn’t necessarily answer those larger, existential questions that plagued me when Panorama was first announced, it did reveal what the festival was going to be like in practice. At least, for the first time around. So here are the nine moments that defined my day at the first-ever Panorama Festival yesterday.
9. Press and Vendor Check-in Fiascos
Easily, the shittiest thing about going to a festival is picking up your credentials–that remains true whether you’re press, a vendor, a photographer, VIP, or even a GA civilian who shelled out for tickets (I salute you). But the worst thing about yesterday, hands down, was that for those of us who didn’t purchase tickets, the only way to check in was at the far, far box office that isn’t accessible if you walked over the bridge or took the ferry. Perhaps it was a miscommunication–though every staff member I asked directed me to a different gate–or poor planning, or an act of God, but whatever happened, me and a host of other harried attendees/press/vendors had to walk along the highway in 95+ degree heat for about a mile just to pick up wristbands. This seemed unreal to me–thank God I didn’t pre-game. Not only was it dangerous, it was confusing and horrible. For Governors Ball, if you went to the wrong box office, you could walk down a road inside the park to get to the other entrance easily and safely. But for whatever reason, Panorama didn’t have that road open. This is the kind of thing they can hopefully fix by the second year, but even for those who showed up at the right gate, the lines snaked for hours.
8. Silversun Pickups
By the time I finally got inside, I’d missed Preservation Hall Jazz Band–no matter, Silversun Pickups were on. Back in the day, “Lazy Eye” soundtracked my summer between high school and college, so I was excited. And the band sounded crisp and energetic playing what can be a low-energy midday set. But it turns out I was mostly only into them for that one song, and not much else held my interest, so I wandered in search of AC. Did I mention it was 95 degrees yesterday?
7. Sephora At Panorama
As festivals become increasingly lucrative–see the lede graf in which we discuss two held weeks apart in the same city at the same venue–brands are increasingly eager to be included in the mix. Which, hey, at this point I have sort of just resigned myself to accepting. Sephora is a place I love to shop because they are welcoming of me even though I’m rather hapless when it comes to “beauty,” and they explain what makeup can do to me in nice, simple terms. These were the same vibes that their pop-up at Panorama exuded, which I loved partially because it was a haven for teen girls, the demographic who are routinely mocked or taken advantage of at music festivals.
Inside the cold, blessedly air conditioned tent girls were getting their hair braided, taking group photos in the photo booth with their friends, putting on flash tattoos (I succumbed, if Beyonce flash-tattoos, I flash tattoo.) and trying on lip gloss. It was like a little slice of girl heaven! Adorable and safe and beautiful. Also, they kept spraying my face with a “refreshing spray” that I forgot to ask the name of and now want to buy. Sigh, capitalism strikes again. At least my flash tattoo was free. Economics aside, if you find yourself in need of an uplifting experience while at the festival, the Sephora tent was just that–and it’s right across from free rosé samples at Dark Horse Wine.
6. Broken Social Scene
Photo by Jane Bruce
A Very Pregnant Amy Millan sort of stole the show here, but none of her bandmates seemed to mind. This was the first band of the day I was really looking forward to seeing them–throughout the course of their long career I never have–and they absolutely blew me away. The post-rock orchestral collective helped define the baroque pop of the 2000s that was soon ubiquitous, and though they haven’t put out a new record since 2010 the tent was still packed full of people eager to dance to their sometimes esoteric, instrumental tracks. I also met two people from online during the set–and they were both excellent people. Ah, music festivals, bringing Twitter users together in real life. Oh and another final shoutout to Millan, who danced onstage, stomped around, and sang her heart out while very pregnant in, did I yet mention, 95 degrees! That is the true definition of rock star ladies and gentlemen.
5. The Despacio
Okay, I’m not big on dancing, so while I was dragged here by one of the aforementioned new IRL friends, this dance space–created by the powerhouse combination of James Murphy (of LCD Soundsystem and DFA Records) and David and Stephen Dewaele (Soulwax/2manydjs) and “legendary recording engineer John Klett”–was impressive. The coolness and darkness let festival-goers break lose without worrying who was watching and also offered respite from the crush of the crowd outside. (Even if that crush was markedly less crushing than what Governors Ball crowds have been.) The Despacio is a great place to escape, especially if you want to marvel at custom-made 11 foot tall McIntosh amplifiers. But FKA Twigs was up next, so I left after only a few minutes of losing myself in the darkness.
4. FKA Twigs
I hesitate to put the performance of FKA Twigs into words, because I’m not sure I can do this fearless performer justice. Every single move she made on that stage was electrified, poised, calculated–she brings the finesse of vogue-ing into each step, each glance. It is mesmerizing. She performed a mix of tracks off her latest EP from last summer, M3LL155X, and stretched all the way back to earlier stuff. The music is compelling, I do like it, but it’s really watching Twigs herself that makes the experience so fantastic. There are few artists in our current era who transcend the idea of “live show” and actually deliver a “performance”–Twigs is one.
3. Wheelchair Accessibility
I cannot remember another festival where I saw the dedication to helping disabled attendees experience and enjoy a festival spotlighted in such a consistent way. Each stage had platforms that were specifically designed for handicap accessibility–and they were in great locations too! Not pushed off to the side or brought in as an afterthought, they had the same care and attention that the VIP sections were. Major, major kudos to Panorama and their people for this. I love that they had prominent signage around the festival highlighting these areas, not only to let handicapped people know where to go, and that they are welcome, but to remind the rest of us that these people are part of our community too, and that we should be thinking of and about them when designing music events.
2. Alabama Shakes
By the time Twigs was over, I needed a bit of a break–I thoughtlessly wore a pair of non-broken-in Birkenstocks to the festival, and my blisters had reached World War III levels of warring with my stamina. So, I didn’t get to “see” Alabama Shakes as much as I got to hear them, from the press tent, where I sat sipping water and this sparkling Bai drink (As a broke journalist, nothing sells me more on a product than when it is free.) Even from this distant vantage point though, the swell of the crowd and the surge of Brittany Howard’s vocals actually made me start crying. This band is a weird and wild one, a mix of R&B and rock and soul that refuses to be boxed in, and their success continues to amaze everyone–I think even the band themselves. I see them as a reminder to artists and creatives that they shouldn’t resign ourselves to doing what “marketing” or “charts” proclaim is working. Alabama Shakes carved their own lane, and dammit you can too. Considering I got all this out of their set while sitting at a folding table many yards away from the stage, you can ascertain the group’s powerful effect.
1. ScHoolboy Q
ScHoolboy Q has been my favorite member of TDE for a long time. No disrespect to Kendrick and no shade to Ab-Soul, who I also love, but there’s something about his sneering insolence that I always connected with. I love how he raps about his daughter and works her into almost everything he does, I love his affinity for weird hats, I love that he interpolated a live version of Lissie covering Kid Cudi for one of his best songs, “Hands On The Wheel,” and I love his new album Blank Face LP. And in case you missed it in all the chaos of this summer, “THat Part” is an essential summer 2016 song. For me, his set was the highlight of the day last night, and afterwards, I hobbled home to fix my feet and prepare for day two. I won’t be wearing Birkenstocks.
All photos via Jane Bruce, myself, or Instagram.
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