Okay so, while day one of Panorama had a rocky start, it eventually transitioned into something magical and moving by the end of the day. Day two, conversely, was great right from the beginning. Sometimes it just takes a day or so for a new event to get its bearings, and that seemed to be the case for this festival. Though Saturday was also much better attendance-wise, it’s still pretty clear that Panorama was not even close to capacity.
This made for a great consumer experience, but I couldn’t help but wonder… is there staying power for two music festivals at the exact same location mere weeks apart? On Friday I arrived fairly early and was exhausted early, so yesterday I didn’t show up until around 5 PM, which means there’s only seven moments instead of nine. But these moments are all really great ones. Anyway, let’s focus on the real joy of yesterday: the fucking music.
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7. Sufjan’s Pitchy, Technicolor Electronic Smash
I definitely don’t want to be writing this right now, because there are few people on this planet who love Sufjan Stevens and his music more than I do, but his set last night was absolutely terrible. And I don’t just say that because it was mostly filled with the Age of Adz-esque insistently garbled songs. The inclusion of plenty of songs of that ilk along with the technicolor neon face paint-and-costume that every member was wearing made the show fairly abrasive, but if that was the worst part I could’ve stood all that relatively well. What was really most disappointing of all was how pitchy and completely at odds with his recorded voice Sufjan sounded. I’m not totally sure what was going on there, but aside from his supernatural ability to write a folk song that breaks your heart and fixes it at the same time, the most compelling thing about Sufjan’s music has always been his pillowy, toffee-crackle voice. Neither pillow fluff nor toffee sweetness were present last night. Last year’s Carrie & Lowell was one of my favorite albums of the year, but I left early to go charge my phone before Kendrick.
6. Bareburger, Too Much Wine Edition
On Friday I was too worried about staying hydrated to do more than drink a single glass of rosé. But by Saturday, I was confident that I’d hydrated enough to consume my fair share of alcoholic beverages. At a certain point though– one I’m sure we’ve all hit–I realized I needed to add some food into the mix. It was right as Kendrick’s set was starting so luckily lines were shorter than they’d been for most of the evening and I was able to step up and grab a cheeseburger from Bareburger in a relatively short amount of time. It wasn’t until I bit into the burger that I realized I had never actually had one before. It was basically like getting slapped in the face with how big a difference organic ingredients make in how things taste. Even while tipsy, I could tell the burger I was eating was of the highest caliber. Drunk or not, you should consider trying this burger if you’re heading to the fest today. Shoutout to Eater for curating some of the best food vendors I’ve ever encountered at a music festival.
5. THE LAB
As a veteran festival-goer, I have developed a healthy skepticism about “installments” that these massive events are constantly trying to make “happen.” At most festivals, the artist-technology element is the equivalent of the word “fetch”–they’re funny enough to become meme-like but will never actually be cool. That’s how I felt, that is, until I was escorted through the installment at Panorama called, simply: The Lab. The Lab was designed and curated by Meta.is, and not only is it a collection of visceral, aesthetic-based interactive technology projects, but all of these installments were created and conceived by working New York artists. The installment highlighted local, unappreciated artists who are pushing the borders where art and technology intersect, and allowed festival crowds to be involved with a kind of art they may have never really encountered before. The cherry on top of the entire installment was The Dome, a 360 degree virtual reality theater where everyone lies down on the floor and looks up at the immersive images together. Lying there was the closest and most connected I have felt to a huge group of strangers in a long time, the most overwhelmed and awed I’ve been since I first saw a movie on IMAX. (I also recommend getting stoned before heading in to see these exhibits.)
4. Blood Orange’s Freetown Sound As An Oasis
One of the best things about watching Dev Hynes move through the world is the way he seems to be fully comfortable in his own body. His performance yesterday was one of the very first times he’s graced a stage since his excellent new album Freetown Sound dropped, and the Blood Orange set at Panorama made full use of the expansive video screens that stage provided. Initially, it was a backdrop of the New York skyline, then, an image of dancers was superimposed over that, creating the same kind of striking collage that is often found in Hynes musical production. Festivals tend to attract high-energy, bombastic performers (Major Lazer graced the stage at a similar time yesterday, for example), but the music of Blood Orange is almost purposefully subdued, even when blasting messages of strength and intensity like the opening monologue by Ashlee Haze “This Is For My Colored Girls (The Missy Elliott Poem)” that Hynes and his band walked out to yesterday to kick things off. His set created something of an oasis in the sweltering day, a mirage of hope in a tumultuous time.
3. Getting Stoned, Watching The National, And Realizing Trouble Will Find Me Was Actually Fire
In 2013 I was a baby journalist who had recently been introduced to hip-hop two and was on a rampage trying to get people to take female folk and country artists seriously. In other words, I did not have time for the indie rock of my youth–I had bigger fish to fry. Which is probably why I didn’t spend any time listening to the new National album Trouble Will Find Me that came out that year. Well, I fucked up. During The National’s set yesterday they played several songs off that album, along with several brand news ones, and I realized that this band has been fucking awesome all along, even when I was too busy to notice, or thought they fell off, or thought I was somehow beyond rock music for a minute (I’m not).
Yes, these thoughts occurred while I was stoned, but they were in no way caused by the influence of the drug, because it’s the next morning and I still have them. I’m actually listening to Trouble Will Find Me as I write this–and it’s fantastic. I can’t even be mad at 2013 Caitlin for sleeping on this record because it afforded me the wonderful reawakening that’s happening today. And like I said, they played several brand new songs at the festival, so it looks like we’ll be be getting yet another new album from the band this year or early next year. This time, I promise not to sleep.
2. Anderson .Paak, Superstar in the Making
For most of the day I assumed the Anderson .Paak set I saw to start things off was going to be the best show of the festival. While I spend most days listening to his 2016 breakout Malibu–and consider it one of the best albums of the year–I was not prepared for the unrelenting, gleeful force of his presence onstage.
Along with his band, The Free Nationals, .Paak evangelized the crowd, many of whom weren’t familiar with his oeuvre, into full-blown Anderson .Paak stans. Get out to see this guy live if you possibly can, he’s a legend in the making.
1. Kendrick Lamar, Cinematographer
Early in the day, a little bird told me that one of the reasons the main stage had such incredible video capabilities (see my Snapchat story if you don’t believe me) was because Kendrick Lamar had invested about a quarter million dollars of his own money in the equipment, simply so he could put on the show he had in mind. I don’t know if this is actually true, but it feels true, especially after what we watched unfold at his set last night. Regardless, that tidbit obviously made me incredibly excited for the set–and it was easily one of the best shows I have ever seen. Hands down. The visuals were beyond, mashing up recently-lost icons like Prince, looped gaffes of presidents like George W. Bush, and perhaps most poignantly, during “i,” clips of President Barack Obama dancing with Ellen on her show. And that is just to mention a few.