SATURDAY, October 1st
Despite a thoroughly stacked lineup from top to bottom, The Meadows came into the first day of it’s inaugural edition with a bit of a limp. After working to right the wrong that came when The Weeknd initially canceled his headlining set to appear on SNL—finding a way to schedule him, instead, for an early-evening slot–the crooner again canceled his set on Friday night, less than 24 hours prior to his revised 5:30 stage time. With no time to find another replacement, the show simply pushed all prior music an hour forward. While it would’ve been nice to have the freshly-coiffed Toronto R&B star, The Meadows’s Saturday still had its highlights musically, and we’re thrilled to highlight a few of them.
The first act that I arrived to Flushing Meadows Corona Park in time to see was Kamasi Washington, who is among, if not the, most prominent figures in modern jazz. Playing with an eight-piece band that included someone on the keytar, Washington burned through jams from his debut triple-album The Epic, complete with the vocals and more that came on the near three-hour-long record. By the time Washington told the crowd that he had “time for one more,” no one was quite getting ready to leave their spot, as the sax player’s already lengthy songs were ripe for improv, making for a super-fun show, particularly with closing number “Final Thought”.
After finding a food truck to order a pair of scrumptious Korean tacos from to fill my need for sustenance, I found myself deep in the crowd for Chromeo’s set. The duo from Montreal has been making their brand of retro-funk for a good while now, and for one reason or another (actually, I really don’t know) I never really got into them. But after seeing their set, there’s a pretty strong chance I’ll be venturing over to the Chromeo Spotify page in the near future. Between frontman Dave 1’s showmanship and vocals and producer/keyboardist P-Thugg’s assistance on keys and the vocoder (this part was especially sweet), it was just the right combination, and made for a perfect mid-afternoon set to keep the energy going through to the night.
I didn’t really check anyone out until later in the evening when Grimes took the main stage by storm. Grimes was an artist that I was super excited to finally get an opportunity to see, and she totally lived up to the hype and just fucking BROUGHT it. From the first song to the last, her set was filled with a brand of delightful weirdness, high energy, and, to put it simply, awesome music. Early on in the set, when introducing her song “Venus Fly,” Grimes quirkily told us her strategy for going forward in the set: “I won’t talk much, because…I suck at it,” she said with a slight pause between clauses. While I really don’t think that’s the case, she was certainly an outstanding act, opening with “Flesh Without Blood” from her 2015 album “Art Angels” before moving to older hits like “Oblivion.” She closed her set out with the marvelous “Kill V. Maim,” which I had really been curious to see how it would translate live. Well, it rocked. The energy was high, Grimes killed, and the instrumentation had the crowd jumping. My favorite act of the day by far.
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I’ve found myself in the middle of so many arguments based around J. Cole over the past few years that I’ve literally lost count. I’ve got a pair of friends, one of whom loves J. Cole, and considers him one of the best rappers around, and the other thinks J. Cole, to put it quite bluntly, is garbage; I’ve often found myself in the middle of this debate—I don’t think I could possibly feel more indifferent about J. Cole. I liked his mixtapes early on, and the first album was all right to me, but I was also 18 years old and didn’t know much about anything. I’d seen him before, two years ago on a smaller stage at Governor’s Ball, and had a pretty good time at that set, but wasn’t super crazy about his later albums—2013’s Born Sinner, in particular, I felt needed an editor in a bad way.
So, when The Weeknd canceled last week and the rapper who’s inspired a meme-ish mantra—double platinum, no features—took his place, I found myself again grappling with the argument. Watching him perform live, surrounded by a sea of die-hard fans, and I came to really embrace my true take on J. Cole: again, complete and utter indifference. There were moments of brightness for sure: the rapper, clad in a U.S.A. Soccer Megan Rapinoe jersey for the night, played his megahit “No Role Modelz” about halfway through his set, and he absolutely destroyed in that moment. His energy was high in the first part of the song, as the whole crowd sang and rapped along. When it came to the song’s sample of an old George W. Bush soundbyte, Cole drew cheers as he dropped a soft “Fuck Donald Trump” into his microphone. After that sample, when the beat kicked back in and he began to rap once again, it was as if the MC owned the entire borough of Queens. That would be his high watermark of the night.
Not long after the peak of “No Role Modelz,” J. Cole took his spot and sat on a stool. He performed a lot from this stool, and I have to say, this is not a great move for someone headlining a festival! He performed “Lights Please,” an older song that I actually do enjoy hearing occasionally from said stool, and I found myself literally yawning.
My issues/criticisms of J. Cole aside, though, I have to admit that it was a tough spot that The Meadows, and Cole himself, were put in. It can’t be easy to find a suitable replacement at a week’s notice, and it’s probably not super easy to accept and prep for it either. J. Cole made a whole lot of people happy on Saturday night, and while I heard a random guy say something on the subway I would never say myself (“I was disappointed The Weeknd canceled, but J. Cole was BETTER…”), it was surely a whole lot better than the alternative, which for all we know, could’ve been nothing.
On my way out on Saturday night, I made sure to stop at the festival’s merch booth, where I was told that Kanye brought a million dollars worth of his tour merchandise, and they expected it all to sell out by the middle of the day Sunday. At times on Saturday, the line wrapped around the corner, nearly connecting one stage’s crowd to the other. The people in this line meant business.
SUNDAY, October 2nd
Sunday’s lineup was stacked top-to-bottom from the beginning, and Flushing Meadows Corona Park (or, the Citi Field parking lot) could hardly contain it. From indie pop acts like Chairlift and Børns to rock fusion like The 1975, to hip-hop mastery from Chance the Rapper and Kanye West (oh, there’s more on him later, don’t worry), there was something for everyone at The Meadows Festival’s second day. Stick with us as we take you through day two.
Lewis Del Mar
The fun started early on Sunday morning when Lewis Del Mar, a duo combining a nice amalgamation of sounds and styles, took the stage. Their half-hour set was filled with up-tempo, fun songs, and it’s clear to see why they’re on the fast track to breaking out. Playing a few tracks from their EP—released earlier this year—frontman Danny Miller and drummer Max Harwood coordinated each song together, and kicked the day off with a nice jolt of energy. When they closed with their viral hit “Loud(y),” the crowd was vibing, the performers were into it, and it was evident that this is a band with a big future. Their first album is coming out next Friday on Atlantic Records; keep an eye out for more from us on Lewis Del Mar.
As always, Brooklyn’s own indie duo, Chairlift, brought it live. Between Caroline Polachek, who danced across the stage as she shared her smooth vocals with the crowd, and Patrick Wimberly, clad in an all white outfit as he produced much of the other music and occasionally chimed in with his voice as well, the synthpop was worth everyone’s time. With closer “Ch-Ching,” the band went out with a bang, showing off the full lengths of all on-hand touring band, including an awesome sax player.
The next act I checked out was Pusha T, who’s readying his next release for sometime in the near future, titled King Push. He was the afternoon’s first really big name guest, and while it was fun to hear him go through some solo hits, a few Kanye collabs (his “Runaway” verse was an obvious crowd favorite), and even the classic “Grindin’” from his Clipse days, his performance still had a bit of a phoned-in quality to it; he closed 20 minutes early with “Drug Dealers Anonymous,” leaving the stage and letting Jay Z’s verse ring from the massive speakers that flanked the stage. It was still fun, though, to see Pusha act out his thoughtful lyrics, and he remains as animated a performer as there is.
Chance The Rapper
After Pusha finished up, there weren’t any acts that I was really dying to check out until Chance The Rapper took the main stage at 5:45—and when I say check out, this is a different kind of level. Chance is one of my absolute favorite musicians right now, and I’ve already had two ill-fated attempts to properly see him previously: first, at Governor’s Ball two years ago, it was just impossible to get past the crowd of what seemed like a million manic festival-goers. The second doomed attempt came at Chance’s headlining show at Terminal 5 last fall, and basically through a mishap, a miscommunication, and a brief lapse in reason, I ended up outside the venue’s doors with no way to get back in after only a handful of songs.
So there was no chance (ha) that I was going to squander this opportunity to see the only New York City stop on Chance The Rapper’s Magnificent Coloring Book World Tour. And, well, it lived up to all of the hype. As the 23-year-old kid from Chicago went through his setlist, including songs from his latest, Coloring Book, his oldest, 10 Day, and plenty in between, it wasn’t just any show: it was a full-on stage production, including puppets that could’ve been from a warped version of Sesame Street. When Chance sat at a piano, next to something straight out of Avenue Q, and played the opening notes to “Same Drugs,” my favorite song off of Coloring Book and perhaps of 2016 overall, I lost it.
Remember when I mentioned how J.Cole owned the festival for one song’s worth of time? Well, that was what Chance’s entire 75-minute set was like. With a show-closing bow from Chance, his associates Donnie Trumpet and Peter Cottontale, and Carlos the Lion, the feeling wasn’t just that we just saw a set at a festival. No, we saw a full-scale musical, only it was in a parking lot in Queens and not in a Broadway theater. He owned the moment, the day, and the weekend, and he’s only going to keep getting better as his fascinating and fantastic career continues forth.
And, now, we arrive at Mr. West. You’ve probably already heard by now, but this set had to be cut short due to a family emergency. And while it was abrupt and obviously not what anyone wanted to happen, you can’t possibly blame Kanye for taking off when he did. It might seem like one of those ‘Kanye being Kanye’ moments, but, as details continue to trickle in about the upsetting crime that was committed against Kanye’s wife, Kim Kardashian, in Paris, that was clearly not the case here.
But, luckily, we did get at least what seemed like the majority of a Kanye set for his Saint Pablo tour before he cut off abruptly while performing “Heartless.” Initially, I had thought about maybe being able to sneak away between Chance and Kanye to catch The 1975, but it became very evident as the Chance crowd filled in (and was not planning on leaving anytime soon) that that would not be an option. We were there for the long haul.
In his shortened time on stage, Kanye ran through a lot of his new material from The Life Of Pablo, played his verse from ScHoolboy Q’s “THat Part,” and way more. Kanye is one of the most exciting, risk-taking performers in the industry, and his stage production is always representative of that; this show was no different, although his floating stage from the rest of the tour doesn’t quite translate to a festival setting. It’s always a joy to see Kanye live, and while I wish, for multiple reasons, that his set didn’t have to be abbreviated, it was still an experience that won’t soon be forgotten.
There were only a handful of things that I was able to get to, but there was way more going on at The Meadows over the course of the weekend. Check out some more performance photos and artist portraits below.
Matty Healy of The 1975
The Temper Trap
Chance The Rapper