LCD Soundsystem, Kendrick Lamar + More At The Epic Panorama Festival
My theme song for this weekend’s Panorama festival was Nelly’s 2002 banger “Hot in Herre.” Not because the rapper was on the lineup, or made any special appearances, but simply because it was so damn hot—the hottest weekend of the year, in fact (I think). But as a true fan, one who is “here for the music, man,” I filled up my Squeeze Breeze, picked up some friends, and got my ass to Randall’s Island. It was worth it.
As we waited in line to pick up our passes on Friday, we could hear Major Lazer take the stage, their bass-thumping tracks shaking the entire island. Diplo and crew put on one of the most high energy shows around, and this set was no exception. While I had my hopes up for a possible Bieber cameo (ML just released a new track with the bad boy of pop, “Cold Water”), it never came to fruition. But between the heat and track after track that never let up, my little heart probably couldn’t have handled it anyway.
At FKA Twigs, the tiny dancer—or rather, tiny but powerful—had me mesmerized throughout the entire performance. It was already hot, but watching her move around the stage, flanked by an all-male troupe of backup dancers, giving life to her sultry tracks, I can confirm that everyone left hot and bothered. She is one artist who takes performance to the next level, inviting you into an alternate reality that she’s created and chosen to share with you.
Another powerhouse female that I fell in love with was Brittany Howard, the frontwoman of Alabama Shakes. They were one band on the lineup that I had yet to see, though I’d been told of their next-level performances. She bares her whole soul on stage, her gut-wrenching croon going deeper and deeper with each bluesy ballad. She is a badass in every sense of the word, even as she shares her most vulnerable thoughts and crushing experiences. They’re going in my book as one of the best live bands around.
Closing out the night was Arcade Fire, who are no strangers to a headlining set. Amidst hits from their entire discography, from “The Suburbs” to “Neighborhood #1,” frontman Win Butler also took the opportunity to rail against Trump and lament the current state of American politics—trust us Win, we’re with you. But the truly amazing part of the evening was their epic David Bowie tribute. Joined on stage by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, they played through “Heroes,” “Suffragette City” and “Rebel Rebel” as they made their way through the crowd, forming a procession in memoriam of our favorite alien. We’ll always love you Bowie.
On Saturday we were back for round two, and kicked off the day with Tokimonsta in The Parlor. The best thing about The Parlor, besides the disco ball, was the air conditioning. Actually, take that back, the best thing about The Parlor was the large portrait of Big Pun hung above a mantel in the back of the tent—I kid you not (RIP Big Pun). Clearly this festival was going all in on the ambience and the decor, and I, for one, am down. Sometimes it’s the little things. you know? Toki had everyone in the tent dancing like it was 2 AM and a cool 73 degrees—an impressive feat that tells just how great her set was, as she mixed her own productions with some of her favorite hip-hop and dance tracks.
Then we headed out into the blistering heat to catch Foals, the U.K. band keeping British rock’n’roll alive (if you ask me, and a lot of other people). The lead singer Yannis Philippakis really lets it all go on some of their more aggressive songs, and it’s pretty amazing to watch. There’s just something about amazing rock in a British accent. I just can’t get enough. I ran into him later that night at a Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs DJ set in Bushwick, and told him how amazing they are—I hope he knows that I was being totally sincere and not just rambling at 5 AM.
Next up was Anderson.Paak, one of my favorite new acts that I hadn’t yet seen live, and wow. Just wow. His energy is insane as he jumps around the stage, singing, rapping, dancing, and just doin’ the damn thing—for the second half of the show he even hopped on the drums. Backed by his band The Free Nationals, every second of their performance felt electric. He was wearing a vintage white Olympics jersey that was soaked through by the end, as was pretty much everyone in the crowd. This was one of those sets where you have to just succumb to the sweat and realized that hey, we’re all in this together. We then headed to Blood Orange, who performed mostly songs from his new album Freetown Sound, dancing around the stage in a cute Telfar tank.
Sticking with the mainstage for the rest of the night, we caught The National, the best dad rock band that you could ever ask for. I’ve been a National fan since my early high school years, and have a HUGE crush on the lead singer Matt Berninger, long hair and all. And I don’t care who knows it! The night ended with Kendrick Lamar, who always gives 110% and then some. There are moments where you just want to get down, like when he brought back “A.D.H.D.” from the Section 80 mixtape, and other moments of depth and sincerity, as he prefaced his hopeful anthem “Alright” with the statement: “We gon celebrate our life, we gon celebrate the life of the victims that passed these last three weeks—all around the world, all around the world—with one motherfucking song. Do you agree?” At the risk of sounding corny, it’s moments (and songs) like that that prove Kendrick is so much more than just a performer—he’s a voice of our generation.
Getting up on Sunday was a bit of a struggle, but after a Gatorade and two iced coffees, I was feeling better. We started off the day with an aggressive move—heading straight to James Murphy’s Despacio. The disco dance tent packs his insane custom sound system, as heart thumping jungle beats pulsate throughout the room. That zero-to-sixty decibel level increase got me energized for the day, and we next headed to Rüfüs du Sol, the Australian trop house trio. We were having a great time dancing until a shirtless Chippendales-looking bro passed us and excitedly professed, “This is the only band I care about seeing today.” I took that as my cue to leave.
It was on to Classixx, who were performing in The Parlor—which gave me another welcome opportunity to visit Big Pun and pay my respects. They put on a reliably dance-worthy party time after time, this one made extra special by guest appearances from Holy Ghost’s Alex Frankel for their track “I Feel Numb,” and then my fave girl, LCD Soundsystem’s Nancy Whang, on “All You’re Waiting For.” I always feel so happy after leaving a Classixx show, endorphins to the max.
It was another main stage double-header to close out the night, starting with Sia’s theatrical performance. The singer stood off to the side of the stage wearing her trademark wig, as dancer Maddie Ziegler, Paul Dano, Kristen Wiig, and more acted out the themes of her songs on the big screen. I was mildly disappointed to find out that the projections (minus Ziegler) had been pre-recorded, with stand-in dancers on stage mimicking their original performances, but I appreciate what Sia is trying to do in redefining her live experience. And when she played her heartbreaking 2004 track, “Breathe Me,” I couldn’t stay mad. That song is so beautiful, and was the soundtrack to some very formative years.
Ending the weekend with LCD Soundsystem was as perfect as perfect gets. I’ve been an LCD devotee ever since I first heard “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” on an episode of The O.C. Marissa Cooper really knew how to throw a party, and so does LCD. Even after a five year hiatus, they haven’t skipped a beat, and they played through hit after hit, indulging some of their seriously funky impulses on “Dance Yrself Clean” and the “outer space” section of 45:33. And the cowbell—always more cowbell. Our crew didn’t stop dancing for a second, and when they closed with “All My Friends” there may have been a tear or two in my eyes. LCD is just that kind of band.