Another Brooklyn summer and that means another edition of the Afropunk Music Festival. While the festival will presumably get bigger and better as it spreads across the globe (there was an inaugural edition in Paris earlier this year and there will be one in Atlanta in the fall) it seems that Brooklyn is its spiritual home. There is something about the multicultural makeup of the borough along with its creativity that has kept the Festival a success there eleven years in a row.
This year was the first year that the festival was a non-free endeavor although you could ‘work’ for your tickets through various activism focused projects(apparently 9,000 tickets were given away free this way). It didn’t change the vibe of the crowd much and once again it was a place where people strutted in their finest rock & roll meets tribal wear hoping to make fashionista blogs, wore dirty t-shirts to moshed to bands, or just laid a blanket out soaking up the sun and sounds.
Kelis came on stage pregnant as fuck and killed it. Lauryn Hill came out late as fuck (surprise surprise) and played a solid albeit quiet set before they cut her time short to make up for the time. Danny Brown, Raury, and Goldlink all put on very solid sets that switched between turnt up hip-hop and EDM. Lenny Kravitz came out in super saiyan rock god mode and performed with (unfortunately) no wardrobe malfunctions. Infamous flakes Death Grips actually showed up and launched into a 45 minute set of red lights and aural menace that had more than a few audience members surfing during the chaos. On the opposite spectrum Thundercat played a beautifully sunny set of daytime jazz and r&B. Petite Noir played an impressive set where his mix of 80’s synth pop, South African music, and good old rock and roll went over well with the crowd. The back stage was dedicated to DJ and dance culture as it was last year but the 2015 edition it received a big upgrade as far as stage and lighting are concerned; you could boogie with the sunlight during the day or the flashing lights at night. It was an extremely solid lineup spread between two days and that alone would be worth the admission but one particular performer made this year’s edition of Afropunk an inspired one.
Grace Jones encompassed everything that is Afropunk so much that it’s a surprise it took them this long to actually book her. Forty years ago she was a trailblazer as far as pushing against gender norms, conformity, female sexuality, and European beauty standards. Her work in fashion and style lives on; many of the more fashionable members of the crowd took direct queues from her work. This alone would have made it a worthy booking but at 67 years old Ms. Jones was the best performer that the festival has seen in years. Flanked by a full band and dancers in similar tribal paint she put on a show that was sharp, entertaining, and surprising (mainly due to her many costume changes). As she towered on stage in nearly nude in a massive headdress the crowd stared back in awe; she proved that the punk ethos is rewarding at any age.