Photos: Victoria Ford/Sneakshot Photography
Note: This is a review of Days 2 and 3 of the Festival.
So here is something that most people don’t know about me…I don’t go to music festivals. Okay, there are a few exceptions: I’m cool with the ones that are mostly inside (A3C, SXSW), or push a social conscience (Afropunk), or take place at an amphitheater (Summer Spirit). But for the most part, you will not catch me at a Coachella, a Bonnaroo, a Lollapalooza, or a Panorama. In general, I find myself more at home at a Mercury Lounge than a Outside Lands. The festival landscape–with it’s Bud Light drinking molly festival bros–is simply not made for me.
So how did I find myself out at a music festival this past weekend? Well, free passes and alcohol motivate a lot of people. But honestly, it was the lineup that sold me. It was the opportunity to mark a few names off my bucket list (LL Cool J, Big Boi, Ghostface, Weezer), while revisiting some old musical flames (Nas, RHCP, and Erykah Badu).
The number of classic artists on the weekend lineup was quite surprising, given the progression of music in 2017. Weezer’s Buddy Holly video came with installations of Windows 95 (!). Erykah Brady’s Baduizm turned 20 this year, and other artists such as LL Cool J, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and De La Soul are marking more three decades in the music industry. The result is a festival that skews slightly holder, creating the odd combination of old souls like myself and your standard festival kids, who were often confused or downright apathetic about the artists on the bill.
Having that said, the old heads, homed on decades of performance art, continue to school the younger generation. LL Cool J, might have had the most surprising performance of the weekend, dedicating his set to the hip-hop legends, and showing us that his CBS money hasn’t made him that soft. Erykah Badu was as Badu as ever, winning over a somewhat skeptical audience for her Saturday afternoon set. Big Boi and Sleepy Brown (!) was surprisingly confident in his appearance, and artists such as TV On The Radio, Weezer, and Broken Social Scene brought on an air of professionalism and polish that every artist can learn from.
The most disappointing set of the weekend goes to Future. The dude simply has no stage presence, and was upstaged by his special guests, Nicki Minaj, Young Thug, and even his own DJ. He also did this rather annoying thing of building up energy in the beat and then cutting off the song right before the drop. At first I thought this was a mistake or miscue on his part, but then he did it two more times! What the hell?
But it wasn’t all the younger generation that had faults. Ghostface Killah’s performance seemed like it had ADHD, going all over the place with little substance. De La Soul didn’t put out the strongest effort (surprisingly). And as much as I want to fault the young kids, the performance by Norwegian EDM artist/producer Lido (who melds electronic music with inspirations from artists like Zapp and Roger) was solid, and could be the future of music.
But the festival was owned by the headliners. Gorillaz, who have one of the best live acts of all time, improved their live performance from the last time I saw them. Their show, is quite simply, a spectacle, showcasing the sheer depth and knowledge that Damon Albarn has, and always giving a platform for his many guest collaborators (including Pusha T, D.R.A.M., De La Soul, and Peven Everett).
And what can we say about Red Hot Chili Peppers? These dudes are in the running for G.O.A.T. rock band. Even if you’re not into rock music, you must appreciate the sheer artistry of this group. Their set contained no guests, and minimal between song banter (only Flea ranting about semen-stained Holiday Inn sheets and Anthony Kiedis screaming (“your cell phones are my enemy”) in typical old man “get off my lawn” fashion. Either way, the band came to play, and made no apologies for who they are or what they were trying to do in 2017.
So has Meadows Festival changed my opinion on festivals? Well, to put it simply….I enjoyed myself at a festival for the first time in a long time. The bookings were solid, and even the venue (whose parking lot location left a lot to be desired ascetically) was actually well thought out and logical enough to not be annoying. As for the festival bros…thankfully I didn’t have to punch one of them out like that last time :).