Panorama: The Experience

Along with Governors Ball and Electric Zoo, Panorama rounds out the trio of NYC festivals that take place on Randalls Island. The walk across the RFK Bridge at 125th Street feels like a second (or third, or fourth) home to me by this point, but it was still exciting to go to yet another festival in the same spot and see how things were different. What was also interesting is hearing people’s Panorama horror stories – the first night got completely rained out, and a few other artists canceled. But none of this affected me the day that I went and I had a really great experience.

Check-In/Security
The line to get into Gov Ball this year was kind of long, so I got to Panorama pretty early to make sure I had plenty of time to get in before my first set of the day. Yet Panorama had no line and getting in was easy peasy.

The Crowd
The crowd at Panorama felt a little less young than Gov Ball, which was great, though it was still largely basic festival people (I mean “basic” in the derogatory way, not just…normal festival people). I was mostly indifferent to the crowd.

Fun Stuff
Panorama is an event with a really high fun stuff per capita, or so it feels. There was the HP lounge mentioned in my last post (with a secret Macklemore DJ set) as well as an entire HP village with enclosed domes containing different interactive technology activities (none of which were as cool as I wanted them to be, sadly), some kind of cool AmEx lounge that I didn’t go into, a 21+ area with different liquor tastings and activities including an air conditioned whiskey hut where you could smell the different whiskey-flavored smoke rising up from these giant round-bottom flasks, a shaded grove area for relaxing, and more. The best thing, though, and I mean the BEST THING, was the Sephora area, where they were doing holographic makeup and either hair braiding or space buns. And let me tell you something, friends. I went to Panorama straight from 2 days at another festival and I thought I’d be able to shower in between but I didn’t and I felt truly disgusting. Going into the Sephora lounge and having someone do my hair and put makeup on made me feel almost human again. It was the best thing I could have had at that time and it was glorious. Plus, there was no line when I went in and when I came out the line was probably 50+ people long. DOUBLE PLUS, I got a cool SPACE BUN.

I also got a lot of glitter, as you can see.

Water
I wanted to bring a small purse to Panorama so I did a thing I almost never do, which was, NOT bring a water bottle. I ended up having to buy water but it was super easy to find places to refill my bottle.

Layout
Randalls is pretty small to begin with, and Panorama really made the space tiny. They didn’t utilize all the areas that the other festivals do, and they made the parts they did use even narrower by pushing some stuff inwards and cutting off the outer areas. It was mostly great because I love a small festival, but I will say that the main stages were wayyyy too close together. I was shocked. Acknowledge the sound bleeding!

Transportation
Yet again, I will never pay for a bus or ferry to Randalls. Walking is free and easy.

Price
A one-day pass was significantly cheaper than a single day pass to really any other event. What probably helps a little bit is the fact that Panorama doesn’t give out wristbands for single day attendees, just an e-ticket that you print or scan from your phone. While there’s no way this accounts for the total $40ish difference between this and, say, a Gov Ball pass, I’m all about it.

Bathrooms
The port-a-potties never had a line and always had toilet paper in them! I don’t know how this is even possible, but again, I’m just gonna chalk this up to FESTIVAL MAGIC. I could tell you all sorts of port-a-potty horror stories from the past few years of my life, so a pleasant bathroom experience really just makes life so much nicer. It’s the little things, friends.

Misc.
Panorama is supposed to be the “east coast Coachella.” I’ve never been to Coachella but after experiencing Panorama, this seems like an overstatement. The events are run by the same people but the scale is so vastly different that they just don’t seem comparable right now. Which, to be honest, is a good thing. I’m not looking to go to Coachella any time soon. Or ever.

Panorama was such a great day for me, I’m sad it’s over. But in just ONE WEEK I will be in Denver seeing Pretty Lights at Red Rocks (!!!) and to be honest, this feels like the perfect way to cap off my summer. Even if it involves missing Elements, my favorite NYC event of the year.

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Panorama: The Music

The idea of hitting up Sunday of Panorama had been simmering in the back of my brain all spring and summer yet for some reason I never bit the bullet on buying a ticket. Until this sign from the heavens.

So I listened to the universe and bought a ticket. It was a beautiful day of beautiful music and I’m so glad I went.

Robert Delong
I just love Robert Delong so much. He is so creative and talented and just does SO MUCH STUFF up on stage. The video below isn’t from a live performance but it gives you a really great sense of how complex his setup is.

David Byrne
This former Talking Heads lead singer is just…so kooky. His set was so unexpected for an older man (no offense, older men) in that it was unique and weird in a way that you typically only see from younger performers. Everyone on stage wore the same gray suit with bare feet, and in addition to musicians with standard instruments, the percussionists each had one piece of what made up a full drum kit, allowing them more mobility. There was oddball choreography and it was so charming in an offbeat way. I loved it. You loved it. Everyone loved it.

Macklemore
You know who was on the Panorama lineup? Not Macklemore, that’s who! But here’s a story. There was an HP lounge that had a long ass line in front of it all day. You couldn’t see what was happening inside, but I was told that the line was to customize a free water bottle. I really wanted one but never wanted to devote the time to waiting what looked to be well over an hour. As I was walking toward the main stage for The xx, I saw my opportunity – zero line! HP staff were standing outside the lounge even waving people in! I diverted away from the main stage and went inside.

Once inside, I heard loud hip hop and saw a small crowd – 150 people tops, maybe? – dancing. But where were the water bottles? I saw a sign on the wall listing the DJs that were playing in the lounge that day, and in big letters at the very top:

MACKLEMORE    7:00-7:50

…what? I looked at the DJ booth, and lo and behold, it was, in fact, Macklemore. Throwing down a fire hip hop set to a tiny crowd. This, my friends, is what we call festival magic.

Macklemore on the left!

Odesza
I don’t know how to keep talking about Odesza sets. They’re special and magical and they evolve their music for live performances in really unique ways. Even though they’re super dreamy, they add thick bass and a touch of heaviness to some of their tracks to keep the energy high and really rope the crowd in. I took maybe three 10-second videos during their set, and I won’t grace you with any of them because my phone records music horribly, but my favorite moment from them is where you can hear me in the background going, “WHAAAAAT” in awe at how they made their remix of Pretty Lights’ “One Day They’ll Know” all juicy. Here’s that moment, below. Start at around 6:45. At 7:13 is where I yelled.  True story, I yelled again just now in cuing up this video.

Panorama logistics post, coming soon! And then after that, maybe festival season is over…for real now?

Toto, I Don’t Think We’re at Electric Forest Anymore

Alternatively titled, “The Differences Between Electronic Festivals and All-Genre Festivals.”

This past weekend I made a sort of last minute decision to go to the final day of Panorama Festival (yes, despite declaring that festival season was over), an all-genres festival here in New York. While I’m no stranger to the all-genre festivals (in fact, just last month I went to one day of Governors Ball), the events that skew more electronic are the ones where I spend most of my festival time and money.

I wasn’t deliberately trying to notice differences as I went through my day at Panorama, but having just come from Camp Bisco two weeks earlier it was hard to not notice disparities in the experiences. Here’s what I found.

Water Consumption
This is not a new revelation for me but it is absolutely worth mentioning. People who go to electronic festivals are unequivocally more conscientious about making sure to drink water throughout the day. There are way more Camelbaks and longer lines at water stations. But guess what, everyone? All festival attendees should drink tons of water! Being out in the sun is hard, and water is life.

Festival Fashion
Now that I’m in my mid-30s I just cannot even be bothered to deal with FESTIVAL OUTFITS. But I will at least note that while people still clearly spend an absurd amount of effort on their festival getup at both types of events, the multi-genre style is more Coachella Chic – the kind of outfit you could easily wear out in the “real world” if you wanted to – and EDM festival attire is very much just various takes on underwear. Meanwhile, I’ve given up on even wearing makeup at festivals. It’s just going to melt down my face, you guys. But whatever, as long as what you’re wearing is comfortable to you, that’s all that matters.

Shine Bright Like A Diamond
GLOW STUFF. I met up with some people at Panorama on Sunday, and my friend had brought a giant pack of glow sticks. Before heading over to Odesza‘s set, we took some time to adorn ourselves and pass some glow sticks out to a few pleasantly surprised people nearby. This blog post was born in that moment because I realized how we were the only people with glow things and how, at EDM-heavy festivals, it’s weird if you DON’T have something on you that lights up. During the set (which, by the way, was incredible), every time there was a bass drop I kept waiting for the air to fill with flying glow sticks, because throwing fistfuls of them at pivotal moments is really common at electronic shows. But I was reminded, again and again, that no one else was glowing except the group I was in. By contrast, look at the sheer volume of light up fun in the crowd during this clip I took of Odesza’s set at Electric Forest last year.

Everybody Dance Now
This one may be more specific to all-genre festivals in New York, I’m not totally sure. But EDM people dance waaaaay more at shows. The reason I think the lack of dancing could be a New York-only thing is because everyone knows that New Yorkers always feel the need to look cool, though when I interviewed Big Wild at Meadows Festival last year, he did mention that this is a major difference between these types of festivals. Everyone in my group was going nuts at Odesza (again, the set was INCREDIBLE, how could you not?!) and most of the people around us were just kind of politely bopping their heads. This seems totally ungratifying to me but, again, this is a no judgment zone.

What did I miss? Any other obvious differences between EDM and all-genre festivals? Let me know!

Camp Bisco: The Music (2018)

Camp Bisco 2017 was probably the most disappointing festival I’ve been to, musically. It wasn’t because the sets I saw were bad, but rather, because never before (or since) did I miss so many sets that I wanted to see. The rain put a little bit of a damper – pun intended – on that experience, and I was determined to make up for it in 2018. I saw SO MUCH great music this year and I really feel vindicated. Here are the highlights!

STS9
I don’t really listen to STS9 but I have so many friends who do and I knew they were going to be incredible live. They were jammy and upbeat and absolutely did not disappoint. This was the first of many sets of the weekend that I went to alone because my friends were all at a different stage, and it was the first, yet again of many, where I told them afterward that they missed something really amazing.

Tipper and Jai Wolf
Tipper and Jai Wolf are not remotely the same people, but I saw them both at Minus Zero three months ago and my comments – that Tipper is the music of outer space, and Jai Wolf is the music of the universe – still stand. Actually, this Tipper set might have been even better. His collaboration with Fractaled Visions on visuals is just bonkers – check out this preview video that Bisco posted in advance of the festival.

The Floozies
The Floozies are at the top of their game, friends. I’ve seen them a ton of times over the years, and to be honest I was a little apprehensive about this set. The Floozies are a duo, and they occasionally play with a full band, which honestly is not my favorite because it can take away the electro part of their sound and leave them as just a generic funk band. This set just had a horn section, and it was absolute FIRE. This video is actually from last year’s Bisco but still great.

Lespecial
One of my favorite parts of festivals is ending up at sets you never intended on going to and having an amazing time. My whole group ended up at this set, which was kind of all over the map in a really great way. Lespecial is rock and funk and hip hop and a million other things, and I loved it. The one thing I will say is that one of their band members is an absolute diva, and delayed starting the set because he kept asking for minor tech adjustments, over and over and over.

Big Wild
This might have been my favorite set of the festival. Big Wild is always incredible, weaving in and out of originals and remixes, going from tropical to heavy but always high energy. I was so impressed by this set that I took a little over a minute of video, which I never do. Of course, the sound on my phone is absolute garbage so it sounds awful, but here’s a photo from that same moment, at least, and a video (not mine) that highlights one of his classic remixes.

Even though this may (?) have been my last festival of the summer, there are still so many awesome music adventures coming up in the next few weeks. Hopefully I will write about at least one of them.

Camp Bisco: The Experience (2018)

A few months ago, an anonymous reader went through my past posts about Camp Bisco and commented on each one, noting that I was wrong to call it “Bisco” when everyone refers to it as “Camp.” That person, however, is wrong, because I still call it “Bisco” and my friends still call it “Bisco” and if that offends you, sorry. Actually, I’m not even sorry.

In any case, here is what went down at Bisco this year, my third time at this festival. Or click here to get a refresher on last year.

Check-In/Security
My friends and I went the VIP route this year, which meant we were able to arrive early. The process for lining up VIP cars and processing them was incredibly orderly and this was just the beginning of my weekend-long amazement at what a well-oiled machine Bisco has become since they first arrived to this Scranton, PA location 3 years ago.

The Crowd
As far as festivals with heavy electronic lineups go, this crowd was pretty fun and relaxed and non-obnoxious. The only exception to this are the Bassnectar die-hards, who are largely awful (yet again, sorrynotsorry). I saw a huge crowd of them rioting and nearly beating down venue staff because the staff was trying to regulate the crowd going into the VIP section of the main stage during Bassnectar’s set. It was honestly terrifying. Dear everyone: be cool to festival staff. Trying to deal with hordes of people is hard, they’re just doing their best.

Fun Stuff
Water park water park water park! Last year I shamefully did not use the water park at all due to a combination of rain and laziness, and I made sure to correct for that in 2018. I spent considerable time floating in the lazy river, took a number of turns down some water slides, and danced with my feet in the wave pool during both Jai Wolf and Mija’s sets. For the third year in a row I tried and failed to go on the zip line. Maybe 2019 is the year?

Water
Gotta be honest here, the VIP lounges at both main stages had free bottles of water, an incredibly clutch perk that I didn’t know about in advance. Because of this I only infrequently used the free water stations, though they were plentiful.

Layout
Bisco is relatively small for the number of attendees, so it’s not too bad walking back and forth across the festival grounds, although there are some hills that really kill your thighs at the end of a long day. My least favorite part of the Bisco layout is that they emphasize the goings-on at the Renegade Stage, which is not a real festival stage but a stage set up on an RV that has late-night music after the main event is over. The RV lot is FAR from the regular camping area, and trying to go to the Renegade Stage is a mistake I only  made once. While it’s not terrible getting there, the walk back to camp afterward was just toooooo long.

Transportation
You pretty much have to arrive by car, though public transportation can get you decently close to the festival.

Price
I have mixed feelings about this, particularly because I went the VIP route this year. I’m so glad I did because as I get older I’m starting to feel less excited about some of the non-glamorous components of camping festivals, but I’m also not super sure that the VIP price was worth it. VIP at camping festivals pretty much always means you camp in a separate area from General Admission, with nicer bathrooms and showers and easier access to the festival grounds. Though VIP tickets at Bisco allow you early entry and thus you get to pick a great (i.e. close to the entrance) camping spot, there’s no separate VIP camping and as such, no separate bathrooms or showers. VIP was supposed to have separate air conditioned bathrooms inside the venue, but…we did not.

Bathrooms
In my first year at Bisco, I found the indoor bathrooms by the main lodge, and was delighted. Last year, I discovered an additional set of indoor bathrooms, and was further delighted. This year I discovered yet ANOTHER set of indoor bathrooms, and man, the bathroom life was just so great. Indoor plumbing feels so decadent at camping festivals. Are there even more, to-be-discovered indoor bathrooms on the grounds of Montage Mountain? That remains to be seen.

Misc
A I mentioned earlier, the festival is incredibly well-run compared to the disaster that was 3 years ago. They’ve ironed out a ton of kinks, particularly regarding entry and exit, which can be challenging in the mountain environment where no one can camp near their cars. Moving people and their belongings up and down the mountain has become super efficient and I was impressed by how well the organizers have paid attention to the pain points from prior years and fixed them.

Also in the “Misc” category is the VIP perks. In addition to early entry, we had a private BBQ and Disco Biscuits performance the night before the festival, 3 food vouchers, separate viewing areas, the air conditioned lounges with water and charging stations, and some merch. Without separate camping or bathrooms it’s hard to say it was really worth it, but I’m still not sure I’d go back to regular GA after having some of these little bonuses.

Stuff I Sacrificed to the Festival Gods
This is a new section that I should have added to my festival recaps long ago. Every festival involves losing or breaking at least one item, hopefully of minimal importance although 2 years ago at FARM Fest I managed to lose my wallet, keys, food, prescription meds and some other stuff all in one fell swoop.

What I sacrificed to the festival gods at Bisco were my sunglasses, which I loved although they were cheap plastic sunglasses that I got at a bachelorette party. So it was hardly tragic. I bought new, cheap plastic ones from the general store and did not bat an eye at this loss.

I’m not sure what the rest of the summer holds for me, although Bisco was definitely my last big multi-day festival. It’s sad to think that festival season is somehow kinda, sorta, not really over, but I am certainly not sad to be back in a real bed after 4 nights on hilly, rocky ground. Stay tuned for the music recap, coming soon!

Governors Ball: The Music (2018)

To be honest, I was initially less than thrilled about the Gov Ball lineup when it first came out. There were some acts I was excited about, but overall it seemed weaker than prior years. But of course, I’m super glad I went in the end because I got to see some really great sets. The music highlights are below, and don’t forget to check out the logistics wrap-up!

Third Eye Blind
High school me was so excited about this! I had no idea 3EB was still a thing, but I’m so glad they are.

N.E.R.D.
Pharrell is right up there with Dave Grohl, Gwen Stefani and other musicians who never seem to age. I was really sad to learn that Chvrches was playing opposite this set, but it was so good that I don’t regret missing Chvrches (okay, I regret it a teeny bit). It was super high energy and they had amaaaazing backup dancers. They played their current big hit, “Lemon,” as the set closer…and then played it again. Everyone loved it.

Sylvan Esso
I normally love Sylvan Esso but this sounded terrible to me. Honestly hard to listen to because something about the singer’s voice really just pierced my eardrums in a very unpleasant way. Here’s a much more pleasant video of a great Sylvan Esso track.

Eminem
Oh. Man. High school me was also super amped about this set, largely because I haven’t listened to much Eminem since that time. But his first 3 albums were my JAM and it was so incredible to finally get to experience Eminem live. He had great energy and the crowd was right up there with him.

Governors Ball: The Experience (2018)

Music festivals in New York make me happy. I wake up in my own bed and go to sleep in my own bed and minimal effort is required. This year was my 3rd time attending exactly one day of Governors Ball, which, to be honest, is a perfect amount. No over-exhaustion from 3 days of festival-ing.

In re-reading last year’s wrap-up post, a lot of the details are, unsurprisingly, unchanged. But since you’re not going to click that link to catch up on last year’s event, anyway, let’s recap.

Check-In/Security
Gov Ball had metal detectors for the first time this year, which, considering the number of music event shootings we’ve seen around the world, is not surprising and not unwelcome. The line to get in looked a lot more daunting than it was.

The Crowd
Babies babies everywhere. And by that I mean teenagers.

Fun Stuff
My friend and I played 2 rounds of New York-themed mini golf, which was delightful. We took photos by cool art, hung out away from the babies in the 21+ beer gardens, played Plinko for charity, got free M&Ms swag (and free M&Ms), and I chalked my friend’s hair in rainbow colors at the Kleenex station. It was awesome.

Mr. Met Minigolf!

Water
It was pretty chilly on Sunday so, in a very uncharacteristic move for me, I didn’t even bother bringing a water bottle. They did have free water stations around but I never tried to use one. (Don’t forget to hydrate at music festivals, though! Do as I say not as I do!)

Layout
Last year I complained about the archway that created a bottleneck and the lack of garbage cans. Both issues were resolved this year! Good job, Gov Ball. I generally just love Randall’s Island because it’s small, and every festival that happens there really packs a punch, square footage-wise. Some people don’t like the idea of sound bleeding from one stage to the other, but I’ve never had an issue at any Randall’s event – you just have to get close enough to the stage you want to hear (which isn’t even all that close).

Transportation
Walking across the bridge at 125th street is free and easy. I will never buy a bus or ferry pass.

Price
For a non-camping festival Gov Ball is a little pricey. I would love to see them get rid of the fancy tins that they ship your wristbands in and save probably $10 on each one. They can also stop sending stickers and pins with the wristband. Does anyone want that? If you do, buy it at the merch booth, friends.

Bathrooms
The secret to many festivals is knowing where the underutilized port-a-potties are. I saw some crazy bathroom lines at times but never had to wait in one because we figured out early on that there were bathrooms in an area with much less foot traffic.

New York’s other all-genre music festival taking place on Randall’s Island, Panorama, is next month. If I end up being around that weekend I’m planning on buying a Sunday pass to check out my loves, Odesza and Robert Delong. In true music festival nerd fashion, I’m super interested to see what the differences and similarities are between how these two festivals use the same space.