Meadows: The Music (2017)

Meadows Music & Arts Festival, you have captured my heart. 2 years in a row of a successful, relatively hiccup-free event jam-packed with awesome music? So much yes. This was such a treat for me because I don’t go to as many all-genre festivals as electronic ones, so I got to experience some really unique sets. Here come the highlights!

Big Wild
This was an awesome opening to the festival, and extra special because I interviewed him a few hours after his set! He has such a diverse sound and I’m a sucker for an electronic act with live drumming.

Marian Hill
You know Marian Hill from “Down,” the Apple commercial song. I’ve seen them live a few times this year and they always kill it. Their music is super sexy and Samantha, who does their vocals, is badass.

Blood Orange
I first heard of Blood Orange a few years ago because his apartment burned down and my friend’s brother was living in his building at the time. This is a weird origin story, but it’s the truth. I had never really listened to his music at all but since hearing of the fire I continued to hear his name out in the music world more and more until one day I just realized that he’s pretty legit. His performance at Meadows was really something else – part R&B, part pop, and he plays a variety of instruments, both sings and raps, and has a full band backing him. There was a lot going on and it was this really beautifully orchestrated set.

Jay-Z
I sort of forgot about Jay-Z amongst all my excitement about all the other artists on this lineup, and because I haven’t been listening to as much rap music as I used to. This set just felt so HUGE. I loved it. He gave a nice tribute to Chester Bennington and hearing a few Linkin Park mashups was a little heartbreaking.

Big Boi
He played a lot of Outkast songs. Hell yes.

LL Cool J
He has so much swagger and made a great joke about people forgetting he’s a rapper (“What, you think I’m just some dude who hosts the Grammys?”). He brought out DMC for a good chunk of this set and it was like an old school hip hop medley. I kept trying to sit down during this set because I wasn’t feeling well but I couldn’t because I just had to dance it out. 

Big Gigantic
I took the opportunity of seeing one of my favorite electronic acts at a non-electronic festival to be up front at the rail for this set. Usually I’m too old for this but I knew that it would be relatively easy to get a spot there and that most of the Meadows crowd would be at a different stage. It was a great choice and I had a blast. Plus, Jeremy and I were wearing matching sunglasses. 

Weezer
This was the main reason I wanted to go to Meadows in the first place. I have loved Weezer for so long and don’t get the opportunity to see them live very often anymore. Their set was 75 minutes of pure joy for me, even though they glossed over my favorite song through a medley where they only played little snippets of a lot of songs. I FORGIVE YOU, WEEZER. 

Red Hot Chili Peppers
I loved this set, but I did not love it in the way that I thought about it afterward. Maybe I was tired at the end of a 3 day festival, maybe it was annoying being in a crowd of what felt like every single person in all of New York City. RHCP is a classic act and screaming along to songs I’ve loved for years and years was wonderful, but it’s not a set I’ll carry with me as one of the most special I’ve ever attended. Shrug.

Meadows, you did me right. See you in 2018!

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Meadows Festival: The Experience (2017)

Even though it’s only been around for 2 years, Meadows has been such an awesome addition to my New York summers (last year’s event was in October, but whatever). The festival expanded from 2 days to 3 this year, and this year I attended the full event instead of just one day. So I had lots of time to take it all in!

Check-In/Security
I had a media pass to Meadows this year and they had a separate entrance for press and staff! I waltzed right in every day without waiting. But it didn’t look like there was much of a line anyway.

The Crowd
The difference between all-genre festival crowds and electronic festival crowds is that the all-genre people are dressed in such a way that they could conceivably go out into greater society afterward and still look normal. EDM kids are far more concerned with their outfits than other people. I like being around crowds that are a little older and a little less Instagrammy. Good job, Meadows.

Fun Stuff
Day festivals are never going to have the epic type of experiential parts of camping festivals, but Meadows does a pretty good job of having graffiti art and other NYC-appropriate extras. They had the usual crop of photo booth options and sponsors handing out freebies (the free Vitamin Waters gave me so much life on these hot days). The best thing, however, was “Totally Tubular,” the crowd of blow-up wiggle guys. Whoever had this idea should be so proud of themselves.

Water
What I find interesting here is that my recap from last year mentioned that Meadows had high speed spigots. This year’s event definitely did not. There were plenty of faucets but they were a little slow. Not a huge problem but I wonder why the downgrade.

Layout
Probably the best festival layout I’ve ever seen. 4 stages in the middle, facing outward, with food, bars, and other vendors on the perimeter. It’s so smart and efficient.

Transportation
It definitely takes time to get between my house in Brooklyn and this festival, but I LOVE being able to take the train. Full disclosure – I left the festival a few minutes early on all 3 of the days because I had no desire to be on a packed 7 train with thousands of people. I do not regret this, even though I think if I had stayed until the end I could have gotten an express train. Either way, I love the subway and I much prefer traveling to Citi Field than to Randall’s Island, the site of Electric Zoo, Governors Ball, and Panorama (which I haven’t been to).

Price
This is not a cheap festival. I had a number of friends who wanted to join for a single day of the festival but were deterred by the $150 price tag (3-days were around $350, I believe). But hey, it’s New York. We expect expensive here.

Misc.
They could have used more bathrooms.

And now, my friends, the 2017 festival season is over. (With the exception of Global Citizen Festival, a single-day event in Central Park with only one stage that I have never bothered to recap in this same way, although I’ve gone every single year). I’m sad, but it was an extremely full summer. And 2018 will be here before we know it!

Elements: The Music (2017)

I can’t decide if I want to keep doing this post-festival double recap where I write one post about logistics and one post about music.  It sometimes feels cumbersome which is totally against the point of maintaining a blog that serves no purpose other than that I enjoy writing in it. But on the other hand, I like having a record of this stuff, especially for the festivals that I’ve attended multiple times. So I might reevaluate this. But for now…I guess it stays! (Welcome to my internal monologue, everyone) So anyway, here are some musical highlights from Elements:

GRiZ
I love GRiZ, obviously. Normally I’d expect to come away from a GRiZ set saying, “that was funky and upbeat and fun, yay,” and that is absolutely true. But this was a really unique set in that there was a huge chunk of mellow, slow sax jams in the middle. Sometimes I loved it, sometimes it was moving a bit too slowly for me, but overall it was really nice to see something so different from an artist I’ve seen a ton of times (in fact I just saw him last month at Camp Bisco). The video below is (I think) taken during the interlude part of this set.

Barclay Crenshaw
This was probably my favorite set of the weekend. Earlier this summer a friend described Barclay’s music as “weird hip hop” and that is…pretty much accurate. This was even further confirmed a few weeks ago after I stumbled upon his website. The concept is:

“In 1884 an explorer found some artifacts suggesting that an alien race has visited the earth and abducted a large group of its children and then returned them a few days later. There are no records of what happened to the children or who they were or even if they returned in the same shape as they left.

The only clues to these strange occurrences are in the cryptic art and music left behind. With every release, the cosmic manifesto at the heart of the Barclay Crenshaw project reveals itself further…”

If you have a few minutes, go poke around this part of his website. I do not understand what’s happening there at all but I love it anyway.

Flying Lotus
Stay tuned for a post about this one. For about 24 hours after Elements I thought about nothing except his set because my brain was just trying to process it all. But here’s a video (not from this festival, unfortunately) that about portrays the intensity of his Elements performance.

Zeds Dead
I actually didn’t (and still don’t) know much about Zeds Dead even though they’re huge. I saw part of their Mysteryland set a year or 2 ago and just remembered that they played a lot of other people’s songs. After seeing them at Elements I can safely say that a) they’re heavier than I thought they were, and b) they still do play a lot of other people’s songs. Which, hey, is great. I loved it, even if i took more time than usual to figure out what they actually sound like. I can’t find a video I like of theirs so here’s a cool video of a total solar eclipse that I’ve watched more times than is probably normal.

Elements: The Experience (2017)

Another Elements has come and gone. It has relocated from its Brooklyn home to the Bronx and expanded from one day to two, but at its heart it still has the big names and fun extras of a big festival with the laid back attitude of a small one. This was my third year attending and even though I miss being able to walk home from this event, it remains one of my favorite annual events in New York City. I don’t know why I didn’t recap it in 2015 but if you want to compare notes, check out the write-up from 2016.

Check-in/Security
The lines to get in were much shorter this year, but picking up my pass on day one was…not speedy. I had to check in from a guest list, but all the computers were broken and so I stood there and stood there and stood there and even though I was in the VIP line, I watched as the guest list line moved along at lightning speed and…I continued to stand. A small price to pay for an otherwise seamless festival, though.

Crowd
BangOn!NYC’s events always bring out the best and most down to earth people. Elements is a classic Burner event (Burning Man attendee), even though I imagine most people do not actually attend Burning Man. But everyone is artistic and creative and friendly.

The Fun Stuff
Elements always has cool art installations but things this year were really several notches. In addition to live painting and art cars, they had a bounce house, roller skating, carnival games, a thunderdome where you could “battle” a friend while both of you were suspended in harnesses, a healing garden with health and wellness activities, and a ton of cool but random little artsy alcoves, prime for Instagram-worthy photos.

Water
Last year I was unable to find the free water at all, so this year was definitely an improvement. The water tasted like it came straight from a pool but hey, free is free, so I was happy.

Layout
The shape of this festival was kind of long and narrow, but somehow it never got crowded. It was easy to get around everywhere and only took a few minutes to walk the entire length of the festival. The addition of a massive warehouse that housed the main stage was a surprising but super cool perk of having the festival in such an industrial spot. The warehouse was far larger than the audience, which meant there was always room to move around. A+.

Transportation
Man, the Bronx. It is so far. It was so far that I arranged to stay over at friends’ houses after both nights of the festival because I couldn’t even think about trying to deal with a 2 hour subway ride at midnight. The festival is a little bit of a walk from the subway, but Elements provided shuttles as well as staff marking the walking path, so I commend them for truly doing everything possible to make it easy for attendees.

Price
Even at the highest pricing tier, you truly get a lot for your money with this festival. If you buy early at one of the lower pricing tiers, it’s an absolute steal.

For my third year in a row, Elements proved to be a top notch small festival that somehow still feels like a large-scale event (in all the best ways). I truly spend all year looking forward to this weekend so…2018, I’m waiting for ya.

Shows I Missed: Camp Bisco

I’m happy to say that I don’t write too many “Shows I Missed” posts anymore. These posts are typically a monthly roundup of the concerts I wanted to attend but, for one reason or another, could not. I’m going to a lot fewer shows than normal these days, so I can’t say exactly why it is that I’m feeling less regret about missing out. Maybe I’m being more strategic about concert attendance and actually making it to the few shows I know I’d be extra sad to miss, or maybe I just care less when I don’t attend things. I suspect it’s a little of column A and a little of column B.

THAT BEING SAID.

I did not allude to this in my Camp Bisco music roundup post, but on the whole I was a bit disappointed not with the quality of music that I saw, but with the quantity. I’ve been to a ton of music festivals yet never before have I left feeling like I missed so many of the sets I was planning on seeing. The reasons for all the missed music are as follows:

  1. Conflicts. So many of my favorites played at the same time. Hard decisions were made.
  2. Rain. One stage at Bisco is covered, so when rain happened, covered sets always took precedence. Even when that covered set wasn’t something I was planning on attending at all.
  3. Early sets. As everyone knows, bigger names tend to perform later in the day, so there aren’t typically many sets I want to see in the early afternoon. Yet Bisco had tons of music I really wanted to see at 12 or 1pm. I could have and should have gone to these, but the long walk from camp to the stages meant I was just too lazy to go, especially since I’d have to walk all the way back after (or spend 12 hours in the festival grounds).
  4. General laziness. Yup.
  5. Various combinations of the above at once.

Here is a sad, sad list of all the music I missed at Camp Bisco.

Nightmares on Wax
Everyone who knows Nightmares on Wax loves Nightmares on Wax. He has this downtempo hip-hop/funk/jazz vibe that is just universally great. I don’t think I spoke to anyone who went to this set, nor do I even remember considering it while at Bisco, which probably means his set conflicted with someone major.

Marvel Years
When someone told me that Marvel Years was on at the same time as Gramatik, I think I audibly “BOOOO”ed. I used to refer to MY as “Pretty Lights Junior,” and while I do think his sound is kind of PL-ish, he’s really come into his own in the last few years. He’s also fantastic live and this was a bummer to the nth degree.

Beats Antique
Beats is a weird, Middle Eastern sounding band with belly dancing and general nonsense (last time I saw them they had a giant inflatable dragon that extended from the stage out into the audience). I actually did make it to the last 10 minutes of this set but it just wasn’t enough.

Goldfish
Out of all the Bisco sets missed by people in my crew, I think the sadness was most universal around Goldfish. It was just too early and too rainy. This duo from South Africa is the danciest and probably the artist I have most succeeded at turning friends into fans.

Manic Focus
Damnit damnit. 2017 should just be unofficially called, “The Summer In Which I Missed Several Manic Focus Sets.” I’ve been on the MF train since relatively early on but for whatever reason I haven’t seen him in…2 years? He has a really unique brand of electro-hip-hop that is allll the fire emojis.

Wax Future
UCH. Wax Future is an electro-funk/soul outfit from Philly and I did not attend this set because it was raining. I don’t really regret this because I get pretty cranky when soggy but I’m generally sad about it anyway. I just want to add to this that despite having a free ticket, I also missed Wax Future when they recently came through Brooklyn Bowl and boo on me for all of this.

Too Many Zooz
This is the set I am most upset to have missed. Especially because I honestly tried to go. Sort of. Too Many Zooz had a super early set and I was about to head there a little late, but right as I was leaving I decided to check the schedule to confirm their set time. I realized that their set was only 40 minutes long instead of the minimum of 60 minutes that LITERALLY EVERYONE ELSE GOT, and since they were playing on the far end of the festival grounds and it would have taken me over 20 minutes to get there, I would have only had 5 or so minutes to see them. They’re a brasshouse trio that got their start in the NYC subway system and totally deserve all the fame they have because they have tons of kooky personality.

Anyway. Let this never happen again, okay? Okay.

Camp Bisco: The Experience (2017)

Camp Bisco was a fun – if slightly damp – weekend. It was my 2nd time at this festival, my first being in 2015, which also happened to be the festival’s first year on their new grounds in Scranton. It was exciting to compare notes and see how much has changed for the better.

Photo from 2015 because I took 0 photos this year whoops

Check-In/Security
We arrived to Bisco around 11pm Wednesday night and were completely set up by 2am. Considering that others who arrived later had to wait as many as 9 (or so I heard) hours in the car to check in, I would say we got super lucky. If you’re heading to Bisco in the future, perhaps the best piece of advice I can offer you is – BUY A PARKING PASS. If you don’t have one you’ll have to park in an off-site lot which can add many many hours to your journey. Don’t get stuck without one. They sell out quickly, so hop on that as soon as tickets go on sale.

Crowd
Bisco has a mix of ravers, cool hippies, and wooks. For the uninitiated, Urban Dictionary defines a wook as:

“A wook is a hippie without any ambition, motivation, or drive other than drugs and image. They’re generally in their twenties, college students (or dropouts) at small-town liberal colleges (such as Appalachian State University) and dependent on an income other than their own. 

Wooks tend to travel in packs, they smell strongly of patchouli and are in constant search for free drugs. One of the defining characteristics is an excessive amount of unkempt hair, usually in dreadlocks. 

It is important to make the distinction between a hippie and a wook. Hippies can generally be viewed as positive, optimistic members of society with an idealistic goal for the betterment of society. Wooks are everything that you’ve been warned about in regard to hippies wrapped into a neat little package.”

Fun Stuff
Bisco has a water park, which is super cool, except for the fact that I didn’t use it. At all. I went on 0 water slides, did not float in the lazy river, and didn’t even put my feet in the wave pool. It rained quite a bit which is part of my excuse – the other part is being too lazy to go back and forth between my campsite and the festival grounds so many times. I really wanted to go on the zip line, but like in 2015, I didn’t make it on that either. SIGH.

Water
Bisco has a few water stations that are poorly marked, and there were definitely fewer water stations than the printed map said there were. This is an area in which they need to do better.

Layout
The layout of this festival is pretty long and narrow, which can create significant bottlenecks at the end of big sets when thousands of people all try to navigate their way to a different stage via narrow pathways. But what I will say is that the indoor lodges with REAL BATHROOMS, and a mostly-covered main stage area more than make up for the inconvenience of the bottlenecks. I should also add that in wintertime these grounds are used as a ski resort, meaning you set your camp up on a hill. So you sleep on a slant. You win some, you lose some.

Transportation
If you don’t have a car I guess you can arrive by a combo of Greyhound and Uber? I’m not sure and I wouldn’t try it. But Bisco is around 2.5 hours from NYC which is excellent (looking at you, Electric Forest,  you 14 hour drive, you).

Price
Pretty standard festival pricing but if you have to rent a car (as my friends and I did), make sure you book that early. The rental car added a good chunk of money to our festival costs.

Misc
I have such mixed feelings about this festival. I had an amazing time both years that I went, but I also feel like I got super lucky both times regarding the time to get set up, getting a camping spot that wasn’t too far up the hill, not getting my belongings stolen (I heard a lot of reports of this), and other factors that really could have brought it down. I might consider getting a hotel if I wanted to go in the future.

ALSO – while I love the amphitheater main stage with concentric half circle rows of seats and a lawn behind it, the significant rain at the festival meant that at some points, tons of people were trying to squeeze in to the seated area because it was covered. At one point, my friend and I were making our way to that stage because it had started to rain. Everyone else had the same idea, and we were maybe 10 feet away from being under shelter when the crowd came to a standstill; the amphitheater was packed and there was no room for anyone else to get in. The rain came down harder and harder, and within a few seconds it felt like someone was dumping a bucket of water on my head. Everyone panicked and started pushing and shoving, trying to get into the amphitheater, and getting caught in that was one of the more terrifying moments of my life. Thankfully my friend and I were near a small alcove that housed a tented beer vendor, and we pushed our way into the alcove away from the crowd, and the bartender let us hide out from the storm and the near-riot under the edge of her tent (and gave us a free beer!). But it sucked, a lot.

Despite the drawbacks, Bisco was far better organized this year than it was 2 years ago. There were orderly lines for things that had previously been chaos, better logistics and more-informed staff (most of the time). Rumors have been floating around that Bisco is not being asked back to this location next year, and if it moves, I’d be skeptical of going to a new venue as it would mean being a guinea pig yet again. But I suppose we’ll see.

This marks the end of my camping festivals for 2017, but I still have some daytime festivals happening (hi Elements!!) because summer isn’t over yet! Onward!

Camp Bisco: The Music (2017)

bisco

Camp Bisco has come and gone and I have no more camping festivals for 2017. SAD TIMES. Just like Bisco 2 years ago, I saw some fantastic sets. Highlights below!

Gramatik
This was easily the best set of Bisco. It started off with some of his older works; really mellow, jazzy tracks. It slowly escalated until by the end he was throwing down some crazy dubstep heavy bangers. I’ve never seen a set progress like this and it was so weird but just SO much fun. Most people I talked to agreed it was the best set of the weekend.

GRiZ
This man never disappoints. He opened with the theme song from The Office (a popular choice for many artists seeing as Bisco is in Scranton, PA) as well as a clip of one episode and even though I don’t watch the show I’ve still listened to it on repeat because it’s fire. Check out the first 2 minutes of the video below.

Break Science
Break Science is an electro-hip-hop and funk duo that I haven’t seen in its pure form in years. I’ve recently only seen them with a full band, which is amazing but a different experience somewhat. I was pleased to see just the duo at Camp Bisco, and it was interesting to notice how their jam band side project, called Breaking Biscuits, has really influenced their sound a lot.

Pigeons Playing Ping Pong
I did not actually go to this set, but we could hear this stage from our camping spot. I was hanging out under our canopy when all of a sudden I heard Hava Negila playing, and it made my whole day. When my friends got back from the set they told me that when that song came on, everyone went totally nuts dancing like fools, and our other friend said, “Arielle would have liked this.” So true.

Shpongle
This was probably my favorite Shpongle set ever. Which isn’t necessarily saying much because I think I’ve only seen him 4 or 5 times and one of the times I had to leave early because the venue smelled like BO and it was nauseating. Simon Posford is just so beautifully strange. Shpongle is an amazing late night festival act.

Escort
This Brooklyn-based disco band is the best. I was singing their song “Cocaine Blues” for a full day afterwards. Listen below and you will too (though this recorded version is nothing compared to their live performances). Their lead singer is super talented and she’s a total badass.

Pretty Lights
This was such a special set because the band played a ton of rare tracks that don’t come out often. A friend of mine who was also at Bisco but not with me during this set texted me afterward and just wrote, “Holy fuck,” which just about sums it up. It was an amazing way to close out the weekend. If you have an hour and 20 minutes, just put this set on in the background and enjoy the magic. It was incredible.

The Disco Biscuits
Camp Bisco is named for the Biscuits and they play 6 sets throughout the weekend. In 2015 I went to about 1.5 sets, but this year I actually ended up going to 5 (I skipped one to catch Opiuo on a different stage). It was awesome to see how diverse their sets could be and feel the energy of all the diehards in the crowd. The video below is a Muse cover from Bisco 2015, which I will remain obsessed with for all time. And it feels appropriate because I’m finally seeing Muse live next week. EEEEEEE!