With its four stages spaced out on a clean piece of asphalt in Queens, NY, the inaugural Meadows Festival featured no meadows. And after all his on-again off-again scheduling, the weekend did not feature the Weeknd. Not to mention that the whole event, started by the same cool folks who run Governors Ball, was kind of a raincheck for Kanye – who still ended up starting late and leaving mid-song due to a family emergency. There’s no denying it: there was some serious irony at play this weekend. But none of that stopped us from having an insanely good time at this brand new music and arts fest.
The crazy thing about an inaugural event is that you don’t know what it’s all going to mean yet – and everyone there gets to decide what they want the vibe to be (whether or not they’re doing so consciously). And as long as we’re writing history, we’ve gotta say – this fest could not have been scheduled during a more perfectly breezy, first-of-October autumn weekend. The crowd, by a vast majority on Day 1, was equally chill. Most attendees were just the right amount of drunk; racing from stage-to-stage in punky clothing, sharing smokes and snacks freely as if both were legal. If you were near the Linden stage around one, you would have heard Mr Twin Sister come right out and say it: “Is anybody on drugs yet?” the psych-pop band demanded with a grin.
If you were, and you found yourself wandering, you would have come across such wonders as Nico Yaryan’s feel-good, alt-rock set on Shea stage; or Lolawolf’s mainstage performance, which sent her distinctive verse sailing over thick, popping beats. If you were really up to no good, you’d be hitting all the local food vendors and trying to decide what to binge on before the next band. Just for future reference: the rosemary chicken loaded fries from Hebros Kitchen are the stuff dreams are made of.
But the biggest impact of Day 1 came during Miami Horror’s high-energy set, when vocalist Josh Moriarty suddenly scaled the entire stage in a death-defying, three-story climb to the top. He dangled above, feet kicking, fans squealing, security guards scurrying below in a panic until he climbed down without a scratch. Over on the Queens Blvd stage, Frightened Rabbit had a different strategy for getting our attention. “Welcome to the old man guitar portion of the festival,” said Scott Hutchison proudly. “It’s very brief, you’ve just gotta make like it’s 2001.” Not long after, rapper Post Malone took us back even further than that with “Hollywood Dreams / Comedown,” which samples Stevie Nicks’ “Dreams” in a pretty big way. We ran into him backstage shortly afterward and discussed a shared love for Pearl Jam. Yes, that really happened.
We had a feeling how great Kamasi Washington would be, and the jazz saxophonist did not disappoint with his bold sound and robust, funky ensemble. Fans also flipped for the much-loved indie pop duo, Sylvan Esso, who made for another Day 1 highlight with their irresistibly slick set. And though the crowd was a little laggy with the call-and-responses (come on kids, wake up), Damian Marley and his band delivered an incredible performance that echoed his father’s trademark sound with an extra layer of intensity. The day was dropping into a cool evening when Empire of the Sun rushed onstage in their extravagant, mystical garb, playing against a jaw-dropping stage design that is best described as: what The Neverending Story would probably look like on hallucinogens.
The musical highlight of the Day 1 was arguably the brutal post-punk show that Savages delivered later that night; the English rockers screaming into the darkness with slicked-back hair, tuxedo attire, and plenty to say. Frontwoman Jehnny Beth delivered a flawlessly hardcore vocal performance and kept the excitement high in every possible moment. “What do you want? Do we know what you want?” she implored between songs. “Something fast?..sexy?..dirty?” (Turns out we wanted all three). And for the fans searching for fast/sexy/dirty in the form of rap, headliner J. Cole’s intense finale performance certainly fit the bill. The only thing that could persuade fans to leave was the thought of getting to come back for Day 2 in the morning.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley