This year’s Panorama NYC festival was watched by more than few outside its bubble this past weekend. Between the early evacuation on Friday and Janet Jackson’s quickly praised performance, folks on the “mainland” might have thought things had gotten crazy on Randall’s Island. But mostly the kids were all right. Those who were there wanted to be there and stayed chill through it all, including Lil Wayne being cancelled 20 minutes into his set time on Saturday.
Early on Friday, a group from from the Hudson Valley were excited to see the The Weeknd and showed it by marching to the front of the main stage when the gates opened and then holding their spot in shifts for the rest of the day. Other early acts were DJ Rich Greene who opened up the Pavilion stage and Wes Period who opened Bud Light’s Dive Bar stage. Greene, a Park Slope native, was excited to play his first big NYC festival after spending the last few years touring internationally. Wes Period, an L.A.-based hip-hop artist with an EDM touch, talked with us quickly before racing off to his next set that night with Kesha and headliner Macklemore, with whom he’s currently on tour. “[Macklemore]’s as cool as you think he is,” Wes told me. “When I met him it was, like, ‘Damn, he really is that chill.'” Macklemore also spun a set on Sunday in the HP tent and the line was out the door for it.
Friday’s lineup included Supa Bwe, Soulection, Daniel Ceasar and Sabrina Claudia, whose set was cut short by the sudden evacuation she had to announce to the already rain-soaked crowd. Some concert-goers lingered against the tide, including a group of New Yorkers who told took the situation in stride. “We were at Firefly in Delaware back in 2015 when Kid Cudi got rained out and we had to leave that one too, this is crazy for us.” When asked about their plans for the rest of the night they said, “We’re going to the Lower East Side to get hammered!”
Wes Period (center) with his audience at the conclusion of his Bud Light Dive Bar stage performance on Friday.
Saturday afternoon brought bright skies with cooler temperatures. After taking in the tropical beats of Riobamba coming from the dance floor of the Point stage, I paid a visit to Hewlett Packard’s The Lab across the way. The Lab featured visual and sensing technologies that showed visitors the latest virtual and augmented reality through a series of interactive installations. One named the “Pixel Vortex” read your body’s electromagnetic waves and translated them into a colorful aura that was projected around you inside an inflatable room. Pictures of everyone who tried the machine were hung outside. The Lab’s highlight was Portal to Flatland, a movie experience directed by Justin Bolognino based on the 19th-century inter-dimensional novella Flatland with music by festival performers St. Vincent.
Saturday continued at a relaxing pace with band PVRIS and vocalist Cloves playing the main stage as attendees grazed the lawn. Tension began to build, however, when the crowd swelled for Lil Wayne in the bright setting sun. It was the first big act of the day and as the minutes ticked past his 6:25 pm start time, folks began to guess the reason Lil Wayne wouldn’t come out. Then, like the warning neon sign in “The Sounds of Silence,” the words flashed on the giant LED screens: “Due to extreme weather conditions Lil Wayne’s flight has been delayed and he unable to perform tonight.” Attendees were quick to give the middle finger but soon got over it and went to the Pavilion stage to catch Gucci Mane.
Later on, SZA warmed up the crowd and when Janet Jackson took the stage you knew her fans were ready. She played many of her hits such as “That’s The Way Love Goes” and “Miss You Much” and blew away the crowd with “Scream” as the music video with her and Michael played behind her. Jackson closed out with “Rhythm Nation” and when the crowd walked to the gate you could see that they had had their fill and those coming back the next day would certainly need their rest.
More sunshine followed on Sunday as Panorama got off to a lighter start crowd-wise and the early birds had plenty of room to stretch their blankets out as Oakland’s Shannon and The Clams and L.A.’s Chicano Batman brought some easygoing West Coast vibes. After the their set we sat down with Shannon Shaw and her bandmates to talk about the their upcoming tour for their recent album Onion. “I’m excited about seeing Mexico City in November,” Shannon said. Guitarist Cody Blanchard added, “We’ve been wanting to go down there for a long time.” When asked where they go when in New York, Shaw told me “we end up at [Williamsburg’s] Skinny Dennis a lot.”
The Dive Bar stage became a destination as rock fans drank up between major sets by David Byrne of the Talking Heads and The xx. We saw performances by signed up-and-comers Loote and SUR whose friends were there to cheer them on. Loote, co-fronted by NYC natives Jackson Foote and Emma Lov Block, told me how awesome it was to have their loved ones there and that Block’s sister picked out the white dress she performed in. SUR, aka Zack Arnett from Northern California, brought a mature sound that he himself describes as sensual. The crowd stayed with him as went from his soul searching single “Lean Back” to hip-hop rhymes and then into rock songs. SUR was a positive presence for his audience and more that willing to help Bedford+Bowery take a giant photo with his band overlooking the stage.
The festival ended with an explosive, fitting climax as The Killers took the main stage in force and belted out hit after hit. Their roster of singles including “All These Things I’ve Done” and “When You Were Young” sprang forth with intense energy from their unashamed male gender symbol on the stage towards the majority female crowd before them. With his face projected 20 feet high on the screens, lead singer Brandon Flowers could barely be seen taking his eyes off the crowd. The genuine smile on his face alongside the band’s flawless musicianship hopefully made the audience feel, especially in the light of Panorama NYC’s tough weekend, that if you were gonna give your all to see this band, this band was going to give their all to you.
Photos by Manny Takieto and Nick McManus.