In the middle of New York City lies a beautiful island accessible which connects the bustling boroughs and music fans alike. Randall’s Island, also known as Festival Island, is home to 2 of the country’s biggest up and coming music festivals: Governor’s Ball and the 2017 Panorama Music Festival
I had the privilege to attend Panorama this year which boasted a stacked lineup over 3 days featuring everyone from electronic music heroes, Justice, to RnB’s most mysterious figure– Frank Ocean. We were honored to host our #SWELLPANORAMA contest over social media. One winner was picked to win some customized SWELLGEAR swag and $50. Big CONGRATULATIONS to MY LISH COME TRUE for being our winner and our AMAZING runner ups whose photo’s are featured in this blog.
The crowd erupted when she broke into the intro to LSD, a song which features Chance the Rapper on her debut. Laced with water references that expand throughout the whole album. Jamila croons– “You gotta love me like I love the lake” as her deep eyes stare off into the crowd, serenading an anthem of love and self worth. It was an appropriate intro to her stunning Destiny’s Child cover of “Say My Name” of which the entire audience broke into song with Woods.
The set ended with Woods’ powerful “Blk Girl Soldier”, echoing Erykah Badu’s language of war and the growing militance and power of young women of color everywhere. The lyrics “We go missin’ by the hundreds/ Ain’t nobody checkin for us” rang like a rallying cry despite Jamila’s reserved voice as the music grew. Fists emerged from the crowd like torches, and Jamila left with a wave. Truly Black Girl Magic.
Tennessee native Isaiah Rashad has grown exponentially over the course of 3 years since his acclaimed debut Cilvia and as a member of Top Dawg Entertainment. Top Dawg has released some of the most talked about albums of the year with Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. and SZA’s Ctrl, as well as titles from Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q.
Rashad roused the crowd through a quick fire set featuring “Rope/ Rosegold”, “Wat’s Wrong”, and an incredibly energetic “RIP Kevin Miller” featuring a tightly packed tent screaming “Yall live for bitches and blunts/ we live for weed and money”. The energy was high and Rashad showed no signs of hesitance.
Rashad’s set was unfortunately cut short due to the crowd breaking the floor in the middle of “Tity and Dolla”, which resulted in an evacuation and closure of the entire stage for the rest of the day.
Tyler the Creator
Flower Boy, Tyler’s fourth album, had just come out less than a week before his set. In his trademark shorts and striped long sleeve shirt, he crept onto the stage with a hunch in his back much like a nervous child. Standing in front of a near replica of his album cover, Tyler shined in front of the bright orange backdrop. With that, he kicked into the live debut of “Where the Flower Blooms”, occasionally looking into the crowd in awe as they knew every word.
Despite the intentionally youthful appearance Tyler goes for in his imagery, his aggression is that of a grown man as each expletive punches through the microphone and into the hot air. Tyler is a master of anger and heartbreak, two themes he returns to throughout his work. His smash hit single “Who Dat Boy” was greeted with enthusiastic praise and an audience who spit every word back at him. The sweat from Tyler’s chest pooled under his shirt as he pranced from side to side, rapping and inserting his own choreography. A particular highlight comes from his performance of “She”, a song which features longtime bandmate and friend Frank Ocean, who played later on that night.
Tyler left the stage with a humble “goodbye” as a man of few words, but many visions.
Frank Ocean has had an incredible year with a few special festival appearances sprinkled here and there. Almost a year since his smash sophomore release Blonde was released– Frank graced the stage with a whisper. The screens featured a mesmerizing set of several camera angles, juxtaposed on top of one another, all taken on a fuzzy video camera harkening back to childhood home videos. His silky smooth voice opened with “Solo” before transitioning into “Chanel”.
Frank’s uncanny ability to make even the oddest of vocal patterns sound appealing, his falsetto switching to his almost conversational register captured the hearts of thousands in the Panorama crowd. Unfortunately, despite his incredible ability, the show began to feel repetitive and almost boring at times. It is with that note that I left for a new day.
Noname’s spectacular talent has been quietly making rounds on the internet over the years, but, was fully discovered on her appearance of fellow Chicago native Chance the Rapper’s song “Lost” on his acclaimed debut Acid Rap. Since then, she has made small appearances on other Chicago friends’ projects like Mick Jenkins and Saba. Her stunning debut Telefone made waves in 2016 for its gorgeous production combined with Noname’s delicate delivery of her striking wordplay. Her full band accompanied her for her all-to-short set of songs such as “Diddy Bop”, “Comfortable”, and a personal favorite “Reality Check”.
Speechless is all I can think of after leaving this performance.
Staples has proven himself to be one of the last gangster rappers we have left in this generation, all while adding his own spin to it. By gradually experimenting more from his debut EP “Hell Can Wait” to his acclaimed debut Summertime ’06. His most recent project Big Fish Theory was praised for its use of electronic and avant-garde instrumentals but most importantly, delivery.
Staples barreled through a 19 song setlist including his smash hit “Senorita” and his recent collaboration with the Gorillaz “Ascension” off of their newest album, “Humanz”. Staples invoked a sense of terror and heat, which he brought in full force, as he rapped in front of nothing but a menacing bright orange light that accurately replicated the claustrophobia his rapping style and songs represent. Some highlights included the Flume produced “Yeah Right”, “Blue Suede”, and “Ghost”.
FKA Chet Faker, the sexy bearded Australian crooner came to attention with a sensual cover of Blackstreet’s smash hit “No Diggity” and the Lockjaw EP with Flume. His debut album “Built on Glass” was released shortly after. In 2016, Faker decided to embrace his birth name Nick Murphy once again to release new music.
Murphy, whose music is often categorized with a moody and dark aura, took an upbeat approach to his live set with an eclectic live band. Instead of the brooding bass which introduces one of his biggest singles “Gold”, Murphy opted for an electric guitar, a keyboard, and a drum kit. Each song was given life, something much needed for a large live setting.
One of the brightest moments came from inviting Marcus Marr onstage, who did his own set the day before. They broke into their two collaborations: the funky “The Trouble With Us” and the darker sounding “Birthday Card”. The KAYTRANADA produced “Your Time” off of Murphy’s namesake debut Missing Link was another highlight of the raucous set, which ended with “Driving Too Fast” and “Stop Me (Stop You)” to which Murphy destroyed every instrument except his beloved keyboard. A truly exciting twist to end a relaxing day.
Olsen was a fine beginning to the end of a hectic festival, soothing the crowd with her fuzzy guitar tones and pillowy voice. She opened with High and Wild from 2014’s “Burn Your Fire With No Witness”. Although Olsen possesses a hypnotic presence that fits well with the genre of hazy rock she has championed, the show began to feel fairly tedious for someone who isn’t a die hard, only picking up with more upbeat selections like Not Gonna Kill You, which even then was fairly mundane.
I popped into Cleveland indie darlings Cloud Nothings’ set for a few minutes which was a much needed shot of energy before checking out Glass Animals. As a band continually rising since their 2009 debut, Cloud Nothings, is as charismatic, high octane, and shining as it gets. Their anger and genre-bending sound set them apart in such a bland genre oversaturated with about a million Black Keys and Arctic Monkeys. A highlight was their smash hit “Modern Act” from this year’s “Life Without Sound”. “Stay Useless”, an ode to laziness, was another crowd favorite. Lead singer Dylan Baldi’s conviction, grime, and charm shined in front of the 80s movie projected behind them, creating a visceral performance you have to treat yourself to at least once in this lifetime.
Glass Animals blasted from outerspace taking the music industry by storm with 2014’s “Zaba”. A hidden UK Gem introducing the world to combining psychedelic grooves with RnB influences. Glass Animals, reeks of sensual, careless, fun under the beats as thick as molasses. Their aptly titled breakthrough hit “Gooey” perfectly encompasses such a sound. Unfortunately, much like Olsen, Glass Animals’ strengths are also their weaknesses, and in a live setting, although fun and trippy, loses the same charm found blaring through your speakers on a long road trip to nowhere.
French electronic heroes Justice has been making waves since their 2007 debut †, combining delicately placed samples with infectious house grooves that make Justice so polarizing yet accessible. Unfortunately, 10 minutes into their set, the speakers blew out. And with that, I ran to catch the last act of the night.
Nine Inch Nails
In 2009, Trent Reznor announced an end to touring for the foreseeable future. The hiatus didn’t last long, with a comeback in 2012: the dark and dancey Hesitation Marks.
Since then, Nine Inch Nails has kept quiet in a typical Trent Reznor fashion, aside from movie scores and sporadic touring. In late 2016, Reznor surprised fans with a Christmas gift entitled Not the Actual Events, an EP going back to the harsh punk-like sound that dominated the band in the late 90s. In 2017, Add Violence became the second installment of what will be a 3 part EP series featuring the Pretty Hate Machine-esque “Less Than”. Even in the silence, Reznor quietly dominates the genre he helped empower.
With a mix of classics like Head Like A Hole, which opened up a large mosh-pit, to their 2005 hit Hand that Feeds, Reznor echoed the lyrics with ease. The band possessed a magical energy that has transcended decades and is found in every live video from the 90s to now. Even the haunting tribute to longtime friend and mentor David Bowie was given such a hypnotic spin to it, leading to the nearly 10 minute long cover of “I Cant Give Everything Away” off of Bowie’s final sendoff Blackstar.
Reznor’s contained madness was especially evident in a festival setting, offering little wiggle room except for the crack in his voice as he closed with the ending note of their depressive anthem “Hurt”. Almost too good for such a hectic and at times underwhelming festival, Nine Inch Nails was the perfect send off for the festival season.
Big Thanks to Golden Voice for photo’s from the weekend.
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