FESTIVAL | Future! Weezer! Gorillaz! Lizzo! Festival season strikes in the Fall
Something for oldheads, newheads and indie rock fiends
The rock critic Zoe Camp reckons the competition between Live Nation and AEG for New York music festival domination to an arms race for geographic hegemony, to be the Woodstock in the mind of the east coast set. Last year, in reaction to the warmly-received debut of AEG/Goldenvoice's missile silo, the Panorama Music Festival (they had bathrooms that could flush! oy!) and a dispiriting turn of events at their own Governor's Ball—the third day had been canceled due to fears of a thunderstorm that never ended up happening--the Gov Ball people (a company called Founders Entertainment, now a division of Live Nation) announced that they were going to have one up on those invading Californians and pull off what so many festival organizations couldn't: a New York music festival that you didn't require an obnoxious ferry line. Put together in a rush and settling for a parking lot in Queens, last year's Meadows Music & Arts Festival was a bit of a mess. Headliner and ostensible raison d'etre, Kanye West, who was among those who were supposed to perform on that ill-fated third day, ended up dipping midway and the festival's second headliner, the reliably chartopping Toronto crooner The Weeknd, didn't even make it and had to be replaced with the vaguely polarizing J. Cole.
This year's festivities promise to be different. Extended into a traditional three-day spread, The Meadows is marking a flag on new terrain for the slowly expanding festival season. Competing for attention this month in the Big Apple will be smaller fare: the return of the Village Voice's Seaport Music Festival, which used to run in the early naughties until it was supplanted by something called 4Knots which, itself, mysteriously disappeared this year and Pitchfork Media's plunge into the New York scene, something called Octfest, which has something to do with their AnBev-funded offshoot of a similar name. Both are old school rock events, headlined by Ted Leo and Guided By Voices, respectively, Meadows is, correspondingly, using their newfound Live Nation weight to bring some of the big names in hip hop over to Queen's Citi Field.
Who's a bigger hip hop get than Shawn Carter himself? An even bigger achievement, considering that this would mark Jay-Z's headlining set will mark his first proper New York show in ages (Friday, 8:15), though that does depend on who's counting. Technically, New York's rap ambassador appeared, very briefly, in last year's celebration of Bad Boy Records at the Barclays Center and, the year before, he played a special show of deep cuts for select Tidal members at Terminal 5. He also headlined the Global Poverty Project's big ol' festival at Central Park way back in 2014 but getting tickets to that is always hella weird. SO. We have to go all the way back to January of '14 in order to find the last Hov show you could actually dump a small fortune on and attend in the vicinity of his native borough.
Notably and two days later, Nasir Jones (Sunday, 6:00) will be hitting the main stage; making a lineup pairing that cannot help but feel weighty with the kinds of geographic significance that music festivals die for: both rappers feuded infamously in the late '90s and early '00s for the "King of New York' crown, a battle that Dariel Figueroa once called the "last epic rap war" of our time, rife with the kinds of diss tracks that Meek Mills still dreams of. Some highlights: Jay claiming to have have "left condoms on your baby seat" on The Blueprint's "Supa Ugly" and Nas retaliating by rewriting Hova's most notable flex as "H to the Omo" on a freestyle.
Nowadays, the two have more in common. They shared the same label for some time, Def Jam and, later, Jay-Z brought Nas along for a feature on American Gangster. More recently, both prominently appear in A&E's latest retrospective on Biggie Smalls, the rapper whose legacy they competed so fiercely for. More curiously, both enjoyed critical reevaluations with comeback records that were helmed by Chicago icon No I.D. (Nas' Life is Good in 2012 and Jay's 4:44 earlier this summer). Jay-Z's successful mogul-mythologizing would have you believe that Jay-Z ended up with the crown but deeper heads might disagree; The Source, for instance, named Nas the 2nd greatest lyricist of all time in 2014, two steps above Brooklyn's finest. The hatchet, between the two, was buried live: Nas appeared at Jay-Z's headlining set over at the, ahem, Meadowlands Arena back in the 2005 (it was called the Continental Airlines Arena back then, but whatever). Jay-Z remains a fan of staging reunions, his TIDAL-only set at Terminal 5 notably featured reunions with Beanie Siegel and Memphis Bleek and his latest show, at Live Nation's Made in America Festival in Philadelphia, featured a surprising star turn by local favorite Meek Mill. Fingers crossed that he'll be bringing out the Illmatic on Friday night.
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