QUEENS ARTS & CULTURE FESTIVAL KEEPS EVERYONE ENTERTAINED
The Meadows is an arts and culture Festival that looks to blend all the creative parts of life in Queens into a three-day (Sept. 15-17) jam at Citi Field. This year’s event was an ambitious effort, covering many of the borough’s diverse forms of expression, but one that did not fall short of accomplishing its goal. Music, murals, interactive video booths, and good weather were among the main draws of the festival, which closed out the summer with a bang. Here’s what stood out to me the most in my two days there:
// MUSIC AND GUEST APPEARANCES
It goes without saying, but I’ve got to say it: The lineup this year was absolutely killer. 2017’s Meadows featured a variety of musicians from different genres and walks of life. There were your big-name Hip Hop headliners (Migos, Future, Jay Z, Run The Jewels) who all brought the house down as expected. But there was also an equal emphasis on R&B, EDM, rock, and even golden age hip hop that was both refreshing and overwhelming. With so many performances to catch, often simultaneously, it would take 20 pages to give a full summary of every set. Check out a breakdown of my favorite five here.
An element most of the artists — no matter their style — shared was surprise. “Spontaneous” appearances are a classic concert tradition, but one that never really gets old. There was no shortage of unannounced guests on Friday and Saturday, including Busta Rhymes, Young Thug, Nicki Minaj, Q-Tip, Jarobi, Damian Marley, and all of Pro Era. Makes dropping $130 for a ticket sound a lot nicer, right? Though most of the guest artists only stuck around for a couple of songs — Thugger, however, put in a good 20 minutes on Future’s hour-long set — their presences alone were electrifying. Gorillaz in particular played up the features, (Pusha T, Bootie Brown, Mos Def, and D.R.A.M to name a few) which made their closing show on Saturday especially memorable.
// ATTENDANCE DEMOGRAPHICS
Walking around the Citi Field parking lot and seeing Meadows attendees was a wild experience in and of itself. There were droves of 15-year-olds smoking their first joints, quite a few fans from the 25+ crowd, and a surprising number of parents toting toddlers. If that isn’t a testament to music bringing different people together, I don’t know what else would be.
Each set had a unique crowd — at the bigger shows, of course, this was not the case: Hundreds of people mobbed Jay Z, Future, Migos and Gorillaz. I like the fact that I cannot give a general description of what kind of people were attracted to what specific genre. In the hip hop realm for example, 21 Savage’s trapped-out performance was heavily attended by white teenagers whereas Flatbush Zombies’ equally hype show had slightly older (mid/late-20s), more diverse viewership. It did hold true that older people mostly went to see more established artists, though I spied a fair share of young adults at De La Soul and Big Boi. Erykah Badu even gave a shout out to ‘90s babies during her performance, saying “I wrote [Baduizm] for you guys…I was speaking the language of the future.”
// FESTIVAL ORGANIZATION
People often underestimate the importance of a venue when choosing to go to a concert or festival. That being said, an enormous shoutout needs to be given to The Meadows’ organizers, whose layout was both clean and strategic.
There were four stages, erected in a circle so that you could never really be more than a five-minute walk away from a show. Food trucks, water fountains, medical tents, sponsor stands, and a staggering number of Porta Pottys were easily available. The free water and lack of bathroom lines by themselves were major game changers that can’t be called anything other than brilliant.
Another perk of the setup was that it was a catalyst for meeting artists who, after playing, would often go into the crowds to watch other performers. That’s how I found myself fanboying over Flatbush Zombies up close during Future and also catching an awesome view of TV On The Radio hanging out near the main stage.
The only roadblock organization-wise was an unavoidable one: conflicting shows. My advice on that front? Split your time 50/50 and sprint in between sets. The best parts of a show tend to be the opening and closing songs, so sampling even a bit can be amazing.
// SPONSOR PERKS
Ball pit, Viceland truck, photo booth, 6-month Tidal trial. Need I say more? The symbiotic relationship between corporations and the music industry is curious, but also pretty cool when you get free stuff. Vitamin waters were up for grabs in big, labelled bins. Tidal was giving out drawstring bags, towels, and costless access to its music site for half of the year. Lyft-branded beach balls flew through the air during sets for all to see and punch. It was total shameless advertising, but also sick.
For those festivalgoers not as much into the music scene and more about the vibe, it would be easy to spend an entire day just walking around and getting roped into different side booths. A personal favorite of mine was The Bosco, a wondrous contraption which films you dancing for 10 seconds then spits out a slow-motion video that you can email to yourself.
Multimedia was definitely a Meadows highlight. A&E set up a shanty where you could see yourself on a big screen — and Snapchat it to your heart’s content — and Samsung joined the party by offering live demonstrations of the Galaxy Note8.
There was something for everyone. You could even register to vote if that was weighing too heavily on your conscience.
The only less-than-stellar part of my experience was the food. Prices were high — totally expected — but quality was not so much. Friday’s fare was a sus burger and sweet and sour chicken that couldn’t compete with Panda Express. On Saturday I got some dope ice cream from Davy’s but that was offset by a subpar chicken bowl and an equally mediocre Cuban sandwich. To the festival’s credit, I only explored a fraction of the available options. There was food from all cultures (Vietnamese, Indian Colombian, etc.), vegan cuisine, and even a Bareburger truck, though lines tended to run pretty long. People also touted drinks in pineapples which looked like good investments during the warm daytime.
I included food on this list because of the high standards of Instragammability that festival meals have now achieved. Take a look at the social of your friend who attended Outside Lands and you’ll see what I mean. To be honest though, the music makes up for any edible missteps, but do be warned if you’re one of those people who comes to festivals to blow up everyone’s feed with what you’re eating.
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