It’s Saturday, Day Two of Panorama. It feels like a different festival than Day One. While Friday was swarmed early with young crowds in body glitter, wearing any kind of clothing that could be ripped to shreds and could somehow still be worn, was totally not the case for Saturday. The vibe was chill. People were taking their time. It was tee-shirt weather. The sky was grey. The air was cool. And you had plenty of room to venture from stage to stage without having to focus on breaking through any lines.
Over at the main stage the indie band Pinegrove was just getting started. It was definitely the biggest stage the band has played on, by the way, (“Shoutout to Montclair!”), but the band performed their hearts out. Songs like “V” and “Size of the Moon” from their debut album Everything So Far got the chill crowd excited and signing along with their straightforward yet emotional lyrics that listeners seem to resonate with, like “If I did what I wanted then why do I feel so bad?” Lead singer Evan Stephens Hall acknowledged the crowd singing along, looking humbled and shy with his moppy bed-head. In between tuning guitars and laughing away from the mic the band continued with songs like “Cadmium” and “Problems” which got the crowds’ hands up in the air with peace signs and rock signs, which continued through the song “Recycling.” Pinegrove was having fun up there giving off the vibe of a local show on a major stage, pouring their guts out. The set ended with “Angelina” and a new arrangement of “New Friends” from their second album Cardinal. (Hall then made a paper airplane with their setlist and aimed for the crowd. But it only made it halfway.)
Over at the Pavillion, Mitski was up. She brought an intensity to the perfectly-suited overcast day with a serious expression that never faltered. You can tell that she feels every lyric that she sings — the dramatic, stinging lyrics that she’ll never get over, it seems, no matter how many sets she’s performed all over the world. She began with songs like “Francis Forever” and “I Don’t Smoke” from her album Bury Me at Makeout Creek. The crowd stared at her intensity that nobody could seem to look away from. And it wasn’t until after the song “Townie” (that got the biggest roar from the crowd) that Mitski finally took a breath and introduced herself. She lives in New York, and that too got people excited, but not as excited as when she played songs like “Your Best American Girl” and “I Will.” Her songs are all-consuming, blunt and dark as hell. She says everything that you’ve maybe always wanted to say but didn’t know how to express it. She’ll scream in her songs and she isn’t shy about it. Why hold anything back? And while the band left the stage and Mitski stayed put behind the mic with her massive guitar that’s bigger than her she said, “Where are all my girls who are told they are too intense all the time? Well, I’m right there too.” And she begins the song “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars” followed by “Class of 2013” and finishes the set by screaming hard into her guitar.
By this time the Australian psychedelic-dance group Jagwar Ma was getting the party started. You could feel the bass in your throat while screens around them were flashing with neon streaks of light. Fortunately by now the sun was out, but unfortunately this kind of set would have been so much better in the dark. But regardless of the light, it was the burst of energy that the festival needed right smack in the middle of the day. Jagwar Ma performed songs like “Give Me a Reason,” which got the crowd clapping, and “O B 1” that got everyone dancing in place. (Both songs are from their sophomore album Every Now & Then.) And yes, this trio plays party music. But it’s party music with an edgy reinvention. Take a colorful electronic dance song and throw in some catchy harmonies, scratch that up and then throw in a skateboard — that’s basically the vibe of Jagwar Ma. And while the group claimed that Panorama was the biggest stage they’ve ever performed on, they were not at all intimidated by it. The energy going back-and-forth between the crowd and the stage was totally electric.
For a little electronic escape, S U R V I V E was up next. The music of S U R V I V E isn’t anything you can particularly jam out to, but that also isn’t the point. The point is to watch, listen and appreciate. Their performance offered an unconventional twist in the day’s lineup, and also gave listeners the chance to get away from overall titillating vibe of the festival and to chill out for a little bit with a quick yet very serious dose of some good old-fashioned electronica (even if their music is a little abrasive). The electronic outfit has been around since the late 2000s, but their latest success comes from writing the musical score for the hit TV show Stranger Things. And who doesn’t love a good synthesizer, anyway?
Next up: Vince Staples. And yes, you can instantly tell that Vince Staples takes himself very seriously. But he doesn’t drink the Kool-Aid. There’s none of that bullshit. And maybe he still doesn’t consider himself to be a “major star” but he has every right to believe it, especially after his set at Panorama’s main stage. He stares into the crowd like he’s looking directly at someone very specific all the way at the back of the crowd. The screen was drenched in orange as he performed “Party People” from his new album Big Fish Theory, followed by “Ascension” (his collaborative track with Gorillaz) and “Little Bit of This” (his collaboration with GTA). The crowd was so into it. And when Vince Staples did a countdown to make everyone jump, they did. “Ya’ll know how to go crazy on me, right?” he says. Yes, the crowd knows. The screen went black, with the soundtrack of an ocean. And then Staples began to perform the songs “Lemme Know” from his album Summertime ‘06, followed by “Surf.”
After that, it seemed like the perfect time for a little Belle & Sebastian–some light-hearted, sunny tunes supported by background imagery that’s specific for each song they played. “Piazza, New York Catcher” of course got everyone super happy, especially when Stuart Murdoch climbed over the barricade into the crowd so all the indie darlings in the crowd could sing along with him. (This is right after he steals someone’s Mets hat in the crowd and thinks that Shea Stadium is still a thing.) He later described a restaurant he ate at in the Village last night and called it “swanky.” They are a band with personality and their set is uplifting and fun. Belle and Sebastian then played “Show Me the Way.” And then Stuart asked the crowd if anyone wants to dance with him before he jumped down into the crowd again and welcomed a bunch of fans to join him on stage as he began the song “The Boy With the Arab Strap.” The whole crowd danced, too, because when it comes to music like this — music that makes you feel good, is dreamy and makes you feel like a flower child — you just have to dance. Their set ended with high spirits and words of wisdom. “Don’t get too fucked up,” Murdoch says. “Or do get too fucked up. I’ll see you on the ferry.”
Back at the main stage, Nick Murphy (Chet Faker) was up. His entire performance from beginning to end was seductive and captivating. This was the kind of set that’s made for Panorama. The visuals were insane. You weren’t just watching and listening to Nick Murphy. You were experiencing him and his new energy. It isn’t Chet Faker anymore (even though he does perform some of his old songs). This is Nick Murphy–present, connected, rediscovered. He played songs like “Weak Education” and “The Trouble With Us” (as Marcus Marr who co-wrote the song joined him on stage). He performed one of his most catchy songs, “Cigarettes & Loneliness” (from his album Built on Glass under his previous moniker). He played the mind-bending, electric track “Fear Less.” This set was it. The energy didn’t flicker–it just stayed magnetic, like you could get drunk on it. And the only issue with it overall is that if anyone were to ask about it, it almost seems impossible to describe. The rush of it was overwhelming, and his confident and sexy stage presence was something that nobody could look away from. He threw down the mic and kicked it. Who cares? He’s Nick Murphy now. He can do whatever he wants. And then he sat down and played “Stop Me (Stop You)” and the crowd danced on, feeling totally seduced and transfixed.
For those who had been over at the main stage for Nick Murphy were running over to The Pavillion to catch whatever they could of the English indie-rock band, alt-J. With some songs the band didn’t even have to sing along, as the crowd easily took over singing the lyrics for them. Towards the end of their set they played songs “Fitzpleasure” and “Left Hand Free” and the illuminating lights filled the space and wowed everyone. (While alt-J had a major crowd loving their set, this was definitely a performance that unfortunately was in a tricky time slot and left a lot of listeners wishing they had seen more of it and didn’t have to rush back to the main stage with hope to claim a clutch spot as close as possible for the night’s headliner.)
Day Two at Panorama ended with the highly-anticipated performance of the Australian band Tame Impala. It was the biggest show they’ve ever played in America, which almost doesn’t seem possible because these are the major festivals that Tame Impala’s music seems absolutely prime for, especially festivals like Panorama because it’s so visually stimulating. It felt like a trippy rock show that clearly nobody ever wanted to end. Songs like “Let it Happen,” “The Moment” and “Elephant” got some of the biggest rises out of everyone — songs that took the crowd outside of themselves and catapulted them into another stratosphere. Tame Impala was blowing everyone’s mind and assailing their senses. Their performance was everything you could imagine and ever hope for when it comes to headlining a major festival. Crowds had seen a lot of intense music that Saturday on Randall’s Island, but this closing act was the perfect culmination to it all. Dance yourself crazy. Give yourself up to all the light and imagery. And try your best to remember every single second of everything that happened that day.
Photo Credit: Marv Watson