And just like that, it was Day Three at Panorama Music Festival. Weather-wise, it was sunny with clear-blue skies and it was really hot. But there couldn’t have been a better way to end the festival on Randall’s Island than with a pristine summer day. Festival-goers were ready. And yes, maybe it was a little bit sad knowing that this amazing festival was ending but the day was just getting started. There was too much music to experience and enjoy before everyone ripped off their wristbands and started swiping through their favorite pics from the weekend, with the light sting of nostalgia already sinking in.
It sort of felt like the vibe of the day when Bishop Briggs went running back and forth on the main stage singing her angsty hit song “River.” And just when you thought she was done, she wasn’t. The song kept going, keeping everyone’s energy as heightened as possible. And across the island that day, that was sort of the hope–that something so great would kind of never end.
Over at the Pavillion the crowd was already getting impatient waiting for Angel Olsen to take the stage. Her band came out first, all in matching blue suits, then finally she made her way to the microphone and began her set with the song “High & Wild.” With her indie influenced, Nashville-soaked folk sound, she brought a softness to the festival that hadn’t really been seen over the last two days. She continued with one of her latest big songs “Shut Up Kiss Me” from her latest album My Woman. It’s a song she sang with force and straight ahead. She apologized for having bubbles in her amp and then reminds the crowd to stay positive and be patient. She wanted to add a little poetry to the festival (and to life) — because, don’t we all need a little more poetry? The crowd seemed almost too energized during her set when they would have been better served to drink in her indie-darkness and sensitive sense of introspect. Every now and again she’d catch eyes with someone in the crowd and would smile at them with her eyes, almost as though she hadn’t seen them in a while and missed them (which the cameras caught perfectly each time). She continued with the song “Sister,” which flooded the stage with lonely romance and a bit of nostalgia, and captivated the audience with the shaky honesty in her voice. She concluded the set with the song “Woman.”
It seemed appropriate for the Sunday sunshine when Andrew McMahon kicked it a little bit old school and sang “I Woke Up in a Car” from his Something Corporate days. While Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness is his latest side project (after Jack’s Mannequin), he’s seen a lot of success with his new piano-drenched pop tunes, but fans still love to hear the old stuff, too. Doesn’t everyone love a good blast from the past? Andrew then brings a little burst of inspiring realness to the crowd. It’s what these festivals are all about, he explains, so leave your problems at the door, have fun, pretend nobody is watching, and find the color in your own life. This is when he broke out a parachute and jumped down into the crowd as the sugary, feel-good song “Synesthesia” begins. Andrew McMahon’s vibe is the summertime. His songs make you feel like you’re in a music video, like everything in life really is going to be all right. He ended the set with “Cecilia and the Satellite” as the light and colorful, feel-good vibes of the smiling crowd in sunglasses continue on.
Inside at The Parlor, the punk-rock band Cloud Nothings were about to start. (The Parlor is an enclosed stage that feels like a nightclub). It was cold and dark inside, but then the mix of orange and purple light began flashing. The band from Cleveland got up on stage in front of a screen that just started playing the ‘90’s flick Highway to Hell. Panorama hadn’t seen so much punk-rock this year, so it was a much-needed interruption — just some fearless, dizzying, hard rock. They started with “Now Hear In” and then continued with the song “Modern Act” from their latest album Life Without Sound, and later “I’m Not Part of Me.” They easily could have played at one of the outdoor stages, but playing inside at The Parlor brought in a different feel, transforming the space into a grungy oasis. A dose of some gritty punk seemed like just the escape that everyone needed (not just that day, but also the whole weekend).
The sun’s relentless when Glass Animals was getting started back at the main stage. This set should have been at night — not just because of the heat, but because their funky vibe would have exploded in the dark. They got the energy up by starting with songs like “Life Itself,” “Black Mambo” and “Season 2 Episode 3” — songs to get the crowd loose and feeling sexy. The music of Glass Animals is prime for an outside festival. It’s fun and saucey and full of all the “vibes” that festival-goers crave — and they’re exciting to watch. The band performed in front of a giant gold pineapple that spins, and lead singer Dave Bayley had more energy than he knows what to do with. Right after the song “Poplar St.” and just as the trippy track “Gooey” begins, he jumps down from the stage to get himself into the crowd. He dipped the mic towards them so the breathy girls and boys with their dazed dancing could sing along. Everyone there was holding up a cell phone, recording. A blowup doll crowd-surfed in the distance. And even though Glass Animals were recently nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize, they didn’t let that stuff get to their heads. This British outfit is all about satisfying a crowd — pineapples and all.
Back at The Pavillion you almost couldn’t tell whether you were still in New York City or somewhere far off in Europe. That’s because of Norwegian DJ Cashmere Cat. And when the song “9 (After Coachella) (feat. MØ & SOPHIE) began, the crowd seriously went nuts. A cloudy haze of dirt filled up inside the tent from everyone dancing. Nobody cared that their eyes burned because Cashmere Cat’s music was intoxicating and mind-numbing. It was a set that would have been better set inside at The Parlor — someplace dark that felt like a nightclub — but that’s what makes performances like this at Panorama so interesting. Sure it was daylight, but why not twist things up and create a little outside dance party? The electronic side of Panorama was killer this year, and Cashmere Cat was a prime part of that equation.
Next up: A Tribe Called Quest. Festival-goers had been talking about it all weekend. Bouncing from stage to stage it was nearly impossible to not overhear a conversation about how excited someone was about this performance. And when they announced halfway through their set that this was the the last time that A Tribe Called Quest would ever play a show in New York City, it made being there a hundred times more special for everyone. The image of the late Phife Dawg was shown on the screen they performed in front of during their most of their set. Fans of all ages were in awe of the legendary act who’s been around since the late-80s, and whether or not they knew the words to sing along with, the crowd was diggin’ it. This show was special. This was a performance that everyone there could look back on one day and say “Holy shit. I was there.” They began their set with “A Space Program,” and continued with songs like “Mobius” and “Dis Generation” before playing songs from their ‘91 album The Low End Theory. This set didn’t need a million lights. To watch Q-Tip, Jarobi White and Ali Shaheed Muhammad perform was enough. They ended their set with “We the People” before they got everyone in the crowd to begin chanting “Phife Dawg” with their hands held high in the air. And just like that, it was the end of an era for A Tribe Called Quest in New York City. Their show was everything you’d imagine when it comes to one of the best old-school hip-hop groups ever known.
And last but certainly not least, Panorama Music Festival 2017 came to a close with a headlining performance by Nine Inch Nails. Trent Reznor announced later that he had major anxiety about the performance.. This was the headliner that everyone had been waiting for, as NIN played for the next 90 minutes — a dark and brooding performance that left everyone stunned with extreme sensory overload. Trent Reznor sang emotionally on tracks like “Something I Can Never Have Still” and “I Can’t Give Everything Away” (a reworked David Bowie cover that they sang to honor their great friend). But the overall vibe of the show was piercingly hard with in-your-face explosiveness, especially with songs like “March of the Pigs,” “The Wretched” and “Reptile.” The visuals and lighting perfectly supported their mind-altering set — with a somewhat demonic feel, all that smoke, an occasional burst of sour green light, and closeups of their instruments covered in long shreds of pulled cassette tape. A mini mosh pit started. The crowd watched, ready for anything to happen. But when it comes to hard-ass alternative bands like Nine Inch Nails (especially when headlining a festival like Panorama), you have to be prepared for anything to happen. The band performed “Head Like a Hole” and then Trent Reznor threw his guitar. The show was over. But was it, really? No. The crowd prepared themselves for what might come next in the hovering darkness of the main stage, and then Nine Inch Nails returned for a much-anticipated encore. They closed the show with the song “Hurt.”
And just like that, Panorama 2017 was over. What a weekend it had been, full of amazing music, epic visuals, and everlasting moments. The only bad part about it was that it was over. And now a really long countdown begins until Panorama 2018. See ya’ll next year.
Photo Credit: Raymond Flotat