The Meadows Music Festival returned to New York for its second outing at Citi Field. With last year’s event filled with a stacked lineup plus a moment that made headlines around the country (Kanye leaving in the middle of his performance for an emergency), this year’s lineup had to feature names that would stop festival-goers in their tracks. Luckily for attendees, the schedule this year includes huge acts such as Jay-Z and Gorillaz.
The venue is set up exactly the same as last year, with four stages situated in a loop facing outward. If one were to take a lap around the festival, a visit to each stage could be done in less than ten minutes. This makes it extremely ideal for catching bits and pieces of conflicting performances.
On the Shea stage pop duo Tegan and Sara entertained their fans with a mix of humor and their signature synth-pop dance beats. Tegan told the audience to make a note of the jumpsuit she was wearing as the marker of identification from her twin sister Sara. The duo opened with “Drove Me Wild” as the audience groove along to the beats. Most of their songs got the listeners moving. They did change things up with an acoustic version of “Call it off.” They ended their performance with “Closer,” a song off their Heartthrob album.
The festival this year features a strong sponsorship from American Eagle, with the renaming of the Linden Blvd stage to the American Eagle stage. Despite being on a stage named after a seemingly wholesome brand, Joey BadA$$ still got the crowd going crazy. Catching the last bit of his act after Tegan and Sara, the Brooklyn rapper ended with “Devastated.” The crowd sung along and some even began to throw water in the air, emulating a scene from the music video.
The festival always draws in an eclectic mix of people. As it was Friday, there were people who arrived directly after their 9-5 job. There were men wearing suits, collar shirts, slacks, and more. On the other hand there were also teenagers having one of the best experiences of their lives as if this were a summer festival dressed down in tank tops, shorts, and revealing clothing.
Over on the main stage, Run The Jewels opened with a cover of “We Are The Champions” by Queen. Their stage featured a prop that was a large zombie hand formed in the shape of an imaginary gun hung up over the main screen. Things got extremely entertaining when Gangster Boo came on stage to join them on “Love Again (Akinyele Back).” She had the crowd chanting “Pussy Power” which made everybody laugh including the rap duo. They then went on to speak a bit more to the crowd about the festival itself. They advocated a safe festival by telling males that meeting a girl at a festival is fun but no relationship ever starts by groping a female.
A random shoe managed to make its way onto the stage somehow and they stopped the music to talk about it. They gave props to the person running around without a shoe and said whoever can claim it will get a signed of Nikes from the rap duo after the shoe. EI-P even joked about wearing it for the next song. They resumed their performance and brought out Zack de la Rocha out to perform “Close Your Eyes.” The guest performances kept going with an appearance by Joi to close out their set with “Down.”
After Run The Jewels ended, the sun also began to set. This was perfect for Blood Orange, the british singer also know as Dev Hynes. A singing trio of women came onstage to get the crowd into the mood. While all other performances of the day so far got people to dance and jump, Blood Orange leaned more into the art aspect of music. It felt like watching a movie composition come to life. Blood Orange performed songs “Love Supreme” and “Bad Girls” both of which are slower songs that allow listeners to appreciate the instruments and smooth vocals. For a brief moment, Blood Orange performed a few dance moves that emulated Michael Jackson’s signature foot sweep move. After that he brought out a guitar and started impressively riffing on it.
The headlining act of the night was Jay-Z. As he’s one of music’s biggest names, this was apparent as both Blood Orange’s and Milky Chance’s crowds were not as packed as they both could’ve been. Many left those sets early to get a good spot over on the Meadows Stage for Jay-Z. Despite the entire festival being at the main stage, it never felt too overwhelming and everyone had a very good vantage point to see Jay-Z’s return to New York.
He opened with “Run This Town” to such explosiveness it surprised but delighted many fans. Prior to his set opening, there was no music playing as all the other stage sets had ended. As it’s such an iconic song, the crowd knew all the lyrics to the chorus of the song. After he began to talk about current events and mentioned that Love trumps hate.
He switched up the mood and brought out Damien Marley to perform their song “Bam.” With a reggae state of mind, Jay-Z let Damien perform “Welcome to Jam Rock,” a reggae classic that many skanked along to. When Damien left the stage, Jay-Z got back into it by performing “Marcy Me.”
Seeing as the festival is in New York, there was no doubt that when he performed “Empire State of Mind” that it would be one of the highlights of the night. When the music for it began, everybody was ready to belt out Alicia Key’s popular chorus. When it dropped, the entire sea of people rocked back and forth while singing their unofficial state anthem.
Jay-Z performed many of his other classic hits such as “Big Pimpin” and “99 Problems.”
He dedicated his next song “Numb/Encore” to late Chester Bennington of Linkin Park who provided the vocals on the collaboration. Jay-Z stated that Chester was a “great man.” The emotion hit the crowd as they sung along in honor of Chester. Keeping up with the emotional mood set by “Numb/Encore,” Jay-Z ended his set with “Forever Young.”
Day one of the Meadows saw the return of Jay-Z to New York that enticed fans to attend. Day two will see the return of Gorillaz to New York, as the band has not done a North American in seven years. With two days of historic returns, the festival has not disappointed it’s attendees yet.
Photo Credit: Sharon Alagna.