Summer was supposed to end two weeks ago around Labor Day Weekend, but New York City did not get the memo. Over three days of 80-degree weather and sunshine, some of music’s biggest names came together at Meadows Festival In Queens, New York for the final hurrah of the summer before the official goodbye on September 22nd. Debuting last year, the festival showed very little growing pains and made headlines with Kanye West walking off stage before the end of his set in the wake of Kim Kardashian's famous Paris robbery. 2017 showed a jump to what might make it the elite New York City festival against some stuff competition from the likes of Governors Ball, Panorama and other more niche, genre festivals.
What made Meadows take that jump? One thing that jumps out immediately is the amount of special guests. LL Cool J had three legendary guests. Future brought out three stars. Jay-Z had a guest. Tory Lanez had a big name guest. Run The Jewels had two guests. The Gorillaz had 50 minutes of guests including Pusha T, Mos Def, De La Soul, D.R.A.M. and Peven Everett. Big Wild had a singer It was hard to keep up with all of the special appearances. This all added to an already great lineup and atmosphere at Citi Field.
But does that make Meadows the “it festival?” Governors Ball had a great lineup. (It is important to note that Meadows & Governors Ball are put on by the same promoters, Founders Entertainment, a subsidiary of Live Nation). Panorama had a great lineup as well. If you play one of these festivals, your radius clause will preclude you from doing one of the others. So by default the festivals will have different lineups. That is a shitty part of the system actually working and forcing bookers to get creative.
What will make Meadows stand out? Does it have an identity so far? It is four stages in a baseball stadium parking lot if we are being honest. But isn’t the ruggedness part of the New York spirit? Being able to sit on grass is great and Randall’s Island is a great place for that, but New York isn’t called the concrete jungle for nothing. One of New York’s best-known features is its subway system. Being able to step off of the 7 and two minutes later be waling through the gates is another quintessential New York trait.
Meadows has embraced the graffiti culture of city with large metal containers with the logo splashed across it, but there could be more done with it. Beyond that, there wasn’t much else in terms of production owed to the city. That could be improved for next year, but that costs money and could mean bookings are worse.
Despite that, the festival did do its best to rep its hometown hard with the lineup. JAY-Z was one of the main headliners, who stands among the greats of New York rappers. Run El-P brought his mom to the show as a Brooklynite. De La Soul is from Long Island. Nas reps Queensbridge hard in his work and made a reference to being in his city once again. Action Bronson talked about being able to walk to the crib from the stage and joked about having to go pick up some Colombian food on 80th street. After smoking a large blunt on stage, he may have needed that food. LL Cool J is a Queens native at heart, even if he has gone Hollywood, and brought out New York legends, A Tribe Called Quest, DMC AND the Furious 5 because this is Queens. Because this is New York. Because he doesn’t do many of these festivals and wanted to show that LL still has it and can still rock a mic like he rocks terrorists on NCIS, Lip Sync Battle and hosting gigs.
Given its place in the calendar and being in New York is makes sense these artists wanted to showcase their star power one last time in a big market at a major festival in the US’s biggest music market. It being live streamed, the event would be huge for social media numbers as well.
There will be more festivals in the Southern Hemisphere in the winter and before you know it, Ultra and Coachella will usher in another season. But with the leaves turning and sweater weather on its way, this was potentially the last chance for these major acts to rock a festival in a major market.
But does all of this make Meadows the new king of festivals in New York City? It is as old as Panorama, so it doesn’t have a legacy to compete with there. Governors Ball is the living elder statesman of large multi-genre festivals in the city. However, given its place in the calendar, the amount of guests this year, the uniqueness of the lineup from top to bottom and its strong allegiance to New York just might put it there.