They say the best-laid plans often go awry. Panorama saw the might of a New York City summer, which shows no mercy for the investment made in three-day festivals. Just ask Electric Zoo or Governors Ball, which has had to cancel days in the past due to weather. The festival had to shut down Friday a little before 5pm due to inclement weather as a night of lightning and thunderstorms descended on the city. It was tough to convince various legions of superfans that they had to leave, but eventually they were coerced into leaving the grounds and going home.
That wasn’t the end of the problems for Panorama. Lil Wayne canceled during his set due to weather issues that meant he couldn’t get to the festival on time. He had Cardi B’s timeslot, who canceled months ago. If Cardi can’t play in New York, I guess nobody can. Greta Van Fleet had to pull out Sunday morning because the drummer had hurt his finger so much he couldn’t pick up a drumstick. Even with these unfortunate circumstances, the festival still went on.
With one day canceled, this gave us the opportunity to evaluate the festival from a new perspective and some fresher legs. The lineup would have been more male-dominated by men with a full Friday, but capped by Sabrina Claudio on the day, Saturday and the rest of the weekend showed that women can carry a major, multi-genre festival.
Saturday was the prime example for women leading the way. The day was filled with talented female musicians like Jay Som, Japanese Breakfast, Sigrid, St. Vincent, SZA and Avalon Emerson. Both PVRIS and Lo Moon have female members, with PVRIS lead singer being a woman. Friday would have had Dua Lipa, Jhené Aoki, The Black Madonna & Yaeji, among others, while Sunday had The xx, Helena Hauff, Jlin, Lauren Halo & Nora En Pure.
Sigrid put on an energetic performance with her fun and bubbly brand of pop music, bouncing around the stage on a hot summer afternoon. Japanese Breakfast had the perfect recipe for the late afternoon with her soothing indie rock. St. Vincent was an all-star on stage, shredding solos on her guitar, running through records on Masseduction. The color red is prominent in her stage production as her fellow bandmates played in tan body suits. She capped off the performance with a fitting ode to the city she was performing in and resides with the song “New York.” She even sand a few alternate lines that never made the record before launching into the ballad to this hot, tall, at times soul-crushing, but incredible city.
It was clear who a large portion of the festival was there to see once SZA came on stage. She appeared to a screaming audience with their phones recording the moment. She mixed witty commentary with tracks from CNTRL, fitting her set into the time constraints – barely. Security guards packed in to get photos, videos and the opportunity to sing along with SZA.
As the night set on the festival Avalon Emerson took over the mini-club within the festival The Point (more on that in a little bit), for some stomping techno and house music that was a necessary counterpoint to the other artists on the bill.
Janet Jackson then put on a showstoppng performance to close out the festival. Equipped with a full band, a squad of elite dancers and a full arsenal of massive records, she owned the stage, the crowd and the moment, running through her catalog of hits for an eager audience. She would only stop dancing for a few moments in between songs and I got exhausted watching her put on that performance. Next to everyone else there who are still honing their craft or probably too shy for big outbursts on stage, Janet Jackson’s decades of performing on the biggest stages showed.
On Sunday, David Byrne showed the world he has so much left to give with his inspired performance where his band of about nine used hand-held instruments that ranged from drums to guitars and various wind instruments. Some sang and everyone danced in grey suits as he switched from his own tracks to iconic Talking Heads records.
The festival did very well to represent electronic music. Odesza brought the cross-genre main stage flare with their drum line, the biggest production of all and booming festival beats. Mount Kimbie slowly built their set with some softer, vocal records that fit with the larger stage they were on and then took things to the rave that fit into The Point as they finished the set.
The Point was where EDM was set aside and dance music found its home. It was a small club within the festival. It was nestled near the entrance, enclosed within walls (with openings in the middle of each side), with an elevated dancefloor in the middle and a wall of speakers in each corner. The DJ was set up inside one of the walls, away from the action. Over the two full days of action, The Point had sets from Floating Points, Moodymann, Bicep (Live) and Helena Hauff. Though it was hard to leave Jackson, seeing Bicep play records from their standout debut album was enthralling as the crowd gyrated and moved to every beat in the dark, glowing night.
Moodymann acted as both a DJ and bartender, pouring out shots for the crowd, who he dubbed “bad motherfuckers” as he played a mix of disco, house, soul and even a little drum and bass. The leading ladies continued their trend in The Point with Avalon Emerson on Saturday and then Sunday with Jlin, Laurel Halo and Helena Hauff, who spared nobody with a relentless and powerful techno set just in time for her new album out now.
It was fitting that the heavily branded HP activation The Lab was next to The Point with its trippy visuals, including the planetarium-like space Portal To Flatland that was modern, 3D visual interpretation of the book Flatland with music from St. Vincent.
Not everything was perfect about the festival. Beyond the weather and the cancelations, the grounds were set up in some confusing and head-scratching ways. It was a good thing the festival didn’t appear to be sold out or even that close, because a strange wooden barrier separated two sides of the grass leading to the main stage (though there were openings every couple hundred feet) that made it hard to navigate that area. Getting from The Point to the main stage required you walk to the back of the grounds through one pathway, which could have been very slow if there were larger crowds.
Merch tents and food trucks seemed to cramp in on the actual lawn where you walked, sat and listened to music. This could have been a calculation dealing with soft ground from a week of heavy rain, but it seemed to condense the grounds unnecessarily. The festival didn’t seem that prepared for the copious amounts of mud with potential solutions like hay or pieces of wood laid down on high traffic areas. It was good the weather was hot and sunny Saturday and Sunday to soak up some of the water, but it still managed to get worse each day. The branding was pretty overwhelming all over the grounds, but that is the new state of affairs at major festivals.