Music

Frank Ocean Dazzles, Tyler The Creator Explodes, And Pinegrove Enlightens At Panorama 2017

With Goldenvoice behind it, when Panorama Festival was announced for its inaugural installment in early 2016, it instantly became known as the “New York Coachella.” Even in its first year, the noticeable attention to detail from the festival’s organizers gave it a much different feel than Governors Ball, which takes place in the same exact location in Randalls Island Park only a few weeks earlier. This year, a sophomore slump was avoided as Panorama delivered a diverse lineup featuring some of the biggest names in music like Frank Ocean and Tyler The Creator, as well as some prominent indie up-and-comers like Pinegrove and Mitski.

There is a lot to do at Panorama, from sponsored tents to different games strewn throughout the park, but it all still feels very manageable. Other than some overlapping sound interference from the bass-thumping indoor Parlor stage to the main Panorama stage (located only a few hundred yards away from one another), festival-goers are not really faced with any struggles that can be chalked up to poor organization. With two of the three days featuring substantial cloud coverage that kept the temperature in the low 80s, many of the Sephora and AmEx sponsored air-conditioned booths were a very nice feature, but (luckily) not imperative.

Oh, and also the music part of the festival was pretty damn good as well…

Tyler The Creator

Only a week after the release of his (truly very good) fourth studio album Flower Boy, former Odd Future leader Tyler the Creator leapt out on the shed-covered Pavilion stage promptly at his start time and launched right into “Where This Flower Blooms,” instantly getting the insanely packed crowd off their feet with his manic delivery and spastic dancing. Performing in front of a DJ booth disguised as a sunflower patch with bees hanging overhead, the stage was incredibly colorful and there was a ton to look at. Covered head-to-toe in his signature GOLF apparel, Tyler was a little self-conscious about the way the crowd was going to receive his new music. “That was nerve-wracking because that was my first time doing that song,” he announced as the crowd roared their approval.

Many already knew the lyrics to the Flower Boy tracks, songs like “911” and “Who Dat Boy?” featuring crowd participation that sometimes grew louder than Tyler himself. Though the set was comprised mostly of cuts from the new album, there were some classic crowd-pleasers thrown in, as well, including “Yonkers,” the song that got Tyler on the map as a solo artist, and “Tamale,” a ridiculously weird and fun song from 2013’s Wolf. Once the set ended, someone pointed out that Tyler had performed nearly four tracks that featured Frank Ocean, though Ocean — who was set to perform on the Panorama stage later that night — sadly never made an appearance.

Pinegrove

“This is definitely the biggest stage we’ve ever played on,” Pinegrove’s Evan Stephens Hall said with a smile as the six-piece band (not including Lincoln the stuffed sloth) took the main Panorama stage in front of an ever-growing sea of people. Only a little over a year after the release of 2016’s Cardinal, Pinegrove has launched from the basement circuit to the major festival circuit, continuing to grow their fanbase with every show and proving why they are one of the most promising young bands in rock music, or “one of the greatest bands in the world right now,” according Stereogum.

With a set comprised of Cardinal cuts and tracks from the band’s earlier days, Pinegrove made fans out of those unfamiliar and did nothing but further solidify the already incredibly powerful feelings of association for those who have already pledged their allegiance to the band’s cult. They truly are a unique band, and one that has staying power like few others. With production well underway on their next album, which is slated for an early 2018 there is no telling what might come next for Pinegrove. But what we do know is that it’s going to be nothing but good.

Mitski

At the end of 2016, our very own Steven Hyden placed Mitski’s Puberty 2 at No. 2 (fitting!) on his list of the best albums of the year. “The year’s best ‘I’m miserable’ emo album was made by a 26-year-old Japanese-American woman adept at packing jagged emotion inside noisy, discordant, oddly hooky, and ultimately stunning packages,” he wrote. The incredible thing about Mitski’s music is that all of this translates perfectly to the stage. Her calm, stoic delivery becomes at the same time entrancing and emotional, and after taking your eyes off the stage to look around and take it all in, to let the words wash over you, is the only way to pause until you really get it.

All of this was especially apparent during her midday set at the Pavilion stage where, backed by a masterful guitarist and drummer, she sang with undeniable emotion, all the while surveying the crowd that stood in front of her. For the last two songs, her band left the stage, leaving Mitski alone to perform the frenetic Puberty 2 track “My Body Is Made of Crushed Little Stars” and a noisy rendition of the Bury Me At Makeout Creek closer “Last Words Of A Shooting Star,” the latter of which saw her screaming into the pickups of her heavily distorted guitar as she held it above her head, letting all the emotions flow out of her. Finally, after her screams faded into the ether of the shed, she opened her eyes and looked back to the crowd with a smile and a wave before disappearing backstage. Somewhat stunned, everyone began to shuffle out of the Pavilion.

Vince Staples

Vince Staples is a captivating performer. Prancing around alone on the massive Panorama stage with a comb in his hair and a New York-specific crewneck sweatshirt from Kanye’s Pablo pop-up store, Staples delivered the goods from the genre-defying Big Fish Theory as well as his collaborative track with Gorillaz that appeared on Humanz earlier this year, all with the stern intensity of the most devilish Bond villain.

In between verses and songs, he would stare out into the crowd with what seemed like anger in his eyes, before diving back into the music and flailing his arms as if he was in Weekend At Bernie’s (or that really weird Rick And Morty bit with the cats). The bass thumped from the PA for the entirety of Staples’ hourlong time, with the near-constant calls for movement among the crowd, keeping the intensity levels extremely high throughout.

Frank Ocean

Before we start, one quick thing: words are not going to do this set justice. The words and sounds were at times too much to handle, all coming together to craft what very well may have been one of the most serenely beautiful musical experiences I’ve ever experienced, something that has become very unexpected in a festival setting.

Even before Frank walked onstage, spotting Spike Jonze setting up camera rigs and briefing his crew around the smaller B-stage near the center of the crowd created an air of excitement that buzzed throughout the crowd. It should also be noted that speaker racks were set up intermittently throughout the crowd, forming an inward-facing circle around the space where Ocean would soon be standing, and creating a surround sound system that enveloped anyone lucky enough to be inside its perimeter.

Soon, the lights went down and the chaotic opening swells of Blonde‘s “Pretty Sweet” began to fill the space, as smoke billowed out of machines spread across the crowd. As the beat dropped, lights began to flash through the smoke and the crowd simultaneously began to roar. The cover was pulled off the B-stage, revealing a tall tape deck and a few chairs. Finally, the panoramic (hehe) screens finally came to life, showing a single silhouetted figure. The figure entered into the light, and Ocean emerged from backstage and walked toward the catwalk that lead to the B-stage, the camera trailing behind him the entire way. When he arrived at the small stage, he reached over to the side of the tape deck, where he found a switch. As he flipped it, the overhead lights also switched on.

It was at this point that Jonze’s role in the production became clear, and how much power his direction of the live visuals was going to have. Rather than your standard three-angle festival video direction, Jonze switched between analogue home video cameras and legit, Hollywood-grade film camera, projecting an HD image onto the massive screen that somehow made the space feel more like a bedroom than a massive field with hundreds of thousands watching on. The shots were close-up, intimate, and absolutely astounding. They showed the small pieces of graffiti on the stage and projected the set’s most insular moments when Ocean played a few tracks while kneeling over a keyboard placed on the floor. As Stereogum reported, Jonze even asked fans to help him stage a few specific moments to capture during the set, including asking a couple to kiss during Blonde‘s “Close To You.” For everyone’s sake, I hope that the Jonze-directed video sees the light of day soon. Here’a a few clips:

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Made me lose my self control #panoramanyc #frankocean

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Ocean performed a few songs alone on the small stage, sporting a shirt that read “why be sexist, racist, homophobic, or transphobic when you could just be quiet?” before his band — which somewhat astoundingly includes surprise Blonde and Endless collaborator (Sandy) Alex G — joined him on the stage, only two guitars and a bass. The quintet then proceeded to rip through tracks from Ocean’s latest groundbreaking pair of records, as well as some of his earlier tracks like “Thinkin’ Bout You” and a Buddy Ross and Jackson 5 cover, with Justin Timberlake and Aziz Ansari watching in awe from the lighting area.

The set concluded with a rousing rendition of “Nikes,” which the band had to start over because Ocean began singing in the wrong key, revealing that that even when performing in the headlining slot at a massive festival, not everything has to be perfect. It felt like watching a band work it all out, in a bedroom or in a basement. “The concept behind this is, we’re still learning,” Ocean said at one point, with a laugh. When it comes to Panorama, however, it feels like festival has studied the lessons of the past to create a fantastic live event with real staying power.

Frank Ocean setlist:
1. “Solo”
2. “Chanel”
3. “Lens”
4. “Biking (Solo)”
5. “Comme des Garçons”
6. “Hublots”
7. “Runnin Around” (Buddy Ross cover)
8. “Good Guy”
9. “Self Control”
10. “Higgs”
11. “Close To You”
12. “Never Can Say Goodbye” (Jackson 5 coveR)
13. “Ivy”
14. “Thinkin’ Bout You”
15. “Nights”
16. “Pink + White”
17. “Futura Free”
18. “Nikes”

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