Every year since 2013, Red Bull has hosted a month-long music festival in New York City, one that honors hidden corners of the city’s rich musical heritage, and shines a spotlight on acts who might otherwise be left out of the conversation.
For instance, this year’s iteration included an emphasis on the fragile, fine-boned electronic compositions of Fever Ray, aka the solo moniker of Karin Dreijer of Swedish electronic duo The Knife, and 0PN, aka Oneohtrix Point Never, aka Daniel Lopatin, a New York-based electronic producer who has proven endlessly inventive, diving into nostalgia, irony, and the hyper-real in his own work. While neither of these two artists are headlining the massive, global iterations of EDM festivals that have risen to power over the last decade, both are lauded as primal, central forces in the forward motion of the electronic music movement.
The same could be said for last year’s installment by the Red Bull Music Academy, presenting Solange at the Guggenheim in an almost universally-praised piece that followed up her paradigm-shifting album, A Seat At The Table. Surely, that record did well enough to put her on the map as a cultural force who is as insightful, incisive, and elegant as her superstar sister, and she achieved a wealth of festival bookings, late night show performances, and overall increased relevance in response, but installing her in the Guggenheim was a physical manifestation of the album’s cultural significance, the kind of honor that artists of her caliber — particularly when they are people of color, queer/nonbinary, or women — so rarely receive.
That singularity was also on display earlier this weekend during the filming of the Red Bull Radio initiative, Peak Time, where Vivian Host spoke with reclusive electronic music figures like Berlin’s Errorsmith, New York’s own DJ Volvox of the collective Discwoman, and Detroit’s DJ Stingray. In many ways, bookings by the festival specifically seek out these artists and give them a platform.
Which is to say that Red Bull Music Festival New York has achieved the kind of significance that many similar events vie to attain; it has become a significant affair. Since the festival is over a month long, it’s impossible for journalists who don’t live in the city — or hell, even for those who do — to attend every event the company puts forth. But, like in years past, they do their best to get writers into New York to experience the most notable events, like this year’s lecture with Robyn.