I’ve never been one to take pictures or videos or snapchats at concerts. Maybe I’ll take one at the beginning when the band takes the stage, before they start playing anything. Or maybe I’ll take one at the end, when they’ve finished playing, but are sticking around teasing the crowd to play an encore, which you know they’re going to do because they didn’t play that song that everybody in the crowd can sing along with. But music festivals are different. They are marathons. You’re there outside, in a sharing environment. It’s almost like they’re geared towards taking pictures. Whether your the person who is there to snap a pic of you and your friends looking cool and chic in front of the corporate sponsored art installation, or your the type of person who likes to take a videos of the vast array of bands your seeing to piss off your friends and make them go “dammit, they’re seeing all those bands I like and want to see and they’re doing it one day,” sharing is ingrained into the festivals DNA. And why not? You’re already there taking part in this communal event seeing all different bands, making festival friends who you see at show after show, and think are pretty cool until they start aggressively asking you if you have drugs, and you kind of start to back away and hope that when you go to see Kurt Vile, they’re off to see whoever else is playing on the other stages.
This past Sunday, I attended the final day of the inaugural Panorama Festival in NYC with our fellow Fawkes Beau Santomero. We had a great time, made friends, made memories, and took some pictures along the way. Here are some of them:
I’m aware that these are the same picture with different captions. But both the captions were in fact true. Yes we were going to Panorama. And, even more yes it was 5 AM. Our trip started at 5 AM Sunday morning on a Megabus in Union Station. I had worked Saturday night, and my shift ended at four in the morning, so we said “fuck it let’s take a 5 AM bus.” Armed with two 24 oz. Budweiser cans, which we drank before leaving the station, we passed out immediately and woke up on I-95 in Newark, NJ with the New York City skyline in view.
Yeah see. We woke up in Newark. Also that bucket hat saved my life on the bus. Great way to block out the sun while trying to catch some zzz’s. Honestly, bucket hats are great investments, and while I stole this one from Beau, I highly suggest getting one. A must have for the wardrobe. Utilitarian, comfortable and above all stylish. Bucket hats everybody.
Megabus let us off on Seventh Street in Manhattan at around 9:45 AM in front of the Fashion Institute of Technology. Across the street was a Starbucks, and we got some coffee. Starbucks is this set of small coffee shops in New York with a cozy feeling and coffee brewed by people called “Baristas,” so you know that means the coffee is better.
Panorama didn’t open its gates until 11, so we had some time to kill. We started walking uptown and across to the East side and moderate pace. We cut through Bryant Park, saw Grand Central Station from a distance, and talked about Rick and Morty. It was fun you should have been there. Being that we were quite famished, we found a greasy spoon in sixties. It was tiny and sold breakfast sandwiches for under five bucks. It also had a bathroom and water. We sat at the bar and felt very Seinfeld-esque, even though they only ever sit in a booth on Seinfeld.
Shouts out to Neil!
After a quick ride on the four train up to 125th Street(literally the last stop in Manhattan), we made it to Panorama. The security was actually pretty tight. I had a pen in my pocket, and when the security guard patted me down, he gave me some super accusative look, like I was smuggling in a prison shank. So I tried to smooth things over with a jovial “Oh man its only a pen,” as I pulled it out of my pocket and fake laughed to add some lightness to the situation. I handed it to him, and he threw it out. I put it in his hands and he threw it over his shoulder without even looking into the garbage bag behind him, without saying anything. No explanation, just my pen in the trash. And to make matters worse, it was a Pilot G2 which is the best pen in the market. They’re also like $4.50 for two. Needless to say, I was upset.
Beau carried a bag with him and had to get it checked, which should probably be unsurprising based, you know, general security, as well as the fact that the man threw out my Pilot G2 pen without a goddam explanation. I waited for him and got yelled at by the security and ticket people. They shouted at me and told me to “wait for my friend on the other side” and herded me through, checking my ticket like I was an undernourished chicken at the Purdue chicken factory. And all of this after they through away my Pilot G2 pen.
Getting my ticket checked was honestly way harder than it needed to be. The ticket a wristband that had a barcode that got scanned by something that looked like Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Nobody explained this to me, so after standing like a goon for about seven seconds waiting for a human being to come and check my wristband, I got yelled at again. Then I tried to scan the wristband, because they were saying “Scan the Wristband! Scan the Wristband!” which I tried and failed at because no one mentioned that the wristband had a barcode which was the part I needed to scan, so then they all started looking at me like I was some jerk trying to sneak into the festival with a phony wristband, and I had to ask them how this whole ordeal was supposed to work, as if I was Ned Ludd waking up in the year 2004 and getting handed a RAZR phone. Eventually I figured it out, and then got yelled at for waiting for Beau again because apparently once you’re in the festival you can’t stand too close to the edge of the festival. Also, the rudeness of the employees was even more surprising when you consider the fact that I was wearing a bucket hat. Bucket hats everybody.
There was one staff member that was wonderful though. He was the guy checking ids for drinking. As he put on my wristband, he told me to rotate my wrist, and being that I was feeling quite indignant after my treatment and my Pilot G2 pen being thrown out, I asked why in an agitated manner. “Because I don’t want your arm hair to get all caught in this sticky stuff,” he said in a caring and loving manner. Seriously, he was the best. After that we made it into the festival and began to prowl the grounds.
Also, I swear to God people came. I don’t want anyone to look at that picture and say wow, did no one show up. They did. This part is like when you throw a party in college and you spread the word saying it starts at ten, and then ten rolls around and its you, your roommates, and a group of Freshman guys who genuinely showed up at ten, and are looking uneasy as they stand around the keg and you play the Divinyls because at that point who cares.
We grabbed some beers and then headed to the main stage to catch White Lung, a Vancouver punk band. White Lung is one of those bands that I should listen to way more than I do. Since 2010, they have produced some of the best hardcore albums of any bands, but that being said I only really know their singles. I’ve never dove fully into their discography, despite them having a lot of things I love in a band. I should have because they played an absolutely ferocious set. Lead singer, Mish Way commands the stage, swaggering around, the rest of the band stoically playing at a breakneck pace. They owned the main stage and made it clear that they deserved to be there just as much as any other band. Honestly just go see them, any chance you get. Paradise is a great album. “Below” is one of the best songs this year. The way they commanded the biggest stage at the festival can only be a good sign of how they’d be in a more intimate setting.
The day was hot. It was easily 200 degrees Farenheit. I have no doubt about that. But, Beau and I were able to find a nice shaded area called “The Grove.” It was 21+ and had beer tents and food options. We relaxed here after White Lung in preparation for the Front Bottoms 3:30 set.
*I did have footage of the Bathrooms at Panorama which were glorious. They were in trailers and air conditioned. There was this lovely wood paneling that made you feel at home. Above all they were impeccably clean. Hopefully Beau has some sort of proof of this.*
Beau: You have to see a Front Bottoms show. They’re awesome. Everybody there is a Front Bottoms fan, and they all know the words. It’s an incredible experience.
Beau’s assessment of a Front Bottoms show is one hundred percent correct. The band started off by playing West Virginia off their 2015 album Cough It Out, and from the outset the crowd went nuts. I’ve always thought that the Front Bottoms were best to listen to a little drunk with all of your friends while you shouted out the words. A Front Bottoms show magnifies this experience. Brian Sella looked genuinely thrilled to be there. He was on the main stage in the middle of the day at a huge music festival, and everybody he was playing for knew every word to every song and shouted along. Besides LCD Soundystem, who headlined that night, I’m not sure there was a single band with such a rabid and excited audience. On the hottest day of the year, we sweat through our clothes moshing with $9 Budweiser bottles in pure rapture. Everyone became friends. We sang with strangers, and when they capped off their set with “Twin Sized Mattress,” we sang arm in arm with people who were strangers an hour ago.
See look at this. I took this in the middle of them playing “Au Revoir (Adios).” Although the video gets shaky towards the end(sorry guys I was losing my mind), I think this a pretty good example of what it was like. Also you should be pretty happy, I’m not sharing them playing “12 Feet Deep,” because in that all you can hear is the tone deaf singing of some guy who may or may not be me.
When the set was over, we grabbed some Burgers and #craftbeers and planned on going to see Kurt Vile and the Violaters play on the main stage. But something happened that changed the trajectory of our entire experience. That something was Despacio.
Despacio is a sound system that James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem has been collaborating on for a few years now. It debuted at Coachella, and at Panorama, they set it up in an air conditioned tent. Not knowing what it was, we decided to give it a shot and stop in and check it out on our way to Kurt Vile.
Lord. It was incredible. The speakers, which to be honest are probably and audiophiles wet dream, blared house and bass tracks. There was no DJ in sight to watch and nod your to in worship. People were just dancing. I guess it should be prefaced that Beau and I don’t like what is called EDM music. Because popular electronic music has kind of ruined house and dance music and bastardized it into something else, a lot of times we forget how fucking awesome dance music is. There were no sugary beat drops, no kids with glo sticks, no idiotic DJ tossing cakes into the crowd. We got pretty hooked on Despacio to be honest.
It was awesome and addicting, and it also made us late to Kurt Vile. In hindsight, that wasn’t the end of the world. To be honest, I think that Kurt Vile has been putting out great rock music, but despite that I was slightly underwhelmed by the set. I’m not trying to say it was bad. It was actually pretty excellent. He’s an incredible musician, and him playing “Pretty Pimpin'” was incredible. The show was just a bit too mellow. After the intensity of White Lung and the Front Bottom, and the pure joy of Despacio, the key change was a bit jarring. Again, it was still an excellent performance, and probably a much needed rest in the middle of the afternoon. It just wasn’t a highlight, I guess.
Also to be honest, we were a little drunk and that point. It was a hot day and we were sitting down and got a little tired. It happens. So we ended up going back to Despacio.
The next set we attended was Run the Jewels. They were the only rap set we attended. Talk about intensity. That’s Killer Mike. He’s one half of Run the Jewels, and he’s an incredible performer. I decided early on in the set that I needed a picture of him on the screen. It makes him seem larger than life which he is.
“We’re here to burn this motherfucker to the ground,” Killer Mike told the crowd when they got on stage. They did. Immediately after this, they opened with “Run the Jewels,” and everyone went nuts. What’s pretty awesome about Run the Jewels is that despite how intense and aggressive their music is, there’s this distinct feeling that this is a project of love. The group was started by two close friends who had already collaborated and just wanted to make more music together. Towards the middle of the set, Killer Mike and El-P brought out their friends and family from backstage. There were kids on stage, and the set took on the feeling of a family reunion. Mind you this was less than ten minutes after “Close Your Eyes(And Count to Fuck).” They seriously burnt the motherfucker to the ground.
Then we went back to the craft beer tent, got a little charge action for the phone, and headed back to the grove. We got Thai Chili chicken. It was great. At this point, we were just trying to kill some time before LCD Soundsytem went on at 9:10. We kind of roamed with our only anchor being Despacio. We decided checked out The Lab which was some tent that was supposed to be an art installation. There had been a huge line extending from it all day, so we decided to see what the fuss was all about. It was advertised as an art tent, but it was actually a gigantic ad for HP.
We wanted to get close to the stage for LCD Soundsystem, so we ended up hanging out on the outskirts of the crowd for Sia. She turned out to be fascinating. While she stood off to the side shrouded in darkness, her dancers moved in expertly coreographed motion. At first I thought that it was actually just her music videos being shown on the big screens, until I realized that it was occurring in sync with the movement on stage. Paired with her music, it was utterly surreal.
Also, Beau’s childhood friend Paul Dano made an appearance on stage, even though he wasn’t able to give Beau a ride home after the show.
We jump to the reason that everyone was there. I mean that. The entire day was leading up to LCD Soundsystem’s performance, and as the crowd built around us that excitement kept increased. I mean come one, here they were gloriously returning to their city.
I’ll admit, as the set grew closer I started to get nervous. I bought tickets to Panorama for LCD Soundsystem. Everything else was just incidental. I started to worry that I had gotten myself to excited for the show and that they wouldn’t reach my expectations. I was wrong, in fact they surpassed them.
The hour and fifty minutes they played were complete euphoria. I have never had an experience like it. It’s incredibly difficult for me to explain, so this is going to get scattered and fragmented.
I had a sore neck the next morning from the whiplash I gave myself during “Dance Yrself Clean.”
My eyes welled up with tears during “Someone Great.”
LCD Soundsytem is the single best live band ever.
James Murphy is not Losing his Edge.
Rest in Peace Alan Vega, whom LCD covered towards the end of the set.
“Yeah” is intoxicating.
“Losing My Edge” is an endlessly regenerative song.
Towards the end of the set, the band started building up to what we all knew would be its carthartic moment- “All My Friends.” They played “New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down,” then “Dance Yrself Clean,” then “Bye Bye Bayou” the Alan Vega cover, priming the crowd for the last song.
“All My Friends” is one of the best songs ever made. It captures almost every possible emotion and releases them. It can be melancholy or rapturous. Actually, there is no or. It is melancholy and rapturous at the same time, and when LCD Soundsystem closed their set with the song, those feelings were magnified. “To tell the truth, this could be the last time,” we all sang that together, and we knew that it actually could be. But that didn’t matter. Because we were all together for this beautiful moment.
And then, all of us of screaming “Where are your friends tonight?” It was religious. I’m serious. I don’t just mean that we were all sitting there chanting in worship. Something happens in that moment, when your surrounded by a sea of people some of them your best friends others complete strangers and every single one of you is singing that line. Out of nowhere it conjures all of your friends. Because your singing it with them, even if they’re not there. They are present with you, inhabiting the people you’re with. It’s quite possibly the most beautiful moment in music.