By: Eli Stem
Summer goes hand in hand with festival season, and both are in full swing right now. Although we’re only about halfway through festival season, it has already started off with a bang with some major festivals already going down. From Kanye bringing Coachella to church, to the transportation disaster at Ultra Music Festival, this has been a year of headlines.
As we prepare for the rest of the raving year, we’d like to take a look back on some of the highs and lows of the festival season so far.
Starting off the season early on in April was the Instagram-favorite Coachella. Coachella is always set up against pretty high expectations, and it continued to deliver this year with headliners of Childish Gambino and Ariana Grande. By no means did these superstar headliners disappoint, however they were outshined by some of the “supporting acts.”
17-year old Billie Eilish burst through musical gatekeepers by being one of the youngest acts to ever perform at Coachella, while turning heads in baggy clothing and a strange, but commanding, stage presence.
Much later in the second day, at almost midnight to be exact, Kid Cudi captivated the crowds with a late-night electro-fueled session that had everyone singing along. In his usual show-stealing fashion, Kanye West’s late addition of Sunday Service on Easter garnered the spotlight of the weekend.
Performing at what is dubbed “the Mountain,” Ye rolled out an entire Yeezy-clad gospel choir that included Kid Cudi, DMX and Chance the Rapper. West put on a show that included gospel inspired takes on older songs and also performing unreleased music from his upcoming “Yandhi” album. The only complaint about West’s set was the inability to really be able to see much, however fans could live stream and still watch his performance through a tunnel-vision filter available online.
The only downside to the weekend was the possible rumors of the festival being a breeding ground for a Herpes outbreak. This story was broken by TMZ and quickly picked up by other national news sources and became quite the controversy. It was reported that there had been a significant rise in Herpes diagnoses’ stemming a few days after the festival, and sent the nation into a bit of laughter- and panic for some.
However, some further research had been done and found that there had not been an actual rise in diagnoses and that these numbers were coming largely from online inquiries about the infection. It was found that more likely than not that a large outbreak had not occurred at the festival, and that the headlines probably incited more panic by sending people online to learn more. Regardless, we encourage you to be safe at any festival you attend.
Governor’s Ball is one the East Coast’s premier music festivals right along with Made in America and EDC. Governor’s Ball tends to focus primarily on a rap centric lineup festival, but this year took a step outside the box by mixing in some very different genres on day two. Being the only country artist in the festival, Kacey Musgraves brought in quite the midday crowd while proving to be one of the emerging stars of country. Musgraves fit the crowd’s ambiance as well, joking with her fans who were smoking “Damn, that smells good” and celebrating the start of pride month by carrying a pride flag around stage while performing.
Florence Welch of Florence and the Machines was on the slate the second day, bringing all the alternative vibes that you could ask for. Dawning floral headband, Florence put on a shining live performance that she is well known.
The most attention grabbing performances of the festival came the first day, with both Brockhampton and Tyler the Creator putting on some very memorable shows. Coming first in the day was the super rap group and self-proclaimed boy band Brockhampton, performing with the flair and theatrics needed to be considered a boy band. Group member “bearface” started the set on a small stage suspended above the ground, soon to be joined by the rest of the silver spacesuit fitted members of Brockhampton.
Backed by the shell of golden airplane and intense but fitting stage visuals, Brockhampton truly put on a show. Headliner Tyler the Creator put quite the unique performance as well, bringing his album and persona “IGOR” to the stage for one of the first times. Donning his now famous blonde bowl-cut and colorful suits, “IGOR” live was even more encapsulating that the album itself. “EARFQUAKE” might have been the song of the festival, with the Playboi Carti homecrowd singing along to every word.
Ultra Music Festival
Ultra Music Festival has been a staple in the electronic community and Miami for the past 20 years.
With names like Electric Daisy Carnival and Electric Zoo, Ultra Music Festival has been a favorite and one that embodied the lively club and music life in the city of Miami. There was a lot of chatter about this festival before it even began, and although it did provide a strong line up with names like Marshmello, Tiesto and Odesza, most of the talk was surrounding the changes that were being brought to the festival. The first received a very warm welcoming from festival goers, with the promise of a third day being added to the festival for the first time. As ravers grew with excitement for an extra day of head-banging, they were met with some disappointing news.
For another first, the festival was to be moved from downtown Miami to Virginia Keys, a set of islands off of the coast of Florida. Much of the criticism and worry of festival attendees and Miami natives was met with reason, as displeasure with the stage accessibility and the festival ground themselves were voiced on social media. And as there is with a number of festivals, transportation concerns quickly grew into a nightmare and dominated the story coming out of Ultra’s first year in Virginia Keys.
As stated before, the new location was an island with few bridges coming in and out and as a way to combat traffic issues, ride sharing services were not allowed to cross these bridges. This left only the shuttles provided by the festival itself for access on and off of the island and the day one staff was not prepared.
Weary from a day in the sun, festival goers were met with over hour long waits for shuttles and scuffles to get a place onboard. Festival staff struggled to get the crowd to calm down and many elected to skip the shuttles and walk several miles back to main land to get access to ride sharing services. Luckily, Ultra improved the transportation services for the rest of the festival and only managed to have one Fyre Festival-like day.
One festival staying in its home of Miami is the “Largest Hip-Hop Festival in the World”, Rolling Loud. Rolling Loud is famous for providing hip-hop heads with a strictly rap only lineup, stacked top to bottom with superstars and fan favorites. Names like Cardi B, Lil Wayne, Travis Scott, 21 Savage and Lil Uzi Vert littered the three-day festivals lineup, but much like Ultra, some of the performances were overshadowed by controversy and dark news.
This year’s event, taking place back in early May, was marred by a number of arrests and shootings that brought a negative light on the festival. A number of artists felt they were targeted for being performers at the festival, with a few leading to arrests such as Memphis artist Key Glock and South Florida’s own Kodak Black. Lil Wayne also stated that his tour bus was stopped on the way to the festival, however he did not face any charges. If the arrests were not bad news enough, both Young Thug and NBA Youngboy were targets of shootings outside of festival grounds. Neither Young Thug nor NBA Youngboy were arrested for any involvement, although the Youngboy shooting did leave a bystander deceased.
While the festival was crowded by a cloud of dark news, Lil Uzi Vert took to the stage to bring any bit of positivity he could. The rapper adored for his “fit pics” and happy-go-lucky dancing and karate videos brought every bit of personality with him to the Rolling Loud stage. After performing a number of songs and getting the crowd going, Uzi took a few moments to speak on his long awaited album “Eternal Atake.”
“Eternal Atake” has been album that has sent rap fans clamoring for leaks and clues to as when it will be released, and Uzi decided to have a little fun with this by repeatedly asking fans if they were ready for it to drop. The crowd erupted with screams of support, only to be left with a mic drop and Uzi strolling carelessly off stage. Although we don’t have the album yet, we’re all happy that at least Lil Uzi Vert is happy.