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Kamasi Washington's "The Epic" album cover |© Brainfeeder
Kamasi Washington's "The Epic" album cover |© Brainfeeder

5 Artists You Can't Miss At Queens' First Meadows Festival

Picture of Ryan Kristobak
Music Editor
Updated: 27 September 2016
This coming weekend (Oct.1 and 2) might be the inaugural run for The Meadows Music and Arts Festival, but a quick glance at its lineup gives the appearance of a seasoned celebration that is approaching its heyday. Kanye West, Chance the Rapper, The Weeknd, J. Cole, Pretty Lights, Empire of the Sun, Kygo, Grimes, Mac Miller, and The 1975 are just a few of the top performers headed to Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, New York. But considering that Founders Entertainment, the company behind New York City’s Governors Ball, is responsible for The Meadows, it’s not surprising the festival is entering the game so strong.

While there is a glaring lack of female artists included in the Meadows’ lineup — sadly, by no means a unique problem — it offers a worthy victory lap for those unwilling to accept that festival season has reached its end. While it’s easy to center your schedule around the big hitters, the five acts below should not be left by the wayside, and could very well steal the spotlight.


World’s Fair

In a year where Chicago and L.A. hip hop have dominated headlines — Kanye West, Chance the Rapper, and Joey Purp among the former; Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, and Anderson Paak among the latter — it’s easy to overlook New York’s talent. Harlem’s A$AP Mob produced Ferg’s more structured and self-aware sophomore LP, Always Strive and Prosper. Nick Caution’s Disguise the Limit proves that Brooklyn’s Pro Era’s seemingly reserve members are more than capable of handling their own projects, while Joey Bada$$’s loosies continue to grow his praise. Desiigner’s “Panda” has been a radio tyrant for months, and Aesop Rock’s The Impossible Kid sees the underground veteran at his best.

Next up: Queens’ World’s Fair. The six-MC hip-hop collective is comprised of Remy Banks, Nasty Nigel, Lanky Jones, Cody B. Ware, Jeff Donna, and Prince SAMO. Releasing their first project, Bastards Of The Party, on Fool’s Gold Records, the group’s follow-up record is guaranteed to add some meat and potatoes to their burgeoning future-boom bap sound. Start your festival weekend off right with a high-energy performance from the rising hometown heroes.

Kamasi Washington

There’s a jazz renaissance of sorts stirring in the U.S., and at its head are the likes of Robert Glasper, Flying Lotus, Thundercat, and Kamasi Washington. Washington most prominently made a name for himself in the mainstream thanks to his contributions on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, arranging the album’s strings and playing saxophone. Later on in 2015, in order to preserve all celebrity established, the saxophonist-composer released his debut work, The Epic, a masterful three-hour jazz oeuvre. And what story does such an unorthodox release tell? As Washington told The New York Times:

‘‘I had this dream about a group of young warriors living in a village beneath a mountain. At the top of that mountain, there’s this gate, protected by a guard. The warriors spend all their time training to kill the guard and seize control of the gate. One by one, they are defeated by the guard. But the last warrior has the power to win, and the guard hesitates for the first time, because he sees that the warrior’s heart is good and that his own time has come.’’

He’s been labeled as a “modern jazz visionary” by Pitchfork, and as the outlet pointed out in its recent feature, he’s not just making jazz cool again; Washington is helping the average listener realize they are smart enough to handle more than four bars.

Savages

For those unfamiliar with Savages, the appearance of an all-female post-punk revival quartet all clad in black presents a nice box ready for packaging. Sure, their 2013 debut saw lead singer Jehnny Beth tearing down the patriarchy at moments. But it also featured the track “Hit Me,” which was assumed to be discussing domestic abuse, when really Jehnny Beth was saying that some people are into rough (consensual) sex, as related to the porn star Belladonna.

On their second album, Savages aimed “to write the loudest songs ever.” While tracks like “Adore” present a gentler side and lyrics full of hope, it sits in the midst of one mean record. The group is best know for its wild performances, and if their Meadows’ slot is half the sweaty mosh pit that is their video for opening track “The Answer,” you might want to bring a backup shirt, or just take it off before their set starts.

Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires

Born in 1948, “The Screaming Eagle of Soul” wasn’t offered a major label deal because an A&R representative found his Soundcloud page while he was still in high school. For much of Bradley’s singing career — the majority of which was spent as a James Brown impersonator under the moniker “Black Velvet” —  there has been no streaming or social media, nor did he attend high school. Life up until recently has been a road full of hardships, sorrow, and strife for Bradley — an absent father, a rocky relationship with his mother, years homeless as a teenager, the shooting and death of his brother.

Finally, after being discovered by Daptone Records co-founder Gabriel Roth, Bradley released his debut solo record at the age of 62. Now three albums deep with 2016’s Changes — the title track serving as a cover of the Black Sabbath ballad — Bradley’s breakout doesn’t feel right just because everybody loves an underdog; his star has fully exceeded Brown’s shadow. As authentic as soul gets, Bradley’s late mother taught him that this world is not his home, and we are all so very lucky to have caught him as he passes through.

Twin Shadow performing Purple Rain

Prince’s death on April 21 brought about a period of mourning throughout the world of music. For George Lewis Jr., aka Twin Shadow, this moment was bit more critical than it was for most others. As a child, being Dominican-American brought about a lot of confusion in terms of identity for Lewis, but Prince helped showed him the beauty outside of boundaries. As he told Fuse, “His talent for riding every single line without you thinking about it too much—there’s really no one who did it better than that. Prince from the get-go was just this guy riding these lines of black-white, gay-straight, woman-man. Everything he touched was that line.”

After news of Prince’s passing reached Lewis, he rushed to the studio to write a song in dedication to Prince or record a cover. However, he deduced that the best way to pay tribute to the Purple One would be to perform Purple Rain in full twice, and never again. Meadows Festival will be the second of these performances, and based on the first show’s praise, you can expect a unique display of reverence and passion that simply cannot be missed.