With a lineup so big it called for four stages, the first Meadows Music & Arts Festival took place October 1 and 2 at Citi Field in Queens, New York. Considering many acts have been on the summer fest circuit, this concert was a last lap for some of our faves (looking at you, Bryson Tiller and J.Cole) who were straddling that in-between period of getting all the mileage from their past projects before releasing new ones.
It's safe to say things did not go off without a hitch. The weather was overcast and chilly; one hazard of a fall fest in NYC. The Weeknd, the initial headliner for Day One, canceled two weeks ago because of a scheduling conflict._ J. Cole was added as a replacement, then Weeknd backtracked and was put back on the schedule. On Saturday morning, however, Meadows attendees received an email saying that Starboy had canceled — again.
But the show went on. People danced in puddles while Bas, Zhu, Chromeo, Pretty Lights, Post Malone, Lolawolf, Damien "Jr. Gong" Marley, Grimes, and many more played their best sets before a sparse crowd.
When nightfall came and J. Cole took the stage, we knew it was a special moment for the Dreamville general, whose alma mater, St. John's University, was just minutes away. Cole can transform an entire outdoor festival into an intimate performance, commanding the audience with no hype men, no theatrics; just a mic and the music. He told the crowd the show would be his last for a very long time — and so we savored every song, from The Warm Up's "Lights Please" being mixed with The Roots's "You Got Me," through Sideline Story and 2014 Forest Hills Drive. Day One came to a triumphant close.
On Day Two, Jack Garratt could be heard covering everything from Justin Timberlake's "Senorita" to Ray Charles's "I Got a Woman" and the theme song from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Pusha T, Mac Miller, Cage the Elephant, Kygo and more performed on the ancillary stages, but the trifecta of Bryson Tiller, Chance The Rapper, and Kanye West on The Meadows stage is where the action was.
Young Tiller made up in humility what he lacked in showmanship. While telling the story of how just two years ago he had quit music to try to make a living for his daughter, Bryson weaved in songs from his platinum project Trapsoul, which just turned one year old. Pen Griffey thanked us for supporting the album that changed his life, and let us know this would be his last time performing it before releasing new music.
Next, Chance The Rapper (with Donnie Trumpet!) and his contagious black boy joy completely took over The Meadows Fest. The youngster introduced himself by saying, "Hi, I'm Chance the Rapper, from Chicago, Illinois. Today I'm opening up for Kanye West" — as though he weren't in the midst of his own Magnificent Coloring World Tour. This tweet describes it best:
When he threw it back to the Acid Rap joints, the massive crowd lost its collective sh-t. Even comedian Chris Rock could be seen taking in Chano's set. His energy and excitement were uncontainable, so much so that the only thing that could top it was headliner Kanye West — who came onstage amid fireworks.
Yes, the Saint Pablo Tour met The Meadows Fest, and was epic...until... we got to "Heartless." You heard about that family emergency, right? Kanye said he was sorry, but he had to end the show, and hurried offstage. The crowd stood by for a couple minutes, wondering if it were actually a part of the show. But when the lights came up and a Meadows staff member came onstage to let us know the show was indeed over, a stunned crowd slowly dispersed into the night.
All in all, the inaugural Meadows Music and Arts Festival had a superb lineup, especially for hip-hop fans (and let's be honest, hip-hop is pop[ular] music), good food, and good energy. Sure, there were some rough spots — weather, Weeknd, and Yeezy — none of which could be controlled, but here's hoping year two gets even better.