The atmosphere at the 2014 Afropunk Festival was permeated by the happenings in Ferguson, Missouri (namely the death of Michael Brown) and last month’s chokehold-related death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York. People had their hands in the air as a tribute to Michael Brown nearly as often as they did for the performers. In correlation, the (what seemed to me to be) higher police presence at the fest didn’t impede any of the fun, nor did the weather for the most part. Saturday was a bit overcast and there was a light rain for a bit which may have been enough to keep some of the crowds away—Sunday was extraordinarily tight when the sun was out in full force. Photos from much of Saturday (I didn’t stay for Sharon Jones partly because I caught her earlier this year and part of Sunday (D’Angelo with the Roots headlined but photographers weren’t allowed in the pit and he started an hour late) are below. Other notable moments were seeing Mayor de Blasio on site for Bad Brains set and Cold Specks unfortunately not performing due to visa issues.
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The “Round Robin” guidelines were as follows: “One musician starts a solo improvisation, another musician then joins for a duo improvisation. After that, musician #1 leaves the stage and musician #3 joins musician #2 for another round. This continues until everyone has performed.” This was the second year the Round Robin was part of the Red Bull Music Academy series and like the prior incarnation, this night included a variety of musicians who excel across different genres including jazz, rock, electronic and blues. The free-form event saw over 15 musicians grace the Town Hall stage to take part in the funky shenanigans.
Although most of the night, save the crowded-stage finale, followed the format mentioned above, there was a brief break in continuity when Jamie Lidell’s equipment didn’t work initially, which left one of the musicians to plug in the space with an extended set. Fortunately, it was Allen Toussaint who had to bear that burden and his dexterous piano chops showcased a bunch of musical styles, like Vince Guaraldi and a few jokes including a bit of “Taps”. Lidell was in good spirits though when he finally got his gear working. By the climax, Kaki King was playing on someone else’s guitar and the musicians played off each other’s jams. The show hadn’t been sold out, but it was quite a unique experience.
The 2014 Nelsonville Music Festival begins on May 29. Produced by Stuart’s Opera House, the festival will once again feature an impressive slate of performances in “the beautiful, rolling hills of Southeast Ohio”. In anticipation of the tenth annual festival, PopMatters interviews the organizers about its history and growing reputation.
Tim Peacock, executive director of Stuart’s Opera House, describes the event as “an unlikely festival in an unlikely town” and says, “Nelsonville, with its… hills and forests… is in the most beautiful part of Ohio.” Marketing director Brian Koscho speaks in similar terms of the festival as “a special event in a great place”. He says, “I’m biased, but it is. Southeast Ohio is my home and it is a beautiful part of our world. It isn’t the most obvious place for a festival to be, but once people make it down for the first time we hope they see why it is here.”
Lorde utterly dominates several Billboard charts nowadays, especially for her Adult Pop song “Team”. But she has earned considerable notoriety for much of the past year for her genre-defying debut single “Royals”, and for her critically acclaimed first proper album, Pure Heroine (2013). Youthful singer-songwriter Ella Yelich-O’Connor is a denizen of New Zealand. Among other accolades, she also won two Grammys—Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance—this year, both of which for her worldwide hit “Royals”. She could have easily won for her fine album, too.
Logically, Lorde is amidst a whirlwind U.S. tour in which she headlines approximately 18 scheduled gigs in three and a half weeks, from Austin to Oakland. She then tackles the festival circuit as her itinerary includes three South American Lollapalooza dates, and two shows at Coachella. In short, Lorde is a busy, talented, and in-demand artist. Her sold-out show at The Midland was simultaneously enchanting and triumphant, and it italicized an emerging artist who can solidly deliver her songs within a live setting, and with few, if any, mistakes.
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