Andrew Hozier-Byrne may hail from Ireland but his music owes a large debt to fifties blues and gospel from the United States. If you aren’t already familiar with his music, it would be a good idea to get a head start now because a lot more people will be aware of him after he performs on Saturday Night Live this weekend. For the young artist, this is surely a huge milestone and a very memorable cap to the week during which he released his self-titled debut. In the past year, the 24-year old singer-songwriter had released two EPs, From Eden and Take Me to Church, the latter of which contains the slow-burning title track that helped him break through. Ahead of his performance at this past summer’s Newport Folk Festival, Hozier chatted briefly with us about “Take Me to Church” and its controversial music video.
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The scope of the Global Citizen Festival remains the same as it did for the prior two iterations, to mitigate extreme poverty worldwide though this year the organizers directed additional attention to the subjects of vaccines, education and sanitation. Regarding sanitation, there was a lot of attention directed towards open defecation, a huge issue in India in particular. Amongst the global leaders in attendance (as the festival is timed to coincide with world leaders being in New York for the U.N. Global Summit) was Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi had been implicated as one of the instigators of religious violence against Muslims (by Hindus) in Gujurat in 2002 where he was Chief Minister at the time. And he hadn’t been permitted to enter the United States from that point on, until he became elected Prime Minister in 2014 so he was given a moment at the festival to pledge that Indians citizens will have access to toilets by 2019. Other world leaders were present, including Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who pledged over $1.2 billion towards vaccinations worldwide over the next several years, and some NGO leaders including World Bank President Jim Kim and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
But for many of nearly 50,000 people in attendance at the six hour event, including one girl who drove up from Tennessee, the primary attraction was not actor Hugh Jackman introducing Ban Ki-Moon or Olivia Wilde talking about her recent charitable endeavors, but the powerful and diverse line-up of musicians. Via an online lottery, for which people earned entries by completing socially conscious activities, the lucky people in attendance got to see performances from Jay Z and Beyonce, No Doubt (their first show in a couple of years) do a set with Sting guesting for one song, Carrie Underwood, Alicia Keys with Idan Raichel, The Roots and more. The concert was available as a stream online or live on MSNBC (with noticeable delay) for those that couldn’t go, but given the opportunity to be out on Central Park on a lovely summery day, Global Citizen Festival was a perfect outing… if you could get in (VIP ticket holders complained of long lines). It may be hard to determine what the attendees’ motives were but if they were genuine, but if even a small percentage of them feel urged to donate, or be more socially active that is a good start.
It wouldn’t be hard to believe that Jack White, head honcho of Third Man Records, had a say in Saturday’s lineup at the Newport Folk Festival, given that many acts who’ve released something on the label or dabbled with him in the studio appeared that day. There was John C. Reilly and Pokey Lafarge just to name a couple (okay, you want a few more as proof? Try Chris Thile, Shovels & Rope and Haden Triplets). Plus I saw Beck wandering around on Friday (a few days later White made a guest appearance at one of Beck’s shows). White himself was taking in sets from various acts on Saturday, including young guitarist (and NPR-intern reject) Benjamin Booker, his own label’s Language Lessons reading series (Third Man now has a publishing arm) and taking Polaroid selfies with people.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it out on Sunday so I missed a ton of good photo ops but it was hard to even catch most of the surprise moments on the days I did go. I missed Mavis Staples do guest appearances at least twice - she joined Lake Street Dive on Friday and Lucius on Saturday for example. Of what I did see (non White-related), Reignwolf put on one of the most aggressive sets. Hozier was quite busy, with two short sets on Friday and Saturday and a proper set Sunday. Ryan Adams was thrilling to see live for the first time. Sun Kil Moon (who didn’t allow photos) expressed concern about the number of white people at the festival and how as he was getting older, his dick “wants to do things” but his body can no longer keep up before singing a song he wrote for his mother. Jimmy Cliff received round after round of applause for a set that included a fantastic cover of Cat Stevens’ “Wild World”.
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.