The extensive lineup for the 8th Annual Afropunk Festival, a free event held in Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn, included acts like Alice Smith, Reggie Watts, the Supasonics, Straight Line Stitch, Purple Ferdinand, Das Racist, Toro Y Moi, Janelle Monáe, TV on the Radio and Erykah Badu with the Cannabanoids as her backing band. Some surprises were in store, like Mos Def’s appearance for one song with Badu and Pharrell’s introduction of Ms. Monáe. But there was also a cancellation from the band Gym Class Heroes (for better or worse, as Monáe’s set was extended to compensate). New this year was a roundup of food trucks parked just outside the gates. A lot of NYC regulars, like Kelvin Natural Slush and Korilla BBQ, were serving up refreshments and meals till dusk. Back again were the local vendors with their crafts, fashion and art, as well as sponsors with samples and games.
Spank Rock and Das Racist had the smaller Red stage primed on Saturday before day one headliner Erykah Badu’s set. While the stage was being prepared (and experiencing some delays), a member of the Brooklyn community thanked the audience for attending and also encouraged them to get out and vote for President Obama this coming November. Thousands of voices agreed in unison. But it wasn’t until Badu came out that those voices were appeased. Surprise guest Mos Def (Yasiin Bey) strutted out to join her for the song “Love of My Life” which gave the two artists time for some posturing and the audience even more time to scream.
Day two’s temperature was a bit warmer but the park was no less busy. TV on the Radio were the headliners but the extended set from Monáe kept me enthralled as the firebrand ripped through a number of her hits, including “Tightrope” and “Cold War”, as well as a tremendous cover of the Jackson 5 classic, “I Want You Back”. Monáe and her backing band kept the audience in thrall (though many departed to catch TVOTR’s set) as they performed a newer song “Electric Lady” and Monáe braved the arms of the crowd.
Pharrell (as introducer)
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