Music

Panorama Peaks with Sounds of Silver

Silas Valentino

Panorama closes out its first edition with the monumental return of LCD Soundsystem and an awkward performance by Sia.


Panorama Music Festival

City: New York
Venue: Randall's Island
Date: 2016-07-24

Following two days of dodging sunlight and absorbing sounds from some of today’s top touring acts, we arrive at the third and final day of the inaugural Panorama Music Festival. Saturday appeared to have the largest attendance of the weekend while Sunday sported a modest crowd, just enough folks to share in the excitement but without the extensive lines to refill your CamelBak. Things have gone without a hitch thus far and all roads lead to Sunday’s headliner: the recently reunited LCD Soundsystem.

Holding down the main stage during the afternoon was New Jersey’s the Front Bottoms, fronted by the acoustic guitar-wielding crooner Brian Sella. Their blend of power pop and emotionally charged lyrics have the Front Bottoms acting as today’s flag bearers to the once-mighty emo movement from 10 years prior. Sella’s voice recalls the howling pipes heard in Hutch Harris from the Thermals but with a Scottish tinge à la Frightened Rabbit. He played with all smiles while singing songs about repeated disappointment.

Their number “The Plan (Fuck Jobs)”, off the recent album Back on Top, blatantly cherry picks from Built to Spill’s “In the Morning” as its chorus rings “When my mind is uncertain, my body decides”. This homage, though lacking subtlety, was a soothing reminder that the musical torch will forever exchange hands.

Next up was the long haired guitar virtuoso from Philadelphia, Kurt Vile. Since he left the War on Drugs in 2008 to focus on his solo career, Vile has been churning out a new record every other year, culminating in 2015’s b'lieve i'm goin down…. The album was marked by “Pretty Pimpin”, his most accessible single thus far. On record, his layered guitar work shines but unfortunately the main stage of Panorama, with all its mighty speaker systems, was not conducive to such sonic intricacy. Many moments throughout his set were muffled or lost in a daze.

Regardless of this deadened sound quality, Vile and his Violators combed through his last four records and delivered a tranquil mid-afternoon set. “Puppet to the Man”, off his career highlight Smoke Ring for My Halo, was as sharp as ever and the Philly hero gave a nod to his hometown roots before ripping into “KV Crimes”. He ended with “Stand Inside” sans band, accompanied by just his acoustic guitar and deft dexterity. He departed with two Modelo beers in tow while the crowd dispersed, feeling rejuvenated by Vile’s guitar-induced siesta.

Run the Jewels, a stark contrast to Kurt Vile’s serenity, commandeered the main stage with their now-iconic dual hand gesture imagery (of a fist and a literal hand gun) blown up in balloon props that hovered above the duo as they rallied the crowd into a frenzy. Killer Mike and El-P shared the stage with amusing chemistry as they played off each other’s banter. At one point, Killer Mike noticed an audience member standing stoically in the front row and comically called him out, asking if he was waiting for the next band -- his LCD Soundsystem shirt suggested he was indeed. The abrasive hip-hop super group ran through eight tracks off their landmark album Run the Jewels 2 ; the momentum generated off cuts like “Early” and “Love Again (Akinyele Back)” elicited a riot among the thrashing listeners.

As the sunlight began to dwindle, the main stage was cleared off for Sia, whose simple stage design featured a blank white screen. Working behind it were various stagehands who rushed to place multiple props and costumes as they prepared for her set. Simplicity is Sia’s motivation. Notorious for her stage fright, she appeared with her emblematic haircut masking her face. Sia stood stone still and off to the side for the entirety of her performance as three dancers interpreted her pop songs. On the screen and with each song appeared a prerecorded video starring actors Paul Dano, Kristen Wiig and Ben Mendelsohn, but not even this amount of star power could breathe vitality into Sia’s rather banal outing.

It’s without question her voice could shatter glass chandeliers but such talent wasn’t enough to produce an engaging performance. While the dancers provided an element of action, they were trumped by the prerecorded images of famous people behind them who were distracting and confusing. Not even the awe-inspiring power of her breakthrough song “Breathe Me” could redeem this lackluster display of live music. When Sia finally reached her set’s climax with “Chandelier”, we were more than ready for LCD Soundsystem after enduring such trial and tribulation.

The revival of LCD has been one of music’s greatest feats of the year and with this Panorama closeout set the band was making their New York homecoming. Pat Mahoney appeared first and hopped up on the drums to play the infectious opening beat to “Us v Them”. James Murphy and Nancy Whang soon followed and informed the crowd via the monosyllabic lyrics “The time has come”. From that moment on the dancing and joy was efficiently maintained for the following two hours.

There wasn’t any need for the musicians onstage to ask the crowd to clap along, for the fans were eagerly participating each beat. The set list drew equally from LCD’s three albums and they even followed up “Someone Great” with its extended “Out in Space” section from the 45:33 EP. To honor the recently passed Alex Vega, the singer of the proto-punk band Suicide whose influence can be unmistakably heard within LCD, the penultimate song of the set was a cover of his “Bye Bye Bayou”.

Panorama culminated with the powerful anthem “All My Friends”. The audience joined the band in belting out the lyrics as the massive disco ball hanging above the stage reflected countless light beams while it twirled to the very end.

Silas Valentino is a freelance music journalist who has written for The Village Voice, LA Weekly, PopMatters and various other publications. He lives and works in New York City. Follow him on Twitter here.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image