Over the last year or so, I’ve gone to more music festivals and concert venues than I ever did in my entire life preceding. I’m pretty sure that in the last half of 2016 alone, I more than quadrupled the number of live music shows I’d seen, which isn’t saying much considering that prior to that time my list consisted of Aaron Carter + the A*Teens and Lady Gaga.
Over the past 12 months, I’ve seen some pretty crazy stuff happen at some of these shows – from Halsey angrily restarting her set at Madison Square Garden after already being three songs in, to Drake making a surprise appearance at the Mad Decent Block Party at MCU Park in Coney Island, to meeting my favorite band backstage and hanging out with SNL’s Vanessa Bayer after a show at Webster Hall – nothing is ever predictable in New York City.
Of course that same rule applied to this year’s Meadows Music and Arts Festival.
I was ridiculously excited for The Meadows. For one, I am a huge hip-hop/rap fan. You may be thinking, really? You? A pumpkin spice sipping white girl with PINK sweats, a manicure, and a lifestyle blog? Let me clarify: I have a broad and shallow interest in Top 40 hip-hop/rap. Blame it on my Orange Country upbringing, where ironically trap music with a danceable beat is as ubiquitous as cougars with plastic surgery and BMWs in the high school parking lot, but I am a sucker for anything I can get down to – or anything reminiscent of the early-2000s. When I saw the lineup was going to have some of my favorites, throwing me back to the songs I’ll probably blast on the “Oldies” station as I drive my eventual kids to school, I couldn’t resist: Jay-Z? Weezer? M.I.A.? Big Boi? Not to mention the incredible list of food vendors in attendance, which I had been anticipating ever since I wrote about it for BuzzTonight. Did you say no line for DŌ? I am SO in.
In any event, The Meadows will go down as one of the best festivals I’ve ever been fortunate enough to attend – I’m still basking in the afterglow. If you missed out on this year’s fun in the sun, here’s a festival recap of the good, the bad, and the delicious.
Best Set: Weezer
Weezer was one of the most fun sets for a variety of reasons – not least of which was that they had good material and a very charismatic lead singer in Rivers Cuomo. Taking place just before the sun set with a cool breeze and the iconic 7 train rolling by in the background, festival attendants of all colors and stripes were super into the set and singing along with every word. Another fun aspect that I really liked was the fact that they played their own renditions of other big hits – including Mike Posner’s I Took a Pill in Ibiza and my favorite (of course) – Outkast’s Hey Ya; it was charming and endearing and slightly hilarious to watch Rivers sing along and strum his guitar to Big Boi & Andre 3000’s famous rap/hip-hop hit.
Honorable mention goes to Big Boi from Outkast for keeping it light and fun even though it was freaking hot and humid out, for showing up even though his cousin had passed away hours before he boarded his plane, and for playing Ms. Jackson
Worst Set: M.I.A.
Besides the fact that M.I.A. was late to show up AND going up against the Gorillaz (meaning attendants had to choose which performance to listen to), when she wasn’t doing gimmicky acts like scaling scaffolding or ripping off layers of clothing, she was either screeching or – you didn’t hear it from me – LIP SYNCING. WHATTT? The badass chick of Paper Planes fame was too chicken to actually let audience members hear her voice? Of course, once you did hear her voice, you kinda hoped that she’d go back to lip syncing and straw-man strutting in order to save your ears from a sound worse than a Nazgûl’s scream.
(Dis)honorable Mention goes to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I was SO excited to hear them and honestly, my three takeaways were that (1) they are even MORE impossible to understand and (2) LESS audibly pleasing live, and (3) I pretty much only like 3 songs anyways.
Best Booth: Vitamin Water
At music festivals, people rarely remember to stay hydrated on anything other than beer and boozy cocktails. At The Meadows, Vitamin Water was there to make sure people took care of themselves so they could survive the unusually-potent heat and humidity and last through the headlining sets. They were passing out free bottles of almost every flavor imaginable (including the Vitamin Water Zero for those of us wishing to spend our calories elsewhere), AND if you took a picture at their photo booth, you got a free pair of custom-made sunglasses.
Look at those glasses! Look how happy I am! Why wouldn’t you stop?!
Honorable mention goes to Cafe Bustelo – they were passing out free samples of their iced café con leche all day long. Those of you who know me know that I am profoundly-with-a-capital-P addicted to coffee. This was my favorite booth for no other reason than it supported my caffeine habit (and also, admittedly, their iced lattes were bangin’).
Worst Booth: Budweiser
The Budweiser booth actually could have been really cool if they had organized themselves a little bit better – they were spray-painting baseball hats with customized designs for free. However, unless you were one of the lucky few to get there in the early hours on the first day of the festival, the slots filled up quickly – and there weren’t too many open slots to begin with. I tried to go three times, each time with them telling me to come back at a later hour; the last time, the lady checking people in told me if I “slipped them a ten” they’d probably be able to squeeze me in. Uh, bribery? No thanks, I don’t need a hat *that* badly.
(Dis)honorable mention goes to Electric Sky Rosé, the festival’s exclusive wine provider. At a media event trying to promote their brand to journalists and other influencers, the spokeswoman for the brand came over to a group of five people – herself included – with four samples and proceeded to drink one herself while making one of the people she was supposedly trying to sell the brand to go without. I could go on, but I think this pretty much explains itself…
Best Vendor: San Matteo
I know, I know – I’m a sucker for pizza and this is the obvious choice, but San Matteo was SO good that despite all of the other options out there, I ate it for dinner on BOTH days of the festival. Yeah, you heard me – I ate it two days in a row. It was so delicious and so like Italian-style pizza that I could close my eyes and instantly be transported back to the Mother Land. They even brought a wood-fired oven from Italy on site to cook their pizzas! Now that’s dedication. San Matteo was also the best value, in my opinion – this whole pizza was $12, remarkably filling, and it came out of the oven piping hot in less than 90 seconds, meaning there was a quick turnaround time. It was also a great shareable option (which we did) as it was sliced up, allowing you to sample more foods and not feel *quite* so bad about the all-day food frenzy. I will definitely be checking out their Upper East Side location sometime soon – and that’s big for me, given my distaste for Gossip Girl’s stomping grounds.
Worst Vendor: Tito’s Vodka
Unless I just missed it entirely (which seems impossible given the fact that I walked around the festival – which is one giant circle – dozens of times), Tito’s did NOT have the promised Bloody Mary Bar. MAJOR disappointment as this was one of the things I was looking forward to the most! On the plus side, this led me to take my money elsewhere…
Best Drink: Bar Primi Frosé
Delicious and refreshing and surprisingly boozy, Bar Primi’s frosé – the originator of this by now famous wine slushie – totally hit the spot on a hot summer day. I was pretty buzzy after one cup, which I guess was a good thing because it was a rather expensive $13 drink – not the greatest deal considering the smallish cup size, but definitely worth trying.
Best Food: Waffle Fries
I know, it’s ridiculously simple and rather unoriginal, but these waffle fries were SO good, so deliciously hot and crispy and mouth-wateringly flavorful they deserve their own column. Maybe I was just hungry (because let’s face it, 90% of my time is spent thinking about my next meal), but they were off the charts BOMB.
Honorable Mention goes to DŌ because you could walk right up to their booth and get a scoop of cookie dough without waiting in any line whatsoever (points for their chocolate chip flavor being even better than their Reese’s cup flavor, points off for their lack of variety and the deceptive cookie dough sandwich which was NOT the famous ice cream cookie dough sandwich I thought it was….but maybe that’s just me) and Big Mozz because they were even better than at Smorgasburg (again, no line), and the perfect shareable snack to start off the feasting.
Most Surprising Moments
(1) The MTA was shockingly with-it and transportation to and from the festival via the 7 line was on point. Unlike normal weekend subway schedules, there was a plethora of trains running throughout the duration of the festival, so you were never stuck waiting too long for a train to get you to and from the party.
(2) Bassnectar – the ultimate EDM/raver DJ – was surprisingly good. A little bit darker and a little bid edgier than other EDM stuff I’ve listened to, I wasn’t sure he would be my cup of tea – I thought he might just be a little too hardcore for me. Maybe it was because he was the last act of the festival, maybe it was because I had just been disappointed by Sunday night headliners The Red Hot Chili Peppers, but Bassnectar was fun and danceable and I thoroughly enjoyed what I heard of his set.
(3) Security was a cinch – remember the last festival I went to where they practically stripped-search me before making me throw away my “dangerous” chapstick? Not so at The Meadows. Maybe it was because we had media bands, but people here were way more lax. Also, despite the more laid-back security, there was a noticeable lack of people strung out on god-knows-what, which just goes to show that tighter security doesn’t necessarily equate to a more compliant environment.
(4) In my last post about Electric Zoo, I discussed the eclectic assortment of people that show up to a rave/EDM festival. I would say this even more so about The Meadows, but in a different way. Here, due to the variety of artists and musical acts and vendors, you had all sorts of people from many different walks of life – not just the costumed electronica crowd. The young and the old (I literally saw a toddler here), ravers and rockers alike convened to celebrate life and joy and music and fun. Everyone was out to have a good time.
(5) I tried a beer and I didn’t hate it!
Well, okay, it was Shock Top, which was half beer and half lemonade, but it counts for something, right?
I couldn’t think of a better way to have spent the last weekend of summer. I hope everyone else had a great weekend too!