[PHOTOS BY KIRSTEN SPRUCH]
There's something immensely exhilarating about attending the test-run of a festival - especially when it's the latest venture from Goldenvoice, the company behind Coachella. There's the anxiety of the lack of crowd control leading to utter madness and riots. The sound quality could cut-out during a headliner leading to half of the crowd marching home (lookin' at you Governor's Ball 2015 during DeadMau5). Panorama could've been a complete disaster. The first few years of music festivals are usually where they hammer out all the mishaps. So the fact that the first Panorama went swimmingly - despite temperatures flirting with the 100 degree mark - sets the bar pretty damn high for the possible years to come.
Silversun Pickups opened with "Nightlight" and it was the perfect song to start-off the weekend at Panorama. Whenever Brian Aubert would rip at his guitar, you could almost feel the energy of the crowd rise and you could hear everyone shout "WE WANT IT!" when the chorus rolled around. Fog crept over the stage the entire set and Nikki Monninger's vocals were few and far between but angelic, nonetheless. Towards the end of the set, "Panic Room" and "Lazy Eye" left fans feeling fulfilled as they ran for shade.
I did NOT expect this set to be one of my favorites of the weekend. Right off the bat, they opened with "Pon De Floor" and it was complete with smoke machines, fire and explosions. They had a handful of dancers who were shakin' all over the stage, showing off their choreographed dances and did a few costume changes during the set. On top of all of Major Lazer's popular songs, they did a few remixes of Martin Solveig's "Intoxicated" and of course MO's "Lean On." Diplo and Walshy Fire ran back and forth on the stage to hype the crowd up and at one point, they were dancing on the DJ table. Major Lazer knows how to put on one hell of a party and left an extremely sweaty and rowdy crowd.
A highlight of Friday was FKA Twigs, who proved to be the new definition of modern pop and an artist in every sense of the word. The 28-year-old British-bred singer brought everything she had to the Pavilion tent. She would go from swaying her hips to breaking down to the floor of the stage like a possessed goddess. She premiered a few beautifully glitchy, electronic songs and maintained her intense facial expression until the end of the set where she bent over, cried then burst into laughter, giving the audience a little glimpse into her soul. She was that breakout performance that festgoers will talk about in years to come.
Alabama Shakes was a highly anticipated set of the entire weekend and they certainly did not disappoint. Alabama Shakes epitomize what a rock band should be like in this period of time. They combine influences of southern rock to blues to folk to glam-rock and accompany soulful vocals with an array of instruments. Brittany Howard worked through her impressive range of vocals with each song - going from boisterous falsettos to dramatic lows. "Gimme All Your Love" turned into an audience sing-along and "Hold On" reminded us why we fell in love with the Alabama-native four-piece band in the first place.
I caught a few of SchoolBoy Qs songs as I walked passed the Pavilion to get to the dreaded Parlor tent. It was obvious that SchoolBoy Q was living up to his hype by the way the crowd was goin' a little ham. But lets talk about the thing I complained most about during weekend (besides the miserable heat): the Parlor tent. The Parlor hosted some of the more anticipated sets of the weekend, such as DJ Khaled, Tokimonsta, AlunaGeorge and Kaytranada. Plus, it was one of the few enclosed areas that shaded the sun and provided some sort of airflow so everyone wanted in. The Parlor reached capacity for pretty much all of evening sets and the only way to enter was through two sets of doors so even if you were outside, you could only hear the muffled sound from the sets. Even the VIP area had a line to get in. Needless to say, it was awful and annoying... unless you were inside.
So I didn't get in for DJ Khaled but honestly, I just wanted to hear "All The Way Up" and count the amount of times he said, "MAJOR KEY." I sat on the grass by the entrance doors - like a peasant - and the first thing I heard when DJ Khaled came out was "MAJOR KEY ALERT." I was happy enough to leave the area at that point but I decided it was a good time to use one of the many phone charging stations to see if anything else exciting happened in that tent. Sure enough, Fat Joe and Remy Ma made a surprise appearance for "All The Way Up" and even though I wasn't inside I was pretty damn excited.
Arcade Fire wrapped up the first day of Panorama with one of the first performances they've done in a couple years. They played for over two hours and put on one hell of a rock show to prove they're anything but rusty. They played multiple highlights from each of their albums including "Reflektor," "Rebellion," and "No Cars Go." At one point in the set, Win Butler shared his thoughts on the current election by saying, "Donald Trump will never, ever be f--king president!" followed by "You cant let some f--king KKK sympathizer be president!" resulting in a delighted roar from the crowd. But the biggest highlight was their emotional tribute to David Bowie.
As they performed "Reflektor" - which Bowie was a guest vocalist on - images of Bowie flashed on the screens surrounding the stage and "Afterlife" appropriately followed after. Preservation Hall Jazz Band joined onstage to close out with "Wake Up" and Butler reminisced on the times with David Bowie and Butler said, "Wherever you are, David, we love you!" The members of Arcade Fire and Preservation Hall Jazz Band went into the audience to march to the center of the field as a few Bowie sing-alongs played. It was a touching, bittersweet way to wrap up Day One of Panorama.
Saturday was full of exciting sets from Foals to Anderson Paak. to Kendrick Lamar. It was hard to fathom the heat was going to be more intense than Friday but the Panorama goers were ready (shout-out to the free water bottles and refill stations provided).
The first set I caught was Tokimonsta in the Parlor. Tokimonsta is a record producer and DJ from Los Angeles and she's extremely underrated. She never stopped smiling as she played various hip-hop hits, including "Alright" by Kendrick Lamar to hype the crowd up for his set that was to come later that evening.
Foals played a significantly shorter set but I don't think they can ever put on a bad performance. Their 2015 album, What Went Down
, was the focus of the set but they snuck-in their hit-track "My Number" from Holy Fire (2013)
in the middle of it. "Mountain at my Gates" showed off Yanis Philippakis' rustic vocals and "Nightswimmers" showed how Foals can get down. They closed out with "What Went Down" and "Inhaler" and it was clear the crowd didn't want it to be over.
Anderson Paak. brought his ridiculously hip style and contagious energy to the Pavilion for one of the most talked about sets of the weekend. Not only can the LA-native sing and rap, but he's a phenomenal drummer and multi-instrumentalist. Anderson Paak. bounced around the stage in his Olympic jersey projecting his infectious joy as he performed tracks from his latest album, Malibu
. On several of his tracks, he'd walk over to the drumset where he'd simultaneously rap and bang his little heart out. "Come Down" and "Am I Wrong" were some tracks that got the whole crowd moving and "Glowed Up" was one of the highlights of the set. Once you see Anderson Paak. live, you'll get the feeling that he isn't going anywhere soon.
Blood Orange was a set that pleasantly surprised me as I didn't know what to expect. Dev Hynes of Blood Orange tirelessly pursues anything new and bold by blending genres of influence and threads his hazy vocals through each track. Not only that, but the dude can get down on his guitar. He worked through songs from his new album, Freetown Sound
, as well as some older tracks and Zuri Marley joined him onstage for a passionate rendition of "Love Ya." The set was during the hottest point of the day but the crowd braved the heat to see Hynes dancing around sporting a black hat and backless white tank while he turned his set into an hour-long dance party.
I caught just enough of National's
set to Matt Beringer walking around the stage while drinking a bottle of wine. But at the Pavilion, Sufjan Stevens came down into his set like angel, fully equipped with the most extravagant angel wings I've ever seen. I've heard Sufjan is a set that cant be missed but it went way beyond my expectations. Every song was a production with psychedelic visuals, dancers and a sparkling disco ball.
I ran over to the Parlor to try to catch some of Kaytranada's short set and was able to get inside just in time for my personal favorite, "Lite Spots." Kaytranada focused on his debut-album 99.9%
and the few songs I caught were everything I hoped it would be: raw, energetic and impressive.
Kendrick Lamar brought the most emotional and politically moving sets of the weekend, as expected. He had video clips playing on the big screen of political figures such as Nancy Reagan, Martin Luther King Jr. and George Bush. Kendrick continues to push the stratosphere of hip-hop with his lyrics, live band and maintains a no-guest-appearances streak. "m.A.A.d city," "King Kunta," "A.D.H.D.," "Bitch Dont Kill My Vibe" and "Swimming Pools" were played early in the set. When Kendrick played "Alright," he cut the music as the crowd chanted, "We gon' be alright, we gon' be alright, we gon' be alright!" as Kendrick would respond "Louder!" He put on a touching performance dedicated to everything that's going on in the world and it was a perfect way to cap off Saturday night.
As everyone dragged their feet into Sunday, there was a bittersweet sense of relief that it was the last day of Panorama. Sunday's lineup was incredible, the crowd was growing bigger with each day and the temperature was only getting hotter. Flatbush Zombies
and Front Bottom
played back-to-back at the main stage and as their genres of music couldn't be more opposite, they brought an equal amount of energy to their performances.
SZA's set was soulful, lighthearted and her beautiful, sultry vocals were on-point. Wearing a Pinky and the Brain t-shirt and gray striped shorts, the St.Louis-native pranced around stage with a fierceness then stopped to sway her hips and threw in some high-kicks. She sang "Happy Birthday" to her mom and threw in a cover of Musiq Soulchild's "Just Friends". Some hits of the set were "Childs Play," "Babylon" and "HiiiJack." SZA's set was a perfect mid-day pick-me-up for Day Three of Panorama.
Run The Jewels
Killer Mike and EP-L of Run The Jewels promised they would "burn this stage to the f--kin ground" and they werent lyin'. Their gigantic inflatable pistol and fist-bump fighting hands were hanging in the background through the set and they played "Oh My Darling Don't Cry" early on to get the crowd going. "Close Your Eyes," "Lie, Cheat, Steal" and "All Due Respect" were some fun highlights of their set. During "Love Again," Killer Mike and EL-P left out the dirty, raunchy chorus but that didn't stop the crowd from shouting the words each time. At one point of the set, they brought out some of their close friends, team and family members to the stage (including the most adorable toddler wearing sound-canceling headphones). After - yet another - "F--k Donald Trump!" chant, their set was over far too fast.
As expected, Sia put on a rare, unique, and completely out-of-this-world performance. She stuck with her This Is Acting
theme as she stood in the corner of the stage with her iconic blonde-black wig with an oversized bow. Her backup dancers were bewigged as well and only wearing nude-colored leotards. "Alive" opened the set and Sia stood center stage, as she did with "Big Girls Don't Cry" and "Chandelier" as well. For the rest of the set, she let her dancers and actors take the spotlight. Sia's elaborate performance was the most-involved, including cameos from Maddie Ziegler, Kirstin Wig and Paul Dano. It was odd, creative, artistic and captivating and her voice couldn't have sounded better.
I caught the second half of A$AP Rocky and it was everything I hoped it would be. The whole A$AP Mob was on stage when I ran up to the Pavilion stage and they were jumping around and full of energy. The New York-native said "I ain't here to promote the hate, I'm just love to see the peace amongst the people. This s--t is beautiful." He put on a passionate performance for his track, "L$D," a song that proves A$AP Rocky should sing that raspy falsetto more often. He ended the set by bringing the Mob back on stage to perform "Yamborghini High," a tribute to A$AP Yam, who passed away earlier this year.
I couldn't think of a better way to end Panorama than a two-hour dance party put on by LCD Soundsystem. Vocalist James Murphy started out the set by saying he's just going to "shut up and play" because of the limited time for their set. "Daft Punk is Playing at Our House" immediately started things off as the crowd couldn't help but move their feet. "I Can Change" and "Someone Great" were some mid-set highlights. Murphy talked about how good it feels to play at home and he followed his short speech with "New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down," which obviously turned into a crowd sing-along. The lights reflected off a giant disco ball to appropriately set the dance party mood. "Dance Yrself Clean" and "All My Friends" closed the set and it was a perfectly fitting way to send Panorama goers off.
Panorama exceeded every expectation last weekend. While I was in one of those spotless, toilet paper-stocked bathrooms, I overheard a festival goer say "This is like, a festival for mature people," which perfectly describes the peaceful vibes from adults that could actually hold their liquor. We might've almost drowned in our sweat, but it was a weekend where emotions were felt, political opinions were expressed and the dancing was abundant. Most importantly, it was a weekend full of spectacular sets with new and old friends. See you next year, Panorama (fingers crossed).