AFROPUNK Brooklyn Sunday Recap: Stand Up For Love [REVIEW+PHOTOS] REVIEW+PHOTOS: AFROPUNK FEST Brooklyn 8/28/16
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It was a hot and sticky Sunday, but that didn’t stop fabulous fashions and fantastic afros from coming out for a day of music in Brooklyn’s Commodore Barry Park. Security wore tuxedos and stayed hydrated, and not surprisingly the most popular stations were giving out H2O. (That weekend they were strategically placed and working overtime.) Afropunk’s message of love and tolerance was ready to beat the heat with an amazing line up of music.
The one thing no festival seems to be able to escape is the dreaded security back up just getting into the festival. I always feel bad for the opening bands when the lines are long and a bit confusing. But for attendees, with some patience it was easy enough to deal with and I arrived inside to catch my first set which was the Queen, Seinabo Sey.
Afropunk was her last stop after touring for over two years. She preached the philosophy of not holding back your feelings for others, because they actually may not feel the same way and it wasn’t going to do you any favors to not move on. Her personal strength and voice carried her performance and I was grateful that I got through security in time to catch her last performance on tour. It was such a wonderful show.
As the heat went on and more and more people arrived, the dirt kicked up by shuffling feed had set in and solidified with the mixture of sunscreen and sweat that had been brewing on my once clean skin. As more and more people arrived, a bunch of logistical problems started to become apparent as bottlenecks started in passages between stages. I started to realize that if I didn’t stake out a stage early there was no way to dash between stages. Sadly in discovering this, I missed Earl Sweatshirt and only got to watch from afar the amazing set of Roman GianArthur who is a pretty and magical man whose music clearly won over first time listeners.
The Suffers always deliver. Always. Front-woman Kam Franklin sounded killer as she belted out her band’s tunes. For today’s performance she had a perfectly coifed afro that framed her gorgeous face. All ten of The Suffers were in attendance and if you are lucky enough to catch all of them on stage, you can really feel the joy that emanates from them when they are all together. Their camaraderie is manifest and reflected in their music. They are great as nine, but ten of them takes them to “eleven”.
When talk about rock, you need to start talking bout Radkey. With dreadlocks flying, and their music blazing, the band never let up through the intense heat. In fact, they seemed to only created a ton of their own heat. Isaiah Radke (bass) was unstoppable as he hurled himself across the stage. Dee Radke (lead vocals and guitar) was more of a slow build, but as the set went on, he reached an intense fever. Seeing them for the first time, I was sincerely impressed and won over. I’m definitely keeping an eye out for this trio in the future.
Angel Haze, so little yet so tough and the owner of a big powerful voice. She worked the stage with everything she had. Her message of acceptance that is filtered through the pain of her past is simply inspiring. We need more people like her.
There was a palpable change in the air when Skunk Anansie took to the stage. Drummer Mark Richardson came out first and the crowd started cheering. As he checked his drums, he paused and then held out both of his arms to egg the audience on. As the cheers stirred, Cass followed onstage and when he revealed his T-Shirt reading “Dump Trump” the fans started cheering even louder. He stuck out his tongue and grinned the hugest of grins. Ace sneakily joined the others, when the warrior goddess Skin, wearing a reflective mirrored suit and a spiked hat, made her present immediately known. Now THAT was an entrance.
Time has not taken anything away from this band. In fact … if anything … they’ve only gotten better and like a slow build that starts on the edge of a their performance was very powerful, culminating to Skin coming into the crowd and surfing it as if she found the fifth element.
The stages started getting behind schedule, so I ran over to stake a spot for Janelle Monáe. In my humble opinion, she was also put on the wrong stage. The crowd she drew far exceeded the capacity the stage could handle. We all know that she’s a tiny little thing, but putting her on a smaller sized stage only takes away from her ability to not only draw a crowd, but to also put on an the type of theatrical she is known for
This woman can pretty much do about anything, and it was simply amazing to be a part of. She was brought to the stage on a dolly cart to be “awakened”, and the package that was delivered was awesome. Fashion, beauty, high energy and incredible music. Simply put she is a “never to be missed” live-performer and all I can say is that you’d be blessed to see her perform. In a moment that is hard for me to explain, in what was seemed like a naturally symbolic moment, and perhaps to relieve herself from some of the heat of the day, the larger than life artist doused herself with water after leaving everything on stage set. In that moment, in my personal opinion which I myself cannot fully explain, I thought she embodied everything right about Afropunk.
Right after, strange things were afoot as the main stage fell behind schedule. While we waited for Living Color / Fish Bone / GeorgeClinton / Band Brains, a man who bore a striking resemblance to Father John Misty (but only after he went to town on Chipotle), was pulled forcibly by security out of the pit and shortly thereafter another man was ejected after a fight broke out. Luckily after the men were ejected the strangeness left with them and the festival seemed to go on as if it were just a little bump in the road.
The mash up of Living Color / Fish Bone / George Clinton / Band Brains was off the hook. Combining forces, the early 90’s punk/ska rockers assembled to put on one of the best shows of I’ve seen in some time. Living Color started off the set getting the crowd thrashing to “Cult of Personality” then handing off the reins to Fish Bone, who have never sounded better . Front man Angelo Moore surfed the crowd not once but TWICE and seemed to be having the time of his life owning the crowd. He brought to the stage The Suffers’ Kam Franklin and George Clinton all while Living Color stayed on to play the set. And yes, you read that correctly, George Clinton was there … and he is the King. At one point, he picked up a mic stand and held it out on his pelvis, stroking it like an extension of his penis with a giddy and boyish grin. He was silly and perfect. Bad Brains finished out the epic set and the assembly of artists left a big hole in a stage that only one man could fill. Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome Ice Cube.
He came out like a prize fighter, pacing with fierce intensity as footage of injustice played on the screen behind him. While he played up to the anger that drives one to change their circumstance, and as the crowd seemed ready and willing to rally in the fight, tiny smiles could be seen on Ice Cubes face in recognition of the unity. He sounded amazing and his message was heard. Ice Cube, mic drop.