The best (and worst) of the inaugural Panorama Festival
What is a music festival nowadays without the comprehensive experiences supplementing top-tier musical performances?
Touted as “the East Coast Coachella,” the inaugural edition of Panorama Festival dazzled newcomers with a technologically-forward, yet musically-oriented affair. With their finger on the pulse of creativity and innovation, West Coast events producer Goldenvoice managed to transport the sophisticated and opulent attitude of Coachella Valley and bring it to New York’s Randall’s Island Park. Save for palm trees and an endless string of star-studded surprise guests, the first-ever Panorama Festival mirrored its older, more venerated sibling in a variety of ways.
Goldenvoice president Paul Tollett recently divulged to the LA Times, “New York is the biggest market in the country and it has one major festival. So we definitely think there’s room for both.”
Tollett, of course, was referencing New York’s coveted Governors Ball as the city’s “one major music festival,” as both events contend for prime real estate and a winning reputation among fans.
It’s clear that neither Panorama nor Governors Ball, however, wish to be compared and contrasted to one another, though attendees are quick to take to their whiteboards to draw upon their similarities and differences – and better yet, to answer the question, “Who did it better?”
Allow us to remind you, however, that Panorama Festival and Governors Ball are not one and the same; the former is produced by Goldenvoice and AEG Live while the latter is now in the hands of Live Nation. Location and lineups (in terms of quality, feel and genres) aside, the festivals bore few, if any, identical characteristics.
An upscale air tinged the festival grounds of Panorama. Affluence and commercialism lay in any which way you turned, evident through Panorama’s ritzy partners including American Express, Sephora, MTV, The Verge and HP. A cluster of string lights were delicately hung atop vendors’ tents across the island, while a handful of misting tents situated near the Panorama Stage provided relief for attendees powering through the blistering, 90-degree weather. Equally highbrow were Panorama’s food and beverage offerings: Dough, Eggloo and Roberta’s, to name a few, while Jalapa Bar and Monk’s Meats were housed within The Grove – an exclusively 21+ area to which older festival goers could escape for repose. Boasting a more mature and mellow (in both attire and demeanor) crowd than most New York-based events, Panorama arguably set a new standard for what the exemplary NYC festival should – and can – be.
Perhaps most notable about Panorama Festival was its introduction of technology, and demonstration to ticket holders that appreciation for a music festival can exist beyond merely its headliners. The Lab, produced by HP and The Verge, was an interactive free-for-all that showcased seven art and technology installations that fascinated patrons could not only see, but touch, sit in, and even control. Designed and curated by META.is, The Lab made excellent use of 3D projection mapping, DIY software, optical illusions, virtual reality and LED lighting to take participants on a sensory journey through a 70-foot, Epcot-like dome. The exploration concluded with a 15-minute Dome Video, inviting attendees to lie down in an immense, air-conditioned bubble as they were flown through space via a visually-arresting film (with 3D audio, to boot).
Though coming in on the smaller side with just three stages – Panorama Stage, Pavilion and Parlor – Panorama packed a punch with headlining acts Arcade Fire, Kendrick Lamar and LCD Soundsystem. Most impressive, by far, was Sia’s Sunday evening performance as she reminded her legion of fans that the focus need not always be on the acts themselves. Rather than standing front and center, the Australian singer-songwriter was anchored near the back of the stage, her face covered by her signature black and white wig and a large, white bow. Teenage dancer Maddie Ziegler, widely known for starring in Sia’s music videos for “Chandelier,” “Elastic Heart” and “Big Girls Cry,” served as the main attraction as she construed Sia’s songs through intense facial gestures and exquisite movement. Renowned actor Paul Dano also made a surprise appearance during “Bird Set Free” for a truly raw and breathtaking presentation.
Meanwhile, electronic acts Major Lazer, Flosstradamus, Rufus du Sol, LCD Soundsystem and AlunaGeorge reigned supreme as some of the most buzzed-about sets of the weekend – that is, if you were lucky enough to see them (more on that below). LCD’s return to New York following two back-to-back Webster Hall shows earlier this year was met with unprecedented enthusiasm among fans as they performed songs like “Someone Great,” “Dance Yrself Clean” and “Yeah.”
One of the major disappointments of Panorama was the Parlor’s restricting size; largely popular musicians including AlunaGeorge, Tensnake, Classixx and Tokimonsta were confined to a tent so small that lines formed all the way down the back-most field, ending near the VIP Compound’s outskirts. To many fans’ dismay, entry into the Parlor became nearly unthinkable as the stage reached capacity early on in the day, forcing attendees to forgo seeing some of the festival’s more eclectic performances.
While Panorama Festival’s first run of show appeared to be far from sold-out, it is certain that Goldenvoice succeeded in leaving an indelible mark on its East Coast guests. Whether that impression is positive – from the intricate decor to the overt cleanliness of the venue – or negative due to Friday’s exhausting will-call lines, it can easily be said that Panorama is leading the charge by fostering key elements like interactive technology in a favorable market. The conventional music festival in New York may never be the same again, though its future is undeniably exciting.
Photos courtesy of Panorama NYC