The Meadows Music & Arts Festival; A 'bucket List' music event

By Mystery Girl

Photos: ShotByTamrock

  Fantastic Negrito at The Meadows NYC

Fantastic Negrito at The Meadows NYC

Jay-Z, Gorillaz, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Future, Erykah Badu, LL Cool J, Nas- just a few of the iconic names that graced the stages of The Meadows Music and Arts Festival in Queens, New York. If that statement alone doesn’t get you excited as a music fan, I don’t know what will. Bringing music legends to Citi Field for a second year, the festival transformed the stadium’s parking lot into a 4-stage celebration from Friday, September 15 to Sunday, September 17.

With a lineup of acts representing music generations past and present, there was something for everyone at the 3-day festival; from artists like Migos and 21 Savage representing today’s new wave of music to timeless veteran headliners like Jay-Z, Gorillaz, and Red Hot Chili Peppers giving 90s babies like myself a weekend full of music nostalgia. The Meadows was what I call a ‘bucket list festival’, checking off some big time names on the ‘must see live before I die’ roster.

  Jay-Z at The Meadows NYC

Jay-Z at The Meadows NYC

Jay-Z jumped from Hip Hop classics like “Run This Town” and “Izzo” to newer records off his powerful 4:44 album, before giving a compelling “Numb/Encore” tribute performance in honor of the late Chester Bennington (Linkin Park). Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Josh Klinghoffer shredded guitar while bass god Flea effortlessly destroyed riffs. Damon Albarn gave an artistically captivating performance digitally joined by his animated Gorillaz band glaring on the screen behind him and a group of live musicians and backup singers. And let’s not forget the names left off the bill, with a handful of surprise cameos from guest artists. Future brought out Nicki Minaj; LL Cool J was joined by D.M.C., Q-Tip, and The Furious Five’s Melle Mel and Scorpio; Jay-Z brought out Damien Marley; and Damon Albarn brought out Pusha T, D.R.A.M., De La Sol, Yasiin Bey, and Jehnny Beth, to name a few.

  Gorillaz (Damon Albarn) at The Meadows NYC

Gorillaz (Damon Albarn) at The Meadows NYC

As I navigated through three days of performances and one on one interviews, I noticed a commonality between the artists I spoke with. A strong entrepreneurial spirit was the standout trait amongst my Meadows interviewees, whose varied backstories and journeys into the industry share a common theme of self-determination. It comes as no surprise, considering that today’s music industry has been experiencing a notable push for more artist independence and control. Look at Chance The Rapper, who took home three Grammy wins this year despite refusing to sign to a label; or Meadows headliner Jay-Z, who took his career beyond rapping to founding the first artist-owned streaming service in the world, putting more power back in the artists’ hands.

  Gorillaz (Damon Albarn) at The Meadows NYC

Gorillaz (Damon Albarn) at The Meadows NYC

There’s an obvious shift in the way artists are handling their music careers today, taking a more DIY approach: a sentiment that echoed throughout my conversations with performing artists at The Meadows. Take a look below to find out more about those passionate and driven creatives I spoke with while at the festival.

 

Fantastic Negrito

  Fantastic Negrito at The Meadows NYC

Fantastic Negrito at The Meadows NYC

Chance The Rapper isn’t the only artist to win a Grammy without label support. Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz, aka Fantastic Negrito, did it this year as well; snagging the award for his self-produced album The Last Days of Oakland released under his collective Blackball Universe. “I won the Grammy without a record label and I recorded my album without a studio; I just did it in an old funky room,” the artist said. Fantastic Negrito’s story is an interesting one to say the least. He’s been through it all; from being signed to a major record label under a million dollar deal, to falling into a coma after a near fatal car accident, to quitting music completely. He describes his music as “black roots music for everyone” and his show as “Church without the religion.” Fantastic Negrito is as authentic as they come, and a living example of overcoming adversity. Check out my interview with the artist to find out more about his incredible journey.

 

Mike Floss

  Mike Floss at The Meadows NYC

Mike Floss at The Meadows NYC

Tennessee rapper Mike Floss is another artist making moves without a big fancy deal. In my interview with Floss, he discusses how he was recognized by TIDAL when the streaming platform featured him and his “Dopeboy Dreaming” record in a commercial during the Billboard Music Awards. Floss states, “For an artist that has no record deal, no major backing…for me to be able to achieve things like that strictly off the strength of the music…I think it’s like a true Cinderella story…you can really build something off quality.” Raised in Nashville, Floss shares what it's like being a rap artist in a state where Hip Hop culture is lacking and his hopes to change that. The lyricist also discusses how his dad Rod McGaha, a successful Jazz musician, has influenced his approach to music and what to expect on his latest album Tennessee Daydreams.

 

Dylan St. John

New York artist and songwriter Dylan St. John didn't let his lack of a label stop him from doing music. Instead, he forged his own lane and started independent record label “Billboard Bound Entertainment” (BBE) as a platform for his music. An artist who marches to the beat of his own drum, Dylan St. John explains why he left college to pursue music and why his projects crossover into multiple genres.

 

Dams of the West

You may be familiar with Chris Tomson as the drummer of band Vampire Weekend, but the musician took on a different role as front man of Dams of the West, a new band he created. Tomson says he produced debut album Youngish Americans before putting the actual live band together for touring. He explains why he wanted the band to consist of all women, what it’s like jumping between drummer and lead singer, and more in this interview with him and his Dams of the West band mates.

 

Public Access T.V.

Public Access T.V. lead singer John Eatherly dropped out of high school to pursue music and ended up in New York where he eventually formed the group.  When the band’s first track “Monaco” put them on the radar, the guys decided to perform shows under fake band names to practice playing live. In my interview with Public Access T.V., guitarist Xan says they were prompted to do the secret shows after a major label invested money into the group without them having played a show yet.

 

Arkells

Toronto-based band Arkells talks about their album Morning Report, rock music, meeting Drake's dad, and Canada in my interview with members Mike and Max after their Meadows set.

 

Winning a Grammy without a label or studio, dropping out of high school to pursue music, starting an independent record label, performing under an alias to practice- these stories demonstrate an unwavering determination, innovativeness, and independence that has led these artists to where they are today. In the words of Fantastic Negrito, “You feel like you need all this stuff. You need your soul;” sound advice to aspiring artists in an ever-changing industry.

 

See below for a Meadows recap video and photo album!

The Meadows 2017

Photo Album

Cash Cash & Big Beat celebrate "All My Love"

LIVE SHOWCASE AT ANNUAL BIG BEAT RECORDS BBQ 

By Mystery Girl

  Cash Cash  at Big Beat BBQ (Photo: Sara Wass)

Cash Cash  at Big Beat BBQ (Photo: Sara Wass)

Games, drinks, mini barbeque foods, and Cash Cash at a dope New York venue on a hot summer night made a Tuesday feel like the weekend at Big Beat Records’ annual summer series BBQ held at the Fishbowl in Manhattan.

  Big Beat BBQ (Photo: Sara Wass)

Big Beat BBQ (Photo: Sara Wass)

Serving as a bar, lounge, AND game room (yes they had bowling, skee-ball, and Pac Man!), Fishbowl (named obviously for the cylindrical aquarium-like fish tank serving as the room’s centerpiece) was the perfect spot to mix up the week with good vibes and music.

  Cash Cash at Big Beat BBQ (Photo: Sara Wass)

Cash Cash at Big Beat BBQ (Photo: Sara Wass)

In celebration of their brand new single “All My Love” ft. Conor Maynard, Cash Cash gave an energetic live performance, spinning original music alongside some summer bangers. Released just a couple weeks back on July 7, “All My Love" has already hit over 4 million plays on Spotify with the music video climbing up to almost 1 million views on YouTube. A love song with an upbeat summer vibe, Conor Maynard and Cash Cash manage to make heartbreak sound like fun, hitting you in your feels and your feet. “All My Love” is available on all platforms now, check it out below!

  Cash Cash & Mystery Girl at Big Beat BBQ

Cash Cash & Mystery Girl at Big Beat BBQ

A First Timer's Play by Play of GOVERNORS BALL 2017

  Kehlani performing at Governors Ball 2017

Kehlani performing at Governors Ball 2017

While the first day of summer doesn’t officially begin until June 21, this year’s Governors Ball music festival may have kicked off the season a bit earlier in New York with feel good music and sunny skies. The three-day festival inhabited Randall’s Island from Friday, June 2 to Sunday, June 4, and I had the pleasure of experiencing the music and magic for the first time from start to finish.

They say first impressions are everything, and Governors Ball made a damn good one. Allow me to paint the picture of what the first few minutes were like for the Mystery Team and I upon stepping onto the festival grounds on Day 1. Walking through the gates, I was greeted with grassy fields, pink balloons, and prancing festival-goers. As I proceeded not even fifty feet past the entrance, I was met with high-energy music and cheers pouring out from a stage straight ahead.

I approached the stage to see the name “Michael Blume” on a giant screen serving as the backdrop to a full band, backup singers, and fearless front man Michael Blume; all of whom were dressed in white. It was a theatrics-filled performance to say the least, complete with well choreographed moves from everyone on stage, including the band. Blume gave it his all on stage from beginning to end and was fiercely and unapologetically himself; conveying a message of self-love, acceptance, and resistance to ignorance and negativity; A perfect first act to be greeted with at a festival that embodied just that.

Michael Blume video interview at Governors Ball 2017

Be happy with who you are and embrace your fellow people. That was the takeaway I got from this year’s Governors Ball artists, whether it was rock band Tool telling the crowd “Ignorance is the enemy” or songstress Lorde letting fans know the importance of being at peace with your inner self; a fitting intro speech to her performance of Liability. From the acts to the crowds, Governors Ball was oozing with diversity, creating an atmosphere on the island that was easy to feel accepted in. A safe haven for music lovers of all types. 

With 4 stages supporting artists from a multitude of genres, my ears could transition from hip hop to rock to pop to indie to electronic and more with a short walk across a field. So as Friday continued, I went from hearing the energetic soulful sounds of Michael Blume to the more mellow tunes of UK band Blossoms. Their self-titled debut album hitting No. 1 in the UK last year, the men of Blossoms described their music to me as timeless indie guitar synth pop from the heart. The band played their first headlining U.S. tour just this spring and will be hitting many of the major U.S. festivals this summer, hoping to grow their fan base in the States. I’m glad they put Governors Ball on their list of stops, giving us a taste of music from another part of the world.

Blossoms video interview at Governors Ball 2017

While I’m sure everyone has their own versions of stories to tell about their Governors Ball experience, I can only speak for myself. So here are some of MY Governors Ball 2017 highlights.

 

Day 1- Friday, June 2

  Francis and the Lights at Governors Ball 2017

Francis and the Lights at Governors Ball 2017

  • Francis and the Lights. I was a Francis and the Lights first-timer, and I was NOT disappointed. It was fun and uplifting to watch an ecstatic Francis glide and dance across the stage with an infectious enthusiasm and energy he effortlessly transferred to the crowd. The happy go lucky singer wasn’t without surprises either. After doing a lap around the stage, Francis climbed the stage tower and showed off some elevated dance moves before ascending. He then ended his performance with a surprise appearance from Chance the Rapper, where the two danced in unison to their collaboration track May I Have This Dance.

 

  • Tove Lo.  She was sassy, she was fashionable, and she gave us a full frontal. Yes, Tove Lo flashed the crowd, and it made me so so proud. Girl Power!
  Tove Lo at Governors Ball 2017

Tove Lo at Governors Ball 2017

 

  • Kehlani. I’ll admit, I was skeptical, but Kehlani proved she can own a stage. She was strong, sexy, and confident with solid vocals, sultry dance moves, and just the right amount of attitude.

 

  Lorde at Governors Ball 2017

Lorde at Governors Ball 2017

  • Lorde. My first time watching Lorde perform was emotional and magical. The songstress held nothing back; you could literally FEEL her emotions emanating from the stage. Her performance for Liability was powerful to say the least, almost bringing me to tears (something I swore I’d never do in public). At least I can say I wasn’t the only one wallowing in my sorrows. Lorde sang to a crowd full of watery eyes; the girl in front of me shamelessly turning back to her friend at the end of the song to confide, “That just wrecked me”. And while Lorde’s set was grabbing all the way through, the ending was something to remember. Closing with Green Light, the singer danced wildly to flashing green lights, ending the song with fireworks shooting out the rear of the stage and upward to assist the moon in illuminating the dusky sky. Bravo Lorde.

 

  • Chance the Rapper. When Chance the Rapper enters the stage riding a motorbike, you know it’s going to be a good show.  Chance and his band The Social Experiment closed out Day 1 with a bang, giving us an uplifting gospel like performance that made me feel like I was in a way more turned up version of Church. Oh and of course Francis and the Lights popped up during Chance's set for another May I Have This Dance routine.

 

Day 2- Saturday, June 2

  • Jessie Reyez. I’ve been following Jessie Reyez and the progression of her music career for quite some time now, so it was necessary to finally see her play live and catch her set at Governors Ball (I promise I’m not a stalker…on paper…). Although Reyez had an early 12:15 pm set, a solid crowd of fans showed up early Saturday just to see her, including myself. Reyez was surprised and touched by the turnout, saying that she expected to be performing to maybe 10 people at best and expressing her gratitude to her audience. The singer belted out songs from her debut Kiddo EP with the rawness and authenticity that made me fall in love with her music in the first place. No smoke and mirrors here folks; just an incredible artist armed with her voice and dad’s old guitar.
  Jessie Reyez at Governors Ball 2017

Jessie Reyez at Governors Ball 2017

 

  • Childish Gambino. I’m glad I got to witness what Gambino said would be his only show of the year. A bittersweet feeling, especially since the artist also announced that his next album will be his last as Childish Gambino. “I’ll see you for the last Gambino album” he said at the end of a great performance. What a way to close out Saturday night. Hits me in all my feels.

 

Day 3- Sunday, June 3

  • Logic. I thoroughly enjoyed the rapper’s latest album Everybody, and so I made my way over to watch him perform some of my favorites like America and, well, Everybody. Aside from the music, I was impressed with two things during Logic’s Sunday night performance. The first; his love for his fans. While on stage, Logic called out a few of his front row fans by name. “How old are you now?” he asked a girl who has been attending his shows since she was 15. Her answer; 19. The fact that he not only remembered, but also acknowledged his fans personally, showed me that Logic is humble and gracious.  The second thing I was impressed by; signing with Kat! This was the part of the show when Logic brought out sign language interpreter Kat to sign alongside his rapid free styling. I never thought I’d be able to say hands can rap but Kat kept up in style. It was dope; it was artistic; it was impressive.

 

  • Tool. The migration to another stage made for an interesting transition from the carefree adolescent Logic crowd to the older “rock sophisticated” (as my co-worker put it) Tool crowd. It literally felt like we had jumped dimensions, but that’s exactly what I loved about Governors Ball. My thoughts on the performance? Tool is a well-oiled fine-tuned rock and roll machine fueled on trippy vibes and pure awesomeness.

 

  • Corn Dogs! I had been craving a corndog for over a year prior to attending Governors Ball. Why did I wait a year to eat one? Well because I just knew if I didn’t eat the RIGHT one, I’d be grossly disappointed. So I waited; and as fate would have it I passed a girl eating what looked like the most perfectly constructed corndog. Let's cut the suspense. I found the stand. I bought the corndog. I ate it. I was complete. It was EVERYTHING I had been waiting for and more. Thank you Governors Ball for not only satisfying my music craving, but my corndog craving as well. You’ve been so very good to me. Until next year!

-MG

Check out my Governor's Ball recap video and photo album below!

Soundset Music Festival Celebrates 10 years

  Amine performing at Soundset Music Festival 2017

Amine performing at Soundset Music Festival 2017

The Soundset Music Festival celebrated its 10th Anniversary this year, bringing some of the biggest names in Hip Hop and over 35,000 people to the State Fairgrounds in St. Paul, Minnesota on May 28. Names like Lauryn Hill, T.I., Travis Scott, Gucci Mane, D.R.A.M, Atmosphere and more were amongst the 50+ artists to take the stages. Good music, weather, and all around vibes made for a great festival! Check out the videos and photos below for a look inside the Soundset 2017 experience! 

 

OFFICIAL SOUNDSET RECAP VIDEO