Afropunk Brooklyn 2016 | Festival Review
Growing up, punk rock was a huge part of shaping my voice as an artist and as a woman/girl. However, I never had too many people of colour , let alone women of colour to reference as part of this world in terms of artists, makers, singers, and basically punk rock icons.
Over the years I've found my tribe and my tribe has found a platform. The platform being Afropunk fest. In a sort of pilgrimage, I found myself at Day 2 of the Brooklyn chapter of the festival this August. The sun was bright, the fashion's lit and the summer spirit of expression on fire.
A little jet lagged I wandered into the Commodore Barry Park where the crowds had already gathered, a spectacle of melanin wonder greeting my slightly overwhelmed senses. The sounds of THE SUFFERS' Texan Soul filling the afternoon air and providing a fitting backdrop to the dreamy energy that was being exuded by both performers and partakers alike.
After getting my hands on a program and finding where the other three stages were, meant it was time to snap out of the dreamy energy and into crowd maneuvering mode. What followed was not only lots of 'excuse me, sorry, thanks' but also being left in a sense of constant awe and joy with every passing festival goer – the style, the style, the style! And while it was evident that many of the folk there, were there to merely parade and hardly for the music (a fact confirmed when five people asked me, “who is she, she lit” when the goddess Kelela took the stage -more on that later though), I could forgive it, because, WHY THE HELL NOT. It's pretty punk rock of them too.
That said, for those of us who were there for the style AND music, the festival sound technicians delivered. The musicians even more so. Watching ANGEL HAZE and YOUNG FATHERS back to back was spirit numbing and not for me, for the musicians themselves. They all kept shouting out the fact that they were so over joyed to be playing to a festival audience that was a sea of brown. Angel Haze played one of her new tracks to an ecstatic crowd which she eventually jumped right into and played out her set from there to its end. Young Fathers played out their modern classic 'WAR', their voices crackling through Brooklyn as if casting the entire borough into a séance, let alone the festival audience.
As the sun threatened to creep away, it was time to head over to the next stage where ESTA of SOULECTION was spinning the crowds right round. A fitting soundtrack to a chilled drink and the perfect build up to the next act, the goddess herself, KELELA. I really can't put into words how amazing she is live. She owned that stage, she owned her aura, she owned her vocals, she owned our senses. She cast a spell on us as an audience and was gracious in how much love she gave back to us, because the love was pouring toward her in droves. 'REWIND' was the crown jewel and a summation of the reeling exuded by what was hands down one of the biggest audiences of the evening, second to Janelle Monae.
On that note, it was time to head over to catch Janelle, however I had to turn back after a scary moment of my feet not touching the ground, there were THAT many people trying to ft into a bottle neck of an entrance that lead to the stage she was gracing. Sad to miss her, but it was time for a much needed breather of people watching and taking in those legendary levels of style.
As the night sky draped us, it was time to ft in two more acts – SANGO and THE INTERNET. Syd the Kyd and friends were new to me in terms of actually listening to them 'properly' and they delivered. The layers of instruments set against Syd's vocals made for an engaging performance, fresh and definitely one with a whole new fan base – myself included. I chose to skip Ice Cube's performance for this, just saying. Even Tyler the Creator watched his talented friends from the stage wings during their entire performance. Later that night, I was in the elevator at my hotel (which turns out they were staying at too), when Syd and Matt Martians walked in and I had the unexpected honour of thanking them for a great set, to which they humbly blushed - #cuties.
Sango mesmerized too, even though 90% of the crowd had no idea who he was, but the bodies were moving, the feelings being felt when 'NA HORA' dropped. We caught him later in the night at one of the festival's intimate 'After Dark' party's in deep Brooklyn at the hip Friends & Lovers space. It was hosted by SOULECTION, where Sango and the gang played to a room that was basically 10000 degrees hot but people didn't care because he was on all types of point which is when we walked in. As he wrapped and swiftly exited the space (for much needed air conditioning I'm sure), Joe Kay and The Whooligan set the dance floor into escalated levels of non-stop movement for the rest of the wee hours . And despite being jet lagged and delirious at what was 2AM by that point – my girls and I did not sit down till the lights came on at 4AM and we accepted that Afropunk Fest 2016 was a wrap – it was time for that Uber.
Written by: Amirah T. for The 264 Cru