Before I begin, a moment of real talk. I never had an event like Afropunk growing up. A sense of community and family within something I love. I had sports but as soon as the game was over, whatever truce I had with my antagonists/tormentors was over too and I'd go back to base zero. Meaning the taunting and bullying returned and my personal self image continued to sink deeper into the morose...
Being at AfroPunk Brooklyn for 5 out of the last 6 years gives me what I missed during all those teenage years. It felt like one big clubhouse with like-minded people trading music, experiences and stories. During the two-day event, clearly no one could be perceived as an outcast-the attendees were from every walk of life, filling every conceivable slot. For all the kids and teens I saw during this weekend: cherish this! Use this! Be this!
Now onto the misadventures! I actually came into the double day festival with a game plan. How I wasn't going to wear out the battery early on my iPhone. I was going to capture everything that I could. I was going to try to avoid playing music and limit my app use. Annnd I failed miserably.
Met up with AfroNerd around one-ish at Commodore Barry Park after a brisk 20 mins in line and immediately walked into the craziness of Qassim and The Juggernaut War Party at the main stage after a mini warm up with In The Whale on the Red Stage. Qassim and the JWP are like a force of nature on stage. Dancers. Rappers. Band. Constant Energy. I had fun just watching these guys and gals give it everything they had.
From that performance, it was a journey from shaded area to shaded area as this Saturday was like 95 degrees with no breeze. Water and liquids were at a premium for everyone. We crossed from one end of the park to the other, even running into DJ Benhameen of FanBros. During this time, yours truly made a fool of himself at the ZipCar Adult Tri-Cycle race and we ran into a lovely couple who visited in from Cleveland. They noticed the "Black Heroes Matter" shirt I wore from the great Jaycen Wise, and I just had to take a picture. One 10 minute lively discussion about life and the Blerd experience later and AfroNerd & I found ourselves at the Main Stage again for The VeeVees and SATE. The VeeVees were like southern folk rock meets NYC punk. SATE is the love child of Grace Jones and George Clinton. Literally from sound to stage presence. Amazing, the variety of music I have heard so far and I am not even halfway through the day yet.
This now heralded our cross training part of the event as between 4:15 and 7pm we caught Benjamin Booker's funk rock; Thundercat's pushing all musical boundaries; Saul Williams political grooving; the godfather of funk, George Clinton and then Cee-Lo Green just commanding the stage. I owe an apology to Cee-Lo actually. I pegged him all wrong. His live act was great!!! To close out the day, Laura Mvula hit us with Sade like tunes that had the crowd swooning. Then we were treated to Tank and the Bangas, a 3 woman rap group from New Orleans that were as flashy as the city they rep. Main Event Time! And boy did TV On The Radio deliver the goods. Different rock styles and allusions had the crowd energized and surprised. I bet most had heard of the group but didn't know how awesome their live performance could be.
Got to AfroPunk early to take pictures of the layouts of the festival before the mad rush of people came in. Which also got me shopping and the first booth I hit was The McGriffs. In case you didn't know, 9 year old Natalie McGriff created the Adventures of Moxie, her own Black Girl comic book. So I had to pick her 3 issues up! Following that, I stopped by the Greenpoint Books booth and picked up a biography on Gil Scott-Heron and the AfroFuturism book. I also found time to pick up some t-shirts to commemorate the event. Now I started to hear music, meaning I was about to be treated to the sounds of personal favorite DJ Beverley Bond and gave me a chance to finally use the Facebook video option:
Yup. That me in my sweaty, geeky glory folks. Be afraid. Be very afraid. LOL Anyway, now that my video got me confident so when I met up with AfroNerd and we went to check out RAAA, this happened...
Yeah. I'm out of control at this point and now the crowds started to arrive and the Gold Stage Area was half full for BLXPLTN and their sheer rock lunacy. Following that, we chilled in the main area listening to DJ MOMA and I just had to make this one for my fam...
From there, we found out from a fellow fan that Roman Gianarthur was performing on the Red Stage and he funked everything up starting with a nasty Prince tribute. Boy's got skills besides producing and the fans definitely crammed in to see him. This was followed by brief drop-ins to see The Suffers rock and Angel Haze's rap skills before checking out Skye & Ross from Morcheeba just tear us a new one. Followed by the Godmother of AfroPunk Skunk Anansie which may I say was a revelation. She actually set the stage for the craziness to come with her crowd stunts but don't just ask me, you can also ask Bounce! Creator Chuck Collins who was IN THE MIDST of that insanity!
By now we were hitting 7pm, the park was jam packed and AfroNerd & I was split watching 2 crazy performances. He went over to the main stage to catch PowerJam, a supergroup consisting of the members of Fishbone, Living Color and Bad Brains.
I was at the Red Stage catching Janelle Monae.
Holy awesome sauce! Both acts brought their A games as Janelle's turned into a tribute to James Brown, Michael Jackson & Prince. Meanwhile, PowerJam played hits from all three bands AND brought back George Clinton & SATE to rock out. The night ended with Ice Cube, who I had misgivings about, raising his game to the previous bands levels and sending us all home banging our heads to his hits. He still got that fastball people! Yeah-YAAAY!
So there you guys and gals go. 2 days of music and fun. Thx to the organizers, staff, fans & acts for making this memorable as all heck! Below are the videos I made of the later performances on Sunday. Enjoy the shaky cam goodness!