Tuesday, August 28, 2012

AfroPunk '012

AfroPunk Fest during TV on the Radio's headlining set, 8/26

This past weekend, Brooklyners were treated to free live outdoor music, on a massive scale, as the 2012 Afro-punk Festival graced two stages at Commodore Barry Park in Fort Greene. Saturday night, Maura and I missed out on Erykah Badu, among many others, but we scooted over Sunday night in time for two stellar sets. When we arrived, the park was far from full, but a line snaked from the middle of Navy Street, down Park Avenue, nearly reaching Elliott, and the only entrance (on Navy) was something of a log jam.  As we circled the park, we encountered fence climbers and fence crawlers...

Scene from North Elliott Place
At a fence within the fence (between the playground and the grassy area where the concert was held), someone had even tilted a ladder against the fence to assist the rebel alliance. It was pretty awesome... I wouldn't exactly consider any of this extra-legal, as it was a free concert, and the park was only half-full at the time. Again... people were sneaking in to a free concert.  Eventually, the concert organizers and the police would adjust on the fly, deciding to open up a second entrance (great call). 

Overall, it was a very well-run event. The last time I attended a festival (Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival a few years ago in between the bridges), each act ran a few minutes long, as it took time to break down and set up between performances.  By the time KRS-One, the headliner, took the stage, he had time for TWO songs, and the show was shut down by park officials at 8:00 sharp. The Afro-punk Fest smartly provided two stages, alternating shows between them, with a band/singer on one, and a DJ on the other, while the next act set up.  Everything began at the correct time! It was impressive.

Anyway, we looped onto Flushing Ave--the north side of the park--and were greeted with an amazing sight. The photo here doesn't do the scene justice, as you would have to imagine this repeated over more than the length of a city block.

Off-street parking, Flushing Avenue
Brooklyn had turned out in droves, and by any means available. It was great. We wound up near the north stage, towards the beginning of Janelle Monáe's set. What a show. Despite the fact that we were relegated to the sidewalk along Flushing, the sound was great, and we caught some glimpses of the stage (and the spastic movements of Monáe's head and flailing arms). A good number of us formed a crowd and danced along, all the while observing attempts to scale the fence. At this point, the police recognized the hazards of folks scaling tall fences and crowds spilling into busy streets, and the second entrance opened. We enjoyed the entirety of TV on the Radio's performance from inside the fence, even securing our own spot on the lawn. Strangely enough, the sound quality was better outside the north fence, probably due to a couple of reasons: 1) the space was more enclosed--a smaller area with trailers lining the perimeter to catch the sound waves, and 2) well, TVOTR is a little bit noisier. Maura wanted to beat the crowds, but I insisted on hanging around till the end, convinced that they would close with "Wolf Like Me" (my favorite). Lo and behold, they moved from a song off their latest album ("Repetition") deftly into the beginning of "Wolf". I was thrilled, of course, and we ended up fleeing, trouble-free, as the song drew to a close. And as we walked away--much to our surprise--we caught the beginning of an encore... without a peep from park officials. 

All around, a great showing of community by the fine folks of Brooklyn. TGFB.

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