NYC’s newest music festival was almost a disaster, but it turned into a huge success

caption
Chance The Rapper performs at the 2016 The Meadows Music and Arts Festivals at Citi Field on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016, in Flushing, New York.
source
Photo by Scott Roth/Invision/AP

This past weekend, I made the trek out to Flushing, Queens, for The Meadows Music and Arts Festival, New York’s newest music festival put together by Founders Entertainment, the promoters behind Governors Ball.

From a distance, it appears the Founders team has some positively bad luck:

For most that attended the event, however, NYC’s newest festival entrant was one the most enjoyable NYC concertgoing experiences in years. Solid administration, mind-blowing performances, and a few inspired choices made all the difference.

Here’s everything you missed:


A festival in October?

caption
Festival attendees Barbara Solha, left, and Marcella Solha of New Jersey dance at the 2016 The Meadows Music and Arts Festivals at Citi Field on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016, in Flushing, New York.
source
Photo by Scott Roth/Invision/AP

I was initially skeptical about a fall music festival in New York, imagining myself shivering outside for 8 or 12 hours amid a cold drizzle. Then I got excited thinking about those sunny and breezy October days in New York when the air is crisp and just warm enough for only a light jacket.

What we ended up with was something in between. Despite a heavy downpour on Friday night, the weather held up for the rest of the weekend. The cool, misty, mid-60s, cloudy weather was a thankful reprieve from the sweltering swamp-like conditions that permeate summer music festivals in the Northeast.

And though we didn’t quite get the New York-in-autumn festival of our dreams, consider me sold on an October festival – warm enough to be enjoyable, but not so much so that you drip sweat with each dance move.


An excellent venue

caption
An art instillation is seen at the 2016 The Meadows Music and Arts Festivals at Citi Field on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016, in Flushing, New York
source
Photo by Scott Roth/Invision/AP

Consider me double-sold on hosting a festival in the parking lot of Citi Field. There’s been talk for the last couple years that Founders has wanted to move Governors Ball to Queens, specifically nearby Corona Park. This year, the organizers behind the Panorama Festival attempted the same gambit.

It’s now painfully obvious why.

For every person who’s ever been to Randall’s Island – the site of Governors Ball, Panorama, and any number of other summer concerts – the scene in and out is familiar. There’s the grinding traffic into the grounds, if arriving by car, or the sun-scorched walk across the Ward’s Island Bridge. Leaving a concert there is most reminiscent of scenes from the 1981 Kurt Russell thriller “Escape from New York.”

And the mud. Don’t forget about the mud.

When it rains, the grounds turn into a literal mud pit. Had The Meadows been held at Randall’s Island after Friday’s downpour, the festival would have been a complete wash. Witness Governors Ball 2013, which happened amid a Friday night rainstorm.

Contrast that scene with the one at Citi Field. Sure, some people were disappointed that the festival was being held in a literal parking lot – and not Corona Park, as some had thought – but the upside was that it was easier for organizers to clear out the rain and for attendees to keep their feet dry and dance.

Getting to and from Citi Field was also a huge plus.

The Mets/Willets Point station is well-equipped for dealing with massive crowds, given that it experiences an influx of 30-40,000 fans 80-100x a year. That means a big station and express trains direct to and from Times Square. For the fancier ones among us who decided to hop in a cab or an Uber, that wasn’t too bad either.


source
The Meadows

Beyond the pluses of the locale, the setup benefited from the open canvas of the parking lot.

The four stages were all placed in the center of the grounds, making them easily reached from one another by a short walk. Each stage faced away from one another, preventing audio spillover from one artist to the next.

In addition, food vendors and market activations lined the outside of the grounds as opposed to being situated in the center, which kept the crowd moving.

But enough about the logistics. What about the music?


It’s hard to make a festival lineup stand out. And yet the organizers made inspired picks, like Australian dance rockers Empire of the Sun, whose set was full of dancers and futuristic visuals.

caption
Empire of the Sun performs at the 2016 The Meadows Music and Arts Festivals at Citi Field on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016, in Flushing, New York.
source
Photo by Scott Roth/Invision/AP

Jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington, and his all-star band, did not disappoint, putting on an adventurous set that left the crowd begging for more.

source
Harrison Jacobs/Business Insider

The Weeknd may have canceled, but J. Cole picked up the slack with a headlining set full of hits.

caption
Artist J. Cole performs at the 2016 The Meadows Music and Arts Festivals at Citi Field on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016, in Flushing, New York.
source
Photo by Scott Roth/Invision/AP

The line for merchandise wasn’t bad. That is, unless you wanted Kanye West merchandise. His clothing was sold at a separate booth with a line that stretched halfway across the parking lot.

caption
A booth offers Kanye West merchandise at the 2016 The Meadows Music and Arts Festivals at Citi Field on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016, in Flushing, New York.
source
Photo by Scott Roth/Invision/AP

The food did not disappoint. While there were tasty eats from hot New York City spots, the standouts were in the FEASTival of Queens, which featured five options local to the Flushing area.


Mac Miller showed off the new funkier, dance-y brand of hip-hop on his album “The Divine Feminine,” which was released in September.

caption
Mac Miller performs at the 2016 The Meadows Music and Arts Festivals at Citi Field on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016, in Flushing, New York.
source
Photo by Scott Roth/Invision/AP

Chance the Rapper, the hottest name in hip-hop this year, put on a set that had the air of a headliner. Though he had a late-afternoon slot, the majority of those at the festival crowded in to see the Chicago native.

caption
Chance the Rapper performs at the 2016 The Meadows Music and Arts Festivals at Citi Field on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016, in Flushing, New York.
source
Photo by Scott Roth/Invision/AP

For many, the festival may end up being defined by its truncated finale. Kanye West cut his set early after he received news that Kim Kardashian had been robbed in Paris.

caption
Kanye West performs at the 2016 The Meadows Music and Arts Festivals at Citi Field on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016, in Flushing, New York.
source
Photo by Scott Roth/Invision/AP

West’s headlining set began with fireworks and was full of new cuts off “The Life of Pablo,” a Drake cover, and crowd favorites off “Graduation,” “808s and Heartbreak,” and “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.”

It was one to remember – that is until West stopped mid-“Heartless” to announce “I’m sorry, there’s a family emergency, I have to stop the show,” his voice choked up and still filtered through Auto-Tune.

The abrupt end left many attendees confused and testy as they navigated to the exit, but if the rest of the festival is any indication, you can bet they’ll be back next October.