This weekend, the ninth annual Afropunk Festival again took over Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn to showcase dozens of artists of color, spread across genres from thrash hardcore to ultra-current hip-hop, from New Orleans bounce to good time soul review. As always, from entry to exit, it’s about the best-run festival the city has to offer: pleasant, on-time, easy to move around within. You can easily catch at least a portion of every artists’ set, while still having time to grab a bite or a beer, participate in some sort of extreme sport, or just people-watch at one of the most vibrant fashion weekends of the year. While I missed Saturday’s lineup and the chance to hobnob with Will Smith while his wife’s metal band played, Sunday had plenty to recommend.
A big music event in Brooklyn where no one played a cheesy hits medley! Where the performances didn’t leave you feeling kind of gross and sad and too old to be witnessing them! Imagine…
I feel like it must have been a harrowing experience for any person attempting to use a nearby porta-john when New Orleans bounce artist Big Freedia was unleashing her massive bass booms. It must have felt like squatting during a particularly grody space shuttle launch! Or that one guy in Jurassic Park who got eaten on the toilet by a T-Rex, right before getting eaten on the toilet by a T-Rex!
When I saw legendary Detroit band Death at CMJ a couple years back I was struck by their synthesis of sturdy Motown basslines and garage rock oomph. Yesterday, emboldened by a raise in profile from the recent documentary, A Band Called Death, they were more of a classic rock beast. Extended rum solos, odd time changes. They were strong, and the mix was overwhelmingly crunchy. There were even times, like when performing their 1975 song “You’re a Prisoner” , when it struck me that you could shift the emphasis slightly, swap out the guitar tones for something more expensive and add some gross 30-piece drum set, and they might be playing a Metallica song! Or at least what Metallica songs I remember from being 12 were like. “You can’t run! You can’t hide! YOU’RE! LOCKED! INSIDE! (riff riff riff riff riff). I mean, right?
As always, the festival grounds were tricked out with skateboard shops, food, drinks, a skateboard half-pipe, and other assorted active diversions. This year, there was a huge rock wall column in the second stage area, which, I dunno, seems like something only crazy people would do at a sunshiney music festival?
At least climbers had a decent view for Detroit rapper Danny Brown, who played the buzziest set of the late afternoon. Brown is a weird dude, with a distinctive voice that’s wholly his own. Rapid weed raps delivered in a alternating creaky and shouty flow; music that swings from futuristic synth bloops to huge bass drop EDM with detours into shrieking goth and punk. He’s got charisma! But it was funny to hear him attempt to cut the music for the purpose of having his words rapped back at him by the crowd, especially when the song in question was some absolutely filthy sex jam, and we were responsible for intricate multi-part flow about eating pussy. This was not easy to pick up as you went.