The Meadows Closes Out Festival Season


The Meadows was a three-day music festival held in Queens. (BESSIE RUBENSTEIN/THE OBSERVER)


As the crowd packed into Citi Field in Queens, you could almost swear it was still summer. Glitter, space buns, bright lipsticks and flash tattoos made a September resurgence at The Meadows music festival from Friday, Sept. 15 to Sunday, Sept. 17, where preteens and parents alike danced on the blazing concrete to sets from some of the hottest artists in the country.

Sept. 15 kicked off the fest with a packed set from 21 Savage. The 24-year-old rapper from the Caribbean attracted a huge crowd of high school and college-aged fans. A relative newcomer to the scene, 21 Savage’s popularity exploded in 2016 with his album “Savage Mode,” which featured hits like “X” and “For Real.” His performance—energetic and full of crowd-pleasers—set the mood for a hip-hop-heavy day.

With a Friday lineup full of rappers, electropop artists Marian Hill and Sky Ferreira were the outliers. Both acts, featuring female leads who have incredible stage presence had smaller, but dedicated audiences. Fans were delighted to see Ferreira, as she had taken a break from performing due to her stage fright, which she overcame to deliver an emotionally-charged set. For those who were looking for a different sound, duo Marian Hill—comprised of production artist Jeremy Lloyd and a fishnet-clad Samantha Gongol as lead vocalist—provided sultry hits like “Down” and “One Time.”

Migos, one of the hottest groups of the moment in part due to their hit song “Bad and Boujee,” lit up the stage in the afternoon, as well as alternative favorites Milky Chance and Two Door Cinema Club. R&B artist Blood Orange, also known as Devonté Hynes, performed a surprising set, mixing never-before-heard new music at the festival along with some fan favorites.

But the headliner and biggest set of the night was Jay Z, who had fans young and old waiting for hours in the sun to get a coveted spot near the stage. Jay performed a wide range of hits, from “Empire State of Mind” to “No Church in the Wild” to a tribute performance of “Numb/Encore” for the late Chester Bennington (lead singer of Linkin Park). He finished off Friday with a bang, albeit with a bit of a fizzle when he did not come out for an expected encore.

Saturday kept the momentum of the festival going with a morning featuring hip hop artists BadBadNotGood, Flatbush Zombies and LL Cool J, who was not to be missed as he brought out rap legends DMC and A Tribe Called Quest. One of the most intense sets of the day was Erykah Badu, a knockout R&B artist who has been prominent since the late ’90s. Badu’s vocal talent was on display as she crooned her most popular hits “On & On” and “You Got Me.”

Future, an Atlanta-based rapper whose most famous songs include “Low Life,” featuring The Weeknd, and “Mask Off,” was another artist who surprised his crowd with guest stars. Fans practically stormed the stage when Future brought out Nicki Minaj for an unbelievable few minutes followed by Young Thug, who stayed onstage for the majority of Future’s set.

The day culminated in sets from M.I.A. and Gorillaz, both established acts who have been part of the music scene for almost as long as many of the younger members of the crowd had been alive. M.I.A., a British female rapper best known for in-your-face rebel anthems like “Bad Girls” and “Paper Planes,” had her crowd screaming as she crawled along an enormous lit-up cage, but it was Gorillaz who took the crown for best Saturday headliner. The alt rock/rap group, who have captivated their niche audience since the ’90s, kept the guest stars coming with appearances from Pusha T, D.R.A.M. and De La Soul. Perhaps an unusual headliner choice for a festival that has attracted a younger crowd in the two years since its creation, Gorillaz proved to be a risk that more than paid off.

The third and final day of the fest ensured that The Meadows experience stayed strong until the very end. Indie pop had a strong presence in Sunday’s lineup with New Zealand duo Broods, for fans preferring a more electronic vibe, and Foster the People, for those who favor acoustics. Later in the day, the band Sleigh Bells made the trek from their native Brooklyn to deliver a rowdy noise pop set.

The evening forced festival-goers to make a tough choice between veteran rapper Nas and ’90s rock group Weezer. There wasn’t a wrong pick as both acts delivered. Weezer did the impossible and made Queens feel like a beach with dreamy hits like “Island in the Sun” and “Feels like Summer,” while Nas, a Queens native, repped his breakout ’90s album “Illmatic” and his most recent album “Life is Good.” Nas finished his set leaving no doubt that he is not only a proud New Yorker, but continues to be one of the biggest forces in hip hop.

Red Hot Chili Peppers, the longest-living band playing The Meadows, closed out an amazing festival weekend Sunday night. The largest crowd of the day belted along with the West coast alt-rock group as they delivered a hefty dose of ’90s nostalgia with songs like hits “Californication,” “Give it Away” and “Under the Bridge.”

When the last echoes of mic feedback had faded away and final stragglers made their way from Citi Field to the 7 train, the sense of satisfied exhaustion was in the air. Manhattanites and New Jersey residents alike returned home to hang up their bralettes and denim cutoffs—but only until next spring, when festival season returns to the city.