The Meadows, the first major outdoor music festival in Queens, opened Saturday with a lineup as eclectic as the borough it now calls home.
Though The Weeknd’s off-again, on-again headlining set ended up being off again so he could focus on his “Saturday Night Live” appearance instead, and storm clouds threatened all day, The Meadows had a memorable debut in the Citi Field parking lot. (The two-day festival wraps up Sunday with headliner Kanye West, whose lines for merchandise were one of Saturday’s biggest draws, with fans waiting more than an hour to snag a T-shirt or hoodie.)
With the stadium looming in the background on one side of the grounds and the 7 train rumbling around the perimeter, the festival’s four stages took turns pumping out music nonstop for more than nine hours.
Rapper J. Cole and Electronic artist Pretty Lights took over the headlining slots after The Weeknd dropped out. But there were potential headliners on throughout the day, from rapper Post Malone to British rockers Savages, led by fiery singer Camille Berthomier, who climbed into the crowd to raise their energy level as the temperatures dropped, following the festival highlight “Sad Person.”
Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley delivered a searing set of fist-pumping political reggae.
However, most of the early sets were upbeat, starting with the stylish house music of Mr. Twin Sister. Australian club, favorites Miami Horror started an early dance party, with funk-infused pop like “Love Like Mine.” The crowd’s raucous reception to the band encouraged singer Josh Moriarty to climb a lighting tower and hang from the top about 30 feet in the air. And Kendrick Lamar collaborator Kamasi Washington led his six-piece band in a thrilling set of joyous jazz.
The festival’s eclectic feel was extended to the entire experience, as the usual definition of festival food was stretched to include Nepalese cuisine and chicken fingers with a calamansi aioli at Jeepney, the Filipino gastropub. There were plenty of Bud Light cans around, but there was also handmade vodka. Murals and art installations helped define each concert area, which all had Queens-centric names, including the Shea stage and one dedicated to Linden Boulevard.
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“It’s exciting to see a new festival in Queens of all places,” said Lawrence native Matt Reich, vice president of U.S. tours and promotions for the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, one of the festival’s partners. “I’m hoping it becomes an annual event.”