What Queens is bringing to the new Meadows music fest
UPDATE: Earlier versions of this story listed The Weeknd as a headliner, and later noted he canceled because of scheduling conflicts, and was replaced by J. Cole. The Weeknd has since returned to the bill.
The Meadows — the two-day music and arts extravaganza debuting Oct. 1 with headliners Kanye West, The Weeknd and J. Cole — will finally bring Governors Ball style to Queens.
However, Tom Russell, partner in Founders Entertainment, which produces both events, says what will make the event set for the Citi Field parking lot, near Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, will be what Queens brings to the festival.
“We have really taken our inspiration from the borough of Queens,” Russell says. “There will be a graffiti and art installation program that is inspired by the World’s Fair, by Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, by Citi Field and by the 7 train.”
And the musical lineup will reflect Queens’ multicultural roots as well as its hip-hop-steeped history — from Chinese-American EDM singer Zhu to Jamaican reggae royalty Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley to the aptly named alt hip-hop collective World’s Fair, who actually hail from Queens.
“We wanted an eclectic mix of artists,” Russell says. “We were lucky that there are so many bands that fit the bill on tour during the fall. There are so many other great festivals going on at this time of year — ACL [Austin City Limits], Music Midtown [in Atlanta] — but not any in New York. We were happy that so many artists were willing to sign on to something new.”
The biggest of those artists was West, who was scheduled to perform at Governors Ball this year, but had his set canceled due to rain. “He was so upset about not being able to play Gov Ball,” Russell says. “He had such a unique production planned. He worked on it for so long.”
Russell says West is working on a special presentation specifically for The Meadows, one that will be different from his current “Saint Pablo” tour, which recently stopped at Madison Square Garden, complete with a stage that appeared to float over the crowd. “He has so many special ideas planned,” Russell says. “I’m just in awe of his creativity.”
Founders Entertainment is eager to show off its own creativity with The Meadows, building a dramatically different festival experience than the one Governors Ball has crafted over the years.
“It will feel completely different,” Russell says, adding that Randalls Island feels like an oasis in the middle of the city, while Citi Field couldn’t feel more urban. “When you get off the LIRR, it will feel like you’re going to a Mets game, a totally different look and feel. The venue is so different. It will have a unique layout and art installations, even though there are similar artists.”
The stage setup will be different as well. While Governors Ball has its stages on the perimeter of the grounds, The Meadows will put all four stages in the middle of the grounds and have them facing outward. “Each stage will have its own area and have a unique vibe and feel to it,” Russell says. “To reduce the sound bleed, only two stages will be playing at the same time and we’re going to try to have two similar genre bands playing at the same time so one doesn’t get drowned out by the other. That should reduce crossover sound.”
Russell says there will be pop-up performances around the grounds that reflect the “vibrant cultures of Queens,” which will also be seen in the food vendors, which range from Phat Daddy’s Creole to the Jeepney Filipino gastropub to Taqueria Diana.
“We will have a food lineup that speaks to the many different ethnicities of Queens, food offerings that have something for everyone,” he says.
Maybe the strangest part of The Meadows’ creation is that it probably wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for Founders Entertainment’s competitors.
“When multiple companies proposed events for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, we were taken aback,” Russell says. “There are a number of rules that govern the city’s parks and one of them is that private ticketed events aren’t really allowed on the grounds. When it seemed possible, we thought we would love to throw an event there. It’s why we do what we do.”
WHAT The Meadows
WHEN|WHERE Noon, Oct. 1 and 2, Citi Field parking lot, Flushing
INFO $115 daily; 888-512-7469, themeadowsnyc.com
Openers set the stage
Of course, music fans heading to The Meadows will stick around to see headliners Kanye West, The Weeknd, J. Cole, Chance the Rapper and Empire of the Sun. But the festival is also offering plenty of up-and-coming acts on the festival’s four stages each day. Here’s a look at some reasons to come early:
BIO The Australian disco-house band led by producer-DJ Benjamin Plant has become a worldwide success thanks to last year’s infectious “All Possible Futures” album, with a string of club hits including “Real Slow” and the Michael Jackson-influenced “Love Like Mine.”
CURRENT SINGLE “Stranger” (Haven Sounds)
BIO The British post-punk band led by singer Jehnny Beth conjures up the London of Joy Division and Bauhaus on their latest album, “Adore Life,” while keeping their thoughts and concerns thoroughly modern. “Love is a disease,” Beth sneers on “Sad Person.” “The more you have, the more you crave.”
CURRENT SINGLE “Adore” (Matador)
BIO The saxophonist, who collaborated with rapper Kendrick Lamar on his “To Pimp a Butterfly” album, is currently leading the hottest jazz band around, playing songs from last year’s standout album, “The Epic.”
CURRENT SINGLE “Miss Understanding” (Brainfeeder)
BIO George Lewis Jr., aka Twin Shadow, has craftily combined dance music and rock for several albums, but at The Meadows he will pay tribute to someone who may have done it best. Twin Shadow will perform Prince’s “Purple Rain” in its entirety.
CURRENT SINGLE “I’m Ready” (Warner Bros.)
CHARLES BRADLEY & HIS EXTRAORDINAIRES
BIO The 67-year-old soul singer is a late-blooming marvel, blending a bit of his childhood idol James Brown with classic rock and old-school R&B. The title track of his new album, “Changes,” is his soulful reworking of the Black Sabbath classic.
CURRENT SINGLE “Ain’t It a Sin” (Daptone)
BIO The Brooklyn synth-pop duo of Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimberly are a bit like the modern-day American version of Everything But the Girl, tackling both breathy dance music and melancholy ballads like the charmingly troubled “Crying in Public.”
CURRENT SINGLE “Crying in Public” (Columbia)
— GLENN GAMBOA