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Brooklyn’s Afropunk Fest, preview

by Samuel Hernande

Last year Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn was electrified by Janelle Monáe as she took the stage in a dark hood, shrouded, if you will, in mystery. Her set shot through the audience and the show culminated in a wild dance. At the stage opposite of Monáe was TV on the Radio, who began their own impressive performance that would spill late into the night. The crowds were tired but sticking around.

Afropunk Fest is the best (free) festival in New York City.  This year the festival takes place August 24-25 featuring headlining acts Questlove (Roots drummer, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and all around brilliant artist and icon), Chuck D, Theophilus London, and Danny Brown, as well as under-the-radar and up-and-coming artists Big Freedia, Mykki Blanco, and Le1f. The music ranges from hip hop/rap to soul/funk to heavy metal and punk, making Afropunk a truly multicultural festival that aims to please even the most discerning of music fans.

As you make your way around Commodore Barry Park you’ll find a slew of local treats. The main street right outside the fest brings in a bevy of New York City’s fine local food trucks looking to capitalize on the hungry hordes of music goers. The thriving DIY movement in Brooklyn will be represented with a market to break up the tedium of bobbing your head, thrashing about, and enjoying some tunes. Vendors will do their best to show off their intricate crafts and woo a purchase out of you.

Afropunk is an overwhelming music event: the bands are constant, the quality is exceptional, and there’s always a tendency to stumble upon a band you’d never heard before but now need to devour their entire discography. You’ll find enough packed into the park to last you half a year of going out. As one stage hosts a band, the other stage often brings in a DJ to accompany the other performances. Skateboarders invade a portion of the park, taking their boards and flying through and around the festival attendees. Do you want to listen to some socially conscious hip hop by Chuck D and also watch some punk kids tear up a half-pipe? You can. Or would you like to match up the bounce rap scene of Big Freedia with the falls and scrapes of each rider above their head? Sure, why not.

This year Afropunk is building on the success of previous years by getting bigger. ?uestlove will definitely draw the largest crowd – there is hardly a person unfamiliar with his trademark afro – but the quality of all the bands this year should be a bonus to those casual attendees. Theophilus London has long straddled the line between underground darling and mainstream blow-up, digging into sampled and electronic hip hop, rapping over everything from Marvin Gaye to Amadou & Mariam.

Last year it felt like all of Brooklyn was watching Janelle Monáe perform. When she commanded the crowd to dance their way down to the floor, and then back up, the energy thrived despite the fact that the sun had already gone down, they sold out of Lil Hug drinks, and the girl who was professionally hula hooping during the Reggie Watts set had long since gyrated to another part of Brooklyn.

Afropunk Fest will, probably, exceed expectations on August 24-25 at Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn, NY.

Image by Ed Marshall for Afropunk Festival

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