Panorama Festival: America’s Best Music City Finally Has It’s Signature Event

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 28: Balloons are released on the audience as Girl Talk performs during the 2017 Panorama Music Festival - Day 1 at Randall's Island on July 28, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/WireImage)

Every great music city needs a signature music event, and that’s why New York City has quickly adopted Panorama. Created by the team behind one of music’s most beloved events (Coachella), Panorama has had similarly high ambitions since day one. In the inaugural 2016 edition, Kendrick Lamar, Arcade Fire, and LCD Soundsystem all headlined at the height of their powers.

But no one should rush to call Panorama “East Coast Coachella;” the moniker feels a little off. To start, Randall’s Island is not desert-y Southern California, though Panorama does offer a scenic musical escape that feels just as zen. The festival boasts slight (ferry-induced) separation from the hustle and bustle of NYC, allowing that concrete jungle to become a beautiful, constant backdrop.

As pretty as that picture becomes, the music is of course what elevates everything to can’t miss status. Given Panorama represents NYC’s biggest summer concert, the event has been able to draw massive talent of all genres and legacies within its still young history. In 2018, acts like the iconic David Byrne, modern experimental guitar virtuoso St. Vincent, rap’s current kings Migos, and rare US touring duo The XX will ferry on over—and those aren’t even the headliners. Panorama’s topline instead boasts the diverse trio of The Weeknd, Janet Jackson, and The Killers. Festival day pass decisions have perhaps never been more difficult.

If the lineup alone doesn’t fans scrambling for the ferry schedule, the experience on site at Panorama will. In addition to all that happens on stage, the event embraces high-tech installations like HP’s “The Lab,” an indoor VR experience that humble non-techies may compare to a planetarium (but it’s much cooler—like Panorama’s intimate Parlor Stage, it gets busy so go early for guaranteed access). This being NYC, the food is naturally world class, and the event brings together some of the most iconic modern creators in cuisine (the pizza of Roberta’s, ice cream of Oddfellows, cocktails of PDT).

Most organically of all, Panorama has swiftly and unexpectedly become a place for communal remembrance between musicians and music fans. The Arcade Fire organized a Bowie second-line parade while Kiiara eulogized Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington in 2016 through a cover. And there couldn’t have been a dry eye in the audience when A Tribe Called Quest performed shortly after losing a loved one and paid a solemn homage to their forever member, Phife Dawg. Don’t be surprised if there are a few musical nods to Frightened Rabbit lead Scott Hutchinson or jazz great Hugh Masekela this summer.

So, maybe sonic sibling nicknames should win out after all. “Panorama West” would have a certain ring to it for 2019.


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