Filling the prompt “GOING TO A MUSIC FESTIVAL WITH VAN AND BEING IN THE CROWD
AND ALL THAT JAZZ. IM HAVING MAJOR SWEATY AND HOT VAN VIBES AND DYING.”
Shoutout to @placidus for helping me with ideas.
The road trip was short, and you were grateful for that.
Van slept almost the entire time, his head in your lap in the back seat.
“Not going to get a band dude to fall in love with you with that muppet
following you around,” Larry whispered to you, looking back over the front
seat he was in.
“He won’t follow me around,” you whispered
back. Both Larry and Benji made faces that demonstrated their amusement at your
denial of the obvious truth. “They’ll be hundreds of pretty girls in cool
dresses and they’ll have flowers in their hair and be all glittery and
beautiful and he’ll fall in love with them,”
“You don’t know him very well if you think that’s
gonna happen, Y/N,” Benji said laughing. His voice, above the noise level
of a whisper, woke Van. He sat up.
“We there yet?”
“Almost,” Benji replied. You looked over at
Van and had a moment where you thought maybe you should have gone with the
girls to the festival instead of agreeing to spending the weekend with Van,
Larry and Benji. They were your musical soulmates though. You wanted to
experience the bands with them; even if it meant sharing tents with lovesick
Photos: (L): Photo of myself, taken by Driely S. | ®: Skin of Skunk Anansie, taken by my partner, Tom.
I am someone that, while I thoroughly enjoyed my time that weekend, was also very, very aware of how “un-punk” the festival was. Did I dance, eat, drink, and smile? Yup. I even got photographed a few times, so I can’t be mad at that. But the articles popping up about the festival becoming a “Black Coachella” are not negative.They are true. Here’s why:
This year, Tyler The Creator headlined the Red Stage on Saturday. The rush to get to that area of the festival grounds was chaotic. But I must have been the only one who was thinking in the back of their mind “didn’t Tyler come under fire for some homophobic remarks a few years ago?” Back in 2008, when Afro-Punk documentary maker James Spooner was still involved in the festival, he actually got on stage to call out a band that ended their set with a cover of the homophobic song “Boom Bye Bye”. Because that simply didn’t fly with the vision Spooner had for this festival/movement. So I can only imagine that he must be cringing at the choice of having Tyler headline.
Also on the bill for Saturday was Cee Lo Green, on the Green stage.. who, admittedly, I danced to, because Cee Lo has had some serious bangers in his career. However, I couldn’t be the only one who hasn’t forgotten his deplorable stance on sexual assault. When your booked artist stands firmly against your banner of “No Sexism” which is what you pride your festival on, then you’ve got a real problem, and should re-evaluate what you want Afropunk to represent. Enough said.
And then there is the band Trash-Talk, who I didn’t research before going, and who’s set I didn’t see. But in the aftermath, I kept seeing photographs of a white singer, crowd-surfing and moshing with the audience, and wondering who this could possibly be? Turns out that Afropunk has officially ditched its “you ha[ve] to have a black singer” policy, in favor of simply getting any old hardcore punk band with some black members to keep your credibility up as a punk festival. Ouch. Their only saving grace were the amount of amazing black, female-fronted rock and alternative acts I saw on the Green stage (especially Skunk Anansie).
The List of What You Can’t Bring Into the Festival:
Bags that you can fit more than a cell phone in; although they seemed to be more lenient when you actually arrive with a bag, the official festival website’s FAQs scares you into not wanting to bring anything, lest it be confiscated. Other prohibited items included lawn chairs, your own food and drinks, picnic baskets and coolers, and umbrellas. Now, with that being said, I saw more than a handful of people with chairs, and umbrellas that weekend. I do not know if they were simply being lenient on certain people, or if there were chairs and umbrellas for sale on the festival grounds. But it’s not a good idea to risk having to go back to your car or having it confiscated, if you decide to defy the the organizers.
The Choice of Music Spun by DJs:
I’m not anti-hip-hop, rap, or R&B. I’m not anti-pop. But the lack of alternative & punk music (not even black-made punk music) was very apparent at Afropunk this year. Perhaps it had something to do with the “theme” (they have themes now?); “Power to the Party”. What that means, I have no clue. But there was an abundance of hip-hop and rap that I honestly didn’t recognize (because I’m uncool and can’t keep up), with lyrics about “fuckin’ hoes”, and “suckin’ dicks”, and all that cringe-worthy stuff that shouldn’t really be played at a festival whose banner reads “No Sexism”. I literally found myself stopping in the middle of dancing when I would hear lyrics like that, and glance at my partner like “wtf did I just hear?”
As the festival gains more popularity, more white people are feeling okay about showing up, with their friends in tow. This is probably the most problematic thing about Afropunk, and could lead to its downfall. There are white people coming into a space that was made exclusively for alternative black people, standing through/ignoring black-made music that isn’t for them, to see artists that they could have seen at any other festival (i.e. Tyler, Ice Cube, Cee Lo, Janelle Monae, Trash-Talk). The future of Afropunk could very well look half white, as time goes on.
We all know what this is. But we as Black people don’t seem to think it applies to us. I saw more than a handful of black girls with Native American headdresses on, and more than half the people on the grounds sporting the Indian nostril piercing look (you know the one). This isn’t okay. There isn’t much more I need to say on this. Especially since other festivals have come under fire for this sort of behavior before.
Punk as an Afterthought:
At the end of the day, Afropunk is looking to cash in, rather than serve the people it originally intended to serve. With non-punk or alternative headliners, and pricey admission, it’s become more about aesthetic than anything else. Even with Sunday night’s power jam, featuring Living Colour, Fishbone, and Bad Brains, punk was an afterthought. The fact that George Clinton (who was also on stage with them) had to even say “there would be no Afropunk if it wasn’t for Bad Brains” to hype up the crowd (who were all mostly waiting for Ice Cube), says it all. And it’s too late for the festival to turn itself around.