On its second day, Afropunk hit its stride as Lenny Kravitz, Raury, Kaytranada, Jesse Boykins III, Thundercat and Gary Clark Jr. all performed — the sound seemed better, the crowd felt more settled and if Saturday went to the ladies, the gentlemen showed up in rare form yesterday for day two.
The plethora of OKP favorites on Sunday’s festival lineup made taking trips among all three stages a necessity. Before JBIII’s set ended on the green stage, Raury was gearing up on the red. Once Raury was done, it was off to the gold stage to party with Everyday People before running back to the green stage to stake your claim on real estate for Gary Clark Jr.’s set. From there, it was either stay put for Lenny or do it all over again for Kaytranada on the red stage, overlapping a bit with the Soulection crew at the gold.
And if that was slightly exhausting to read, imagine the (still entirely worth it) excursion for everyone who walked the Afropunk walk in the August haze at Brooklyn’s Commodore Barry Park yesterday.
As much as it was evident that the crowd wanted to support their favorite acts, it was also a day for the artists to make connections with thousands of audience members — Kelela shared “all of my songs are sad, but I’d rather help you get into your feelings than out of them.” The lead singer of rock/soul band Vintage Trouble was met with applause and cheers when he announced that he hoped major network stations were in attendance so that “our smiling faces” could make the news, too. Raury won over the audience with his undeniable talent and presence, while Jesse turned it all the way up for his high-energy live set (something he admits is a bit of a contrast to his recorded material) and doused himself with water to cool off.
Other Sunday highlights include Oshun (whose live set continues to get better) and Afropunk first-timers ALIGNS (a rock duo of guitar-playing-lead-singer paired with a drummer). Among the best surprises of the day was definitely the way DJs held their own against big acts on the larger stages. For everyone looking to dance and enjoy a party vibe, Kaytranada was happy to oblige — we ran over to the red stage for a moment during Lenny’s set (forgive us, Lenny) just as the fan-favorite DJ/producer started to mix Missy Elliott‘s “Sock It 2 Me” smoothly into his set.
But as expected, the night truly belonged to the guitar heroes as Thundercat showed why he’s a constant on festival schedules with a set that included “Complexion” — one of his many collaborations with Kendrick Lamar for the To Pimp A Butterfly LP. And from the first strum of “Bright Lights” as Gary Clark Jr. sang “woke up in New York City” we knew he wouldn’t disappoint. In fact, we know he earned a few new fans, because we overheard a group of them as they were minted.
The main attraction, though, was definitely headliner Lenny Kravitz. Kravitz, it turned out, was not only making his Afropunk debut, but as he told the audience, it was also (surprisingly) his first time ever playing a stage in his native borough of Brooklyn — “I was born and raised in Bed-Stuy,” he shared. “Do or die!” Among the most remarkable aspects of his performance is that, 20 years later, Lenny performing live sounds exactly like his studio recordings — so much so that we heard attendees jokingly ask if he might be performing with a vocal track.
If festivals are an economical way to see a plethora of great live music for one price, everyone got more than their money’s worth from Kravitz with a set that was more than an hour long, featuring a sing-a-long that had him jumping off stage to join the audience in song. The greatest hits were covered from “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over” to “Let Love Rule.” Ever the consummate rock star, he showed off his guitar skills on songs like “American Woman” but kept the love-fest alive with “Believe.” Start to finish (c’mon, now — some of you should have known an encore was imminent), Lenny Kravitz was everything we needed and more (or should we say less…? — no wardrobe malfunctions last night).
It’s also not lost on us that the festival headliners for Day 1 and Day 2 were both over the age of 50 — Grace Jones at 67 and Lenny at 51. And much like Grace, Lenny rocked the crowd like a performer half his age. If Afropunk is for the youth, this year’s festival still managed to score one for grown-ass men and women everywhere.
Music & food, please.