photos by Eddie Pearson and Dan Petruzzi for Okayplayer
Blood Orange was both the name at the top of the bill and the sunset hue filtering through the greenery of Central Park at Summerstage Saturday evening. It was the final installment of our 5-concert Okayplayer series and the cornerstone (though not the capstone) of our 15th Anniversary celebrations–a fitting swan song for summer, as far as we’re concerned. The weather could not have been more ideal, the usual misery of New York in August meeting the post-millenial mildness of 2014’s warm season to balance out into a perfect late summer calm. Not surprisingly the city’s youth were out in force and lines were around the block, er, meadow. After a vibes-heavy set of future r&b from DJ Kitty Ca$h, opener Sean Nicholas Savage took the stage. A relative unknown (even to us) hand-picked by Devonté Hynes AKA Blood Orange to open the show, Savage’s spooky falsetto soul set the mood for what was to follow, hitting an intense emotional high note with “She Looks Like You.”
Moses Sumney followed. Starting his set as a one-man auto-tuned gospel choir Moses not only confirmed all our Top-14-Artists-To-Watch great expectations but made a strong case for himself as the perfect Summerstage artist, his atmospheric brand of electro-acoustic soul/folk echoing dreamily through the balmy air and making a temporary cathedral of the trees framing the stage.
There was no doubt however that the city came out to see Dev Hynes. Even earthbound by a knee brace that constricted his usually fluid onstage dancing, Hynes soared his way through an effortless set, demonstrating why his live show is the envy of the industry right now and why his own charisma and musical chops are far more expansive than any project he’s been a part of to date. At the same time, Blood Orange–the vehicle and “making music as” alias of Hynes, who writes and produces all the music, showed remarkable ensemble cohesion in live form, even when incorporating a UK grime cameo from Skepta on “High Street” and extended sax and bass solos that recalled an era when free jazz and r&b live in much closer quarters. Dev’s lover and collaborator Samantha Urbani was onstage for much of the set and in a surprise homecoming reunion Caroline Polachek from Chairlift (who, btw, features on a stand-out off SBTRKT‘s new record) came out to perform “Chamakay” with Dev.
The only tense note came when Dev took a moment to speak about the frustration of trying to dance his way out of his constrictions–literal and metaphyscial. As fans were painfully aware, the cast restricting his onstage movement was a unwelcome reminder of an assault by security at Lollapalooza two weeks ago, a situation he has been advised not to speak about. He did address the situation, however both in front of OKP TV’s cameras (more on that soon!) and in a hearfelt aside from the stage.
“I hate it, I can say that! I hate what’s happening in Ferguson right now. Fuck Ferguson. Fuck Lollapalooza. I hate this fucking police state we’re living in. And when I say that, I don’t mean New York, I don’t mean America. I mean the world. I’m going after Lollapalooza and I’m going to fucking destroy them.”
“Now back to the music” he concluded with a laugh, and somehow the heaviness of the world could not quite penetrate the sweet summer-camp air of the park, and the remainder of the night felt strangely utopic, even if neither the summer evening or the vibes that came with it could stay long.