OKP Exclusive: Jungle + Ibeyi Put A Spell On Central Park At Okayplayer’s Summerstage Show
All photos by Oluwaseye for Okayplayer
Perhaps the most beautiful thing about Central Park’s SummerStage–where Jungle, Ibeyi and Sunni Colón came together to turn out Okayplayer’s very own edition of the storied concert series this Saturday–is how it inverts the usual logic of the arena–and “arena” music. Not that Jungle, at this point, can’t turn out any stage they encounter with their full-on disco assault and complementary stageshow of fluorescent green lasers. Not that Ibeyi can’t hypnotize listeners and mint fans anywhere there’s a mic and a soundsystem–or, as we discovered at SXSW this year, even if there’s not much of a functioning soundsystem. But the way the most eerie, electro-acoustic notes of the twins‘ Yoruba goth/soul vocals echoed bewitchingly through the trees circling the idyllic Rumsey playfield as Central Park went all twilight-y ranks with those moments that will stay with us forever–and simply can’t be replicated elsewhere. The intersection of sound and setting transformed SummerStage into a sort of faerie circle that is the closest thing to being inside Ibeyi’s haunting video for “Oya” as real life can possibly achieve. Perhaps it was the Big Quiet–the mass meditation which took place in the playfield immediately beforehand–which set the stage for harmonic convergence. But something about this unique space brings “outsider” art into a space of universal resonance and amplifies the most atmospheric, headphone-music moments of every artist’s repertoire into arena-ready anthems, hopelessly entangling the epic and the intimate, year after year.
Opener Sunni Colón made good use of the setting, giving New Yorkers a dose of his distinct take on the modern r&b sound (we been up for a minute) laced with fittingly atmospheric guitar but punctuated with conversational asides that had the crowd open. Headliners Jungle likewise took the assembled revelers to some sort of Wakanda-esque rave, all neon jungle onstage as the refreshing mist that (only momentarily) spritzed concert-goers in the midst of their set created an actual, temporary rainforest. With incredibly tight chops and no-joke stageshow, Jungle provided the evening’s energetic pay-off, ushering in the climb-on-your-friend’s-shoulders-and-wild-out portion of the evening as young Manhattanites sang along and mime-rollerskated along to “The Heat.” But it was “Busy Earnin'”–arguably the most Shazam-ed song of the last two years?–that truly brought the house, er, playfield down. Yet, while quieter, Ibeyi’s set, snuggled between atmospheric and the anthemic, may have clocked in with the most memorable moments. Those included Roy Hargrove breaking out his trumpet to join the twins on their haunting cover of Jay Electronica‘s “Better In Tune With The Infinite” then taking the audience to a very different kind of church as the entire park joined in a sung-and clapped version of their baptism of sonic fire “River.”
In short, thanks for joining us to all those who came out–and let’s hope we can make (and experience) this kind of magic next year. In fact, let’s make it happen in a few weeks when Young Fathers are Joined by Bombino for Okayafrica’s SummerStage. See you between the trees.