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AfroPunk Festival 2014: Top 5 Sets + Photos

Festival Review

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    Rebellion is part of the black identity in American society. So is the punk culture, which means a Brooklyn festival named AfroPunk should see a number of raised fists and diatribes against The Man. That theme was an undercurrent — Body Count’s set ended with some fists raised — but the focus was more on an almost bohemian sense of black diversity.

    There was some thrash brutality going on one stage a couple of meters from where a soul/funk revival was occurring. Earlier that Saturday afternoon, a few of the old-school cats were blasting James Brown’s “The Payback” in front of nearby public housing. Despite the early raindrops, Commodore Barry Park was packed with an African American crowd aware, but unweighted by outside circumstance — like the gentrification in the surrounding Fort Greene neighborhood.

    The AfroPunk festival came on a weekend where Arcade Fire performed at Barclays Center (also not too far from Commodore Barry) and the much-hyped Trillectro descended upon Washington, D.C. Regardless of the ensuing competition, the two-day event attracted over 60 talented acts and proved quite exhilarating.

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    However, black power has its limitations. For example: You can cover about a fraction of the events when you have one writer on the ground. It was a decent fill, however, from the gravitational experimentation of Shabazz Palaces to the “Special Guest” headliner. Check out the following slides for coverage of the bigger acts and some facial intensity.

    SHABAZZ PALACES

    Shabazz Palaces

    Transmitting sounds from outer space, Seattle experimental hip-hop duo Shabazz Palace moseyed on to the stage in the mid-afternoon. You wouldn’t exactly say they “tore it down” – one tweeter captured them in a ubiquitous term: fresh – but you only need to catch a glimpse of them to see their approach.

    Drawing connections is a running theme in black music, and here you see producer Tendai “Baba” Maraire channeling his best George Clinton with his loud, pinkish-tinted sunglasses as he played his drums adorned with African patterns. Ishmael Butler, aka Palaceer Lazaro, rhymed, but rarely looked away from his MacBook as if he was trying not to forsaken the interstellar force he was channeling. The audience remained transfixed on the scene as they put their hands in the air for the adrenalinized complexities of “Youology” and excitedly shook their hips to “Gunbeat Fails”.

    It was a mix of reactions, really, but that’s expected for an act as obtuse as Shabazz Palaces. But there was an almost universal breather when the duo invited fellow Sub Pop labelmates THEESatisfaction for “Swerve… The reeping of all that is worthwhile (Noir not withstanding)” — a national black anthem from the year 2400. It would help the earned moment if Cat Satisfaction’s bridge wasn’t hampered by sound issues. That’s one of the things space forces couldn’t overcome.

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