The 15 Best Things About Afro-Punk Festival 2014

Photos Jena Cumbo
The Afro-Punk festival at Commodore Barry Park in Fort Greene, Brooklyn is in its 10th year. The decade mark brings with it an air of legitimacy and staying power that usually signals the inevitable corporatization of most music festivals. At this point, you might expect to see million dollar headlining acts and gimmicky stunts like the resurrection of dead rappers via hologram, or the reuniting of sorely missed icons like Outkast, take center stage at Afro Punk. But the Brooklyn festival is still holding true to its homespun ethic. There's no lounge sponsored by Bud Lite Limarita, and there's no Red Bull street team doling out sugary energy drinks. Afro Punk is more about exuding and promoting culture than it is about corporate partnerships and asserting itself as a tastemaker and brand. After all, the festival is free, so why the fuck would Kanye West want to play anyway?

Last weekend's Afro Punk festival brought with it an overloading of the senses and a host of disparate artists aiming to celebrate the music and creativity of people of color. There was much to behold and much to enjoy. Like, say, these 15 things...

See also: Afropunk Started With a Documentary. Ten Years, Two Websites, and Eight Festivals Later...

Photos Jena Cumbo
1. BMX riders getting radical.

Off to the side of the red stage, there were two discrete BMX ramps. There were about three BMX riders pulling off gnarly stunts like backflips and tailwhips while most people casually walked right past, their attention turned to things less tied to the super-radical and extreme. But the BMX riders were chillin' out, sessioning a ramp, casually risking their necks for the modest entertainment of the crowd. If there was any reason for a Red Bull street team, it was these dudes, who deserved mad respect for reppin' both the sicky-sicky and the gnarly-gnarly.

2. The ever-present smell of marijuana.

There were mad peeps smoking doja at Afro Punk. There were also police officers who seemed to ignore the casual use of Mary-J. The thick cloud of weed-stuffs seem to float in a haze that casually drifted up into the gloomy sky on Saturday. But for real, big ups to the NYPD for not frisking people for responsibly smoking dope with their friends. It was shocking that the cops didn't care, but maybe it was because they were high too. Let's hope officer McSwiggins doesn't fail his bi-weekly pee-pee test. That's like a 6-month suspension from the force, or something.

3. Afro Punk security wearing cute little bow-ties.

Come on. Who gave these jacked-up, huggy-bear looking dudes these adorable little bow-ties to compliment their factory made polyester suits? They looked approachable despite their sour looks and furrowed brows, though. The ushers didn't like it when people crowd-surfed, but how could we take their scowls seriously when it looked like grandma had dressed them up for their nephew's clarinet recital?

4. Pony giveaways

Casual reader: no one was given an actual horse last weekend. We're referring to the NYC-based shoe company Pony, who offered up free kicks to some lucky shoeless festival attendees. People waited in pretty deep lines to see if the Pony reps had anything that fit their fancy, and some of the more lucky recipients expressed their gratitude on the Twitters.


5. Beautiful People

There were babes-galore at Afro Punk. We're talking chick-babes, dude-babes, and literal baby babes. After all, Commodore Barry Park is home to a few jungle gyms and swing sets, so there was a healthy amount of playground action. Music fests are always an excuse for sexy people to showcase their tendency to dress like the smokingly hot, self-important urbanites they are. Afro Punk's attendees were scintillating for the most part, but they weren't the frathouse beer-pongin' beauties we see at Coachella. There was some real style and class poppin' out there on the field.

6. Everything About Tecla's set

Tecla is an NYC based "tropical electronic pop," band comprised of Tecla Esposito on keytar and trippy vocals and a rotating cast of shredding drummers and gyrating back-up dancers. Everything about Tecla's set on Saturday absolutely ruled. From the showmanship of Tecla herself, to the energy of the thumping drums and to the pulsating movements of the chick dancing alongside the band, Tecla silently stole a considerable crowd away from the festival's other attractions. Rain even started to drizzle from a partially sunny sky while the band closed their set with a resounding climax. The setting made Tecla Esposito, clad in all white, look like some sort of messianic cosmic-funk goddess. Maybe she is.

7. The Great Clusterfuck of #AfroPunk2014

More and more people gradually showed up to the fest, which created more and more traffic just about everywhere you turned. However, no area of Commodore Barry Park was more royally fucked than The Great Clusterfuck of #AfroPunk2014. The walkway separating the athletic field from the parking lot was basically the only way to move between all three stages. Needless to say the situation was packed full of way too many sweaty, stoned and inebriated bodies than comfort could possibly warrant. The situation was reminiscent of battle scenes in Braveheart and Last of the Mojicans where two armies charge straight into one another. The Great Clusterfuck was quite harmonious, however. No charging warriors this year.

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