The 15 Best Things About Afro-Punk Festival 2014

Trash Talk madness

8. Trash Talk's Ridiculous Circle Pit

Trash Talk fans very much enjoy thrashing and Trash Talk frontman Lee Spielman very much enjoys getting his fans to mosh. Between Spielman's yells of "I wanna see you fucking move!" and "Let's fuck shit up!" every angry 16 year-old was afforded a real good reason to spastically flail like a fish fighting for its life. But credit to the band, they put on a wicked performance, and with world-class beast of a drummer Thomas Pridgen tearing up the pocket, everybody there thrashed accordingly.

Sharon Jones

9. Sharon Jones in the Drizzle Rain

Sharon Jones is a classy woman. She closed Saturday night on the Green stage with a big ole' horn section of dudes wearing dapper suits and hankies. Sharon Jones' set felt like Afro Punk's sweet Grandmother tucked-in all of the weary, stoney-eyed hipsters after they spent a hard day being seen on the scene. She lent the festival an air of history, being that almost every other act (minus Bad Brains, Cro Mags) was less than 10 years old.

10. Activism Row

Afro Punk is not a corporate event. There are sponsors, including a few notable brands like Zip Car and Dr. Martens, but for the most part the event is unencumbered by a glut of commercial bullshit. In light of this, the fest has this thing called Activism Row, where local organizations like Progressive Pupil and Voto Latino stake out tables and talk to interested attendees about their organizations and how to get involved. It's a great thing, because it shows the fest isn't all about the glamorization of the party lifestyle, and it also shows many of the young kids at Afro Punk that they have a political voice they can sharpen and use to advocate for themselves. Up the Afro Punks, indeed.

11. The Fact that Bad Brains Played

They played on a stage that was undeservingly small. They played instrumental songs and way too much reggae. They played rap-metal with the rapper Murs. They played without their enigmatic and crazy-ass vocalist HR. But they played, and for everyone that should suffice. They played some of their classic hardcore material with John Joseph McGowan of Cro-Mags and Corey Glover of Living Color. They took the audience through some of the most important punk music ever written, songs like "Attitude," "Sailin' On," and "The Regulator." Bad Brains bass player Daryl Jennifer joked about his band getting screwed out of a bigger stage and copyright money. He was justified. This was Bad Brains in 2014.

12. Hoisting Unlocking the Truth's Guitarist/Vocalist Over My Head

Unlocking the Truth is a three-piece metal band from New York City. They're all African-American and they're all about 12 and 13 years old. They are cute, but they also shred. There were lots of pinch-harmonics from the band and lots cooing from adult audience members when they played. The best part of their set was when frontkid Malcolm Brickhouse crowdsurfed all the way from the stage and into my arms after their set. At this point during his crowdsurf, Brickhouse had nowhere to go, so another audience member and I carried the young tike back to security in front of the stage. But young Brickhouse didn't even say thank you. Kids these days, I tell ya, YEESH.

Ice-T: Not a pussy.

13. Ice-T's Rant About the "Pussification of Men"

Ice-T is a tough guy and he wants you to know about it. He wants you, especially if you're a man, to know that he's tougher than you, and that you're probably a bitch. Ice-T made this very clear when he spoke about the "Pussification of Men," during his band Body Count's set on Saturday night. He said, "Ladies, have you noticed that your men these days all have vaginas? Is this happening in Brooklyn too?" Ice-T's crusade to bring masculinity back to the male gender then took to a searing Body Count number with way too much double bass drum.

14. The Sky on Saturday

The threat of rain persisted pretty much all day on Saturday, August 23, but it made the atmosphere kind of fun, like we were all teetering on the edge of disaster. Because of this, the crowd had to really "turn up" as it were. Although we didn't get much more than a light drizzle, there were hints of the sun bleeding through the gray clouds that emitted a kind of divine cascade of light. It was mad poetic, people.

15. Smiles and Unity

All hipster pretension aside, this festival really was quite a beautiful display of people uniting and bonding. Attendees were from all walks of life. They all made it to Afro Punk for the only extant reason there was: enjoying music in the company of friends and strangers, passing joints and giving out high-fives and hugs. Love was everywhere last weekend. Let's hope Afro-Punk keeps this going another 10 years.

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