Sweetlife 2015 Day 1
June 2nd, 2015 by The Professor
The 2015 Sweetlife Festival May 30/31, 2015 at Merriweather Post Pavilion was 2 days of fantastic music, eclectic foods, and a wonderful atmosphere. We hurled staffers Phil Dayao ’16 and Brandon Newby ’15 into the pit to see what happened. Armed with cameras, recorders and excitement, they hit the show… Brandon’s Day 1 report is below:
After dealing with some parking issues and retrieving our press passes, Phil and I headed to the Treehouse Stage to catch the first act of the day. Unfortunately, through all of this, we were only able to catch the very end of Lightshow’s set. What we were able to see surprised me though. After rounding the corner, I was surprised to hear a live band! More surprised due to the fact that being an up-and-coming hip-hop artist, it’s hard to form a band and have them play your music the way you want it; that usually comes after some time. With this live band and Lightshow’s natural charisma, he put on a great show. He commanded the stage and made everyone present acknowledge him and his set of skills that are sure to take him a long way. Check out our interview with Lightshow too!
Making our way to the Main Stage, Phil and I caught the first main act of the day. The Bots are a really young band composed of brothers, Mikiah and Anaiah Lei, who make hard rocking music. Their set was sick because I’ve heard of them for some time now and it was the first time I actually heard their music. I was pleasantly surprised and look forward to what the future has in store for these kids. The Bots played a multitude of their songs, including “Side Effects,” which comes from their 2014 Fader label debut, Pink Palms. It was just great to see the variety in their set and “Side Effects” was a very atmospheric song that brought the crowd down after rocking out so hard to the previous song. I hope there are more opportunities for me to see The Bots because they just have more growing to do and I can’t wait to see where it takes them.
Following The Bots on the Main Stage was MisterWives. MisterWives brought a great high energy set and just like The Bots, I regret not listening to them prior to the festival. Lead singer, Mandy Lee, commanded the audience with her soulful vocals and vibrant personality. Unfortunately, in trying to catch every performance, we didn’t stay for the entire set.
In walking around and trying to capture Sweetlife, we only got to overhear the first lady of TDE’s set, but from what I heard, she commanded the stage with authority. Running a stand-out track from her 2014 ep, Z, SZA sang her sultry vocals over the hard-hitting 808s of “Child’s Play.” It was awesome to see that she let her music do the talking and came on stage in free-flowing shorts and a tank top, showing that she was there to have as much fun as us.
What can I say about Allen Stone? I had no idea who he was going into the festival, but I left as a fan. Stone has the vocals of a soul legend and he commanded the stage in a way that just made you a fan. Phil and I decided to join the concert goers on the lawn and people were just really vibing out to his music, which was great to see. His crowd participation was amazing, as he thanked the fans numerous times for coming out to see him because that’s what he did it for, the love of the fans. To see an artist so genuinely happy to see his fans happy was just awe-inspiring. To be honest, I ended up like the masses on the lawn and I just started to vibe out to everything and I really got it going when Stone went into an amazing cover of Kool & the Gang’s “Get Down On It.” It was such a great way to end a set because he split the pavilion in two and had a good old fashioned dance-off. Needless to say it was one of my favorite performances of the day.
Going into this performance, I only knew of their song, “I Wanna Get Better,” so was expecting a lot of their songs to be like that and I was pleasantly surprised. In my opinion, I picked up an 80’s vibe from them and it was a refreshing change after the wide variety of rock I heard that day. Their song, “Rollercoaster,” captured that 80’s sound perfectly, and I pictured everyone in attendance wearing neon and baggy shirts with Cyndi Lauper on them. Overall, I loved the set. Having two drummers was a really cool concept and lead singer, Jack Antonoff explained how he had the dream of having two drummers ever since he was a kid. I also loved how Jack and saxophonist, Evan Smith had an epic duel that would make anyone smile. A surprising favorite moment of the set was Bleachers’ cover of Kanye West’s “Only One.” I honestly just didn’t expect to hear a band that sounds like they come from a John Hughes movie to play anything by Kanye West. In the end, the set was amazing and I would gladly see them again.
Billy Idol was a true treat to see. Only knowing his classics such as “White Wedding,” “Rebel Yell,” and “Mony Mony,” it was great to see the 59 year-old punk legend still rocking the stage. Most of the set consisted of track from his newest album in almost a decade, Kings and Queens of the Underground. Many of these songs embraced that classic 80s punk sound that Billy Idol fans know and love. The true treat came in the form of the legendary guitarist, Steve Stevens. Stevens played every solo perfectly and enticed the crowd with his numerous guitar changes, one being diamond-covered, reflecting light everywhere. When Idol went into the classics, he did so with the vigor of someone performing them for the first time, which shows that he still loves creating music and performing them for his die-hard fans. Idol’s stage presence was amazing as he played the bad boy card to a T. I was pleasantly surprised with the work Billy Idol put in that night.
Boy…Kendrick Lamar…let me start by saying that when I first heard of Lamar, I saw his video for “She Needs Me” back in 2009 and I knew he would be one of the greatest emcees to ever live. Over the years, I’ve used Lamar’s music to get me through low points in my life and even as celebratory music so when the opportunity presented itself to be able to see one of my idols perform, I took it.
Opening the set with “Money Trees,” a stand out track from 2012’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city, the tone was set for the rest of the night. Lamar effortlessly took us from Columbia, Maryland to the m.A.A.d. city of Compton, California with his storytelling rhymes. One of my favorite moments came when he brought a fan onto the stage to perform “m.A.A.d. city,” a crowd favorite, with him. This was particularly amazing because he just ran through the song before telling everyone that he was so happy with the energy level that he would let a fan do it with him. Unfortunately, Sweetgreen’s co-founder, Jonathan, did not live up to the hype and a female fan was brought up—and boy did she kill it. Ayana came up and delivered the rhymes with the tenacity of K Dot. It was just amazing to see how genuinely excited he was with her performance. Another special moment came when Lamar brought a fan who struggled with suicidal thoughts on stage after telling him that his music saved her life. Lamar responded by saying, “It’s more than bringing you onstage—I actually feel you. Because that’s why I do my music” (Joey Parker, HollywoodLife.com).
One of my favorite moments of the set came when Lamar performed one of my favorite songs of all time, “Sing About Me,” which is the first part of his song, “Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst.” This performance was so special because he asked for all the lights to be turned off and for us to use our flashlights on our phone and he said, “These ain’t phones tonight, these are stars. I’ll promise to sing about you if you promise to sing about me.” It was at that moment I realized why I idolize Kendrick; he genuinely tells the story of people he knows or knows of and he makes you feel as if you have that connection with him that many artists don’t convey.
After a good kid, m.A.A.d. city centric set, he performed “ADHD,” a fan favorite from his album, section.80 and then closed his set with “Alright,” a personal favorite from 2015 album, To Pimp A Butterfly.
Kendrick Lamar put on the best show of the day and I highly recommend seeing him if you ever get the chance. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, but most importantly, you’ll feel a connection that you’ve never felt with an artist before.