I went to Made in America with much of the young Philadelphian population last year, and it was single-handedly one of the most memorable experiences in my festival-deprived 18 years of life. But after the lackluster lineup was released this year, I impulsively bought a ticket for Panorama Music Festival instead, which would send me to New York City.
To say this was a last minute purchase is an understatement — I bought my $125 general admission pass for Friday’s show on Thursday evening. My friend had gone the previous year and limped away with a broken ankle after being trampled during Kendrick Lamar’s set, but that didn’t change my decision. I was determined to go, because Tyler, the Creator was on the long list of acts.
My friend Kerry and I absolutely had to see Tyler, the Creator — an artist well-known as the founder of Odd Future, a hip-hop/rap group. Although I was late to discover Tyler, I quickly became obsessed. So, his name on the setlist stuck out immediately.
My music taste is broad, and I have many artists downloaded to my phone, but Tyler’s new album “Flower Boy” had been my most-played album recently, and I would even say he is my favorite rap artist.
Tyler would not be on stage until 7 p.m., but we arrived at noon. Waiting seven hours to see him would be worth it; we already knew that. And suspense accrued as we sat through each of the lesser-known musicians performing before him. As each opener performed and left the stage, we snuck our way closer and closer to the front.
Elbows were thrown and necks were strained as people pushed and shoved each other, trying to get a satisfying view.
Ultimately, we stood our ground a few rows from the platform, sandwiched between guys twice our size. Suddenly, the stage was transformed into a scene that was a true work of art — an orange sunset with large yellow sunflowers, reminiscent of his newest album’s cover.
Although “Flower Boy” has a different tempo than his previous albums, Tyler’s idiosyncratic beats and innovative lyrics are unique to his ’90s nostalgic music. Unlike most rappers, he doesn’t rely on the same trite instrumentals or banal lyrics. The album was a change of pace, more mellow than his more harsh rap albums, “Cherry Bomb” and “Goblin.” Veteran fans may have been disappointed. But I think “Flower Boy” demonstrates his ability to create thoughtful music — exposing his gentler side, without losing his grit.
I consider it one of the best albums of the year, and I was overly excited to hear some of it performed live.
Tyler opened his portion of the concert with an older song from his album Cherry Bomb, called “Deathcamp.” Judging by the name, you can infer that the intense and violent nature of the song would trigger an aggressive response from the audience: 6-foot-tall and 200-pound men released their pent-up belligerence in a dangerous mosh pit. For a split second, my life flashed before my eyes.
When the dust cleared and Tyler could see the damage he had caused after only the first song, he decided to take it down a notch — asking the audience for permission to play some mellow tunes from his new album, like “Glitter,” and “See You Again.”
But, when the recognizable opening chords of “Who Dat Boy” buzzed, sounding like a bee (an image from the album cover), we prepared to be pummeled by the crowd again. The song can be matched by “Death Camp” in its potency.
Bellowing lyrics over the microphone, Tyler launched himself into the air, taking off his shirt and instructing the audience to jump as high as we could.
Carried away by a sea of humans and crushed under the weight of the people beside us, Kerry and I desperately clutched onto each other and focused on staying together in the chaos.
Weeks after the concert, I was shown videos of this performance on YouTube. I watched the crowd move in a frenzy of different directions, and I wondered how I wasn’t hurt.
When Tyler finished his set, everyone in the audience trudged out of the festival battleground like soldiers after a gruesome war. We were too preoccupied with the adrenaline rush coursing through our veins to think of the other artists still scheduled to perform.
My straightened hair reverted into a disheveled state of curls. My mascara dripped down my face. My entire body was saturated with perspiration, like I had just emerged from a pool. My white shoes were now an unrecognizable shade of brown.
Kerry and I staggered over to a spot on the grass and set up the blanket we had been carrying in my backpack — which I used to my advantage during the Tyler performance to obnoxiously create space. As we collapsed, I took off my sopping wet, discolored mesh shirt and wrung out the sweat.
Tyler’s show was one of the most exhilarating performances I have ever attended, and it was definitely the highlight of my Panorama experience and my summer entirely. In fact, Kerry and I loved it so much that we have already purchased our tickets to see him again at the Chameleon Club in Lancaster on Nov. 17. Having been to the venue before and knowing how small it is, I can undoubtedly say that Lancaster is not ready for Tyler, the Creator.