Words by Marcus Dowling
Photos by Clarissa Villondo, Nicholas Karlin, Franz Mahr, Armando Gallardo
Two days later, the inaugural Landmark Music Festival has ended. If your one takeaway from the weekend was singing along to Drake’s “Hotline Bling” or joining in an adoring throng chanting “Fuck Meek Mill” at the Toronto native rapper who bested Meek Mill in an underwhelming rap feud and headlined DC’s inaugural foray into this generation of big budget music festivals, that might be fine. However, the festival’s organizers may have rather wanted the “big takeaway” being hearing The Strokes’ slurry garage rock static as Julian Casablancas warbled “Last Night” into the lukewarm evening. The Washington Monument serving as an epic background to an “amazing” weekend? Certainly ideal, too. Well, that not necessarily occurring is certainly a problem. Thankfully, there’s definitely going to be a next year for this event, and insofar as goals, something that idyllic being the takeaway can be one of them.
DC’s rapidly gentrifying population base could’ve easily been the star of the whole weekend. Day one was almost explicitly booked for what ’70s era funkateer George Clinton called “chocolate city and it’s vanilla suburbs.” The Nation’s Capital’s “landmark” music event featured hometown boy Wale followed by Miguel who led into Drake. Between the trio that’s roughly 90 minutes of urban crossover top-40 hits, and the assurance of drawing a sizable African-American population. Closing day two with “fancy footworkers” Chromeo, electro-pop band CHVRCHES, droning rockers Alt-J and The Strokes? Well, that’s definitely going to alter the population in another direction, one that’s in line with the racial population shift in Washington, DC at-present.
Landmark Music Festival accidentally highlighting the city’s radical population shift in the lineup must be less of an issue. There’s no good reason why day one had to be almost explicitly urban while day two feel so explicitly rock. DC’s shifting populations should be blended moreso than spotlighted. This is a troubling issue which can be remedied.
“Oh shit, there’s a lot of people here,” CHVRCHES lead singer Lauren Mayberry exclaimed as the lights were turned on the crowd on Sunday evening. No matter the color, there were a lot of people at Landmark, people who were treated to a series of excellent performances. Wale performed on Saturday and promised to bring a “Walepalooza” to DC. Whether or not C3 Events would be involved in the logistics is obviously up in the air, but with Trillectro and Broccoli City’s success, as well as All Things Go bringing Kygo to Union Market in a few weeks, DC’s becoming yet another city in line with so many others enamored with a day of hanging out in a large field while enjoying pop tunes and chill vibes.
However, there is one major flaw. DC’s still DC, and at 8 PM on Sunday evening, the still Federal city becomes a downtown ghost town as the city’s residents prepare for Monday morning at the office. Thus, the college freshmen who were three years old when “Last Night” was a hit and oldsters “burning the midnight oil” stuck around for The Strokes, but for the most part, the crowd was headed for the gates. Among those leaving were a trio of teenage females who exclaimed “rock and roll is stupid.” Well, The Strokes aren’t for everyone, but maybe that’s just it. After two days of jams in a city where this is a brand new thing, ear-fatigue and body exhaustion would lead you to believe that rock and roll is well, pretty stupid. As well, as headliners, maybe The Strokes were a poor choice that could draw ticket buyers, but in the live realm, under-deliver against expectations.
The Landmark Music Festival, came, went and definitely will return. Can we get Dave Grohl and Henry Rollins jamming onstage with Trouble Funk’s percussionists and Wale swinging through to drop an ill 16 bars next year as the closer? If the Landmark Music Festival is meant to be an epic showcase of what makes DC awesome and unique in a filling American music festival landscape, that’s certainly not too much to ask.