The time is finally here: Sweetlife Festival 2016 is this Saturday, May 14 at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Get your duck boots and Hunters ready – forecast says it’s going to be a rainy one.
We’ve already gone into detail as to what each band offers in the initial BYT Sweetlife Preview back in February; this document here is to help you navigate the oft-difficult decisions you’ll be faced with throughout the day.
To aid us in the process, I’ve created a “primer” playlist on Spotify, with three “can’t miss” songs by each of the artists I’m considering watching this weekend. While I know three songs is not necessarily a fair representation of an artist’s ability, if you’re not already a super fan of these bands, you’re going to be making your decision based on first impressions; so, that’s what we’re going to do.
Sweetlife is weirdly front-loaded as a festival – there are a ton of great acts at the bottom of the bill, and you should try getting to MPP on the earlier side if possible to catch them all (what up Pokémon?). Unfortunately, there are a couple of match-ups that present fans with really difficult decisions. Don’t worry, I’m here to walk you through this.
Acts are listed in chronological order according to set time, and so is the playlist.
[Note: If you don’t like either main stage option, head to the 932 Stage.]
Without much further ado, your Sweetlife 2016 Plan of Action, i.e. where to find me on Saturday afternoon:
Prinze George – Treehouse Stage, 12:50pm vs. DIIV – Main Stage, 1:00pm
These are two great, upcoming bands, though DIIV has the bigger reputation on the backs of their outstanding 2012 debut album Oshin. DIIV can really rock it, though their sound can get a bit monotonous after a while – their sound is sometimes described as “drone rock” – but they were really animated when I saw them at the Black Cat in August 2014.
Prinze George are originally from the DMV area (as if their name didn’t give it away), playing their first big hometown show, and their brand of uplifting synth pop might be just the right blend of perkiness and danceability necessary to kick off Sweetlife for me.
On the backs of always wanting to see prodigal children return and do well, I’m going with Prinze George for this one.
Wolf Alice – Main Stage, 1:50pm vs. Thundercat – Treehouse Stage, 1:55pm
Wolf Alice have seemingly appeared out of nowhere over the course of the last year, and have made a huge name for themselves in the UK, for good reason: their debut album My Love is Cool felt like a ’90s throwback in the best way possible – great power chords, catchy hooks, spiraling solos, and a lot of attitude from vocalist and guitarist Ellie Rowsell.
Thundercat had his annus mirabilis in 2015, and had a hand in four of the most critically acclaimed albums of the year, including his own EP, *The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam.* He plays the bass like Mozart played the piano.
Thundercat wins, because he is on some next-level, woke-as-fuck shit. He’s the spiritual heir to Miles Davis, George Clinton, and Sly Stone. How are you going to pass up an opportunity to see that?
Mac DeMarco – Main Stage, 2:50pm vs Vince Staples – Treehouse Stage, 3:10pm
This one is also a toss-up. Two outrageously talented young men, with very different styles. I think it ultimately comes down to what you want/expect out of a music festival setting.
Mac DeMarco is consistently one of the strangest, most irreverent performers. His entire DIY aesthetic, social media persona, and goofball outlook feel like a big troll to the music industry, but his fans (myself included) absolutely lap it up. He’s been touring with the same band for a couple of years, and their chemistry elevates their live shows. Mac is also a fantastic guitarist with an appreciation for unexpected cover numbers, and he brings it every time.
Vince Staples has quietly emerged from the embers of the Odd Future dissolution as one of the most compelling storytellers in hip hop. With bleak, unflinching lyricism, and a penchant for unusual off-kilter beats, he is immensely talented and captivating. However, I worry that a lot of the intimacy of his work will be lost in the broad daylight/open air of MPP.
Mac DeMarco by a carton of Viceroy cigarettes, though I am making a point to see Vince Staples next time he’s in DC – hopefully at the 9:30 Club or the Howard Theatre.
From this point on, the schedule begins to clear up, and there aren’t really any conflicts (in my mind).
Shamir – Treehouse Stage, 4:35pm
I’ve run into Shamir Bailey on the streets of DC on two separate occasions, shortly after he played U Street Music Hall and then the 9:30 Club. Though I missed both shows, he was absolutely gracious, kind, and genuinely excited to talk to me. A fellow BYT writer has confirmed that this is him on the regular, so you know.
This is a guy making some of the coolest, most fun pop music out there, playing some marquee venues, and he takes the time to chat with a total stranger like it’s his best friend.
He also really likes to hug. So, if you see Shamir on the street, hug him (with his permission, of course).
PARTYNEXTDOOR – Treehouse Stage, 6:00pm
PND makes songs that make me feel like he’s always some girls side-piece. It’s sleazy, filled with catchy hooks, and that now “signature” OVO woozy production sound. It’s not quite chopped ‘n screwed, but maybe the Canadian version – they do love their (maple) syrup up there.
Grimes – Main Stage, 6:30pm
I’m most excited about this act than any other this weekend. Grimes has always produced some sonically challenging tracks, but with Art Angels it all fell into place. Her wide swathe of influences and ideas coalesced and congealed into an amazing album, and you can be sure that Claire Boucher will be performing her wild heart out, with an incredible visuals/light show to match.
It will be insane, like B-roll from a Blade movie.
Flume – Treehouse Stage, 7:30pm
Incredibly talented young producer, with a solid record of sonically and visually stunning live performances over the years. He’s also got a fantastic collaboration album with Chet Faker, which I highly recommend.
1975 – Main Stage, 8:00pm
You know when you sort of semi know someone, and are kind of ambivalent about them? Like, you’d make small talk if you ran into them at a bar, but nothing past that? Then one day, you see them do something absolutely heinous and atrocious and you’re like “fuck that person.”
That’s how I feel after seeing The 1975 perform on SNL a few months ago.
Back in my preview I said “the music is catchy, they sound great when blasting their synthy brand of rock out to an open field, and the lead singer looks like he’s doing Jane’s Addiction cosplay at all times.”
Yeah, that got old real quick. I would rather gouge my eye with a biodegradable fork than watch them live.
In summary: come to Sweetlife early! Stay for the headliners (if you want), but I probably won’t.