The FADER after-party takes place in a space the size of two subway cars, which will soon be as crowded as the rush-hour commute and approximately a billion times more joyful. Hometown hero Freeway is the night’s first DJ, and despite the fact that his hand’s in a cast and he’s never deejayed before, he has no problem getting bodies moving. Ishmael Butler and Tendai Maraire from Shabazz Palaces are posted up against the wall. People are getting loose on their third Stoli Orange and sodas when Maseo from De La takes over the decks/iTunes, playing Michael Jackson, the Axel F Theme (yes!) and the Eurythmics. One more drink, one more minute, and things will spin out. After fifteen hours of music, it’s time to pull the ripcord and head home.
Summer music festivals are obscenely bodily: calves and shoulders flying everywhere, all shapes and sizes getting gnarly with each other, sweating, drinking, eating, peeing in port-o-potties. It’s like that Heironymous Bosch painting “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” but with jean cutoffs and beer cans.
Major Lazer (sans Switch) gets things started with a pair of truly elastic dancers decked out in ladybug colors. Hype man Walshy Fire is relentless: Jump! Get low! Hands in the air! Confetti guns are blasting, Diplo’s shirt is coming off; he’s surfing the crowd.
But oh, the clouds are gathering. Literally. In one direction it’s blue-skies summer day, but in the other, a malevolent green-black overhead threat. We have three minutes to secure shelter before things turn violent. The food tent backstage fills with to capacity, then beyond. The wind picks up. A crack of lightning splits the sky and we’re in the middle of an end-of-days downpour. Rakim’s supposed to be on in 5 minutes, but there’s no way that’s happening now.
Let’s take a minute to thank God for happy accidents. Because without this unscheduled deluge, Diplo wouldn’t have taken the tent stage early for his DJ set. Without this deluge, everyone at the festival wouldn’t have packed in there like sardines, paving the way for a highlight of the weekend. Diplo calls local girls up on the stage and they shake ass alongside the pros. Someone does a handstand shimmy. Questlove is up there, cutting a rug. The humidity in the tent approaches Danang levels. It’s a full-on rave.
Eventually the rain passes and everyone heads back outside. On the Main Stage, the Roots introduce Rakim, who’s going to run through Paid in Full with their help (and Black Thought standing in for Eric B). Rakim is wearing a windbreaker and paces the stage like a panther. His presence is huge and fearsome, and when the mic cuts out (thanks to the earlier bad weather), you worry he might snap. But nah, he cool.
Headliner Kid Cudi can’t make it—a little problem with the private jet, you know how it goes—but the Roots hold it down, playing into the night with a little help from special guests Freeway, Jakk Frost and Skillz. Kid who?
Afterwards, back at the hotel bar, Diplo and his gang watch the Celtics beat LeBron and the Heat on TV before cutting out to DJ an after-party. Apparently it was a good night for the northeast all around.