The first time I heard the Red Hot Chili Peppers I was in fourth grade standing in my friend Kate's kitchen. I rode my bike home and asked my dad if he had ever heard the "Caaaaliforniiiaaa rest in peace" song. He laughed and we went out to the garage and listened to his Blood Sugar Sex Magik CD. I just stood there thinking to myself, "This is almost better than Cat Stevens. I think it is better than Cat Stevens!" Ever since that Saturday evening in the garage, I have wanted to see RHCP live. Over the next 12 years, the anticipation of seeing them live grew into a huge anxiety that I would probably never get to see these funky monks in concert. That is, until The Meadows festival in Queens came in for the kill. When the 2017 lineup was released, I couldn't believe my eyes. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw 'RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS' listed as the first headliner.
I bought a ticket for Sunday September 17th, the night RHCP was scheduled to play. It was even more of a win when I noticed that Weezer and Foster the People were performing on the same day. The lineup of The Meadows was very well done; every genre was hit right on target. I was even more excited for this year’s festival because when I attended in 2016 the entire day was primarily rap. The crowd energy at a rap concert is not my cup of tea for a whole day. Don't get me wrong I am capable of enjoying a good rap concert but in variation versus in bulk.
The 2016 festival was uncomfortably hot all day, which seemed appropriate due to my subpar experience (or the fact that Kanye walked off stage during the 3rd song, after he went on an hour later than scheduled). However, I think the fact that the entire festival is on a blacktop surface also had a lot to do with the issue. The sun beating overhead was especially harsh without grass anywhere, and the blacktop was hot as hell. At the same time, for a music festival in the middle of the infamous concrete jungle, The Meadows was colorfully decorated in an urban geometric style. The colorful art displays were the key factor in taking some of the attention off the fact that it was located in the middle of a blacktop parking lot. Additionally, this year at least, the sun added a nice pop of color to the entire day.
Every show that I saw at The Meadows 2017 was absolutely phenomenal. Starting off the day with St. Paul and the Broken Bones, the bar was set outrageously high. In my opinion, this show won MVP of the entire festival. I have never in my life witnessed someone sing with such passion and soul, live. Mentally and physically, lead singer Paul Janeway put his entire soul into this performance. I was slightly familiar with the band prior to the festival but I never really thought much of them; I can confidently say my opinion has shifted. My entire attention was grasped by Janeway's insanely soulful voice that seemed to fill the whole sky. I immediately looked at my friend wide eyed and said, "Good grief we've got Mr. Janis Joplin up on stage over here!" As the set went on, St Paul and the Broken Bones' energy only exploded higher and higher, inevitably drawing an enormous crowd in by the end of it. At one point Janeway was completely rolled up into the carpet because he was so into this performance; absolutely unreal.
From St Paul and the Broken Bones, I headed over to Foster the People. Foster the People has been a personal favorite of mine ever since the winter of '09, so I was exceptionally stoked to see them. I last saw them in 2010 but to be completely frank, I was too young to appreciate the experience of it all on a deeper level. That being said, I didn't really know what to expect and whatever subconscious expectation I had was blown out of the water. Lead singer Mark Foster is a fantastic performer, and he sounds out of this world live. He was jumping all around the stage essentially making an effort to incorporate the entire audience in his performance, slightly similar to Matt Schutlz (lead singer of Cage the Elephant). In addition to the movement on stage, the entire band had a jam band vibe to them. It was very evident that this lively performance was not just for show and it was simply projecting the raw energy that they create together on a daily basis.
Foster the People's set was perfectly organized in my opinion. The backdrop on stage was the band's new album Sacred Hearts Club, which was released on July 21, 2017. Although the set was slightly dominated by songs from Sacred Hearts Club, the perfect combination of songs from the band’s first two albums flowed in sync with the newer songs. There was perfect equilibrium between the band members and the other dynamics of the set; the crowd kept multiplying with every song. Foster the People have a multidimensional aspect to their music that creates an overall consuming sound; personally the kind of sound that takes my soul out of this world. Towards the end of the set Mark Foster got pretty deep in an inspirational thought about our world. In the background while he was speaking his words of non-confrontational wisdom, an uplifting sound filled the area creating such a togetherness.
I was nervous for RHCP because of how high the bar was already set from the energy from St. Paul and the Broken Bones and Foster the People. All I could hear in my mind were the people that brought attention to the fact that the Red Hot Chili Peppers were not in their prime anymore. They brought a valid point to the table but I think they must have forgotten that Flea is basically not even human. That man can put more energy on stage than someone half his age could. Keeping an open mind, I went to get a spot somewhat close to the stage an hour before the show and nearly the entire area was already filled with people waiting to see the legends do their 'thang'. There were so many people that I had to stand sideways for a while because I was packed in like a sardine. Although the crowd was overwhelming, it threw into perspective how many lives the Red Hot Chili Peppers have touched and it was surreal to be a part of that moment.
As the show began I was undeniably awestruck by RHCP's energy on stage. Coming in hot with the classic tune 'Can't Stop', Flea and lead singer Anthony Kiedis jumped around the stage like spider monkeys on speed, while lead guitarist Josh Klinghoffer flung his body around like a wet noodle shredding his guitar and Chad Smith did his thing on the drums. I have always been intrigued by the various unique character traits each member of RHCP has, but watching them in person brought a whole new understanding of them to me. They truly are some of the most intriguing individuals to witness live. The Meadows Music and Arts Festival started off strong and finished strong. It was yet another 'best day of my life', and I genuinely believe that this was the best live music that I have ever seen. The line up was perfectly executed and the artists exceeded all of my expectations. I am excited to see what is in store for next year; the bar has been set.