The first and, to this day, only music festival I’ve attended is Panorama 2018, a 3-day festival that took place on Randall’s Island put on by Goldenvoice. I received last-minute tickets and my girlfriend and I went to the first day with scheduled sets by Father John Misty, Migos, Dua Lipa, and the night’s headliner: The Weeknd. Thunderstorms were in the forecast but that did not deter us from making the trek from 125th Street, over the RFK Bridge onto the island.
We arrived in the one o’ clock hour and the conditions at that point were ideal: low/mid 80s, sunny, a normal late July day by all measures. We walked around the grounds, stopped in the Rough Trade pop-up, got some food. It was during the last part of the itinerary that things got a little dicey.
Midway through eating some overpriced mozzarella sticks, the clouds that were forming over the island unleashed a barrage of rain upon the festival-goers. We threw on the ponchos I bought at Walmart the day before and sought shelter under the JBL-branded experience tent. After the rain stopped, the air was extremely thick and the sun was hotter than before.
This all occurred before the day’s first set on the headlining stage: Daniel Caesar. I heard a lot about him up to that point, specifically from my cousin, but never gave him an in-depth listen. Watching from afar, his performance was very captivating and I instantly became a fan. It was after his set and mere minutes before Dua Lipa was scheduled to take the stage that the screens lit up with a message to evacuate as soon as possible due to impending severe weather (third slide) and an announcement with the same message was made over the PA.
(Photo source: Billboard)
The aftermath of this announcement is something that still leaves me scratching my head. No bad weather ended up happening to my knowledge and it was only a 50 or 60 percent chance of any storms. Also, if thunderstorms were to occur, why would you subject people to walking on a metal bridge to leave the island? Why not have adequate shelter space when it’s known that severe thunderstorms occur during New York summers? Luckily, people got refunded but the hours leading up to that decision were filled with a flurry of Instagram comments and Twitter replies from angry attendees.
Panorama did not take place in 2019 as they are looking to move to Queens in the future but their struggles highlight the perils of festivals taking place in New York. The weather is so unpredictable in this part of the country; it’s not Southern California where it’s sunny with barely any rain. The history of New York festivals affected by weather includes every official iteration of Woodstock from 1969 on (rain and lack thereof), the Gov Ball that Kanye was supposed to headline, and most recently day one of Panorama 2018.
So take this as a cautionary tale: no matter what the forecast says, be prepared for anything if you’re going to, or planning, an outdoor event in New York.