UPDATE, 4:50 p.m.: Friday's Panorama has been cancelled due to the incoming storm.
For the third summer in a row, the Panorama music festival (a kind of “Coachella East”) is taking over Randalls Island... starting right now. The fest runs through Sunday, and features an impressive music lineup with The Weeknd, Janet Jackson and The Killers headlining on consecutive nights, along with some 55 supporting acts including Migos, David Byrne, Odesza, Father John Misty, SZA, St. Vincent, Lil Wayne, Fleet Foxes, The xx, and Gucci Mane. There’s also a huge emphasis on DJs this year, with the on-site “open air dance club,” called The Point, hosting the likes of Black Madonna, Yaeji, Moodymann, Mike Servito, and Bicep. If you’re going—and tickets are still available at all levels for all three days—here’s what you to need to know.
Getting to Randalls Island (here's a guide) is always less painful than you think, whether you choose the ferry, shuttle bus, biking or walking across one of four bridges. OR, my preferred route, hopping on the M80 bus right near the 4/5/6 stop at 125th. Note that if you choose this last option, it’ll cost you $6.50 round trip, no unlimited MetroCards accepted, so be sure to pre-load. And for godsakes don’t take an Uber; the traffic is a nightmare once you get on Randalls and you just ruin it for everyone.
As always at these festivals, the line to enter the site—at Will Call, and especially at Security—can vary wildly throughout the day. Sometimes it’s a walk-right-up situation. At other times, like earlier today when the opening was delayed for 30 minutes for unclear reasons, it can take well over an hour to get through the front gate. Organizers are expecting about 25,000 people each day.
There’s a huge change here: the back field, usually home to at least one stage and a host of food and booze vendors, is not being used at all this summer. So there’s just the big Panorama Stage, the secondary Pavilion Stage, The Point (which is basically a dance floor), and that’s it. This means there’s a lot less walking to get from act to act, which is good, but it also might be much more crowded on the vast main field. The primary VIP area, by the way, is far more spacious than at other festivals. Currently, the grass is wet and muddy throughout the grounds.
Eating and Drinking
For some people (me) the lineup of food vendors is almost as exciting as the musical acts. The great Emmy Squared is making its festival debut, slinging their famous, double-patty, Le Big Matt burgers. Legendary scoop masters Ice & Vice are here again with flavors like Malted Caramel, Chocolate Cookies, and Blood Orange Lemonade (but get the special Cookie Split Sundae for maximum pleasure). Gertie, a "laid-back spot" coming this fall to Williamsburg, offers a sneak peek at their offerings, including a trio of grilled sandwiches. Another first-timer is Schaller’s Stube, selling some fat Bratwurst Chili Dogs. And Bushwick’s excellent Nicaraguan restaurant Chicha will make you a plate of their terrific Quesillos.
Festival favorites such as Roberta’s, Big Mozz and Do, Mighty Quinn’s, La Newyorkina, John’s Juice, and Egglo are also back for more. And for the first time at Panorama you can use Postmates at certain booths to pre-order your food, and skip the line at pickup at a prearranged time.
There’s beer, wine, and booze galore available everywhere of course. Order beer via the Panorama app (a 16-oz can of Bud will set you back $10) and, when you get a notification, waltz right up to the window for your beverage.
The main Insta-bait on the grounds is a corporate-sponsored village of domes, tents, and sculptural installations with names like Pixel Vortex, Portal to Flatland, and Hypersubtle. Together it’s called The Lab, and lines formed immediately today to get inside each zone.
Also, BRING AN UMBRELLA OR PONCHO, because a storm's a comin'....