I’ll admit, I have been living in New York all my life and New York City, on and off, since 2010, and I had never heard of the Northside Festival in Williamsburg. That changed this year when I learned that Miguel was performing there. Immediately, I scooped up a ticket to go see bae perform live again. The last time I saw him, on his Wildheart Tour, he crowd surfed and I touched his skin and I melted.
Sorry. Forgive my thirst. Anyway, Northside is a festival in, as its name implies, the North Side of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. This year marked its 9th year, and while I can’t speak for its lineups in the past, it offers an eclectic mix of performers from a variety of genres. Regrettably, due to a series of unfortunate responsibilities at my day job, I was not able to attend more of the festival. However, it is more than just a music festival. Northside also hosts a series of “Innovator” talks, featuring panel speakers from all areas of the media. The festival takes over 30+ venues in the Williamsburg area, and essentially consumes the Hipster capital of the world with its presence. It’s a pretty big deal.
I’ll be frank. The only artists on the Northside lineup that I knew were Miguel, his opening act, B.J. the Chicago Kid, and Hip-Hop legend DJ Kool Herc. While I was seriously hoping to hop around the festival all week and discover some new talent, my schedule just did not allow it (I even missed Kool Herc!). However, luckily enough I was able to catch Miguel and his openers, Saro and the aforementioned B.J. the Chicago Kid.
The Opening Acts
Saro kicked off the night with a set of his experimental R&B, captivating the crowd with his foliage-adorned mic-stand and attention grabbing vocals. He was certainly talented, and the songs he performed showed great potential. While he definitely caught my attention momentarily with a few of the songs, I wish the set was a bit more lively and perhaps featured a cover that would have engaged the crowd a bit more than he was able to.
Speaking of covers, B.J. the Chicago Kid gave me my whole life when he broke into a cover of 1997’s own “Nice & Slow” by Usher. He was apparently feeling like having a whole Usher moment, because he ended up mixing it with “Superstar” from the Confessions album as well. While I didn’t know any of his material, the covers did it for me. Not to mention, he killed it vocally and had a whole lot of stage presence.
The Main Attraction: Miguel
My body was more than ready for Miguel to take the stage. To be honest, looking over the rest of Northside’s lineup, I wondered where Miguel fit in as an R&B act on a major label. As far as I could tell, the majority of Northside’s other acts were independent and not crossover friendly like Miguel. Well, Miguel proved himself to be more than suited for the festival, embodying the essence of Williamsburg, Brooklyn quite perfectly.
Miguel has a song called “What’s Normal Anyway?” where he questions society’s expectations of us, of what it is to be normal in regards to his being from a mixed ethnic background. Much to my own dismay, he didn’t perform the song at Northside. However, he certainly perpetuated his message that uniqueness should be celebrated. Donning a brightly colored map-shirt and tight, eggplant-purple pants, Miguel gave zero fucks about anyone’s judgements. He blew his way through a setlist that fused R&B, funk, Hip-Hop and rock and roll. Miguel’s setlist and sound fit Williamsburg perfectly. It was as if someone took a local Williamsburg resident’s vinyl collection, put it in a blender, and poured it out onto the stage (with some kale, almond milk, and vegan, gluten-free protein mixed in for good measure).
Indeed, Miguel was a big enough name to garner Northside some extra attention, without selling out. Miguel perfectly aligned himself with the vibe and the essence of the festival and its host neighborhood. He delivered an excellent show, and even greeted fans with enthusiasm after the show, in front of his hippy 1960s tour bus.
Check out video of Miguel performing at Northside on our Facebook page.