Sweetlife’s 2016 edition was a battle against the elements. Torrential rains! Stage fires! Gales of wind! The gripping mortality of spending your day in a field full of music fans half your age!
Headlined by Halsey and The 1975, Sweetlife filled Merriweather Post Pavilion for another year of music, food, and cutoff jean shorts that persevered despite a midday downpour. But just as the sun eventually reemerged to thaw out the half-dressed masses, the day’s wide-reaching array of artists resulted in a largely enjoyable day of music—well, as long as you brought a raincoat.
Biggest Missed Opportunity For a Fleetwood Mac Cover: Prinze George
Naomi Almquist, the Maryland synth-pop trio’s lead singer, boasts a voice that’s a dead ringer for Stevie Nicks live. It’s a shame they didn’t punctuate its set, full of songs that sound like an A&R meeting away from a sync in a Levi’s commercial, with a Mac cover.
Most Appropriate Soundtrack to the Incoming Thunderstorm: Wolf Alice
Shadowy, cloudy, hazy—all adjectives that describe Wolf Alice’s indie pop, which provided a fitting accompaniment to the storm that rolled in during its mainstage performance.
Most Apprehensive Crowd: Thundercat
Whether it was his astro-jazzy weirdness, the broken bass string, or the quickly approaching rainclouds, the crowd at the fest’s gorgeous second stage in the tree-lined edges of the park spent the set nervously looking around. Thundercat’s Stephen Bruner noticed his groovy set wasn’t getting the love it deserved—”You guys here? Or…hi?”
Biggest Argument For Giving Up As a Human Race and Handing It All Over to Female Cyborgs: Grimes
The singer/producer delivered one jaw-dropping moment after another, as she alternately mixed, danced, wailed on a drum pad, played electric guitar, and and fell to her knees during her otherworldly wails. Backed by another singer and two unhinged dancers, her set was an all-female assertion of android power.
Most Likely to Make You Feel Entirely Removed From the Zeitgeist: The 1975
We knew the English rockers were a thing. But not until we heard thousands of screaming teens (some of whom waited overnight in the parking lot) singing every word to their mildly funky, mostly white-bread pop songs—joined by half the day’s previous bands dancing around in the pit—did we really grasp The 1975’s wild popularity. And by the end of the set, we were also dancing around like giddy fools.
Best Stage Banter: Vince Staples
After Vince Staples realized the unenthusiastic Treehouse Stage crowd wasn’t going to turn up in the rain with him, the Long Beach rapper started dragging the largely-young, largely-white onlookers. “This should have been in Malibu, all these white people,” he said. “We’re one of, like, six black people in this field… We’re the only rappers here, which is weird because it’s 2016.”
Worst Stage Banter: Eagles of Death Metal
Nobody is denying that there’s something heroic to the Eagles of Death Metal returning to the stage after the horrors its members witnessed during the terrorist attacks in Paris last year that killed more than 80 people at its show at The Bataclan. Its “Vive La France!” comments were appreciated, but its steady stream of gross comments about the women in the crowd were not.
Most #OnBrand Stage Banter: DIIV
One of the many choice quotes from lead singer Zachary Cole Smith: “My drug dealer said I look like a little baby chicken with this shirt on.”
Most Strategically-Crafted Setlist: Blondie
One surefire way to make sure the younger fans in the crowd recognized—and stayed engaged with—the pop champions’ music was to open with “One Way Or Another,” stick “Atomic” in the middle of the set, and close with “Heart of Glass.” Bravo to Debbie Harry, who carried the set with her still-killer voice and flowing Lady Gaga wig.
Biggest Hope For the Youth Today: Shamir
The glamorously strutting 21-year-old singer earned the paper crown he sported throughout his set with the day’s best vocal performance. Alternating between his astonishing riffing and playful sing-raps, he got a crucial assist from his backing vocalist and her warped vocoder effects.
Most Tragically Mistimed Set: PARTYNEXTDOOR
PARTYNEXTDOOR came on stage just as the sun came out, which didn’t quite suit his pitch-black, late-night brand of R&B. Instead, Long Beach’s Vince Staples got the misty grey skies, his DJ commenting, “I know the weathers kinda fucked up—we’re about to get into some summertime shit.”
Best Onstage Cigarette: Mac DeMarco
Apologies to The 1975 lead singer Matt Healy, who sassily chain-smoked his way through their set, Mac DeMarco’s reliably on-brand move of crowdsurfing, bumming a cigarette from a fan, and lighting it while still held aloft in the crowd wins the day.
Biggest Sweetgreen Troll: Vince Staples
“Why does that say a Sweetgreen festival? Woooooow,” Staples said, noticing the salad chain’s name on the stage’s background. “I didn’t know this was a healthy thing, that’s crazy. Make some motherfucking noise if you’re healthy… We got food poisoning now we only go to Sweetgreen. All y’all go to Sweetgreen, get some kale bowls.”
Most On-Brand Marketing Tent: Casper’s sleep pods
The mattress delivery startup (“Like Warby Parker, but for your bed!”) hosted pop-up sleep pods that gave sleepy festival-goers the chance to try out their product—which, retailing at $800, is quite a step up from a dorm bed boxspring.
Most Desirable Item: Matt Healy and Buredo (tie)
The oversized sushi burrito tent commanded insane lines throughout the festival. The 1975’s lead singer caused a stampede when he “spoke with security” and invited fans sitting on the lawn into the pavilion’s empty rows. We, along with the majority of the crowd, failed to make contact with both.
Most Likely to Be Mistaken For In-Between-Set Music: Flume
Poor Flume, whose set of trendy EDM was snarled by the electrical fire that cut short PARTYNEXTDOOR’s set, leading to painful sound issues that forced the DJ to briefly leave the stage. The Australian DJ was mixing live, but that didn’t keep onlookers from joking that his Spotify must’ve been skipping.
Best Props: Grimes
First, her two outstanding dancers started ribbon-dancing. They brought out daggers, then laser-shooting gloves, before ending the set by throwing bouquets of flowers in the crowd. And Flume couldn’t even get his aux cord to work!
Most Hilarious Stage Visuals: DIIV
Eagles of Death Metal’s backdrop of its logo plus two sassy Uncle Sams looked straight out of a middle-school Powerpoint, and was only surpassed by DIIV and its background VHS footage of—what else?—Smith’s girlfriend Sky Ferreira, in a trashed bedroom, wearing a Nirvana shirt.
Best Subject of a Conspiracy Theory: Flume
“Maybe it was planned,” a bro commented to his friend about Flume’s abbreviated set while waiting in line for $10 sandwich in Jose André’s PEPE food truck line. “He’s all about exclusivity.”
Most Frequently Called “Mom” By People Who Were Not Their Actual Children: Halsey
One of the most charming/confounding aspects of online fandom in 2016 is the trend of teens referring to celebs as their mothers or fathers. And when the screens finally turned on during Halsey’s Treehouse Stage headlining set after her pyrotechnics-assisted opening songs, cries of “MOMMMMMM” rang through the crowd—made more ironic by the fact that the Washington, New Jersey singer will turn just 22 later this year.
Item of Clothing Most Frequently Ravaged By the Mud: White Converses
Should’ve checked the forecast before breaking in your new white sneakers, folks!