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For New York's new festival, an immersion in art
A view of the Bai tent at dusk on day two at the Bai VIP Lounge during The Panorama Music Festival at Randall's Island on July 23, 2016 in New York City. Rob Kim/Getty Images for Bai/AFP.

by Shaun Tandon

NEW YORK (AFP).- The latest entrant to the fast-growing global festival calendar is moving beyond crowd-pleasing rock acts, offering a New York audience an immersion in art and technology.

Panorama -- put together by the promoters of Coachella, the California festival that is among the world's most lucrative music events -- opened Friday in Randalls Island off the city's East River for a three-day run.

The inaugural day featured high-energy electronic act Major Lazer, a festival favorite among young fans, as well as FKA twigs, who turned her set into a riveting contemporary dance piece.

Alabama Shakes, the bluesy rockers driven by Brittany Howard's thundering voice, also played the opening night which culminated with indie rockers Arcade Fire leading a New Orleans-style brass procession through the crowd of songs by their mentor David Bowie.

Yet with the number of festivals quickly growing, Panorama has sought to distinguish itself with a focus on the quirky and high-tech.

In a kind of virtual graffiti, artists under the hot sun spray-painted a canvas, with their designs projected through a vast screen onto a simulated New York subway car.

Surprise venue for art
In one of the festival's most popular attractions, a 21-meter (70-foot) dome in the style of a planetarium brought in dozens of fans at a time who lay down to gaze at free-flowing abstract videos amid a wall of sound.

The dome, which was also covered by fluid projections on the outside, was the highlight of "The Lab," the festival's exhibition of interactive works by New York-based artists.

Zach Lieberman, whose piece "Reflection Study" employs computer coding to let audiences create their own displays by manipulating shapes on a special light board, relished the surprise factor as festival goers discovered his work by chance.

"You go to a museum and you know you're going to see art," he said in a video to accompany his piece.

"When I'm doing this animation, when I'm doing these software studies, for me, it's a form of music," he said.

Another piece, "Giant Gestures" by Phil Sierzega and Charlie Whitney, played on the modern-day love affair with smartphones by creating an interface that responds not to a swipe of a finger but to oversized hands made of foam.

Artistic team Future Wife built a bounce castle of the sort enjoyed by children -- but designed for adults with interactive sensors and an aesthetic that resembles intestines.

Festival calendar keeps growing
Panorama brought numerous touches from Coachella, which takes place each April in the heat of the California desert, including a sun-shielding pavilion over one stage -- a welcome feature on a weekend when temperatures are set to reach 36 Celsius (97 Fahrenheit).

The new festival also featured two air-conditioned dance stages, one a fog-filled and powerfully amplified floor that evoked the disco era and another that brought in prominent DJs.

Among them was Mike D, one-third of New York rap pioneers the Beastie Boys. The now 50-year-old Mike D mixed tracks from younger hip-hop stars including Kanye West and M.I.A., while going back to classic acts such as A Tribe Called Quest, while occasionally taking the microphone in his instantly recognizable bellowing voice.

New festivals have been growing at a breakneck pace in the past several years, becoming a key summer experience for the millennial generation and a crucial revenue stream for the music industry.

New York's Governors Ball, which launched in 2011 and also takes place on Randalls Island, had objected to Los Angeles-based Coachella promoter Goldenvoice's arrival with Panorama, arguing that the metropolis could not support two large-scale festivals.

In a cruel twist of fate, Governors Ball last month was forced to cancel its final day with a highly anticipated performance by West due to predictions of thunderstorms.

Governors Ball has swung back by creating yet another festival, The Meadows, which will take place October 1-2 and bring back West.

© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse

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