By James Pleasant
Day 2 of the Sweetlife Festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD, offered another helping of healthy, seasonal food options, and more amazing music performances by The Weeknd, Charli XCX, Vic Mensa, and many more.
One of the most interesting aspects of the festival was the vast array of food trucks that came from all over the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area. Big Cheese, a food truck based in Arlington, VA, offered festival-goers three different types of freshly-made, gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches–the most notable being the “Thrilled Cheese,” which included chipotle cheese, guacamole and spicy jalapenos. Woodland’s Vegan Bistro offered delicious, vegan alternatives such as Ginger Spiced Tofu, Fried Chik’n Sandwich (made from crispy bean curd), and a Crab Cake Sandwich made from a soy meat patty.
The festival’s innovative concept not only stresses the importance of eating nutritious, locally grown food, but also the significance of stimulating local economies by doing so. Purchasing locally grown food helps to support local businesses and growers, instead of simply boosting the profits of large corporations.
The Sweetlife Festival also offered festival-goers a wide array of locally brewed craft beer from places such as Mountain State Brewery, DC Brau, and Peak Organic Brewery.
On Sunday, the festival seemed even more crowded than it was on Saturday, as Phantogram, Vic Mensa, The Weeknd, Calvin Harris, and others played at the Merriweather’s three stages.
British songstress Charli XCX performed an array of tracks from her Sucker and True Romance albums with a band of all-female musicians clad in zebra-print outfits. Throughout the set, Charli stressed the concept of “p***y power” (in her own words), and urged females in the audience to cheer along with her. Charli performed a more punk-flavored cover of Icona Pop’s hit song, “I Love It,” allowing the crowd to sing along to the hook. Towards the end of her set, Charli performed “Fancy” by Australian rapper Iggy Azalea, on which Charli originally sings the chorus. The crowd gave her a standing ovation as she rapped all of Azalea’s verses with more finesse and rawness than the original artist.
Electronic rock duo Phantogram performed a stellar set at the Main Stage, beginning with a distorted wall of sound from the guitar, akin to shoegaze bands such as My Bloody Valentine and Ride. After ascending to the stage, leader singer Sarah Barthel jokingly shouted “Is there anybody out there?” to a near-full crowd, before filling the air with her wispy, angelic vocals backed by spacey keyboards. The duo’s touring percussionist provided hair-raising sub-bass and snappy drums that echoed throughout the stage. At one point, Phantogram’s producer/guitarist, Josh Carter shouted “What’s up, Baltimore?” even though the festival is in Columbia, and received a lukewarm response for his mistake.
Chicago rapper Vic Mensa played to a crowd of eager fans at the Treehouse Stage. Mensa bounced onstage with a bottle of Moet in hand, opening the set with his hit song “Feel That.” On “Orange Soda,” from his Innetape mixtape, Mensa effortlessly spit out rapid, double-time flows over a heavy boom-bap beat. Church organ chords opened up his performance of “Cocoa Butter Kisses” by fellow Chicago MC, Chance the Rapper. The energetic crowd yelled loudly as Mensa rapped his guest verse from the song. Chance did not join Mensa onstage for the track, but his presence was still felt as Mensa and the crowd sang along to the catchy hook.
Later in the evening, Australian singer Vance Joy played to a large crowd at the Main Stage. Joy played a number of folk-pop tunes, with melodies primarily led by his acoustic guitar. Many audience members swooned over Joy as he performed his love songs. His songs were deeply personal, conveying a sense of longing and love lost. The song “My Kind of Man,” written from the perspective of a female lover, is about “a guy trying to shape up because he’s been given the order by his beloved,” according to Joy. Halfway through his set, Joy broke out his ukulele, changing the pace and performing lighter, more upbeat tracks, and the performance of his biggest single, “Riptide,” sent the crowd into an uproar.
Getting close to The Weeknd’s at the Treehouse stage proved to be a near-impossible task, as waves of people pushed into each other, trying to get a better viewing spot. The Canadian R&B crooner easily boasted the most crowded audience at the Sweetlife Festival, and seemed unfazed by the pandemonium below him. He opened with “Wicked Games,” a song about infidelity and struggles with substance abuse. Deep sub-bass rumbled throughout the stage as he performed tracks from his Trilogy and Kiss Land albums. The Weeknd even performed a cover of “Drunk in Love” by Beyonce, as fans jumped to the song’s bouncy trap beat.
Sweetgreen’s sixth annual Sweetlife Festival concluded with a set from electro-house producer/DJ Calvin Harris. The highlight of this set was easily the spectacular visuals and laser-light show. Harris transformed the Main Stage into a packed nightclub, bumping bass heavy EDM tracks as the entire crowd stood up to dance. The set was truly a spectacle, complete with confetti drops, fireworks, and even fire. Harris’ set epically celebrated the end of a weekend full of delicious, healthy food, and incredible musical performances.