Well, the ambitious folks at Pandora Radio did it again. For this year’s 2016 Pandora Holiday, Bishop Briggs, Bastille and The 1975 gave listeners the fuel to celebrate right. Pandora welcomed guests back to the wide open space of BasketBall City for a night of frivolity and pure entertainment. While other companies were having their low-key cocktail end of year celebrations in New York City, folks by the East River were unleashing musical madness that best summarized 2016 at its best.
Despite a cold and rainy evening, music fans were determined to make it all the way downtown for this celebratory event. Just like in years past, the line of anxious guests all bundled up, wrapped around the wet city streets. Finally, when the time came to enter BasketBall City was granted, fans calmly walked along the Pandora blue carpet and paid tribute to the giant glowing aqua ‘P’ sign at the entrance. Inside, the chaos that followed was only matched by the excitement to come. Pandora outdid it with their marketing this year. All along the stage hung duplicate giant ‘P’s all alight with one actually filled with an assortment of Christmas tree ornaments inside a transparent shell and another twinkling in a sea of endless sparkles. On the pillars of the room flat screen televisions hung proudly displaying Pandora adverts, hoping to snag more people away from Spotify. Of course, corporate sponsors were back as well with the likes of Express, Ford and Advance Auto Parts handing out free stuff all the while stamping the scavenger hunt cards for even more free stuff once more. A highlight of the room, other than the music that was to follow, was the photo booth inside a blue Mentos ball pit. That was indeed a nice touch. Along the walls, keeping with tradition, were white projected snowflakes so the musical winter wonderland was all too real. Already, it was much more crowded than last year, which just added onto the anticipation!
To keep the fiesta energy alive between each set break, Snakehips were hard at work in a glowing disc jockey booth overlooking the crowd. Much of the VIP access fans were right smack dab in the middle of it all. As fans congregated to their ideal spots on the concert floor, the masters of ceremonies of the night the lovely Jamie Chung, who stars in the new holiday comedy Office Christmas Party flick, and Style Code Live star Lyndsey Rodrigues started things off. After their brief introduction regarding the overall event, the first musician of the show was set to begin.
All of the lights dimmed and Bishop Brigg’s band came out wasting no time and got right into it. As she held her microphone gently, ethereal vocals emitted from her voice. Behind her cathedral windows were projected onto the giant screen to give the whole experience a spiritual feel. Bishop, real name Sarah Grace McLaughlin, was no stranger to intensity as she fell in line with her music often running back and forth on stage. Her hair was in its signature tight pigtails and she was hunched over with rigid concentration after every song with a sincerely humble smile. However, when the music started up again, the woman unleashed soulful yells that were high and mighty with her echoed effects. Musically, her music was mild and bass-driven dance tunes. When she was not captivating the audience with her voice, onlookers were staring at her stage presence as she breathed in deeply to the instrumentation of the music. It was almost as if she was absorbing every bit of it for sustenance. Every beat prompted her to sway in her place until the mood shifted and she began to jump to the pulse with a pure punk rock vigor. Bishop’s face would match her passion with contorted features that were up there with ideal performance art. As she jumped, the screen changed with colorful thorn bushes while the band started to jump along with her. They were all pleasantly in sync with one another for great professionalism. Bishop’s voice pairing with the bass thumps were key elements in this music. Her speciality were her echoed high vocals that almost gave a shriek-like power to the musical elements. Fans loved her set and were talking about her long after she departed the stage. It was a perfect way to initiate the shenanigans of the holiday festivities.
For the next act, Bastille, the roadies took their time setting up. To note, the roadies were not shy at all with taking selfies of themselves hard at work. Fans were intrigued early on as giant wire sculptures of human figures were set up at various locations on the stage. Eventually, listeners were finally sated with their musical addiction as a fervor of overwhelming bass and red strobe lights began. Alongside the light show was the band’s triangle logo that was shown iconically on the projector screen. It seemed to be some form of industrial dance rock to start. As the men took their positions, exploding drums took over the bass to make every hair follicle vibrate. A montage of political and various news report images were played and the band were set in their musical ways. Climbing on the amplifiers, lead singer Dan Smith gave listeners discordant chaos. Harmonic industrial rock soon bellowed through and the energy was even more palpable than before. The synth and keyboard focus aligned nicely to the echoed vocals of Mr. Smith. All of the music was catchy and unbelievably loud. Bastille rocked on with admirable focus as Dan jumped off stage and entered the VIP section, without any security, to sing with the crowd while leaning defiantly on the barricades. Fans screamed and yelped with pleasure. Once he came back on stage, echoed wails were unfurled. Everybody wanted to be a part of the groovy sounds. Dan took off his black jacket and began to bang on a separate set of drums as he sang with an impressive talent of dual performance work. People in the audience were happily singing and bouncing along to Bastille’s set with ease. It was at this moment when the faint smell of marijuana drifted through the crowd to many a raised eyebrow of sudden interest. Their set ended with a series of shared snapping fingers and chorus singing with the audience with the gift of their hit Pompeii.
If fans were still itching for more ways to prolong the evening, they would be given their wish. A series of blow up Pandora balls began to tumble among the crowd as the intensity of the event hit its peak. With drinks and good vibes running rampant, listeners were ready for the headliner. The 1975 took things off with a static video on screen that was supported with even more bone shaking bass music. At last, the men leisurely clambered on stage and took their places at their instruments. Mimicking their contemporaries who came before them that night, they began rocking immediately. The entire stage was lit in a heavenly glow that made their music that more surreal. At times, the light display from the stage made the men look as if they were floating. Lead singer, Matthew Healy, sang with pride and gave listeners a show with his vivid hand motions waving through the air to the music.
The 1975 were more hard rock and roll for their set. When the sounds were grooving the audience well, Matthew could be seen taking part in their sentiments with a seizure-like dance on stage. His frizzy hair was flowing madly. Hard rock turned into funk as a cityscape backdrop was unraveled before the crowd’s eyes. Mr. Healy was the epitome of cool as he whipped out a cigarette and began casually taking a few puffs all while singing. The 1975 were successful in infusing a hard grinding flow with a danceable funk underbelly with their live performance. It was a nice current that went through. Even the discordant riffs that followed seemed to work especially when the jazzy saxophone came out. What a way to end yet another wonderful holiday experience. Well done Pandora, well done.