Panorama NYC Friday: Frank Ocean’s Spike Jonze-Assisted Political Statement, Vance Joy and Girl Talk’s Mashup Madness

Lyndsey Parker
Frank Ocean (Photo: Twitter/@RapDirect_)

Last week when indie hip-hop darling Frank Ocean played Los Angeles’s FYF Fest, he serenaded his admirer Brad Pitt with a mashup of the Stevie Wonder version of the Carpenters’ “Close to You” and the Jackson 5’s “Never Can Say Goodbye.” When Ocean reprised that performance Friday at New York’s Panorama music festival, Pitt didn’t join him onstage again, but the crowd was feeling the love nonetheless — and appreciating the openly queer singer’s T-shirt, which read, “Why be racist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic, when you could just be quiet?”

(UPDATE: The shirt has gone viral and is available for sale at Green Box Shop.)

Capturing Ocean’s bold message was concert cinematographer Spike Jonze (who also lensed Ocean at FYF and is now rumored to be working on a secret film project with Ocean and Pitt). The legendary director somehow made Panorama’s main stage feel downright intimate as he tracked the mysterious singer, up close and personal, then broadcast what almost looked like found footage in grainy VHS quality on the stage’s three video screens. After witnessing this low-fi magic, we sincerely hope that those film project rumors are true.

Ocean’s onetime Odd Future colleague, Tyler, the Creator, also played Panorama Friday, but any hoped-for mini-OFWGKTA reunion never transpired. The fans didn’t seem to mind: They cheeringly indulged Tyler as he asked permission repeatedly throughout his Pavilion Stage set to play new material from his just-released fourth solo album, Flower Boy. They even cheered when he (presumably jokingly) announced his dream of wanting to score a Disney movie — which, given Tyler’s penchant for using the N-word, F-word, and various other words that would earn any movie an R rating, is highly unlikely. However, if it does ever happen, perhaps Jonze could direct that too. (Video below contains strong language.)

Back to the subject of mashups, the greatest masher-upper in the land, Girl Talk (aka sampledelic genius DJ Gregg Michael Gillis), amazed and entertained during his hourlong onstage dance party, cranking everything from ’80s pop-rock hits like General Public’s “Tenderness” and David Bowie’s “Modern Love” to ’90s one-hit wonders like Len’s “Steal My Sunshine” and Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy” — and making everything sound funky-fresh and new again. Highlights included the Doobie Brothers’ “What a Fool Believes” with Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone,” Nicki Minaj’s Sir Mix-a-Lot-sampling “Anaconda” with Blur’s shouty sports anthem “Song 2,” and “My Own Worst Enemy” with Pilot’s dreamy 1975 power-pop classic “Magic.” Philly rapper Freeway, a regular Girl Talk collaborator, also joined in on the fun for a balloon-bouncing finale. Suffice to say that along with Ocean, Girl Talk was the talk of Panorama this Friday.

Australian singer-songwriter Vance Joy first garnered widespread attention north of the equator when Taylor Swift covered his signature song, “Riptide,” in the BBC’s Live Lounge. However, when Joy played Panorama, he wasn’t partying like it was 1989, but like it was 1986 — when he went with an unexpected cover-song choice and warbled Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al,” mashed up with a bit of OMI’s “Cheerleader.” The video for Joy’s new single, “Lay It on Me,” co-stars Westworld actress Angela Sarafyan, but his rendition of Simon’s hit was such a Panorama crowd-pleaser, we suggest that for his next music video he continue this homage and cast Chevy Chase in a cameo role.

Back over on the main stage, Solange stunned with a gorgeous, conceptual set that further established her as — like Ocean — one of modern R&B’s most important and forward-thinking artists. The younger Knowles sibling used to make festival news for guesting with the xx or having her big sis Beyoncé drop in for a surprise Coachella dance-off, but her buzzy performances at South by Southwest, Pitchfork, FYF, and now Panorama this year have turned her into a top draw. Gracing a monochromatic red-on-red stage, and flanked by a killer band (featuring a keytar player!) and synchronized, stylized modern dancers, Solange was a revelation.

Another Friday Panorama revelation was Danish electropop star MØ, best known for her smash-hit single with Major Lazer and DJ Snake, “Lean On.” When MØ sang the song solo at Panorama, the vibe was more heavy metal than EDM, as she banged her bleached head, dramatically dropped to her knees, and then literally leaned on the audience for a big crowd-surfing finish. This would-be rock star definitely left the audience wanting MØ.

Speaking of rock stars, L.A. glam-garage duo Foxygen and Austin indie-rock veterans Spoon totally delivered the guitar goods Friday. Check them out below, and come back Saturday at 2 p.m. PT/5 p.m. ET for Yahoo Music’s Day 2 live stream with alt-rock heroes Tame Impala, alt-J, and more.