Lupe Fiasco sings his heart out. Photograph by John Wilwol.
Last year, the first ever Sweetlife Festival was an enthusiastic but cozy affair in a parking lot behind the sustainable salad purveyor Sweetgreen’s Dupont Circle location, with a DJ set by the electronic act Hot Chip at the top of the bill. This year’s event, it’s fair to say, was more than somewhat upgraded. Almost 20,000 people assembled at Merriweather Post Pavilion Sunday for a lineup that included rapper Lupe Fiasco, mash-up master Girl Talk, and indie powerhouses the Strokes as well as Cold War Kids, Ra Ra Riot, Crystal Castles, and local rockers U.S. Royalty—the only act that also played at last year’s festival.
The highlights were undoubtedly Girl Talk and the Strokes: The latter delivered a fierce, 75-minute set that kicked off with the title song from the group’s 2001 album, Is This It, and showcased work from its most recent album, Angles. But the band had a tough act to follow in Girl Talk, a.k.a. Gregg Gillis, who shot rolls of toilet paper, ticker tape, balloons, and giant inflatable tubes at the crowd while dancing with about 50 fans on stage. Lupe Fiasco got political, giving two fingers up to Donald Trump (to the crowd’s delight) and talking at length about “Palestinian apartheid” (to the crowd’s bewilderment). And no photographers were allowed in the pit during Crystal Castles’ set, presumably because singer Alice Glass might have crushed them. Glass, who was already brandishing a crutch following an accident on stage earlier in the year, fell over and rolled around the stage multiple times. She also crowd-surfed, no mean feat when you’re wearing an ankle cast.
Despite the dreary weather, the festival was a huge success, with a portion of ticket proceeds going to Jamie Oliver’s Food Foundation. Sustainable foods were available, although more people seemed to opt for the organic chicken tenders and boardwalk fries than the Sweetgreen quinoa salad with roasted vegetables.