The Afropunk Fest started in ’05 as a showcase for the marginalized black punk scene, but these days it's an edgy multigenre blowout. This year's installment (going down this Saturday and Sunday at Commodore Barry Park in Fort Greene) is free, but a $40 "donation" earns you guaranteed entry and line-skipping privileges. The only problem is that with 60 acts playing four stages over two days, the whole thing can seem a little overwhelming. So to help you plan your pilgrimage, here are our picks for ten can't-miss sets—as well as a Spotify playlist to check out while you browse.
Saturday, August 23
Shabazz Palaces; 5:15pm; Red Stage
This Sub Pop–signed and deservingly hyped Seattle alt-rap group just released Lese Majesty, the follow-up to their much lauded debut, with no sign of a sophomore slump. The Palaces' stop at Afropunk is part of the first leg of a North American and European tour, so this'll be your last chance to see ’em in NYC for a while.
THEESatisfaction; 6pm; Gold Stage
"Leave your face at the door," opens the endlessly danceable "QueenS." "Turn off your swag and check your bag / From your limbs to your Tims, get down." Was there ever a better invitation to hit the floor? You have to check out the electrosoul duo of Stasia Iron and Catherine Harris White for that much, at the very least.
Lianne La Havas; 7pm; Green Stage
In a voice that alternates between being lullaby-gentle and surprisingly robust, Lianne La Havas sings bare and often bossa nova–tinged folk-pop. Check out her debut's Feist-y, handclap-heavy title single, "Is Your Love Big Enough?"
Bad Brains; 7pm; Black Stage
The crowd's going to be huge when legendary first-gen punks Bad Brains take the stage. Though singer H.R. won't be at this show, tantalizing "guest vocalists" are scheduled to front the band. Who knows who might show up?
Body Count; 7:45pm; Red Stage
Way before he was solving New York's most sensitive cases on Law & Order: SVU, Ice-T was stirring up controversy with his aggro rap-metal institution, Body Count, hitting town behind new comeback album Manslaughter. Though three of the band's original members, who met while students at Crenshaw High, have unfortunately passed away, founders Ice and Ernie C are joined by new recruits such as Juan Garcia, of thrash institutions Evildead and Agent Steel.
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings; 8:30pm; Green Stage
Last year, the hugely popular retro-soul band released its fifth album, Give the People What They Want. For most musicians on the fringes of of the pop mainstream, a question mark at the end of that title would be pretty much implied. But SJ and the DKs have long found that they can keep fans, critics and themselves happy with energetic, listenable and just plain fun throwback tunes. So don't miss Afropunk's headliner; come get what you want.
Sunday, August 24
Fishbone; 5:45pm; Green Stage
That this cult-fave ’80s ska-punk act never made it truly big is one of the cautionary tales that inspired the Afropunk Festival to move black artists from rock's margins to center stage. And it's not too late for Fishbone, either, now recognized as criminally unsung and still releasing new music after 35 years.
Unlocking the Truth; 5:45pm; Black Stage
For most 13-year-olds, playing a professional music festival would be a big deal. But the tweenaged old-school metal enthusiasts in Unlocking the Truth have already played Coachella, opened for Guns 'N' Roses and snagged a 1.7 million dollar five-record deal with Sony. So for them, this is just another weekend.
Meshell Ddegeocello; 7pm; Green Stage
This singer-bassist-rapper and neo-soul architect has ten Grammy noms and twice as many years of experience under her belt. Come hear her many classics, as well as tracks from her brand new release, Comet Come to Me.
DJ Rashad Tribute 7:15pm; Red Stage
When Chicago footwork pioneer Rashad Hanif Harden died of an overdose this spring, he shocked a world that was just starting to truly appreciate his talent. Here, his partner DJ Spinn and others take the stage in tribute to the late innovator.