As artists lined the stage at Blurry Visions Music Festival in Oakland, CA on May 12-13, the Bay’s blustery spring weather showed off with views of the San Francisco city skyline, draped in clouds sweeping dramatically across the water. Being its first year, Blurry Vision’s crowd wasn’t one measured in the hundreds of thousands, but in the thousands, with one stage sitting amidst a large dirt field lined with food and drink vendors. In spite of its novelty, the festival boasted many well-known artists including SZA, Migos, NxWorries, and Brockhampton, cultivating a series of exciting and energy-filled performances.
Mild tones opened the festival on Saturday as Clairo’s ethereal voice swept the stage. Nineteen years old and discovered from a YouTube video of her song “Pretty Girl,” she represented one of the many fresh, talented performers on the festival’s line up. Energy continued to build through the day with performances by Isaiah Rashad and Majid Jordan carrying the crowds into the evening hours.
With the sun setting, Brockhampton, the Texas boy band/collective composed of 14 members, opened slow with Bearface’s song “Summer,” but erupted with tracks from their lauded 2017 Saturation trilogy. With the backing of a full strings ensemble, perfectly synchronized vocals, and surprisingly choreographed dance moves, Brockhampton had festival goers dancing — and at one point moshing en masse — to their songs “Gold,” “Bleach,” and others. Consistent with past performances (the group donned orange prison jumpsuits on their last tour), Brockhampton pushed the limits with their attire, wearing bulletproof vests lined with provocative words and slurs in an act of defiant reclamation, brandishing “FAGGOT”, “WAKANDA”, and the N-word among others.
Brockhampton dominated the stage at a time of unprecedented popular ascension, but also controversy and accusation. Earlier that same day, the first in a series of allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse were levied against Brockhampton member Ameer Vann, who subsequently offered a limited apology via Twitter for his past behavior. The full collective has yet to address the matter.
Despite the controversy created by Vann’s actions, with night setting in over the growing crowds, Brockhampton completed their performance, setting the stage for headliner SZA. Enthralling the audience with her presence, SZA made magic as she performed her 2017 album Ctrl. The 27 year old sang of her experiences of relationships, love, and self-revelation through rhythmic beats that emanated throughout the venue. Featuring guest and hip-hop artist Isaiah Rashad, SZA brought out aspects of soul, R&B, pop, and rap, pushing her performance to be one of Blurry Vision’s most memorable. She completed her set with an ode of blessings directed at the city and its residents, uplifting the communities of Oakland and all those in attendance.
With next-day performances from artists Migos, NxWorries, Kamaiyah, and various others, a high bar was set for future Blurry Vision installments to follow in a community with few mid-size festival options. As the weekend came to a close, festival-goers departed Middle Harbor Shoreline Park on shuttles provided by the festival, attendees tired, dusty, but fulfilled by the weekend’s excitement and with promise for the future.