On October 1 and 2, Queens was lit. Until it wasn't. Over the weekend, the parking lot of the Citi Field Arena in Queens, New York, was transformed into an urban street festival with four impressive stages and a wide array of street food. Thousands of concertgoers and dozens of artists, from Grimes to Chance The Rapper, flocked to the inaugural Meadows Festival for two cloudy days of hip hop and indie rock — and one of Kanye West's most memorable performances. The reason why it was so memorable has already been well-documented: Yes, it was here, tucked away on a gravel lot, that West abruptly walked off the stage in the middle of "Heartless," citing a "family emergency" with no further explanation, leaving his fans staring blankly at an empty stage. The initial overwhelming reaction in the crowd was, "Is this real?" quickly followed by "He definitely has to be joking..." and then the inevitable "HE'D BETTER BE KIDDING." One girl in line for the bathroom immediately vented to her friend, "North better be in the hospital," referring to West's daughter, as they scowled and texted for an Uber. Another joked that this was "the most Kanye thing ever." It took about 10 minutes before it was definitively clear that Mr. West had left the premises, and that the show was over after less than an hour. When West's signature amber lights turned off, and the flood lights turned on, it seemed that the devastated crowd (West still had 25 more minutes in his set) might start lashing out in anger. According to one of the food-stand employees, Sunday night's shows would draw 15,000 more attendees than Saturday's — that's a lot of people to disappoint, and lot of money spent on tickets. For many fans, this was the second time this year that they'd been let down by West (his headlining performance at the Governor's Ball festival in June had been cancelled due to a storm). A lot of hype had already built up for this show (because, naturally, West came out over thirty minutes past the scheduled start time). I was bracing myself for revolt, remembering the dangerous situation that unfolded when West announced his surprise show (to make up for Governor's Ball) at Webster Hall earlier this year.
What I definitely didn't expect? The peaceful waves of complacency that washed over the crowd, which was still supportive of Yeezy even though they were pissed. Instead of erupting into a riotous chorus of "BOOs," people simply left in a cloud of shock and worry about what sort of "emergency" had prompted the interruption of one of the most energetic performances of West's Saint Pablo Tour. So, I'm proud of all you fans sporting Yeezy sneakers and the same merch shirts (that you clearly waited in line for hours to snag), who made me momentarily fear being trampled to death in a millennial mosh pit. You truly surprised me, in the best way.
The jarring end to a great show served as an important reminder that, as untouchable as celebrities might seem (especially West, with all of his eclectic "genius" antics), they, too, are vulnerable to misfortune — even during one of the biggest dance parties Queens has ever seen.