Opening day of the first Breakaway celebration in two years brought sunshine, heat, electronic music stars and gyrating throngs to the Grand Rapids park on Friday. The recap, photos and video highlights.
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With Breakaway Music Festival’s long-awaited return to Grand Rapids’ Belknap Park on Friday, the theme of “leave it all behind” felt incredibly fitting after a pandemic hiatus in 2020.
The crowds came in droves as if the festival hadn’t skipped a beat.
“It feels great, absolutely,” said Jacob Brabant, 22, a peacock-feather-decorated festival attendee Lansing — one of several thousand fans packing Belknap on Day 1. “Everything just feels like it all came back together.”
It would be ignorant to say nothing changed during the Festival’s year off, Brabant said. While the music world fell into a spiral, he has been keeping an eye on local artists.
“It’s amazing to see how much has changed throughout COVID-19 — what artists are going where, seeing everything that [they’re] doing,” he said. “It’s awesome to see all of the Michigan artists come up like that.”
As the first day came to a close, one of those local artists, festival MC and DJ Choff of Grand Rapids, reminisced with the crowd on the chance that six months ago, Breakaway 2021 could have been another blank spot on a calendar.
Seeing the outpouring of support and drive to bring back live music was reassuring, he said.
“It’s like it’s all coming full circle,” said Kellen Voss, 22, from Zeeland.
A four-time Breakaway attendee, he said he remembers seeing Quinn XCII, a Michigan native, as an opener on stage. Now, years later, it’s his to command come Saturday night.
BIG WILD AND ILLENIUM STAND OUT ON DAY 1
Along with all that came a flurry of electrifying sets throughout Breakaway’s first day.
Fittingly, one of the biggest shows of the day was Big Wild’s set.
A wide-reaching ensemble of styles and energy, the crowd filled the air as “6’s to 9’s” bounced around the park, and thrashed their heads to a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” complete with classic rock showmanship. The combination of Big Wild’s “something for everyone” set and a tantalizing live sound made their time on stage one to remember.
Still, few could even think of topping Illenium, the name on the mind of most attendees who had begun chanting for his set since festival gates opened.
As he took the stage, the crowd had swelled to fill the standing space, clad with rainbow lights, bouncing inflatables and waves of neon. On the heels of a dynamic set from Gryffin, Illenium’s dramatic entrance set to his swelling underscore shook the ground.
Illenium dominated the crowd from hilltop to front row. His ebb and flow between powerful, ballad-inspired bridges and gritty, grimey breakdowns pumped power through an already enthusiastic audience.
Throughout the set, that approach both acted as the rallying charge and the over-the-top release that made the crowd swirl, rock and raise a swath of hands at a moment’s notice.
Whether it be pent-up musical adrenaline or electric magic in the air, the late-night celebratory spirit throughout Belknap Park rang clear that Breakaway was back.
PHOTO GALLERY: Breakaway Music Festival 2021, Day One
Photos by Anthony Norkus
VIDEO: Breakaway Michigan 2021, Day 1
One-Day Saturday GA Tickets are $74.99 and available online here.
Copyright 2021, Spins on Music LLC