Well, one thing’s for sure: 2023’s All Things Go Music Festival was for the gays and the girls.
Taking place in Columbia, MD, at the Merriweather Post Pavilion, the outdoor festival held thousands of people on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 for a weekend they’d never forget.
With two stages to choose from throughout both days, each stage offered very different atmospheres and environments for festivalgoers to experience. While the Pavilion Stage had a more epic grandeur to its look, the Chrysalis Stage glowed with an undeniably ethereal energy. The stage sat underneath a glistening green dome, and the surrounding forestry made it feel like one was listening to music inside of a magical fairytale book.
With 32 artists included in its lineup, many of which were queer or beloved by the queer community, the festival felt incredibly safe and welcoming at all times. Festivalgoers did not disappoint with their outfits, which included several t-shirts referencing Lana Del Rey lyrics or Ethel Cain being a “meemaw.”
The first day opened with Jensen McRae and Hemlocke Springs, two wildly underrated artists from the TikTok side of the internet. McRae’s vocal ability and songwriting skills are absolutely sensational, and Springs continues to make music that’s in a world of its own dimension. Her artistry is like no other, and both McRae’s and Springs’ live performances will only continue to gain momentum as their careers blossom even more over this coming year.
Sudan Archives, RAYE, FLETCHER, and Peach Pit were four other standouts from the earlier part of Day 1, captivating audiences from start to finish during their sets. In particular, FLETCHER had a very playful presence that commanded the stage at all times. Festivalgoers were not ready to shed tears, however, until Lizzy McAlpine walked onto the Chrysalis Stage. Immediately after her first couple songs, one was able to turn around and spot several people crying over how much they resonated with McAlpine’s lyricism. Her vocal delivery was also tremendous, coming across as heartfelt, vulnerable, and crisp in the forest lighting.
The highlight of the whole festival might come as a surprise, but her stage presence, infectious joy for music, and ridiculously catchy melodies were something to behold: Carly Rae Jepsen’s set was the best of the entire weekend. As soon as the first note to “Run Away With Me” ripped through the crowd of thousands, a feeling of complete bliss immersed over everyone in attendance. Jepsen’s universe of feel-good, glittery pop perfection was on full display.
Performing songs from different parts of her career, fans old and new found moments to freak out to during her set. Tracks like “Call Me Maybe” and “I Really Like You” were some of the most fun moments one could possibly have at a festival, and other tracks like “The Loneliest Time” and “Psychedelic Switch” left festivalgoers dancing the night away with a carefree attitude.
Day 2 carried on the high energy of Day 1 with artists like Meet Me @ The Altar, but other artists like Leith Ross brought a more soothing and relaxing vibe to the Sunday sets. Arlo Parks also provided a more chilled out vibe for Sunday, providing stunning vocals and a great setlist for her fans. Samia was another highlight from earlier in the day, with a lively stage presence and fan favorite songs like “Fit N Full” and “Is There Something in the Movies?”
While Lana Del Rey’s fans are some of the most devoted and loyal fans in human existence, Ethel Cain is building up toward having a similar fanbase of her own – and that was definitely felt at All Things Go. As soon as she walked on the stage, a whoosh of excitement burst through the crowd. Her music truly resonates with so many, and there were hundreds in the audience that knew almost every lyric to every track. “Sun Bleached Flies” is always one of her heaviest hitters during live performances, and her performance of the song at All Things Go was no different. “Thoroughfare” and “American Teenager” were also massive standouts from the southern gothic icon’s set.
boygenius and MUNA were the last two artists to take the stage before Mother arrived, and both trios delivered exceptional performances. boygenius’ set was particularly emotional, with several festivalgoers crying along to their more somber tracks as the sun began to fade away into Maryland’s night sky. MUNA, on the other hand, were giving the crowd massive pop star energy throughout their set. One of the best moments of the festival was when Katie Gavin brought out Arlo Parks as a surprise guest during “Silk Chiffon,” one of the group’s most famous and energetic songs.
Now, the moment everyone was waiting for: Lana Del Rey. And she was just as amazing as one would hope. In a beautiful black gown and a shimmering headband, Lana captivated thousands of eyes within mere seconds. Performing her greatest hits, such as “Young and Beautiful” and “Video Games,” one could hear the voices of hundreds singing along to Lana’s anthemic and groundbreaking tracks. She played some of her newer releases as well, including “A&W” and “The Grants.” A scream-rendering moment also came from “Margaret,” as Lana welcomed Jack Antonoff on stage as a surprise guest for the song. “Cherry” and “Ultraviolence” were some of the other tracks met with surprising gasps of joy, known as being two fan favorites from Lana’s lengthy discography.
It’s true that Lana can be quite campy at times, and this set was definitely an example of that. Ending on a more dreary note with “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but i have it,” one would think the festival closed out with tears and a feeling of sadness – but no. Instead, Lana becomes an actress and pretends to get dragged away by a man cosplaying as a CIA agent. When Lana sings her final line of the song, the CIA agent wraps her up in white cloth and takes her away to never be seen again. Festivalgoers could not help but giggle and commend Lana for ending things on such a humorous and quirky twist.
Aside from the performances, All Things Go also featured a space called the Impact Lounge. This area was created by Spotify’s social impact team, the EQUAL program, which is dedicated to championing equity for women in music.
In collaboration with The Ally Coalition, which was founded in 2013 by Jack Antonoff, the Impact Lounge hosted six non-profits: Calling All Crows, HeadCount, Our Minds Matter, D.C. Environmental Network, Baltimore Safe Haven, and SMYAL. In this space, festivalgoers were asked to assemble hygiene kits for LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness at interactive stations, all for the chance to win a poster signed by one of their favorite artists. Spotify’s EQUAL program and The Ally Coalition were both doing incredible work at All Things Go, contributing to the festival’s safe and welcoming environment throughout the weekend.
2023’s All Things Go Music Festival was a weekend filled with exemplary music and overwhelmingly positive energy, leaving fans excited for the many years to come. It will surely be a thrill to see how the festival tops itself for 2024!