Despite being racked by cancellations and uncertainty over the past few months, the three-day Meteor Festival kicked off on Thursday at Kibbutz Lehavot Habashan in the Upper Galilee.
Dozens of international artists and DJs are slated to perform over the long weekend of music, joining close to 80 local Israeli acts on six different stages at the groundbreaking festival.
While famous headliner Lana Del Rey canceled last month, the festival’s other big names have been arriving all week long.
On Tuesday, rapper A$AP Ferg landed in Tel Aviv, and shared his arrival and his first meal on Instagram. Belgium band Soulwax rolled into Israel the same day, and German band Faust, British producer Mura Masa, and American rockers Battles have all already been spotted in Israel.
Pusha T – the rapper whose prominent feud with Drake landed him in the headlines again this week when Kanye West weighed in – arrived on Thursday ahead of his Friday night show.
After a string of cancellations, two more acts pulled out this week – one of them waiting until Thursday, the first day of the festival.
British rapper Little Simz posted on Twitter Thursday that “Palestinian and Israeli relations are more complicated than I knew.” She added that therefore “until I truly understand the situation I have decided to postpone my trip to Israel.”
of Montreal, indie rockers from Athens, Georgia, announced on Wednesday that they were also canceling.
“After deep consideration, we have decided to cancel our appearance at the Meteor Festival,” the group wrote on Instagram on Wednesday. “Now is not the time for escapism and celebrations. Now is the time for activism and protests against Israeli apartheid... this is in no way an indictment of the Israeli people in general. We simply cannot turn a blind eye to this crisis.” The group apologized to their Israeli fans and said they would “love to come back to Israel to perform again when the time is right.” The group performed in Tel Aviv in 2014.
But along with the last-minute cancellation came a last-minute addition: the Italian DJ Tennis, who was added to the lineup on Monday. Festival organizers said the DJ heard about the show from French DJ Ivan Smagghe – who is also performing at the festival – while at Burning Man, and asked to join the lineup.
Little Simz and of Montreal were the latest in a string of cancellations since the Meteor Festival was announced several months ago.
Almost every artist on the extensive lineup faced pressure and calls to cancel from the organized boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. But more than 40 global acts held strong – and, in addition to DJ Tennis, the festival added British musician Actress and DJs Secretsundaze and Dan Shake to the lineup.
While festival organizers have said for several weeks that they were close to selling out, tickets were still available for sale on Thursday afternoon.
“We’re making history here,” the festival posted on Facebook. “Everything is ready for Meteor – the stages, the exhibits, and the pecan grove are ready to absorb 130 performances over three days, with countless ecstatic experiences at this unprecedented festival.”