The first year of a festival is always a year of trial and tribulation, yet amongst all the chaos there was a really beauty behind the concept of the inaugural Billboard Hot 100 Festival. From it’s inception the festival aimed to flip a coin on the traditional festival mold as the artists performing would be delivering full sets to their fans.
With a line up of artists that out shined the majority of other festivals on the tri-state region there was no doubt that Billboard has all the pieces to build something really fantastic and what took place was just that. We began the weekend on the main stage or Hot 100 stage as it was branded, the crowd was slowly filing in and learning the lay out of the land as the stage was being prepared for the first artist of the festival. The honor of kicking off the festival was bestowed upon a young man who very much deserved the right to be on that stage on Day 1.
Most know him for his inspirational and motivational victory over cancer. Harry Hudson was no stranger to music before his prognosis as he had a debut hit in 2011 before tragedy struck his career but what made him a star was his spirit and attitude as fought through it. Flash-forward to this past weekend and Harry Hudson stood in front over an amphitheater crowd singing his songs. A full circle moment that was beautiful to witness and well received by everyone in the audience. Hudson hopped down on the barricade after his set and took as many photos with fans as he could, water jug in hand. Through out the remainder of the day you could spot him as he danced, smiled, and hung out with as many fans as possible in the crowd.
The hot summer sun beat down upon the droves of music fans who had descended upon the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater early in the day in between sets. There was no shortage of water being purchased and at $5.00 a bottle many fans had begun to get concerned they wouldn’t make it through the day. Luckily it was long until clouds passed between the sun and the large crowd or things might not have played out as nicely as they did for all of the dedicated early attendees to the Billboard Hot 100 Festival. The set changes went amazingly quickly and right on time the massive LED screen being used to showcase images hash tagged with #hot100fest went dim as Little Mix was set to take the stage.
Before the girl group even stepped foot on the stage their dancers had broke the stage in with numerous flips, twists and spins. The first rays of colors flickered onto the massive LED screen as Little Mix strutted out one by one to kick the party off for their fans at the Billboard Hot 100 Festival. Dance move after dance move the group delivered and while many similarities can be drown between them and other bands in their genre Little Mix had way more passion and spunk than I had seen from other groups.
In fact Little Mix embraced a lot of what Harry Hudson did and they worked the crowd as they engaged personally with as many fans as possible in between their various dancing and singing parts. The tone was set for the remainder of the Billboard Hot 100 Festival with the first two sets on the main stage; it was to be a festival solely for the fans.
The theme of the day shifted slightly following Little Mix as we were treated to a much-welcomed dosage of alternative and indie from both the Hot 100 and Samsung Level stages. It kicked off at 3:45pm as Lights walked out on the Samsung Level stage and shocked the crowd with her incredible live vocal range. Having seen her on her past headlining tour and many tours before that I knew what to expect but there was no doubt that she raised a few eyebrows with her set that day and gained some new fans from the set.
Shortly into her set fans began to scream as Beau Bokan arrived side stage to watch his wife’s set with their daughter Rocket. There is no doubt that the past year has been kind to Lights as her album “Up We Go” was well received amongst her fans and critics, a few of the songs even gained large amounts of mainstream radio play in some markets.
In my opinion Lights has hit a tipping point in her career where she has remained true to the core of her early sound yet has gained enough attention to be catching the attention of the mainstream music world, no small feat for any artist to achieve. It will only be a matter of time before everyone is hearing her songs on the radio nationwide and she is moving onto bigger size venues for larger crowds.
Lights was certainly in a tough spot timing wise because just 20 minutes into her set Halsey kicked off her set on the Hot 100 stage. While the conflict put some fans in a tough spot to decide who they wanted to see it seemed like many made the run back and forth between the two stages as they tried to catch a few minutes of both performances.
Halsey took to the stage with a drama and flair that I have never seen before and have yet been able to process. While she did gain some major attention for being direct support on the Imagine Dragons Smoke and Mirrors tour earlier this summer her fan base has been steadily growing on it’s own over the past year and needed little help from a major tour. The few songs she has released leading up to the festival showcased a much needed breathe of fresh air in the music industry and a noted return to the artistic beauty of music.
Being just 20 years old Halsey’s music has become the voice of my generation and in very little time at all she has become the poster child for everyone between the age of 18 and 25. Her debut full length album, “Badlands,” is set to drop on Friday and I don’t have any doubt when I say that it will go Number 1 across all charts nationwide.
Halsey was one of a few artists who came out swinging with something to prove to the Hot 100 Festival audience and by the end of her set she left the crowd drained, sweaty, and longing for more. There is nothing more impressive than roar of a crowd who just gave their all to a performance from start to finish and even more impressive was the humble thank you that Halsey gave them all in return. Look out music world, Halsey has arrived and is ready to kick everyone’s ass.
The dinner hour was soon upon the theater and as the sun set many fans quickly sprinted out to the nearest chicken fingers and fries stand to get some needed fuel to last the rest of the day. There was no rush though as the Hot 100 stage took nearly an hour break between the chaos of Halsey and the start of the next act as much of the stage had to be cleared so the performer would have ample room to deliver his iconic dance moves amongst his hits. Who could it be?
Jason Derulo. Yes. Jason Derulo. The golden hour had approached and from summer heat was at an ultimate high as the 21st century dance icon burst onto the stage as he sang “Wiggle” which resulted in the now fed and hydrated crowd going insane. Though Derulo’s set was one of the shorter ones of the day on the Hot 100 stage I cannot critize him one bit because he brought hit after hit after hit and slayed everything one of this dance moves while doing it. Not to mention the fact that he performed during what was without question the hottest hour of day 1, it was so unbearable a few fans went down during the song and needed medical attention. Derulo got the memo from the other artists that day and took the “about the fans” creed to a whole new level as he smiled and made eye contact as he sung with anyone he could see without being blinded by the golden sun.
When his set ended he could have dropped the microphone and walked off to the roar of a satisfied crowd but he stuck around as he bowed and sent out a million thanks to the sun weary crowd who stuck out the extreme heat to dance with him. For better or worse Derulo was the last performer to face the brutal sun on Day 1 as it set slightly behind the massive grand stands granting the rest of the artists a reprieve from the blinding light and warmth. Once again the stage began to shift as the crowd braced themselves for the first big comeback performance of the weekend.
The evening brought with it another shift as things were set to ramp up for the rest of the night with back to back performances from colossal artist on the Hot 100 stage, the first of which had the most to prove that night. Lil Wayne, as many know, has been engulfed in a legal matter for the majority of the year regarding the release of the Carter V. Being involved in such complicated legal manners has kept Tunechi from hitting the road like he routinely does during summer and his fanbase was left waiting for both a new album and tour. Luckily Weezy came through like he always has in the past and he dropped a mixtape to hold fans over until the big release of Carter V, through out the entire course of his legal battles he has been very vocal about fan support and Saturday was no different.
Just minutes into his set Lil Wayne stopped performing to have a real talk with the crowd about how much he appreciated them and how he understand that he wouldn’t be there without them. To drive home the point he repeated again, again, and again multiple times before tossing his sunglasses aside to kick off the next song in his set. There was no denying that the time off had done Weezy well as his set was technically sound from start to finish and his voice was just as brutally aggressive.
The echo of gunfire and other sound effects boomed through out the amphitheater during the set as Wayne peppered some of his songs with the background sounds that fans love and know from his studio versions. By the end of the set Wayne was shirtless and hadn’t slowed down one bit in intensity. Lil Wayne’s goodbye to the crowd was a simple goodbye, thank you, I love you and as statement that he would be back as he sprinted off stage as he held onto his pants. His comeback performances was delivered like a true champion of the game.
Night was then upon the venue as the stage was quickly morphed into an EDM paradise and the theater portion of the venue reached capacity as everyone awaited the arrival of Axwell and Ingrosso. There was talk of the fire marshal shutting the whole thing down and the rumor spread through the crowd like a wild fire. Worry began to set in as the former Swedish House Mafia’s set was delayed for a few minutes but the crowd breathed a collective sigh of relief when fog began to flood the stage and the duo’s iconic logo was emblazoned on the LED screen behind their kit.
Axwell and Ingrosso climbed atop their massive set up and took the crowd from 0 -100 and kept them there the rest of the night. Pyro, fireworks, co2, more pyro and more fireworks was name of their game and each drop of their set was complimented with stunning production of some sort. The standing room section was filled to them brim as people danced along in the moonlight as the duo brought a mix that was so tight it was stunning. Their own material was filtered in amongst dozens of other remixes that really got the crowd going like no one else had managed to do that day.
The heat may have finally broke when the summer sun had set but Axwell and Ingrosso brought that heat right back to Jones Beach with their set. By the end of their set the crowd was physically drained and well aware that day one was almost a close, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t have a little bit more fun before they parted ways for the night with The Weeknd.
Saturday ended with The Weeknd, a band who has been around for a long time but has only recently gotten the attention the deserve. Though the crowd was tired they gave it their all to sing a long with nearly every word of the band’s set. It wasn’t flashy, but it was polished and that is the beauty of The Weeknd. The have the grit of a rock band but the swagger of an R&B singer/songwriter. As day one came to an end the band walked off stage as the crowd slowly began walking to their cars, eager to run for day 2 and even more eager to tell all their friends about what they just saw.