As summer comes to a close, we have to take advantage of those last licks of late sunlit evenings and warm weekends. For music fans, those will likely be filled with concerts and festivals to get the most out of the last bits of summer. This past weekend thousands of young people piled into Jones Beach Theater to see some of the biggest names in music like Major Lazer, Big Sean, Rick Ross, Marshmello, Demi Lovato, Gucci Mane and T-Pain over two days at the Billboard Hot 100 Festival. Music’s biggest night is the slogan the Grammys won’t let you forget is their’s, but this festival brings out its biggest stars to an accessible celebration for all. What went down was mainly a series of high points, but also it had a few issues as well.
DJ Khaled & Asahd: Though Khaled was 30 minutes late, potentially not his fault, (more on that in a bit), he made up for it with his entrance. He strolled out with probably the most followed baby on Instagram, his son Asahd in his arms. Asahd looked like a seasoned pro or oblivious to the packed stadium screaming for him as he wore protective earmuffs and a grey sweatsuit as dad and son both pointed to the crowd with a single finger. Another one.
T-Pain: If there was someone to play a festival about the charts, it is T-Pain. About 20 minutes into his set, he acknowledged just how much of a hit-maker he has been throughout his career and launched into a dizzying number of hit records from the late 2000s. Some of them may have dated the teenage crowd, but for everyone else, the half-hour of purebred bangers was a delight to hear. He went through his own tracks and those he featured on such as “Blame It,” “Good Life,” “All The Above,” ‘I’m ‘n Luv Wit a Stripper,” “Buy U a Drank,” “Bartender” and “Low.” It was another reminder just how ridiculous of a run T-Pain had in rap from 2006-2010.
Rick Ross: Grunts all around for Rozay. The biggest boss of the festival has released nearly a dozen albums over his career and a bevy of hits to go along with them. At a festival named after hits, he did not hold back on those iconic, luxurious rap anthems like “B.M.F.,” “Hustlin” and “Purple Lamborghini.” He got through a few of his features on other massive records like Ace Hood’s “Bugatti,” Lil Wayne “John” & JAY-Z’s “FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt.” Demands for ROZAYYYYS and Grunts were eagerly met by the crowd that was all about the burly man swaggering back and forth across the stage. With Big Sean on deck, Ross provided something a little different from what was to come.
Marshmello: Bear with me here. Yes the helmet is a gimmick and the music can be sugary nonsense, but in terms of crowd control, he was at the top of the list among performers over the weekend. Bigger than Zedd and somehow managing to remain on par with his follow-up acts, Major Lazer, Marshmello brought his blend of sugary bass, dubstep and trap to the almost completely packed amphitheater and not a soul was still. The kids were out for Marshmello.
Major Lazer’s Guests: Major Lazer themselves had all of the theatrics needed to close out the festival with their dancers (who turned into drummers at one point) and production. They have the hits and star-power to hold their own at this point for that slot. But they made things even better by bringing out a few special guests. It only made sense they would bring out Camila Cabello, who performed a few hours earlier, to do “Know You Better” and then had a very special guest appearance from J. Balvin, who did “Mi Gente.”
City of the Sun: An act on the Heatseakers stage that seemed out of place, but their soothing and melodic music was just right for the setting sun on the far horizon. They came equipped with two miced up acoustic guitars and a hand drum. That is it. So dealing with soundbleed (more on that later) was a struggle, but they battled through and the instrumental performance was something that most of the festival missed out on.
Views: Jones Beach Theater is one of the most beautiful music venues in the tri-state area. A stadium amphitheater, the stage juts out onto the water, and allows the viewer to look out onto the stage and the bay behind it. The area has beaches and marshes surrounding the stage, so it does feel like there is a real connection to the wilderness. The beach stage is nearly 10 feet away from the beach and the sun stage was surrounded by tall reeds on either side.
Artists showing up late to festival sets:
These were mainly rappers, but it was across the board as well. There is only so much time for each act to perform before going up against the next time slot at a festival. At a solo show you can go over if you want if you allow for extra time at the end. Showing up 15-30 minutes late to your set, just because, is disrespectful to your fans and also isn’t a smart business move when they can just leave and go to another set during that time. If nobody is at your set when you are late, that is your fault.
Heatseaker Stage Soundbleed:
This was the stage devoted to up-and-coming acts, the little guys, the next acts you might see on the big stage. They were put right near the entrance on a small stage in between the main stage and the beach stage. Logically it made sense to put them there, but it really didn’t work. I never saw more than 50 people actually paying attention to an act there at any time and the sound coming from the Beach Stage and the main stage could be heard at all times unless you were on the rail right in front of them. This stage was a new addition this year and it really didn’t add much.