Earlier today kicked off the inaugural edition of Billboard's Hot 100 Music Festival - a celebration of the biggest acts and their hits throughout the year. With acts booked over the two days like Jason Derulo, Axwell /\ Ingrosso, Lil Wayne, The Weeknd, Justin Bieber and Skrillex, there was a nice diverse mix of major pop stars.
Day one would be a big test to see how well the festival was organized and what type of crowd would show up to the lovely Jones Beach venue on the water in Long Island.
Here is what we saw...
2:30 - We finally arrive at Jones Beach and walking over to the venue the sounds of Party Thieves are immediately felt from the loudest stage of them all, the Beach Stage. We also can't help but notice the natural beauty that Jones Beach is situated in, right on the on the water with green reeds and swamp foliage flanking the stages.
2:35 - Conrad Sewell is wrapping things up on the Samsung Stage with an acoustic rendition of his track with Kygo "Firestone." I wonder if he will stay in town to do it live tomorrow....
2:40 - We Immediately notice the attendees are decidedly more female and younger then your average festival crowd. Not surprised when you have a lineup of pop acts.
3:02 - Party Thieves drop a brand new track that probably won't be out for another year, which is absolutely wild. We will need this before a year from now He shouts out his fellow West Point graduates and men and women in the military. 'Murica.
3:30 - The photographers are taller then the mixers in the front row trying to see Little Mix perform. I feel a little bad for those teenage girls. One of the foursome's dancers has a Lenny Kravitz situation going on with his pants, except he is smartly wearing underwear. That could be a felony with the crowd's age. Little Mix were fun and charismatic, though the crowd, beyond some super fans, didn't appear to be that into it. Maybe the next time around.
4:45 - The heat and constant sun are starting to take a toll. Fans are crowing into little pockets of shade and water is a must. There are no free refill stations, beyond a few weak water fountains in the bathrooms, which is a big mistake. Water is also $5.50. These prices appear to be influenced by the venue. Good thing sunscreen was applied this morning, but we can already start to see some red necks and faces.
4:00 - We go deep for a quick second with Sicarii, known to some as Matt Medved, the editor at Billboard Dance. He gets on the mic a lot.
4:30 - Halsey is badass. Her stage presence is off the charts. No only can she sing, but she can crush it on stage, climbing on speaker towers and jumping around like a mad man without losing a beat. She is the real deal.
4:35: The artist lounge - a massive yacht parked next to the Hot 100 Stage - is right next to the media tent, so interviews are easily done. We also get to see acts and their crews hanging out outside and a fair amount of them are riding around on hoverboards. There are at least a dozen at this festival.
4:45 - Just wrap up talking to Party Thieves. He has some big things coming up including some pretty major collaborations. Stay tuned for the full interview.
5:00 - Chat with ZZ Ward and bond over a mutual love for box cake. I now am quite hungry, though won't be able to make a cake.
5:30 - Michael Brun gives the festival a little warm up for Axwell /\ Ingrosso later on that night with some big melodies and chunky grooves. $10 dollar chicken fingers and uninspiring fries keep me going.
5:50 - Jason Derulo is Patrick Ewing sweaty from all of the dancing and he just took off his shirt revealing a ripped figure. The ladies cheer.
6:05 - After a set with his hits (fitting) like "Talk Dirty," "Trumpets," "Want You To Want Me" and "Wiggle," he tries to teach the crowd a new dance. It is for his new song "Pull Up" and it is some sort of a nae nae bus driver maneuver that just does not look cool. Sorry Jason. He isn't even singing this time as the song is playing.
6:50 - Wayne is in a groove getting us nostalgic for the Wayne that many considered to be one of the greatest rappers ever. Diving into the discography for cuts like "John," "A Milli," Good Kush & Alcohol", "Lollipop," which got an especially good reaction, "Go DJ," "Ms. Officer" and "Sky Is The Limit," Weezy had the crowd right where he wanted them.
A photo posted by Ryan Middleton (@middy555) on Aug 22, 2015 at 4:46pm PDT
Then he decided to let them go. He vaulted into a feature section and then into new material and the set fizzled out, much like his career unfortunately has. His set was a good representation of what his career has been - so great at the start, but with an disappointing incredibly finish, leaving you wondering what if?
6:55 - In the middle of all of this New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis walked by me on the side stage. I guess he is a big Weezy fan?
7:10 - It became pretty obvious to see who was a part of an artist entourage by spotting the hoverboards, tight jeans, all black apparel and / or hypebeast clothing.
7:30 - Because of how many people are packed in to the Hot 100 Stage and how difficult it is to get back to your seats once you leave as they might be taken by someone else (a Jones Beach theater oddity), ZZ Ward is playing to a pretty small audience. She and the band crush it and even shows off some soccer moves kicking back an errant beach ball from the crowd.
9:15 - Axwell /\ Ingrosso just put everyone else to shame with their production. DJs at this level may get paid a lot of money, but these guys put it back into the show with a steady stream of fireworks, pyro, lasers and confetti - all imported for the show - in addition to massive animations behind them.
Their set is similar to what they have been playing most of the summer, with plenty of new music from the forthcoming album, including the revitalization of Axwell's sought after 2010 ID "Think About It" that appears will finally be released. They included some contemporary tunes like "Deep Down Low" and "Show Me," but the highlights came when they dove into their respective discographies - Swedish House Mafia, Axwell /\ Ingrosso and solo careers. They are supreme showman and with the sun down and a totally full three tiered amphitheater, they shook Jones Beach to its core and had the place jumping the nearly the whole time.
10:06: The Weeknd has come on yet like he said he would and the girls behind me are getting very anxious. They might blow out my eardrums screaming out his name with such purpose that I am afraid of what might happen when he actually gets on stage.
10:08 - The Weeknd and his three-piece band of a drummer, guitarist and bass / keyboard player get on stage and screams could be heard back in Toronto. For a shy person in public, he is a totally different guy on stage. He owns his dark sexual personality and dances and sings with grace, charisma and power into the hearts and minds of all there. The performance was pretty awe-inspiring.
10:50 - In a set that hit on the hits like "Often," "Earned It" and "Prisoner" (future hit), he also managed to cover Beyoncé's "Drunk In Love" and maybe made it better, maybe. As the clock approached 11, we all knew the song of the summer, "Can't Feel My Face" was coming and there it arrived as the biggest moment of the day by far. He followed that with a pyro-filled encore of "The Hills."
11:00 - Though Michael Woods was still going, the mass exodus began to the buses and parking lot as nearly all 17,000 attendees tried to get home at once. This created issues with the busing to New York as there were very few shuttle buses - one every 5 to 10 minutes with a couple thousand people waiting for them. First year growing pains, but this was a pretty awful wait for many for the slow trickle of buses to try and catch a late night train. At least they didn't have more work to do that night...