The inaugural day of Billboard’s Hot 100 Music Festival took place at the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh, New York. With the venue on a Long Island beach, the salty sea breeze blowing in combined with the mixture of pop, hip hop, and alternative acts on the bill were sure signs that it was going to be a great day. With three stages set up, it was hard to pick which acts to see over another. Not to mention how hard to was to get a good view, as people arrived bright and early to get front and center in front of all three stages.
My favs, Cruisr, opened up the Samsung Level Stage with favorites like “Kidnap Me” and “All Over.” Festival goers were merrily dancing in the hot sun to Cruisr’s summery jams and I just could not contain my excitement over finally seeing Cruisr perform live. Little Mix performed early on the Hot 100 main stage and they blew me away with their performance of “Salute” and “Black Magic.” Their vocals never wavered throughout their set and this proved to be quite a feat considering their intense choreography. I would take short breaks from photographing Little Mix in the pit to look up and watch the smiles on their faces get bigger as they saw their “Mixers” (fans) in the audience.
Halsey followed suit on the Hot 100 main stage and she opened her performance by drenching herself and the parched crowd with water. Before she even stepped onstage, the crowd was eagerly chanting her name and calling out to her crew who were setting up. Her performance was met with absolute fervor and after witnessing her live performance for the first time, I can now see why. Halsey has such an alluring quality to her when she performs that it just captivates anyone in the vicinity.
Lil Wayne took his place on the main stage and throughout his performance, he made sure the packed arena knew how much they all meant to him. Listing out three important factors, two of the three were about how he is where he is today because of his fans. The sincerity in his statement soaked in for a quick moment before he went back to running across the stage and whipping his hair back and forth. Wayne also took some time to pay his girlfriend, Christina Milian, a visit during her set on the Beach Stage and shared their love with the audience.
Natalie La Rose performed her single, “Around The World,” on the Samsung Level Stage with amazing energy and choreography. Santigold proceeded afterwards but unfortunately, the beginning of her set was riddled with feedback problems, prompting a restart to her first song and some moments in which Santigold had to leave the stage in order to fix the issue. The frustration on her face was evident but Santigold did not let it affect her too much. A true performer, she carried on and eventually brought audience members onstage to join in on the fun. Her backup dancers were stacked with selfie sticks, sweats, and cheese puffs – what more could you want in a festival performance?
The Weeknd closed out the night on the Hot 100 main stage and it was absolutely incredible. The sheer talent that resides in this man was astounding to witness in person. His stage presence is incomparable and his actual stage? Beautiful! The backdrop during his set was intricately stunning. The highlight of his set for me was his performance of “Love Me Harder,” which he is featured on, on Ariana Grande’s My Everything album. The love that I have for that song was multiplied by 100 once I heard it live. Everyone in the crowd was dancing and it just exploded once “Can’t Feel My Face” began. He ended the first night of the Hot 100 Festival on such an amazing note, even if he did mistakenly call us “New York City” during his performance.