Billboard Hot 100 Festival – Sunday 08/23

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After winning an opening slot to the Billboard Hot 100 Festival, Air Traffic Controller took their place on the Hot 100 Stage on the second day of the inaugural festival and showed the eager fans in the audience what alternative music really is. It was evident from where I was standing to photograph that the audience members were there to get good spots for Justin Bieber later in the day, but all seemed to enjoy ATC’s set. Their music could be heard whilst walking throughout the venue and combined with the sea breeze, it made for a great and calm start to the day.

On opposite sides of the Hot 100 main stage – which is where all shows at the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater take place – two extra stages were erected for the festival. At a glance, the Samsung Level stage and the Beach Stage would seem to be large enough areas to fit both a stage and large audiences but this was severely tested once Fetty Wap began his set on the Beach Stage. It was generally agreed upon by many of the photographers I was around that placing the rapper on this smaller stage was a mistake. Before his set even started, the area had almost reached capacity. And then not even six minutes into his performance, security guards were closing the fences to keep Fetty’s dedicated fans from coming in. As I managed to slip out of the enclosure in time, I could see the dejected faces of what seemed like hundreds of fans who didn’t make it in time to get into the Beach Stage area. It was chaos but it showed the sincere commitment in Fetty’s fans and hopefully Billboard take note of this for next year’s festival.

Meanwhile, MKTO played on the Hot 100 Stage and elicited endless cheers from their audience. With hits like “Classic” and “American Dream,” the enthusiasm during MKTO’s set was unshakable. Tony Oller and Malcolm Kelley made the stage their own and emitted a presence that commanded everyone’s attention. Midway through their set, they covered “Four Five Seconds” by Rihanna, Kanye West, and Paul McCartney and this was absolutely adorned by the audience. It was a nice change of pace during their energetic performance, which ultimately concluded with a guitar solo from Adam Ross.

Misterwives followed suit on the same stage and their stage set up could not radiate any more positivity without turning into the set of ‘Barney & Friends.’ With colorful elephants, octopi, and birds as the backdrop, the band had their hands over their hearts before they began to play and this made for a very touching moment. It was a no frown zone during their performance as it was all smiles for Misterwives. It was clear that they were enjoying themselves onstage and it was hard to look away from a band who loves to perform as much as Misterwives do.

Afterwards, Tori Kelly took to the Beach Stage to tremendous amounts of cheering. Fans in the front row told me they’d been there since doors opened in order to get good spots for Tori’s set. Just as Misterwives’ did, Tori Kelly and her band radiated absolute happiness during their performance. Just watching them do what they do best was astounding to witness in person and each person onstage was recognized by the devoted audience members. Cheers occurred not just for Tori Kelly but also for her band, which is a rare thing to see. Fan favorites like “Dear No One” and “Should’ve Been Us” were gladly received but not quite like “City Dove” was. Coming off of Tori’s debut album, Unbreakable Smile, “City Dove” was described as a song to uplift one’s spirit and during the performance of the song, the audience grew closer to the stage and all seemed to be good in the world at that moment.

New Politics closed out the festival on the Beach Stage but they almost didn’t play at all. Indie singer-songwriter, Ryn Weaver, decided to play past her allotted stage time prior to NP’s set and this caused some confusion with the security guards who believed the stage was done for the day. Luckily, New Politics’ tour manager resolved any confusion and the band stepped onstage to perform a half hour later than originally expected. Vocalist David Boyd noted that it was a smaller audience that night – as they were competing against Justin Bieber’s set on the Hot 100 Stage – but that did not deter New Politics’ performance in the slightest. Hot off the excitement of releasing their latest album, Vikings, New Politics performed with the same amount of vigor and exuberance that is so praised with their live performances. Breakdancing occurred onstage and the band brought out inflatable palm trees to throw out into the audience. Near the end of the performance, the audience held up David Boyd as he stood amidst everyone and ended the night with “West End Kids.”

Guest photography by Emily Korn:

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Nancy Hoang created Hopeless Thunder in 2007. She conducts the interviews, writes the articles, photographs the concerts, and handles the site's coding & design. (She's basically a control freak.) Her work can also be seen on music publication, CMJ. Contact Nancy for image licensing, assignments, or just to say hi.

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