Another year, another new festival, this time within the New York City area. The Billboard Hot 100 Festival was a who’s who of acts from a plethora of genres across music. Like myself, people may have looked at the lineup with huge eyes. “They got who? Bieber?” It was enough of a draw for me to take two trains across New Jersey transit (no delays, thank god) and the LIRR to get to Jones Beach Theater. I mean, what more can you ask for? It’s a festival on the beach over a beautiful weekend. There were three stages (Beach, Hot 100 and Samsung stages) that spread around the artists for the weekend. There were at least 40,000 fans that packed the stadium. Near the beach and Samsung stages, this was manageable, but the main Hot 100 stage inside the arena got a bit packed.
I started my day off with Lights because her sets are always a good time and a perfect way to kick off a sunny music festival. Let’s just say wearing a black shirt was not the smartest way to combat the humidity that stuck around like that clingy date you want to forget about. Halsey took us to Badlands and cooled us off as she threw open bottles of water into the crowd. After covering some of her shows earlier in the year, it’s cool to see that progression of popularity leading up to her album release. I wanted to make a point to try to capture artists that I hadn’t before. This was a massive opportunity to take pictures of the most popular and underrated entertainers that may have crossed Billboard’s radar, so my camera and I went racing back and forth within the three stages like a pinball. I had heard about ZZ Ward before, but I was able to catch some of her set playing songs like “Love 3x”. It definitely got me curious to check out more of her material going forward.
Lil Wayne‘s main stage performance brought me back to the days where I played Tha Drought 3 and No Ceilings relentlessly. His set got cut a little short, but he fit a good amount of verses in when he performed. I’ve heard a lot of Axwell ^ Ingrosso sets prior to actually seeing them live, but it’s definitely worth it. Songs like “On My Way” and “Sun Is Shining” sound much more massive in person. To end the night, The Weeknd graced the stage with one of the biggest crowds of the evening. Seriously, there were fans standing in the aisles and any other space they could get to catch a glimpse. The Weeknd’s rise to headliner status has been a continual road of good songs and the right aura. Leading up to his new album release, the reaction from the fans that had braved the sun and crowds to see him was phenomenal.
Pictures and writing by M.J. Rawls – Follow him on twitter