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From the moment the first artist hit the stage to the fireworks finale on Sunday evening, Billboard’s inaugural Hot 100 Music Festival featured unforgettable performances across three stages and two days. There were unexpected Nick Jonas covers, Justin Bieber smooching Doug the Pug, the U.S. Coast Guard checking out The Weeknd‘s set, and much more. Here are some of the best moments from Billboard’s Hot 100 Fest 2015.
Saturday, Aug. 22
Markam delivers knockout Led Zeppelin covers trio medley in the early afternoon: “The Ocean” (fitting since Jones Beach was beside the Atlantic), “Good Times Bad Times,” and “Whole Lotta Love.” They weren’t just aping Zep, either — they did their own thing while still doing the originals justice.
“It’s a blessing to be here right now,” Harry Hudson announces, playing the lead off set on the Hot 100 Stage. “This is my first performance of my whole life.” He goes on to explain how he was battling cancer (doctors gave him six months to live) and he wrote the songs from his set on his deathbed. The crowd responds strongly to the revitalized singer, who gets a boost of support for the final song of his performance.
“A lot of you don’t know who the hell I am, but you will by the end of this set,” said Justin Baron at the Hot 100 stage, introducing the audience to a mix of originals and a cover of Justin Timberlake‘s “Cry Me a River” mashed up with Destiny Child‘s “Say My Name.”
Conrad Sewell incorporated a bit of “Get Lucky” into new single “Hold Me Up.” Noting the Hot 100 Festival was his first “proper festival” appearance, he impressed with a set more stylistically diverse than those who just know him from his ballad “Start Again” (a No. 1 hit in Australia) might expect. “Shadow” — a new track that got its debut after he opened, “Fuck it, let’s do it live” — was especially promising.
Between sets at the Samsung Level Stage, girls pirouette to Elton John‘s “Tiny Dancer,” a testament to the lasting power of certain Hot 100 hits from decades past.
Whether it was the heat or the girl group’s “Black Magic,” two Little Mix fans briefly pass out during LM’s balmy Saturday afternoon set. Yeah, they knocked us off our feet, too.
Jake Roche from Rixton watches his fiancée, Jesy Nelson of Little Mix, perform for adoring fans from the side of the Hot 100 stage. Supportive!
Over on the Samsung Level Stage, Lights breaks out the guitar and rocks the sleek “Last Thing on Your Mind,” a set highlight. She later remarks how great it is to be playing an American festival, being a Canadian band that mostly plays fests up north. But playing fests further down South comes with a price: “My eyes are sweating and my tits are sweating,” she later remarked.
After delighting the audience with “Castle” and “Hold Me Down,” Halsey introduced herself to the crowd. “In case you have no idea who the fuck I am, my name is Halsey.” The singer then wanted to help everyone cool down. “Those cameras look pretty expensive. I’d move them if I were you,” she said to the photographers in the pit before taking two sips of water and throwing her bottles into the crowd.
“Billboard Hot 100 Fest blew me away,” Sicarii says following her Beach Stage set. The afternoon crowd soaked up the sounds of one of the few dance artists of the day, who played a remix of Puff Daddy‘s “I’ll be Missing You” and his official remix of Maroon 5‘s “Sugar.” “When I saw my set time, I figured people who wanted to dance would eventually find their way.”
New York trap act Party Thieves gets the Beach Stage crowd started early, dropping 808 hard-hitters with casual ease. Fetty Wap‘s “My Way” draws serious cheers from those assembled. “New York I know I’m going hard early but I don’t really care,” he crows.
The Faint took the Samsung Level Stage, but one last gear adjustment was needed. Cue Toto‘s “Africa” for a very unexpected audio placeholder. They open their set a couple minutes later with “The Geeks Were Right.” Later they kick out the fiery “Agenda Suicide” to a smattering of raised hands.
Jason Derulo demonstrates his dance moves are the finest at the Billboard Hot 100. He also demonstrates his fashion is completely on point via his matching red jacket and sparkling red shoes — but thanks to the heat, the jacket doesn’t stay on for long. And much to the delight of his fans, neither does the white shirt before the set is over.
Michael Brun keeps the Beach Stage crowd moving with a fluid progressive set that showcases his new material with Roy English, as well as his recently released remix of Brandon Flowers. Although the young Haitian is on a tight travel window with a 7 p.m. flight following his 5-6 p.m. set and a gig at L.A.’s Create waiting, he brings a close cadre of friends along. “I can’t wait to play here,” he says, ever full of exuberance.
Jason Derulo taps the audience as extra in his soon-to-debut teaser Instagram video for Justin Bieber’s upcoming single “What Do You mean?”
Chatting backstage, Natalie La Rose says that her current tour in support of Fifth Harmony is going great, and that the 5H girls are “the absolute nicest.” The “Somebody” singer is also excited about “Around The World,” her recently released single with fellow Hot 100 performer Fetty Wap.
“I HAVE TO SEE WEEZY!” a teenage girl shrieks exasperatedly while trying to convince security to let her into the pit for Lil Wayne‘s set. Perhaps because of her high-volume passion, security relents.
Betty Who cracks up laughing while singing “Dreaming About You” at the Beach Stage and explains why after she finishes the song — she noticed her friend Hanna checking out a photographer in the pit. “She’s always trying to get it — that’s what I love about Hanna,” Who says with a smile.
ZZ Ward whips out a soulful cover of Nick Jonas‘ top 20 hit “Chains” before hunkering down on the harmonica minutes later for “Marry Well,” a new song from her upcoming EP Love and War. The Jonas shout-out and harmonica solo earned equal applause from the crowd.
Lil Wayne grooves with his eyes closed, standing backstage before going out to perform with girlfriend Christina Milian at the Beach stage. “Them other hoes tried but none of them like me,” said Milian, shortly after Wayne left the stage.
A second Nick Jonas cover popped up on Saturday, and on the same stage ZZ Ward did “Chains,” no less. It’s Natalie La Rose doing a downtempo bit of “Jealous.” And “Around the World” — even without Fetty Wap — got a great response.
Trinidad James had the crowd on full tilt during his set at the Beach stage, setting it off with his verse from West Coast anthem “Show Me.” “We bout to put some work in because I got a fuckin’ love for New York City, and New York City got big fuckin’ love for Trinidad James,” said the rapper, segueing into this hotly received verse from ASAP Ferg‘s “Work” remix.
Santigold passes out donuts during her evening set on Saturday to an appreciative crowd. Some people talk about loving their fans; others show it with food.
The powerful layered synth line of Alesso & Ingrosso‘s “Calling (Lose My Mind)” draws a deafening roar from the main stage crows. Silhouetted against a flashing backdrop intermittently marked by flames, the duo follows the 2012 classic with their strongest single “Something New.”
Axwell & Ingrosso enthrall the main stage crowd with classic Swedish House Mafia cut “Save the World” while an ocean of hands flail in unison. It’s sometimes easy to forget the sheer star power they still command until you’re faced with it firsthand.
The Weeknd busts out his appropriately moody cover of Beyonce‘s “Drunk In Love” and leaves the packed Nikon at Jones Beach Theater speechless.
It seems the government is a big fan of the Weeknd, too. During his last two songs — “Can’t Feel My Face” and “The Hills” — a small boat with “U.S. Coast Guard” emblazoned on the side pulls up right next to the stage (which is surrounded by water on all three sides). Are they there on official business? Who knows, but they putter around soaking in the final few songs before darting away.
When all is sang and done, day 1 of Billboard’s first-ever Hot 100 Fest ends with the news that the fest broke the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater’s single-day attendance record with 17,000 people attending on Saturday, Aug 22. Not too shabby.
Sunday, Aug. 23
As the day began, the doors opened to Jones Beach and the teens swarmed down the stadium to the front, World War Z style. Needless to say, Bieber fever is in full effect.
Standout Sunday afternoon artist Cramer performs a soulful, affecting cover of Disclosure ft. Sam Smith‘s “Latch.” “I wish Sam Smith was here right now!” she tells the crowd. “I love Sam Smith.” With tinkling ivories and heartfelt vocals, we’re loving what she’s doing with “Latch.”
Folk rock band Air Traffic Controller open the Hot 100 stage on day 2, where hordes of teens have already camped out with water and food hoping to secure a spot for Nicki Minaj or Justin Bieber later in the day. The band makes the most of its opportunity and introduces a breezy new song called “Waterfalls” from its new record.
Oakland, Calif. rap duo Main Attrakionz set off day two on the Samsung Level stage, tossing out copies of their new project 808s and Dark Grapes III before running through selections from past projects. Everything went off without a hitch — that is, until a car alarm went off on a truck next to the stage. But the duo wasn’t fazed — in fact, they didn’t even notice.
Austin rapper Kydd brings a strong set to the Hot 100 Fest, although the crowd — consisting of mostly teenaged Beliebers camped out for hours to catch Justin up close and personal — is probably not what he’s used to. When he asks them “do you fuck with that trill shit?” the Beliebers gamely cheer, but chances are slim they’re fucking with that trill shit on a regular basis.
Pop-rap duo MKTO kept the energy on high during their afternoon set at the Hot 100 stage, running through “American Dream,” “Could Be Me” and crowd favorite “Classic.” The choice moment? A cover of Rihanna‘s “FourFiveSeconds,” when the pair duetted with an electric guitar.
Neither the heat nor the early hour could stop an animated X Ambassadors from delighting the audience at the Samsung Stage. An early technical difficulty resolved itself, and the band rocked a vibrant set for the festival goers — with their song “Hang On” as a particularly pleasing moment.
Phoenix-based rockers the Maine have hit the Samsung Level Stage and things are looking up. Frontman John O’Callaghan: “The sun is shining! The children are singing! The snozzberries smell like snozzberries!” He’s quoting Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
A flurry of alarm synths introduces Fight Clvb. “This is the way we crash the party” trumpets the refrain. As the bass subsides, the duo takes turns firing up the crowd on the mic. “Are you ready for Fetty?” one crows to widespread cheers.
“What’s 1738?” one girl asks her friends during Fetty Wap’s set. It’s a good question — the number was name dropped about 30 times in a 30-miute set. FYI, 1738 is Wap’s name for his squad, a reference to the Remy Martin 1738.
Fetty Wap jumps into the crowd, causing a rush to the stage that puts a few fans in a tight spot. After apologizing to them, the gentlemanly Fetty does “Trap Queen” a second time in their honor.
Lindsey Stirling is proudly wearing a black Paramore tee backstage, and boasts that singer Hayley Williams personally gave it to her. “On the outside I was like, ‘Oh wow, awesome,'” she recalls, ‘but on the inside I was dying. I am such a huge fan.”
As Fetty Wap’s set ends across the festival, the Maine’s already respectable crowd grows immensely for their final few songs. O’Callaghan remarks that his dad and grandpa were in town, and he’s glad it wasn’t just them in the moshpit.
MisterWives singer Mandy Lee has some words of encouragement during their set: “No matter what life throws your way, you are not alone — that’s what music is for! It is such a magical thing!”
Matoma gets the Beach Stage bumping with tropical beats while his funds shower approval. “Old Thing Back” draws deafening accolades.
MisterWives break into a cover of Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson‘s “Uptown Funk,” complete with an array of horns, after their own gorgeous “Reflections.”
The Chainsmokers hit full energy at the Samsung Level stage, doing stage jumps in between remixes of Clean Bandit‘s “Rather Be” and OMI‘s “Cheerleader.” Between standing on amps and leading fits of fist-pumping, the duo killed it.
Before hit set, Justin Bieber – the world’s biggest YouTube success story — met another viral star at the Hot 100: Doug the Pug.
Backstage, MisterWives’ Mandy Lee confirms that she’s begun writing her songs for the group’s second album, while the band is on the road supporting its first.
Dressed in a green skirt and black crop top, Zella Day played an intimate show for the crowd at the Beach Stage. “And at intimate shows,” the singer said, “I like to get high” as she launched into “High.” Her hippie-influenced act charmed listeners while still bringing her flavor of indie pop to the festival.
Facing an appreciative crowd that includes new converts from Nicki Minaj’s camp, Kygo makes the main stage move with a series of accessible songs. His beloved remix of “I See Fire” spurs a shower of orange confetti, spewing cryo and pulsing flames.
Kygo delights his crowd with a progression of crowd-pleasers — from his now-seminal “Sexual Healing” remix to popular remixes of ZHU‘s “Faded” and La Roux‘s “Bulletproof.”
Dance punkers Holy Ghost!‘s extended setup (they were using more live instruments than usual and playing as a quintet) delayed their start a bit, but when they break into set opener “It Gets Dark,” it’s all worth it.
Kygo’s full-throated singalong of Journey‘s “Don’t Stop Believing” sends the audience into conniptions. “That one gets them every time,” he says later on.
After a delay, Nicki Minaj takes the stage confidently to “Feelin’ Myself” and “Truffle Butter.” As mothers waiting with their daughters for Bieber take notice of the latter song’s lyrics, glances of disapproval are exchanged.
Nicki Minaj takes a quick break during her tight set for a costume change. She aces the lace spandex one-piece and emerges with a gold bikini for the second half of the show.
Kiesza shouts out headliner Skrillex for working with her on the Jack U project (which also includes the Justin Bieber collaboration “Where Are U Now”) and plays “Take U There,” which was the first official single from the Skrillex-Diplo project.
Playing to a fervent crowd (who chose to see him over Nicki Minaj), Makonnen announces that his album will be coming out in October. He also mixes a couple “brand new songs” into his set.
After teasing it earlier in the set, Makonnen closes with the moneymaker. “Tuesday” brings his set to a momentous close, with hands in the air and beach balls everywhere.
Despite a delay and some technical difficulties, Minaj beams a radiant smile into the audience of thousands as she brings her set to a fitting conclusion with “Starships,” a track that opens with, “Let’s go to the beach.”
After a decent delay, Ryn Weaver’s band is done setting up and the singer takes the Beach Stage. Her fiery persona takes over right away, as she shifts between dance moves and squats while sensually running her hands around her body.
The stage crew is telling her no, but Weaver is going to play one more song, dammit: “Yeah, YOLO. Someone else took too much time… Don’t fuck with me.” She closes with her single “New Constellations.”
Although he seems to think he’s in New Jersey, Skrillex wrecks the mains stage with an ADD series of stellar festival cuts. The nicest guy in dance music can do no wrong. He’s going wild for the night but he’s still polite.
Justin Bieber takes the stage and notes it’s been a long time since he’s seen his fans (aside from a few surprise performances with new pal Skrillex). “It’s been a while since I’ve done shows. You guys miss me?” he asks. The screams that ensue say “yes.”
Bieber skateboards during his set and pulls off an ollie, because, why not?
Justin Bieber takes off his shirt, to the surprise of no one who follow his Instagram but to the ear-splitting shrieks of thousands of fans.
American Authors bust out a delightful cover of Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance,” one of many killer covers audiences would hear over the two-day fest.
Skrillex hearts Silento! After dropping “Watch Me” during his set, the EDM superstar does the whip and nae-nae alongside Justin Bieber during the final chorus of “Where Are U Now.”
On the Beach Stage, New Politics close out the final minutes of music at Billboard Hot 100 Fest. After taking time for a selfie with the crowd, they break into their hit “Harlem,” with singer David Boyd singing the last chorus hoisted up on the crowd’s hands.
Hot 100 Fest isn’t over just yet! After Bieber’s set ends, American Authors unfurl their top 20 hit “Best Day of my Life” to close their set — and fireworks begin exploding in front of their stage to finish off the weekend.
When the numbers are in, it seems like day 2 was even bigger than day 1, with 23,000 attending the second day of the Billboard Hot 100 Festival. That means 1) Hot 100 broke the Jones Beach attendance record two days in a row and 2) A whopping 40,000 people attended the two-day fest.
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