Growing pains are a natural part of any new endeavor. The inaugural Day N Vegas Festival was no different, experiencing the sort of hiccups that eventually get ironed out with experience — and the experience was worth giving it another go. It helps that the first-year fest was able to secure so many big names and big moments to offset the rough patches. Future iterations with those rough spots smoothed over might just make Day N Vegas one of the premiere hip-hop festivals around.
On seeing the initial lineup for Day N Vegas back when it was announced, fans had to be impressed that the first-time fest was able to land not only whales like J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and Travis Scott, but also at how many other fish had been swept up in the organizers’ apparently very wide and very fine nets. The festival’s crown jewel wound up being J. Cole, using his Friday night headlining set to launch an entirely new album cycle, and giving Day N Vegas the singular moment that most festivals hope to achieve. And it is remarkable that the festival survived one of its headliners canceling (Scott), with the swift replacement of Future x Metro Boomin’ along with the likes of Young Thug and Playboi Carti more than making up for it. However, having such a jam-packed lineup can have its drawbacks as well as its advantages.
While the quantity and variety of artists tapped to perform was indeed impressive, it also helped cause a veritable logjam of scheduling conflicts for some concertgoers and led to weird scheduling quirks that saw newcomers counter programmed against veterans, reducing their ability to draw a crowd, or forcing fans to choose between two rising stars. Personally, I wanted to see how Bay Area up-and-comer Guapdad 4000 would rise to the occasion, but he was scheduled way too late, conflicting with headliner J. Cole.
The embarrassment of riches did provide some truly stellar acts the opportunity to shine, like Smino, whose set at the Roll The Dice stage exceeded my expectations in terms of draw despite the sound issues that had plagued artists at the medium-sized stage all weekend. YBN Cordae was typically stellar despite being confined to the limits of the smallest stage, Hunnid. The three-stage setup felt like it could have worked a lot better if the layout were tweaked to allow freer movement between them, and if the fest’s organizers had spaced out the performance blocks a little more. The frenetic pace worked against strivers like Dreamville’s Cozz and Lute, TDE’s Reason and Zacari, and the infectious energy of Young Thug affiliates Lil Gotit and Lil Keed.
However, given the time constraints each artist had to work with — Schoolboy Q openly joked during his set that he felt he was overpaid to do “just thirty minutes” — many were able to make an impression with sheer energy. Artists like Brockhampton, DaBaby, Megan Thee Stallion, and Rico Nasty electrified the crowd, which ran pretty young despite the snarky Schoolboy goad that the front stage fans at his stage were “too old to be out here.” The relative inexperience of the festival going crowd was evident in many of the wardrobe choices; the crop top and short-shorts combo might be “cute” but come sundown, many attendees were left shivering in the desert night air, caught unaware by the drastic, Las Vegas temperature shift.
The locale that caused so much sartorial strife, though, was likely the main draw and the biggest boon to the festival’s success. It’s Vegas, baby! Positioned at the festival grounds on the north end of the strip, Day N Vegas’ location couldn’t have been better chosen, providing a first-of-its-kind attraction for local hip-hop heads — and fans who carpooled from nearby Southern California to catch locals like AZ Chike, 1TakeJay, and Shoreline Mafia tear up the Vegas strip. However, there was also a sense that there wasn’t as much local support of the festival from the businesses around it. Parking proved to be a headache for the Uproxx gang, and ride-share services involved a painfully inconvenient amount of walking for weary revelers trying to make their way home at 1 AM with aching joints and frigid limbs.
Should Day N Vegas return for a second iteration in 2020 — and there’s reason to believe it will, as the packed lineup and wide-open market led to a sellout event this year — I would hope that the logistical issues could be addressed to mitigate the feeling of overcrowding. Either taking more care in the scheduling so fans wouldn’t have to rush from stage to stage, or spacing out the stages could help. Even removing the smaller stage and curating the lower-tier, newer, or underground acts toward the beginning of the day might be welcome changes.
The only other thing I would love to change is something no festival can help and that’s artists’ approach to performances. As much as sets like 21 Savage’s, 6lack’s, Jay Rock’s, Tyler The Creator’s, and even Trippie Redd’s impressed with their energy, polish, and production value, far too many of the artists at Day N Vegas (and really, at most of the festivals I’ve covered this year) rely on cut-and-paste tricks, with DJs abusing their sound effects panels and rappers dancing to their hit songs rather than actually rapping over a show mix. Not to mention, if you have to order the audience to open up a mosh pit, it’s likely you aren’t working hard enough as an artist (besides, some people don’t really want to mosh at rap shows — whatever happened to dancing?).
Day N Vegas didn’t reinvent the wheel, but it didn’t have to — it just had to get the wheel somewhere it hadn’t been before. Now that it’s done so, it can begin working out the kinks and making sure it can really start rolling. There’s a lot of room for improvement, but there’s also a solid foundation to build on, which is fitting. The Las Vegas Strip is notorious for always being under construction while embracing its history — Day N Vegas would do well to pursue a similar legacy.
Some of the artists mentioned are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.