Text by Alli Lindsey
Photos by Hotel Party
Amid the 72 hours of dancing, moshing, and singing- perfect strangers took care of one another.
A stone’s throw from the Bellagio, situated at the tail end of the Las Vegas strip, a three-day musical festival changed the lives of 60,000 people. A week later, Goldenvoice’s Day ‘N’ Vegas is still ringing the same ears that witnessed Kendrick Lamar, Post Malone, and Tyler, The Creator spit long-lasting inspiration into the hip-hop and R&B landscape. With great caution at the expense of live music’s most devastating blow in recent history, Day ‘N’ Vegas avoided tragedy and instead embraced healthy habits by the way of a chivalrous yet live wire crowd.
On Friday, a careful congregation of fashion-forward 20-somethings gathered ahead of Thanksgiving in retro Air Jordans and psychedelic Jacquard prints to celebrate a night of classic R&B and rap. Virgin festival-goers and veterans alike scrambled to enter the desert event with negative COVID tests and vaccine cards to boot. Upon entrance, patrons were greeted by a no-frills event characterized by three stages- The Sammy and Frank Stages and the more underrated Dean Tent. Buffering the triage of entertainment came an accessible network of food vendors who offered options for both vegans and meat-eaters alike. Once patrons mapped their way through the festival’s simple layout, the music quickly overshadowed Day ‘N’ Vegas’ lack of visual art installations. Ari Lennox serenaded the masses with her off-kilter anecdotes while Kenny Beats invited his close-collaborator Zac Fox to bring a comedic edge to an otherwise anxious crowd. Outfitted in blue and orange, UMI’s set was a warm escape from the hype and hustle that had a large presence on Day ‘N’ Vegas’ Friday night. Calling on the event’s more obscure crowd, Thundercat’s sophisticated bass guitar took precedence over his daffy persona as Lucky Daye shed a tear during his heart-rendering performance just a stage over. Amid an abundance of live performers, Madlib had no problem throwing down old-school beats during his DJ set amid Jasmine Sullivan’s highly anticipated performance. Rounding out the night came the festival’s most sought-after performance- Kendrick Lamar. A once-in-a-lifetime exhibition, Kendrick, draped in crochet white, reminded spectators of his roots- Compton, USA. A vitrine of his come-up, Kendrick performed all four of his studio albums Section.80, good kid m.A.Ad City, To Pimp A Butterfly, and his most recent, DAMN. In a never-before-seen theatrical presentation, Kendrick found himself surrounded by a group of Black ballerinas, suited men, and children to reflect the innocence, pain, and prosperity of Blackness in America. A religious experience of sorts, Kendrick Lamar shared the evolutionary gospel of himself in both rage and rejoice to close out the first day of the Sin City music festival.
After a morning of Bloody Marys in muggy casinos and sativa joints, couples, crews, and content loners returned to The Las Vegas Festival Grounds for the sophomore night of Day ‘N’ Vegas. Adorned in Balenciaga and Bottega, the now seasoned and scorched-by-day-one crowd flexed their flashiest looks on Saturday. A proper mid-weekend zenith with weather to match, the scene was set for another intoxicating 12 hours of music. As attendees eased into their respective blueprint routines thanks to a seamless Friday night, early-billed artists like DJ William Stokes, midwxst, and PJ Say Cheese avoided falling on deaf ears as early risers brought surprisingly poignant energy to the brunchtime sets. Fast-rising rapper Beanz transformed her soft-spoken prowess into a spitfire performance to remember following her recent album Tables Turn. A winter’s sun begrudgingly set circa 4:30 PM at the heels of Saba’s masterful and genuinely shocking set quickly followed by Freddie Gibbs’ low-slung, blasé production that balanced Interscope-quality hip-hop with slapstick humor and a set-long shtick at the expensive of his poor DJ, Ralph. As cocktail lines grew longer, the night revved up by the way of future hall-of-fame rapper Baby Keem. Riding a palpable high from his bombshell appearance during Kendrick’s set the prior night, the STATS artist reminded the mosh-pit dipped crowd at the Sammy Stage he’s much more than Kendrick Lamar’s cousin- he’s Baby Keem. While the always-kinky Doja Cat seduced a mammoth drove of swooning admirers, genderless experimental rockstar Yves Tumor immersed themselves into a modest yet scolding-hot, super-fan riddled crowd at The Dean Tent. Former YBN member Cordae brought a live band to enrich his consciously-driven lyrical prose to prove he doesn’t need a posse to shine before Duckwrth performed one of the most captivating sets of the weekend with his polished style and well-tuned empathy for a thrill-seeking flock of festival-goers. Majid Jordan brought a refreshing, distinguished electro-R&B set to the scene. A brilliant nightcap and thunderbolt replacement for Travis Scott, Post Malone performed his biggest hits in front of pyrotechnics and acoustic, pop-driven beats to bring Day ‘N’ Vegas’ Saturday night to a reverberant close.
With only one day remaining, grieving the healthy bodies they arrived in Friday, Sunday’s Day ‘N’ Vegas crowd arrived in valor despite the collective hangover. Shrouded in cargos, GOLF merch, and sneakers, a bum-chic mass of hip-hop heads choked down their final margaritas of the weekend while artists like almondmilkhunni, AG CLUB, and Bankrol Hayden effortlessly rekindled the now-familiar Day ‘N’ Vegas fire. After a brief hiatus from music to pursue a career in acting, Two Distant Strangers star Joey Bada$$ reached Christ Conscious performing both catalog classics and unreleased music. Raveena hypnotized the Dean Tent with her feminine moxie and Earl Sweatshirt kept it simple performing Mac Miller covers, Some Rap Songs, and “Molasses” all while snacking on a bag of chips. Covered in diamonds, Snoh Allegra’s soulful performance was as seamless as her waterfall ponytail but Lil Uzi Vert came up short arriving 35 minutes late to his 50-minute set only to be kicked off stage for inciting unwanted riotous behavior. As Inglewood SiR breezed through his well-tuned show, fellow Top Dawg signee and first-lady of the record label SZA was bubblier than ever. Signaling the end of her deeply-personal and impactful CTRL era, SZA flirted with some 30,000 fans drawing joyful tears at the apex of her colorful indie-R&B set. Teyana Taylor left no stone unturned during her well-choreographed production ahead of her retirement from music just before Day ‘N’ Vegas’ final sweeping crescendo at the Frank Stage. The Sammy Stage and Dean Tent were slowly dismantled, drawing their last breath of sticky, smoke-filled festival air as only one show remained – Tyler, The Creator. Heading up the largest crowd of the weekend, Tyler, who in recent years curbed the degenerate facade that propelled him into fame, didn’t stray far from his charming villainy. In his bellhop-chic get-up with penny loafers and crew socks, The Creator thrashed around on a hydraulic boat performing his chart-topping new album Call Me if You Get Lost. Spitting bars of grief and nonsense, his gritty voice cut through the crisp Las Vegas air like a rusty knife while fans slurped noodles and shouted back at the sweet, sinister monster that is Tyler, The Creator.
Amid the 72 hours of dancing, moshing, and singing- perfect strangers took care of one another. Harm reduction was at an all-time high thanks to a genuinely caring staff and security who dedicated themselves to making this festival a safe place to lose yourself in. Quickly becoming one of the best hip-hop and R&B music festivals in The U.S., Day ‘N’ Vegas sets a new standard for city-based music festivals worldwide.