NXNE’s first day started off slow, with crowds that never truly filled until Post Malone’s set, where it suddenly ballooned in size, energy and vape smoke. The festival had a diverse line-up, to say the least—so diverse that it was almost alienating. Attendees who stayed for the entire first day shuffled from stage to stage, listening to hip hop from up-and-comer Jalen Santoy, then atmospheric soul from Cold Specks, then eardrum-bursting, earnest punk from Sleigh Bells. To say the least, it was confusing, which could partially explain the low turnout for the first day.
With their neon eye makeup, red jumpsuits and unapologetic confidence, The Regrettes definitely looked and sounded the part of a seasoned pop-punk band. It came as a surprise to learn that most of them are teenagers (at just 20, guitarist Genessa Gariano is the oldest member of the group). Lead singer Lydia Night transitioned from a sweet coo to a tremendous bellow almost effortlessly, laughing in between notes and dancing with bandmates Gariano, Sagé Nicole and Maxx Morando.
Whether they were playing the defiant “Seashore” (“You’re talkin’ to me like a child / Hey I’ve got news, I’m not a little girl / And no I won’t give you a little twirl”) or the sarcastic “A Living Human Girl (“I’ve got…. pimples on my face / And grease in my hair / Prickly legs, go ‘head and stare”), their message of feminism and self-love was only emphasized through their powerful performances. Night proudly proclaimed her flaws with a confidence that made listeners feel like it’s OK to be loud or have greasy hair or small boobs. No one in this band subscribes to traditional gender roles, and they embraced it.
The last time I saw Post Malone was May 2016 when he opened for Justin Bieber’s Purpose World Tour. Malone cycled through his catalogue of hazy, production-heavy tracks, receiving scattered applause. It was only after performing his breakthrough single “White Iverson” twice that the audience fully recognized and responded to him. After releasing his first album last December, which was certified platinum, no one can deny the 21-year-old’s meteoric rise in the past few months. The folk-singer-turned-rapper has since become the subject of multiple think pieces on cultural appropriation, a criticism that’s remained as valid as it was back in 2015 when he debuted.
But apparently, the people love it—the once-roomy Skyline Stage quickly filled up with eager teenagers and 20-somethings. After a near half-hour delay (which he quickly apologized for), Malone appeared onstage clutching a can of beer, which would swiftly be refilled by another, and another and still another. He’s an unexpected star, wearing a plain white T-shirt and blue jeans, looking like he’d stumbled into international fame still hungover from the night before. The sea of people, primarily white boys ready to fight each other at a moment’s glance, smoked and drank and sang along to Malone’s raspy melodies. They’d memorized every word of hits “Too Young” and “Congratulations” and, of course, “White Iverson”—which he called his “only good song.” And his music is catchy. I like it sometimes. Needless to say, he’s reached a level of success that most 21-year-old rappers on Soundcloud can only dream of. But it begs the question: should he have?
Day 1 in food
Despite looking literally nothing like its namesake, this $10 pulled pork banh mi from Heirloom was just as greasy and heavy as you’d want your only form of sustenance to be after six hours of roaming around a giant parking lot.
All images by Celina Gallardo. With files from Celina Gallardo and Victoria Shariati.