Things began to cool down on NXNE’s final day. The schedule was shifted slightly due to severe thunderstorm warnings, but not a single drop of rain hit the uneven pavement. The clouds were as fluffy as the cotton candy sold near the ferris wheel, providing a heavenly backdrop to the equally heavenly sound of River Tiber. Yukon Blonde kept things chill; their music almost carefree but still packed with attitude.
It was only until Lizzo hit the stage with her infectious prep and self-love, paving the way for NXNE’s last big headliner, Passion Pit. The American electropop band hasn’t released any permanent music since 2015 (their last album was self-released this year, then deleted), so their performances of hits such as “Carried Away” and “Take a Walk” brought back memories of summers’ past.
NXNE didn’t necessarily end with a bang, but it did end with the pink and purple haze of special-effects lighting and the sounds of synths playing familiar tunes, which was an equally great way to end any three-day festival.
The Soul Rebels ft. Talib Kweli
At just after 8 p.m., The Soul Rebels and Talib Kweli took to the stage with their brass instruments and confident swaggers. Standing in a line across the stage, the eight-piece band from New Orleans began with a musical medley of jazz, soul and hip-hop. The audience quickly warmed up to the velvety tunes coming from the band’s trumpets and trombones—proof of this was a security guard, clad in black in the far right-hand corner of the stage, dancing at her post.
Fifteen minutes in, Kweli had the audience repeating his lyrics back to him, and people cheered for more after every song. As one of the lesser-known acts on NXNE’s lineup, it seems as if The Soul Rebels came out as one of the many underdogs at the festival. With their black sunglasses and fedoras, the band looked like a cool-guy orchestra that had swiftly commanded the audience’s hearts and attention. Their performance was the second stop on the band’s tour, which is geared to take over most of Europe in the coming month. If you’re doing a bit of summer travelling across the Atlantic, keep an eye out for these guys!
“Where the hell my phone? Where the hell my phone?” Lizzo opened her feel-good alternative hip-hop set with “Phone,” a song that had the crowd simultaneously laughing and grooving to the beat. Dressed like the world’s most badass cheerleader and flanked by dancers Courtney Hollinquest and Grace Holden, Lizzo pranced around the stage with a fiercely contagious energy. The singer, otherwise known as Melissa Jefferson, was joined by DJ Sophia Eris, and the two invited fans on stage to dance.
Soon enough, ten or so festival-goers emerged on stage, with one dancer, in particular, challenging Lizzo to a dance off. Throughout her sassy and fearless performance, she promoted a message of self-love and confidence. Looking around, I noticed everyone looked like they were having fun, and some people were Shazaming whatever song Lizzo was performing to get the name of it. The artist is currently on her Good as Hell Tour of North America, promoting her debut EP, Coconut Oil. The six-song album is packed with as much fire and vivacity as Lizzo’s performance.
Quintessential summer band Passion Pit (not to be confused with other quintessential summer band Grouplove) opened their set to a huge crowd and a flurry of purple lights. Despite not having put out an album since 2015, the electropop act still drew in crazed hoots and hollers as they set the soundtrack to what you’d imagine every huge festival sounds like. The beginning of their performance featured songs from their most recent album, which weren’t as widely-recognized as their older hits that closed the show.
Although the instrumentation was rich and full, it was also very, very loud; lead singer Michael Angelakos’ relatively smaller voice was often drowned out. But an atmospheric, slowed-down rendition of 2013 hit “Constant Conversations” made up for it—the melancholy in each note was drawn out and played to its full potential. It’s a bright song hiding a sombre message of alcoholism, something the band specializes in. From being diagnosed with bipolar disorder to coming out as bisexual and ending his two-year marriage to his wife, Angelakos has had a tough couple of years. But Passion Pit’s performance was a triumphant one. As their set—and the festival—ended with a performance of debut hit “Sleepyhead,” it tied his journey together—one that’s surely not over yet.
Day 3 in food
On the third day, we indulged in Delight Bite’s chicken quesadillas ($12) and fries, as well as Toben’s truffled tater tots ($7). Altogether, the food was surprisingly good for a festival, and despite how unreasonably expensive it was, we definitely do not regret eating it.
All images by Celina Gallardo. With files from Celina Gallardo and Victoria Shariati.