The sun blistered, the dust that tends to fly at Atlanta’s Central Park indeed made its traditional appearance and sweat was the most common accessory of the day.
But none of those irritants seemed to quell the enthusiasm of the nearly 20,000 people who poured into the Midtown locale for the first of the two-day One Musicfest.
Expanded this year to a full weekend and a larger footprint - in previous years it was held at Lakewood Amphitheatre and the now-razed Masquerade Park - One Musicfest is presenting a notable lineup for its ninth year.
On Saturday, DVSN, Big Sean, Big K.R.I.T., H.E.R and artists who don’t use periods in their names (Nas, Miguel) were among the performers.
The parade of acts rolled smoothly until a late-afternoon snafu blamed on a technical issue brought H.E.R. to the stage nearly 40 minutes late, and that evening, an unexplained delay saw Miguel take the stage 45 minutes later than scheduled.
The Sunday lineup is heavy on Atlanta names - 2 Chainz, T.I., Big Boi and Monica among them - and is also notable for being what is likely George Clinton’s final show in Atlanta.
Here’s a recap of some of Saturday’s performances.
DVSN doesn’t exactly make music for things done in broad daylight. The singer’s highly sensual music certainly translates well live, but not for a midday set at a festival. Wearing a black t-shirt and pants, along with a gold OVO owl chain, the Drake signee opened his set with the NSFW fan favorite “Too Deep,” mixing the song with Ginuwine’s “So Anxious.”
Highlights of DVSN’s set included a performance of “Don’t Choose,” thanks to the booming bassline and a hook that welcomes the audience to sing along. During a performance of “Think About Me,” the singer incorporated a cover of Usher’s “U Got It Bad.” Images of raindrops hitting the ground and a hand typing and deleting the song’s lyrics into iMessage appeared on the screen behind the singer.
DVSN has a good voice, which is why it was so odd that he spent so much of his set singing underneath covers of other people’s songs. For a portion of his show, he encouraged the crowd to sing along to songs such as Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You,” J. Holiday’s “Bed” and The Dream’s “Falsetto. If he would’ve sung along to instrumental versions of these tracks, he would’ve been able to put his own flare on the covers. At one point, he brought one of his background singers to the forefront to let her shine during a cover of Justin Timberlake’s “Until the End of Time,” but it was hard to hear her over Beyonce’s vocals.
During one part of his set, DVSN, who displayed a division sign behind him on the screen for anyone confused about the pronunciation of his stage name, looked into the crowd and spoke directly to a woman. “Hey, what’s up? I’m Daniel,” he said. “You here alone?” The skit would’ve probably gone over better during an intimate show instead of in an open field.
Nearly 40 minutes after her scheduled set time, H.E.R. opened her set with “Say It Again,” setting the tone for the rest of her show with the cocky cut from her debut project. The track was released last year but, for many of the people in the crowd this might have been their first opportunity to catch a glimpse of the singer. For a while, H.E.R. refused to show her face, the mystery and speculation surrounding her identity working as a fun marketing strategy but also allowing the singer to keep the focus on her music in a time when many women in the industry are judged by their appearance.
“So sorry it took me so long to come out,” the singer said early in her set. “It’s always technical difficulties, but I’m here now.”
H.E.R. still wore sunglasses and was fully covered in a blue, red and white Champion tracksuit during her performance but, as usual, her talent spoke for itself. During “2,” a hype man backed her up as she sang of shocking an unfaithful man with infidelities of her own. A brief mention of collaborator Daniel Caesar elicited screams from the crowd, but the singer still teased fans, saying “I don’t know if y’all know the words to this song,” before launching into “Best Part,” a standout ballad for both of the R&B newcomers. Of course, the crowd knew every word.
H.E.R. was a captivating performer, bouncing around the stage, engaging with the audience and playing multiple instruments, including the keyboard and guitar, during her set. The singer showcased strong vocals, too, including during an electrifying cover of Foy Vance’s “Make It Rain,” as she played electric guitar.
Despite her tardy start, H.E.R. likely left ONE Musicfest with more than a few new fans.
Big Sean has the energy and the anthemic hits that are perfect for a festival crowd.
The Detroit rapper’s DJ started the set by paying homage to the late rapper Mac Miller, who died just one day before the festival - reportedly of an overdose - before Sean appeared on stage. During his set, the rapper shouted out his relatives who have lived in Atlanta, including his grandma, who died a few months ago. “She repped Atlanta super hard,” he said, before thanking the city for all it has given him.
The rapper talked a lot during his set, shouting out Nike-endorsed former NFL player and activist Colin Kaepernick (“I got a Puma deal myself and I’m still shouting it out,” he said from the stage), talking to the crowd about chasing their dream, staying motivated and being grateful for the things they have in life. The inspirational moments were nice, but the more energetic performances were certainly the highlight of his show.
Songs such as the YG-led “Big Bank,” G.O.O.D Music’s “Clique,” the Drake collaboration “Blessed” and ultimate kiss-off hit “I Don’t [Expletive] With You” were the perfect songs for a crowd of people looking to let loose and forget all of the troubles that will return on Monday.
“I’m from the South, too!” Big K.R.I.T. exclaimed a couple of songs into his Saturday set. Indeed, the rapper from Mississippi embraced the Atlanta crowd as he energetically flew around the stage during the club thumper “Shake ‘Em Off” and sank into the languid groove of “1999,” from his latest album, “4eva Is a Mighty Long Time.”
Joined by singer Lloyd (a onetime Decatur resident) on the song – as on record – Big K.R.I.T. soon turned the stage over to his friend, who performed the tender acoustic ballad “Tru” before pronouncing, “The South’s got something to say!”
With Big K.R.I.T back on the mic, the energy level spiked again as he hustled across the stage in a black Nike hoodie with “Just Do It” running down his back. “It’s important I take you all back,” he said, leading into his 2011 memory, “Money on the Floor, as the crowd obligingly bounced along.
No reason was given for Miguel’s 45-minute-late start time – which had the unintended consequence of bumping into Nas’ set on the adjacent stage – but he was determined to make fans forget about the wait with a colorful, occasionally crass performance.
Gyrating his pelvis in lime green pants, the R&B-funk-rock singer opened his set with a medley that included “Criminal” and “The Thrill,” teasing fans by performing at the very back of the stage before bursting to the forefront in a swirl of color. He grinded against a dancer during “Use Me” before addressing the crowd with, “My name is Miguel…how are you?”
As couples slow-danced in the packed crowd, Miguel turned on his falsetto for “How Many Drinks?” as he slinked across the stage in front of his band members, who were all clad in black pants and white shirts. But a guy who usually knows how to effectively seduce detoured down a raunchier lane when he repeatedly asked the audience in song, “Who is ******* tonight?” and later led them in a chant on the same topic.
As soon as Miguel pulled back the groove for “Come Through and Chill,” the crowd started to drift across the hill to the main stage, where Nas was preparing to land.
A booming voice announced, “Festival season begins” as a way of introducing the seminal rapper, who took the stage about 15 minutes later than planned.
Opening with the blistering double punch of “Not for Radio” and “The World is Yours,” Nas’ raps flowed at an easy clip as he stalked the stage in front of a live drummer and a DJ perched behind an altar reading Nas’ birth name, “Nasir.”
The rap legend has remained vital by releasing new material every few years, including “Nasir” in June (which birthed “Not for Radio”). But early in his set, he had a mission to complete. “Let’s take this right back to the underground, from the dungeons of rap music,” he said before launching into “N.Y. State of Mind” from his landmark breakthrough, 1994’s “Illmatic.”
At 44, Nas is a different breed of rapper, a contemporary of Jay-Z and Ice Cube, and, as he demonstrated throughout his performance, he still has plenty to say.