At 3 p.m, the gates were expected to flood with R&B lovers, but the festival grounds felt empty as vendors and sponsors peered over the gates at attendees waiting to get in. Finally, the doors opened shortly after 6:30 p.m., pushing the entire festival back well over three hours. Did this mean some acts were going to be skipped to make room for the headliners? Probably.
To make up for over three hours of lost time, festival showrunners decided to cut all of the openers' sets shorter, which led to difficulties with lighting, sound, and just overall confusion. “Hey Miami, I’m YesJulz,” assured Julz, the festival host, over the mic. “I know it was a bit of a wait outside, but we’re happy to get things started here. Let’s welcome some of the local talent to the stage. Here’s Ari Chi.” Tampa’s Ari Chi embraced the stage with a warm welcome, a smile, and her ukulele. She began her set but looked noticeably frustrated as she called out to the sound techs to turn her ukulele up. “Can you guys hear the ukulele?” she asked. “No,” the audience yelled back, patiently waiting for her to sing their favorite tracks. While she did power through her shortened set, Chi ended up tossing her ukelele and walking off the stage.
But after Savannah Cristina took the stage, everything started to go south. Two relatively unknown acts sung along to their tracks while guests continued to wonder why the set list was out of order, why it was so damn hot, and why water was $6 a bottle.
By 8 p.m. the crowd was over it, along with many of the artists. Summer Walker took the stage rolling her eyes. Dressed in a grey mini dress, she powered through her 20-minute set barely making any contact with the crowd. The only way you’d know she was on stage was the glowing name graphic that spelled out her name in the background. After she performed her latest single “Girls Need Love,” she vaguely thanked the crowd and walked off.
Attendees started to notice that the line up was out of order when their favorites didn’t make it on stage as the night grew longer. “Uh, is Arin Ray performing or no?” wondered one attendee, clutching her boyfriend's hand and checking the line up posted on Best Life’s Instagram page. Arin Ray and Tobi Lou were noticeably missing as Snoh Aalegra took the stage. She performed a handful of singles from her debut album Feels, which was released late last year. Aalegra's long, wavy brown hair swayed in the fans' wind as told us she “felt like home” on stage. She was accompanied by her band, who she allowed to take several leads during her set which truly gave the audience a show. Unfortunately, it wasn't the show they paid for since Tobi Lou and Arin Ray were nowhere to be found.
Xavier Omär finally took the stage closer to 9 p.m. “Hey everyone, I don’t know what's really going on, but I just want to shout out three people who I personally came to see that hasn’t gone on yet. Tobi Lou, Arin Ray, and R.Lum.R.,” The crowd cheered back. “I don’t know what's going to happen, but just know I wanted to see them too.” He began to play a few crowd favorites from Pink Lightning, his latest EP before cutting his set short to allow Tobi Lou to have a few songs. “Hey, Miami,” said Tobi Lou over the mic dressed in a white tee and shiny gold shorts. “Fucking finally,” said a girl holding her heels in her hand. After only performing two songs, he promised one more single, “Troop” before he left the stage. Still, no Arin Ray or R.Lum.R.
Around 10:45 p.m., the crowd started to chant for Ella Mai. After waiting nearly the whole day in the heat, if these people didn’t get to hear "Boo’d Up," things were going to get ugly. At 11 p.m. Ella Mai finally took the stage wearing a black dress and green jacket thanking the crowd for waiting to patiently for her. Ella Mai played selects from her released EPs Time, Change and Ready. “Best Life, are you still with me?” she asked the crowd. The exhausted crowd murmured back. “I’m going to keep saying Best Life until I hear you.” While the crowd was surely excited to have Ella Mai in Miami for the first time, everyone was just so damn tired by 11:30 p.m. that they didn’t have the energy. The crowd used everything left they had in them to sing along with Ella Mai’s hit single “Boo’d Up.” She held a singing competition between the guys and girls on who can sing the chorus louder (of course, the ladies won) before ending her set with her latest single “Trip.”
“I’m glad to be here,” she reassured the crowd. After a long and mismanaged event, it's a testament to H.E.R.'s talent that Best Life's crowds were too.