Music Festivals

With the Help of Cardi B, Vewtopia Music Festival Found Its Footing After a Shaky Start

Cardi B
Cardi B Litrato Studios
The inaugural Vewtopia Music Festival was off to more than a bumpy beginning this past Friday, the kickoff of the two-day gathering. The festival, which had joined forces with Superfest Miami Live only a couple of weeks earlier, boasted performances by Gunna, Ty Dolla $ign, Fabolous, Megan Thee Stallion, and Chris Brown. But fans wouldn't see any of those A-listers as the first night unfolded.

The confusion began at the gate, which was supposed to open at 3 p.m. Fans formed a line but weren’t allowed entry until more than an hour later past the advertised time, around 4:15 p.m., when the first batch of performers was supposed to begin taking the stage. Already delayed, Vewtopia had also not publicly released set times for artists' performances, a given for music festivals.

After a couple of short performances by mostly local artists, the crowd around the stage hadn’t grown much and the vast areas of empty space that surrounded the stage seemed to indicate Vewtopia had greatly undersold tickets. Single-day tickets were going for $50 at the door, allowing a few latecomers to arrive in the hopes of seeing the promised headliners. However, by around 8:15 p.m., it was clear the two headliners wouldn’t show. Chris Brown’s manager announced in a now-deleted post that the singer wouldn’t take the stage for the night owing to "not being able to come to an agreement with promoters." Similarly, Megan Thee Stallion’s publicist had informed another journalist onsite that she would no longer perform at the festival either. Despite those cancellations, the DJs onstage continued to build excitement about the headliners’ “upcoming” performances by shouting, “Who’s ready to see Chris Brown?!”

Around 10 p.m., it began to drizzle, and fans broke out into a frustrated chant of “Megan! Megan!” The crowd seemed fed up with the confusion and lack of clarity. By 10:40, the DJs announced a lightning advisory would cut the night short, but they encouraged fans to head to one of the onsite nightclubs, where they could catch the rest of the artists perform. However, after everyone ran through the rain to take shelter in the tent, an announcement at 11 p.m. informed the crowd there would be no more performances for the night.

Day one of Vewtopia was a mess of disorganized set times, confused team members, and vast empty spaces that ultimately ended in a lightning advisory. On Twitter, attendees voiced their frustrations and seemed unwilling to return the next day. And, as is inevitable whenever music festivals go south, comparisons to Fyre Festival arose.

It’s safe to say Vewtopia didn’t have the most enviable of beginnings, but organizers seemed to pull it together for the second day. The festival had addressed the day-one fiasco via Instagram in a now-deleted post: “Due to unforeseen circumstances outside of our control, a lightning advisory issued by Dade County impacted our ability to deliver the amazing concert experience we planned.” The post then advertised Saturday’s lineup, which included Koffee, Polo G, Alex Sensation, Nicky Jam, DaBaby, Migos, and the headliner, Cardi B.

Upon arriving at the festival, guests clearly saw changes had been made. There was visibly more staff and security, and the performance set times were advertised at the front gate on a bright screen, although the times were still pushed back and inaccurate throughout the night.

Aaron Bodden, a 21-year-old reggaeton artist from Miami, was slated to perform at 5:15 but took the stage around 8:50. With him were eight back-up dancers, clad in black-and-red getups, to inspire major perreo in the crowd. They grinded, twerked, and swung their hips all over the stage while Bodden sang and rapped songs in Spanish and English.

Around 9:20 p.m., Papa Keith, from 103.5 the Beat, came out to hype up the crowd for the next performer. “Where my Latinos at?!” Keith shouted to introduce the famous award-winning radio DJ and musical tastemaker Alex Sensation. He took to the turntables to successfully heighten the crowd’s energy levels, mixing popular reggaeton, hip-hop, and dancehall hits.
Finally, after much speculation and anxiety over the state of the A-list acts, the first of the headliners emerged. The hip-hop and trap dance crew the Jabbawockeez materialized, slowly making their way to center stage as DaBaby’s song “BOP” began to play. Two of the dancers ripped off the costume and mask of the dancer in the middle, revealing it was none other than DaBaby in disguise. The North Carolina rapper grabbed the mike and yelled, “Let’s go!” as the beat dropped and fans screamed. After performing "BOP," he addressed the crowd and said that when he performs at festivals that used barricades to separate fans from performers, he usually encourages the audience to jump over it. “However —,” he began, but didn’t get to finish his sentence because attendees immediately took his statement as an invitation. Tons of fans jumped over the barricades separating the general admission ticketholders from VIP, filling the somewhat-empty VIP section. “Whoa, whoa, I meant it as a hypothetical. I didn’t get to finish my sentence,” DaBaby said, looking concerned by his fans' actions.

After a quick check by security to make sure no one was hurt, DaBaby rocked through tracks such as "Vibez" and Baby Sitter" as well as his verse in Megan Thee Stallion’s “Cash Shit.” He had a couple of other tricks up his sleeve for the evening: He invited fellow North Carolina rapper Stunna 4 Vegas onstage. Stunna, who’s signed to DaBaby's record label, Billion Dollar Baby, joined the headliner as they stood on top of the barricades, allowing themselves closer proximity to the crowd as they put some much-needed "BOP" into the night. Later in the performance, DaBaby brought out his 6-year-old son, Caleb, who rapped an adorable song about playing Xbox One and going to school. Only 25 minutes later, DaBaby departed for parts unknown.

Simply by virtue of presenting a headliner, Vewtopia's second day was already outclassing its initial outing.

At nearly 11 p.m., Migos appropriately bounded onto stage to the group's song “Stripper Bowl,” which begins with the line "Bring the whips out for the Super Bowl!" Then came the crowd-pleasing “Deadz,” followed by their 2013 hit, “Hannah Montana.”
“OK, so we do have some day-one Migos fans in the building!” Quavo shouted. With this reassurance, the three members then threw it back with their hits from their 2014 album, No Label II, including “Handsome and Wealthy” and “Fight Night,” to thrilled crowd members. “Slippery,” “Pure Water,” and “Bad and Boujee” were also among the songs played before Quavo announced, “Culture III is on the way!” The announcement was met by cheers and followed by the popular “Walk It Talk It,” which closed the fiery performance.

By 11:20, the crowd began to chant “Cardi! Cardi!” as the stage was being set up for the Bronx rapper. Shortly thereafter, Vewtopia’s most anticipated headliner surfaced in a bright-yellow bodysuit and boots, a rainbow wig, and a crew of back-up dancers. Cardi B began with the hard-hitting “Get Up 10” and then segued into her collab with rapper Pardison Fontaine — “Backin’ It Up” — to overjoyed, twerking fans. One thing Cardi B possesses in good measure is stamina, and she showed off her dancing chops throughout her set by continually bending down low to deliver the sexy, over-the-top dance moves for which she’s known.
Cardi’s performance included the most stage effects, visuals, and stage props of all of the Vewtopia sets, making for a hypnotizing, high-energy spectacle that had fans thankful they returned for day two. For “Motorsport,” the Migos song on which she shares a verse with Nicki Minaj, she hopped on top of a yellow BMX bike. The set was about an hour long and saw Cardi also show off her Spanish for tracks “Taki Taki” and “I Like It.” The seemingly countless songs showed just how fast Cardi’s career has grown since her career blew up in 2017 — she’s had 31 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 since her major-label debut. Later on, she brought out husband Offset of Migos to perform their collab “Clout." Offset was an enjoyable surprise, and his presence allowed the two to show off their chemistry as they shared bars and danced around each other onstage. Cardi closed out her set with her best-known song, “Bodak Yellow,” which was accompanied by pyrotechnics that sent the crowd into animated cheers and screams.

It was a spectacular finale for the initially troubled festival. Though Friday was a mess, Saturday saw the organizers pull things together to produce a gratifying experience for visitors and locals alike, who were able to see performances by some of today's most popular contemporary acts. It’s difficult to say whether the unfortunate events of the first day will leave a stain on Vewtopia’s reputation, but for now, fans are still reeling from Cardi B’s twerking skills and pyrotechnics.
KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Aaliyah Pasols is a journalist who was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, but raised in South Florida. When she's not writing, she loves taking pictures, experimenting with graphic design, creating Spotify playlists, and dreaming about New York City.
Contact: Aaliyah Pasols