Lovers and Friends 2022

Just wanted to get on here today and shout out the Lovers and Friends festival. I’ve never seen a fest met with such derision right from the start, making comparisons to Fyre Festival based on nothing. It was a LiveNation event (which brings its own set of problems), not a couple of rich idiots looking for an easy payday. The only thing they had in common was the involvement of Ja Rule, which went way better in Vegas than it did in Exuma. Many claimed the event was fake or too good to be true. Well, here I am, back home after a Las Vegas vacation that included attending Lovers and Friends and having a great time.

Were there issues? Yes. Lots of them. First of all, it was over 100 degrees in Vegas and the organizers provided very little shade. We lucked out for the early part of the day with some cloud coverage, but from 4pm until about 7, it was pretty rough. They did provide water stations, but two of the three stations we visited had hot water. There were also cooling buses and some misting fans scattered throughout the festival grounds.

The heat also caused some issues with the audio equipment, with mics cutting out and monitors breaking down. This ate into the allotted time for some artists, so they didn’t get to perform what they had planned. It also seemed like there was a lot of miscommunication between the artists and the organizers. About half, or maybe more, of the sets were cut off while the artist was talking-I heard Juvenile performing “Back That Azz Up” and by the time I got over there he was saying they had cut his set short.

The problems were offset by the one thing I wish every music festival had-real bathrooms. There were porta-potties all over, of course, but the Las Vegas Festival Grounds has cavernous bathrooms in multiple locations. It was wonderful. If you can provide real bathrooms with running water, plenty of soap and paper towels, and keep them clean, I can forgive paying $18 for teriyaki fries (which were delicious).

The performances ran from pretty bad to great, like any festival. The technical issues didn’t help, of course. Snoop Dogg replaced Brandy after she came down with Covid, so he performed on Saturday with Timbaland. He did not join on Sunday, however, leading to one of the worst performances I’ve seen. Essentially a DJ set where he just plays the hook of the songs he’s made over the years (but somehow didn’t play “Promiscuous Girl”-an all-time banger). It would have been fun if he had set it up with some kind of flow, but the constant starting and stopping got annoying.

That disappointment was replaced by exultant joy while watching Mya perform. She had such a great run from about 1998-2003. Her set was a lot of fun and brought the energy back up for the evening performances. It was my second-favorite set of the day, after Ma$e, who blazed through all of his features in about 20 minutes and was the only one that left me wanting more.

Ja Rule, the villain of Fyre Fest, did his best to put his embarrassment behind him by delivering a really great set with his long-time collaborator Ashanti. I had forgotten that they had so many hits together, and it was nice to see them back on stage together. The sun finally went down as they were finishing up their set, making it even more enjoyable.

Nelly, Ciara, and TLC have toured together in the past, so it was no surprise to see their sets all back-to-back-to-back. Nelly was having a good time, even bringing out J-Kwon and Chingy to perform “Tipsy” and “Right Thurr.” I personally would’ve preferred he stick to Country Grammar-era songs, but I had a good time.

Skipped Ciara to use the bathroom and get something to eat, which was a good call, but should’ve waited until TLC, who were very boring and lost the crowd a bit. Maybe it was the heat or that we were on hour number nine of this festival and people were getting a bit restless. Luckily, there were only a few moments between their end and the main attraction.

Usher, Ludacris, and Lil Jon have known one another a long time, and you could see their friendship on stage as they joked with one another and fed off their collective energy. Luda and Lil Jon came out first, with Usher making a more proper entrance at the top of a staircase. It’s crazy to think that Usher has been performing since I was a high school student, and yet a lot of people probably only know him as the guy that discovered Justin Bieber.

The trio went back and forth, trading songs and giving each other a breather so that the energy never really waned at all. This was the only time during the festival that I thought “Ok-we’re good. Let’s go ahead and finish up.” They played for about two hours and I knew every song, so it was entertaining but I was too tired to dance at that point.

In my personal opinion, Lovers and Friends was a great success. It surpassed my expectations and if it hadn’t been so hot, it might’ve been my favorite fest. It was my birthday and I couldn’t have asked for a better day.