Updated: Apr 12
Story and Photos by Mauricio O. Rocha
Now that spring is here, that means festival season is upon us. Take a look at the best festivals we attended last year. And a few we are excited for this year, too.
Now that the dust has settled over the past year, we can reflect on all the amazing experiences we had last year. 2022 was the year that tried to compensate for all the canceled shows from 2020 and 2021, and proved to be a challenge as so shows were rescheduled, making up for the lack of concerts for the past two years. With so many shows on the line-up, the real dilemma became: which artists deserve our hard-earned dollars? Read on to discover the festivals that made last year one of the best for music enthusiasts all over the country: from coast to coast. Here, in no real order, are the best festivals we were lucky enough to attend in 2022.
Governor’s Ball, Queens NYC
DATE: June 11, 2022
LOCATION: Citi Field, Queens, NY
ARTISTS: Halsey, Ashnikko, Denzel Curry, Diesel, Flume, and more
VIBE: Hot and sweaty fun in a Queens. Set in the huge parking lot of Citi Field stadium, Governor’s Ball festival took place over three days. I attended only Saturday, right in the middle of the weekend. The day started off with seeing Shaquille O’Neal, or his artist moniker, Diesel, spin to a growing crowd. The truth is: he possesses the ability to get the crowd moving. It is no secret that the former basketball star is now a festival regular, and I can see why. He spins mostly top 40 remixes, but they are surprisingly good. He has no business mixing The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” with “Mo Bamba” but here we are. It was daytime when he played, and the parking lot was still filling up with people just arriving for the day.
Next up was Ashnikko, who was one of the main reasons for coming, honestly. She never disappoints. The songstress strutted and danced on stage in what looked like an avant-garde ballerina dress, but distressed and in shades of cool grey and blue. She was able deliver her hits like “Daisy” and “Slumber Party,” flawlessly, even hitting the choreography from the “Slumber Party” music video on stage.
Denzel Curry was amazing. He can really flow and spit his rhymes fast. His energy had the crowd moshing during songs like “Ricky” and the crowd sang along to most of the songs. He was able to rap songs like “Walkin” which the crowd going as they rapped along him. He wore black Carhartt overalls with a pair of googles strapped to the top of his head, along with his hair styled in liberty spikes. The combination made him he look like a character from one of the animated series he loves, like Dragon Ball Z.
The night ended by alternating in between Halsey's and Flume's sets. Halsey was great to see live, especially with her newer music from her latest album, If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power, which was produced by Atticus Finch and Trent Reznor. The sounds from her album, which is very alternative rock n’ roll mixed with dance techno-industrial, came alive with her live band, screaming vocals, and with creepy eyeball graphics during “Easier Than Lying.” Having grown up in Brooklyn, she reminisced about times where she would sneak into Gov. Ball as a teenager and now she was headlining. It was a full circle moment for sure.
Flume was playing at the same time as Halsey and we went back and forth between the two sets, to check both out. Flume’s on-stage set up looked like a set from a futuristic theatre production: wooden arches all painted white, with him dressed in white to match. It felt like a space opera, and his chill-dance-house music was the soundtrack to this production. One standout moment was when he played the techno song, “Wallfuck.” To cap off the day of festivities fireworks boomed at the end of Halsey’s set. Sign us up for the Gov. Ball this year when it relocates to Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
Chromatica Ball, Hershey PA
DATE: August 28, 2022
LOCATION: Hershey Stadium, Hershey, Pennsylvania
ARTISTS: Lady Gaga, no opening acts necessary
VIBE: On a hot summer day, Lady Gaga’s fans, or “Monsters” arrived in Pennsylvania ready to spread love, art, and party. It was amazing to see just how many different types of people Gaga can bring together: the LGBTQIA+ community was front and center, of course, but there were also lots of middle-aged, average-Joe-type-folks, people well into their 40s and 50s who were there enjoying the show just as much as the younger fans. There were the leather daddies and bondage babies galore. Fans sported all types of costumes and get-ups, giving an homage to all types of Gaga outfits over the years from her Monster ball era all the way to futuristic silver pieces from Chromatica. One person constructed an entire outfit made from Sour Patch Kids and other sour candy wrappers sewn together, referencing her dance track, "Sour Candy." That is just one example of the creativity on display during the show.
Gaga’s first stadium tour in over five years was well worth the wait. She has described the stadium tour as a “museum of brutality, and ode to brutalism art and architecture symbolizing a hard look at oneself.” This vision was made clear from the moment you entered the stadium. The show was set against stark black and white backdrops, silver, and grey tones in the set design and even the video interludes, which seemed more like short fashion films. The show started with Gaga walking up to a catwalk and then kissing a jewel-encrusted skull. She then cries and then the show starts off with “Bad Romance,” where she is encased in a while vessel.
Although this was not a festival per say, it was a ball and a stadium show that was sold out. It was the highest attended concert in Hershey, Pennsylvania since the Rolling Stones performed there in the early 2000s. During tracks like “Telephone” Gaga almost singed off the crowd’s eyebrows with her pyrotechnics. Even concertgoers who were far away from the stage could feel the heat from the fire; it felt that close.
A show highlight was when Gaga performed “Chromatica II” into “911” and then “Sour Candy.” During these songs she was singing at her futuristic-art-pop-diva best. She also served up full choregraphy for "Babylon," clad in a gold suit and cape. The beauty of a Lady Gaga concert is that she can give you the complete insanity of screaming vocals and hitting choreography on dance tracks like “Replay” and still be able to offer the crowd an acoustic piano rendition of “Born This Way” later in her set. In recent years Gaga’s reputation for being one the best living performers was further cemented by her Oscar win in 2019. In her set she even included songs from A Star is Born, like "Shallow," which overjoyed the audience, roaring with applause. She can pull off both sounds and sing both great. It was nice of her to strip down her set for a string of songs at the piano, which brought the crowd to tears, lighters in the air.
After her piano set, Gaga was back into Chromatica cuts, like “Enigma”, “Stupid Love” and “Rain On Me.” For this set she did a costume change and wore a bedazzled leather biker jacket, over a black latex bodysuit and black boots, white cut-off tank and giant monster claw. She ended her set with her latest from the Top Gun, soundtrack, the recently Oscar-nominated “Hold My Hand.” Needless to say, it was a show worth traveling out of state for as she only performed 22 shows in the US during her summer tour. Long live Mother Monster!
DATE: September 2, 2022
LOCATION: Randall’s Island Park, New York City, NY
ARTISTS: Diplo, Maala, Tchami, Joel Corey, Bijou, Slander, Porter Robinson, and more
VIBE: Peace, Love Unity, Respect; old school PLUR vibes right in the big apple. East Coast ravers gathered over Labor Day weekend for a little escapism from living and working in a hectic city like NYC. The main reason they gathered: to dance. Electric Zoo showcases all types of EDM or electronic dance music: from house to trance to trap and anything in between.
Randall’s Island Park is a well-kept park: lush, green, and beautiful. On the walk to the stage, you can spot brown horses staring at you from a close distance, as they gallop behind a wire fence. Although there are a ton of mosquitos swarming about, it was still a pleasant experience.
Once you enter the park and wonder to the middle of four stages with tons of colorfully dressed people: adorned with body paint, glitter, accessories, and undergarments, you start to feel like you are on a small party island, which in a way, you are. Most people are friendly and come as their own unique self. Everyone dresses to impress themselves, or dresses for comfort and mobility to dance and express themselves, and that can be a wide range of ideas; this is one of the best things about rave culture: it’s very accepting.
The day began with Joey Corey playing in the late afternoon, around 3 or 4 p.m. and he was lit. He made his presence known while playing his signature house sounds. It felt like a full-on day rave on an island in New York. To get there, we had to take the subway to Harlem and then walk across a bridge onto Randall’s Island. It was worth the trek on a humid late summer day.
Next up was Bijou, a DJ from Arizona, who knows how to get the crowd moving. His style of music blends classic house with trappy hip-hop beats. It is undeniable fun and cool.
For the sunset set, Diplo was able to get the crowd going playing his own remixes of Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Heads Will Roll” and Kia’s “My Neck, My Back.” People were dancing and loving every moment, even the people in line to get food started dancing when he took to the stage. Raves are hard to describe in words, as they are better felt in person; it is just a vibe and energy that you feel with the audience and it’s euphoric.
After Diplo’s set it was time to head to a smaller stage where the anonymous and mysterious DJ known as Maala was just about to start his set. His sound is more trap and house oriented, which is amazing and fun to dance to. He has some rapppers on hand to deliver guest verses.
After Mala, Tchami played, and he wore a priest collar. He took the audience to church literally, as he showed images of stained glass on stage during his set, making the stage feel like an electric chapel. He spined a live set and lived up to the hype, playing hit singles like “The Calling “at the perfect time with the perfect build-ups and drops. One thing is for sure: when the beat drops, the audience is going to lose control and have the experience they will always remember. If you are able to afford it, a single day ticket to E-Zoo is worth the price.
Besame Mucho Festival
DATE: December 3, 2022
LOCATION: Dodger Stadium Los Angeles, California
ARTISTS: Kumbia Kings, Paulina Rubio, Zoe, Alejandra Guzman, Elvis Crespo, Juanes, Banda Machos, Tigeres Del Norte, Bronco, Ramon Ayala and more
VIBE: Latinx love galore. The ideology behind this large festival, which is centered and catered to Latinx people, is inspiring. This festival boasted an all-Latino line up of artists from generations past and present. A wave of early ‘80s, ‘90s, and 2000s nostalgia hit you once you entered and walked under a huge arch made of flowers, that spelled out Besame Mucho, which is means kiss me lots in Spanish, and it is also a song by Luis Miguel.
Once inside there were four stages and tons of food and drink vendors. This is an event that celebrated Mexican culture, and that was even present in some of the food choices like tacos, mangonadas, paletas, and quesadillas. Along with Mexican food there were burger, chicken, and even Greek food options as well.
The first act we watched were the Kumbia Kings who, is fronted by A.B. Quintanilla, Selena's surviving brother. They played a fun set that included many dancers and band members on stage, all in matching blue outfits. When the California sun sets, the wind is enough to send a chill down your spine. Advice to future attendees: bundle up in a hoodie/jacket and dress in pants, not shorts like I carelessly wore in December. Even though you are in California, and it is 65 degrees in the daytime, one wants to act like it’s summer, but it’s really not. Banda Machos were able to get the crowd moving, and they had lots of dancers on stage with them. The lead singer was making jokes at the dancer’s expense.
Zoe was great but had a hard time getting their set started due to sound issues. Once the sound tech people behind the scenes were able to fix the set-up, Zoe was able to be heard loud and clear. The lead singer was very irate though. Visibly upset. For the rest of their set they sounded great though. The crowd seemed grateful to be able to finally enjoy the set.
The event was noteworthy for uniting whole families together, children who were teens or young adults, 20 somethings, taking their older parents to see the show. There were acts for the whole family and for every personality. From rockero to romantico to pop to classicos. For many adults it felt like they were children again at a concert. They were gleefully dancing in the back or were very up and close to stage. For many millennials,including myself, the nostagia wave hit hard due to all of the music from our childhoods being played live. This was the music were would hear at fiestas or on Saturday mornings when our parents made us wake up early to clean the house. There was a parade that went by made of lots of Día De Los Muertos iconography like painted dancing skulls and flowers and mariachis. It was fun.
Paulina Rubio strutted on stage in silver boots, fringed little dress, leather coat and flowing golden blonde locks. Her set included many of her hits like, "El Ultimo Adios," and "Algo Tienes." She even dedicated a song to Tigeres del Norte, who were playing on another stage. There were four stages in total, each named after a genre of music. Elsewhere , Elvis Crespo could be heard playing his signature merenge at full volume.
The night ended with seeing an aging rockera, Alejandra Guzman, singing after Rubio, and Juanes was going on simultaneously. Upon leaving the venue we heard the end of Juanes hit, “Camisa Negra,” which was the only song of his I wanted to hear. It was a long and full day of music and good vibes. The only complaint would be since it was the inaugural event, it felt a little disorganized, like artists not starting on time, or not at all due to sound issues. But overall, it was very fun and a memory I won't forget.
FESTIVALS WE ARE LOOKING FOWARD TO IN 2023:
ELECTRIC DAISY CARNIVAL
LAS VEGAS, NV
05/19/2023 to 05/21/2023
THE GOVERNORS BALL MUSIC FESTIVAL
06/9/2023 to 06/11/2023
RANDALLS ISLAND, NY
09/1/2023 to 09/3/2023
BESAME MUCHO FESTIVAL
LOS ANGELES, CA