The skies were blue Saturday, June 11, despite warnings of thunderstorms all week long. The sun was strong over the parking lot of Nikon at Jones Beach Theater, where we tailgated with cupcakes and juice boxes to celebrate my daughter Anna’s ninth birthday.
Between her gaggle of girlfriends from her cheer team and their moms, we were a group of 13, ready to witness the spectacle that is 106.1 WBLI Summer Jam.
The audience was rife with pre-teens, excited for the lineup that included Daya, Alessia Cara, ShawnHook, Nick Tangorra, Melanie Martinez, Rachel Platten, Troye Sivan, The Chainsmokers, Shaggy, Fifth Harmony, Iggy Azalea, Hailee Steinfeld, Charlie Puth and Megan Trainor. Because my kids have taken over the radio dial, I was familiar with more of these songs than I realized. When Rachel Platten belted out her popular “Fight Song,” an entire stadium of (mostly) girls and I sang right along with her. I knew all the lyrics to the Chainsmokers’ “Don’t Let Me Down,” too.
I might have been the grown-up, but I was cool.
About two hours into the show, menacing clouds soon moved in over the open-air amphitheater, and with almost no time to run for cover, lightning struck, thunder rumbled, and torrential rain poured down over the audience in the theater and those on the much-too-long lines for food.
The crowd screamed and streamed under awnings to wait out the storm, whose violent, ripping winds and torrential rains died down after approximately 20 minutes. People stormed the t-shirt vendors to buy dry clothes, even purchasing the shirts hanging on poles for display. My kid never got her BLI Summer Jam t-shirt. There were tears. Nine-year-old problems.
Then, after an hour delay, the show went on.
Hailee Steinfeld wowed the audience with her cover of Justin Bieber’s smash hit “Love Yourself.” Bringing Jamaican flair, Shaggy whipped the crowd into a screaming frenzy as the self-proclaimed Mr. Lover Lover sang snippets of songs “Boombastic” and ”It Wasn’t Me.” Charlie Puth slowed it down at the piano, and, choking back tears, dedicated his song “See You Again” to Christina Grimmie, the 22-year-old singer from The Voice who had been brutally shot and killed in Orlando as she was signing autographs the night before this concert.
“I never got to say what I wanted to say to her,” he announced, before launching into the ballad he had written for his best friend.
Iggy Azalea delivered the day’s stand-out performance. With boundless energy and flawless execution, her fast-moving lyrical and dance skills were on full display, singing her hits “Fancy” and “Black Widow.”
Fifth Harmony and Meghan Trainor also paid tribute to Grimmie. Neither performance disappointed, with Fifth Harmony’s super-girl group prancing and dancing about the stage in coordinated black leather outfits, singing their hits such as “Work from Home.” Meghan Trainor ended the lineup, serenading the audience with crowd-pleasers “All About the Bass” and “Lips Are Movin,’” along with her new song, “No,” from her new album Thank You.
As we made our way back to the parking lot well after midnight and got to our minivan covered in cupcake icing, my girl’s hand slipped into mine.
“Thank you,” she said, and it suddenly felt like it was my birthday present instead.