The final hurrah of Fling 2018 was filled with polar opposites—CupcakKe and The All–American Rejects, sweltering heat and freezing winds, flashing lights and a fog–enveloped setting sun. Despite the low praise for this year’s lineup of Sage the Gemini, JoJo, CupcakKe and the All–American Rejects, a combination of sentimentalism and second–hand Coachella hype made this night a memorable one. As I got into line at 6:45 p.m., I was shocked by how few people had showed up early for the festival. After being scanned in by a very kind security guard, I walked up to the very front of the enormous white platform SPEC had set up for the event, and took my perch mere feet from the stage.
CupcakKe was the first performance of the night, and a good choice for that spot. She riled up the crowd (maybe not in the most appropriate manner) and let them know that she had a “very horny set prepared for [us]” before singing her hits like “Deepthroat,” “LGBT” and “Duck Duck Goose.” She walked off the stage and thanked us for our time, then returned a few minutes later for an encore. The 20–year–old Chicago–born rapper seemed almost surprised at how well the crowd knew her lyrics. I was lucky enough to make eye contact with her several times as she feigned orgasms and flashed the audience.
Sage performed next. He, too, gave us his hits, with “Gas Pedal” and “Red Nose,” making the crowd jump and scream as the sun began to set, trains rolled by, and a cold front entered Penn Park. He rapped his verse in Flo Rida’s “GDFR” and hopped down to the ground in front of the crowd, visiting with some of his fans while his DJ played selections of his biggest songs from the past year. Sage said repeatedly that he “came all the way from the Bay Area to party with [us]” and, at times, seemed annoyed that more people didn’t know his lyrics. But in the end he still left our legs and arms tired, and ready for JoJo’s slow jams.
Jojo’s songs were, on average, the least recognizable for most of the crowd. Regardless, her popular throwbacks “Moving On” and “Leave (Get Out)” brought everyone back to their middle school days (anyone else remember her in RV or Aquamarine?). She made sure to show off her vocals with a series of belting runs and whistle notes, making it hard for non–fans to deny her talent. During her set, the temperature also plummeted (as the The All–American Rejects brought up later with some subtle shade) and she was sure to take advantage of the violent winds in the absence of on–stage fans. She was less powerful during her more recent songs, which most of the crowd had never heard.
Like the rest, the night’s final act gave us a mix of throwbacks and newer pieces. The All–American Rejects delivered an energetic, angsty rock set full of falling mic stands and head–banging. The members are now in their thirties, but it was hard to tell given the amount of sprinting and high notes from lead singer Tyson Ritter. It was hard not to start thrashing around to hits like “Move Along” and “Dirty Little Secret.” The few members of their cult–like following, who made themselves obvious in the crowd, sang along word–for–word to even their more recent songs. After leaving the stage, the band returned to chants of their hit “Gives You Hell,” and had full command over the crowd for the last few minutes of Fling.
I was ultimately surprised by the night—the general lack of excitement for the lineup in the weeks leading up to Fling contrasted drastically to the thrill that everyone felt in person at the concert. Regardless of who’s performing, there are few things better than hearing live music as the sun sets over the Philly skyline. Taking part in a 44–year–old Penn tradition is cool, too.