Knowing her audience, Aguilera had a series of surprises in store — early on in the performance, the “Ain’t No Other Man” singer brought out Drag Race stars Aquaria, Milk, Jaida Essence Hall and Dahlia Sin for a lip-sync medley to a string of singles. Aguilera then reappeared alongside the queens, dressed in a set of stunning rhinestoned denim chaps, for a campy, drag-inspired version of her Moulin Rouge hit “Lady Marmalade.”
The highlight of Aguilera’s performance came right at the end, though, when the star brought the lights down and delivered a stirring performance of “Beautiful,” wherein she reminded the crowd of the important message of LadyLand. “If I could leave you with one note for the night, on this date when we acknowledge so many that we lost,” she said over the cries of fans in the crowd. “Love yourself, and always love each other.”
Earlier in the evening, Caroline Polachek stepped onto the stage at the Mirage to deliver a moody, soft set of ethereal songs, letting the crowd come down from hard-hitting DJ sets for a vibe-driven show. Spouting off her own hits, including songs like “Pang,” “Door” and “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings,” along with a cover of The Corrs’s 2000 single “Breathless,” Polachek let the crowd know just how happy she was to see them.
“Getting to perform in front of all of you is a dream come true,” Polachek said. “Here’s to resilience.”
For drag fans in the audience, Jaida Essence Hall and Aquaria delivered their own incredible shows. Offering her services as an emcee of sorts for the evening, Hall kept the crowd engaged and attentive, right up until her very own lip sync number, where she showed off her dance skills with kicks, splits, dips, costume changes, a wig reveal and just abut every other trick you would hope to see in a top-tier lip sync number. As for Aquaria, the Drag Race season 10 winner opened for Aguilera with a pounding hyperpop-meets-house DJ set, filled with anthems courtesy of Cher, Lady Gaga and many more, along with a few unexpected tracks, including a dance remix to My Chemical Romance’s angsty “Teenagers.”
The night also saw a star-turn performance from Nina Sky, the fabulous DJ duo behind 2004’s “Move Ya Body,” with NYC hip-hop duo The Dragon Sisters joining them onstage for a blissed-out dance party. Up-and-coming rapper La Goony Chonga brought fans to their feet with her booty-shaking set early on in the evening, delivering high-energy versions of songs like “Pa Mi,” “Que Te Gusta” and “Duro 2005.” For concert-goers who wanted to keep the party going following Aguilera’s show-stopping set, DJs Michael Magnan and Mez transformed the Mirage into a rave, their entrancing house mixes keeping fans up and dancing well into the wee hours of the morning.
LadyLand also made sure that those looking for the chaotic vibes of the queer nightlife scene got their fill at the adjoining King’s Hall, where DJs Kenni Javon, P_A_T, Skin and Sausha delivered cutting techno, trance and dubstep sets, while enthusiastic fans cheered from the sidelines. The highlight for the King’s Hall, though, came with two performances of Choke Hole, the New Orleans-born drag-meets-wrestling extravaganza pitting queen versus queen in campy and fierce wrestling-inspired numbers. Party-goers cheered wildly, for instance, while NYC drag stars Ruby Fox and Linux smacked each other with foam, oversized drink tickets and VIP wristbands, before practicing their best wrestling moves on one another.
Whether it was the stunning musical performances, heart-pounding DJ sets, gag-worthy drag numbers or just the overall sense of reuniting a community that had been apart for so long, LadyLand Festival delivered a rollicking, euphoric evening on Saturday. As a pregnant Ladyfag put it shortly before Aguilera’s set, “The best way to heal is through collective joy.”