Thursday, August 10, 2006

Rock The Bells Festival with Wu-Tang Clan, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, De La Soul and Redman

I attended Sunday's Rock the Bells concert strictly for leisure purposes. I made no attempt to get press passes or set up artist interviews.

I wanted to enjoy the show without the hassle of bringing along a notepad and scribbling down every damm thing that I saw (honest, this show review gig is fun, but you look mad nerdy when you're in a dark club taking notes).

But the show was good. Damn good. Too good to pass up talking about in my little blog space.

For those of you that don't know, Rock The Bells festival has turned into an annual event in California, in it's fourth year. Hosted by Guerrilla Union, it has turned into one of the most exciting hip-hop festivals in the country. An all-day event, the artists on the lineup were some of myf avorites: De La Soul, Black Star, Wu-Tang Clan, Heiroglyphics, Zion-I, Redman.

I joked that they should have changed the name to "Marc The Bells."

So, since I didn't take any notes, I'll just filter through some of the highlights from my day. Next year, I will go ahead and hit up those publicists for a more in-depth look.

- We got to the show at 2 p.m. (four hours late) and left at approximately 9 p.m. (about a half-hour early). We still managed to see seven hours of non-stop music, which was pretty good for the $40 ticket price.

- Got to the venue in time to catch Immortal Technique, the Harlem rapper who reps for Latinos to the fullest. He was flanked by members of the Watsonville and So-Cal Brown Berets. It was pretty wild to see the Berets khaki'd up and passing out literature/fliers. Que Viva La Raza!

- De La came on stage and just absolutely wrecked it! I've seen them a few times before, but this time, they pulled out all of the stops. Brought out Dres from Black Sheep and Phife from A Tribe Called Quest (although I was looking around for Q-Tip. Oh well, I guess I'll have to track them down when they perform in Berkeley next month).
De La did this freeze tag thing at the end of their set. They performed the song "RocKokaine Flow" and at the part where the beat breaks down into a stuttered crescendo, they froze on stage in tune with the beat. They repeated this three times, each one building on the momentum of the last. It was some nice showmanship on their part.

- Living Legends came on and were just okay. Probably the only let down of the night (for me, at least). Murs rocked a nice live set to open up, but their music was just too slow. On a big stage like the Pavillion, you need extra-hype music. I give them props for doing their thing, but next year, they might want to shorten up their set by only doing portions of songs instead of running through the whole thing (their set dragged a bit due to some songs that lasted 4 or 5 minutes). They all looked good on stage together.

- Redman did a hyper active set, lots of funk tracks and Red just sounded great through the large sound system.

- Talib Kweli came out and got the crowd the loudest to that point. He brought Dave Chappelle out during his set. Chappelle grabbed the mic for a quick second and yelled "Hyphy, Bitches!" to uproarious laughter.
Kweli seemed to lose steam for the Black Star portion of his set. Joined by Mos Def, Kweli seemed reserved, almost holding back. He's on the road a lot, especially for a solo rapper, so I imagine he was trying to pace himself. It kind of took away from the Black Star set, but Mos made up for his partner's lax delivery.
Mos shined like a superstar. He played beats from his new album, titled "Tru3 Magic." He sang a lot, told everyone he wasn't doing interviews with hip-hop magazines or tv shows (he didn't give a reason as to why). He performed songs from both of his solo albums, and during "Ms. Fat Booty," he flipped from Gregory Isaac's "If I can't Have You," to a dubbed out rendition of "Bonita Applebum" back into his song. His DJ also did a nice break-beat set, mixing breaks from some of the artists of the night. Mos sang the Fat Lip verse from the Pharcyde's song "Passin' Me By." He ended his night with "Umi Says," which got everyone to singing.

- Wu-Tang finished up with a rowdy set, but had to deal with sound problems all night. Capadonna's mic was turned down for both of the songs he performed. Method Man got he crowd the most hype when he ran through the length of the floor seats. The gave a tribute to ODB, inviting his mom on stage. They followed this up with a raunchy version of Ghostface's "Cher Chez Le Ghost."
Ghost killed it, along with Raekwon, on songs like "Ice Cream" and "Incarcerated Scarfaces." There was only one real problem: The RZA was nowhere to be found. It wasn't a full clan reunion, but it'll have to do for this year.

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