The Rock the Bells tour is always a highlight of a hip-hop fan’s year. With one date left to go in Boston on September 10th, our friends at Guerilla Union have once again killed it at the festival-making.
The last Ticketfly date wrapped up on Saturday at Governors Island. You can read how that went over at Consequence of Sound. A bunch of our own were at the Bay Area fest, and here’s what we thought!
Rock The Bells – Bay Area
by Eboni Jones, Ticketfly Intern (and team!)
Rock The Bells has blessed the San Francisco Bay Area since 2006. Starting out in Concord, then making its way to AT&T Park (parking lot, that is…….) and then to Mountain View, its home since 2009. This summer the lineup was similar to those of years past, but that doesn’t negate the magnitude of ‘true skool’ artists that came to ‘rock our bells!’
The all-day fest is not for the weak or feeble. Starting at 10:55 am (yep you read that correctly) the music, the energy went on past 10:00 pm! The plan was to make it out to Shoreline by 11:45 to see Bay Area’s own Souls of Mischief doing ‘93 to Infinity, the album that first exposed me to Oakland and the Hieroglyphics movement. That plan went out the window when I didn’t get my Zipcar until 11:00 and had umpteen stops to make before cruising down US101.
Some of my compadres here at Ticketfly spent the day in the sun at Shoreline. Here are a few reviews of their favs from RTB2011.
Grindtime Now Stage
Dakin Hardwick, Senior Customer Support Rep
“I am largely unfamiliar with the world of battle rap. In fact, I was simply looking for a restroom when I came across the Grindtime Now stage, which was tucked away in the lesser traveled pastures of the Shoreline. The small crowd of fans was treated to some impressive word play. This was a contest where 4 local rappers got to freestyle for a crowd, and the winner will go on to a national challenge, which will happen at next year’s Paid Dues Festival in San Bernardino. The rappers literally attacked their challenger with words, throwing out insults in rhyme that would make any member of the Fryer’s Club blush. In between challenges, the hosts did their own bit of freestyle, and I managed to catch appearances by bigger stage acts like 2Mex and Blu trying their hands with unscripted material. This was exceedingly entertaining, and one of the brightest parts of the day.”
Stefan Wicks, Senior Customer Support Rep
“Of all the performances I saw at the Rock the Bells festival NAS was without a doubt the most personable and confident. One might say that made his performance the best as Hip Hop is, after all, all about personality right?
He kept the energy up throughout, maintaining a rapport with the crowd, and a lively between song banter with DJ Premier in which they did their fair share of reminiscing. Mobb Deep came out for a guest appearance during which Premier improvised a beat and we were treated
to a mini freestyle session with Nas, Havoc, and Prodigy. Pete Rock made an appearance in which he and Premier had a DJ battle during the set. They dug through their digital crates and dropped some beats, new and old, which really got the crowd moving and excited. The entire show felt fresh, energetic, and sincere.
On this tour Nas is revisiting the album Illmatic, and while doing so he seemed to be revisiting some youthful nostalgia as well. The stage was made up to look like the gates outside of the Queensbridge Projects with two towers in the background and a park bench and streetlamp (which turned on after dark, nice touch) to the side of the stage. As his set went on the bench and stage filled with people. They were just hanging out, drinking mysterious contents out of red cups, and watching the man rap. The message was clear. Nas has obviously come a long way since his project days. He was after all on a stage in front of thousands of people but his performance was so natural that he may as well have been standing on the corner back in Queensbridge rapping for his friends.”
Marianne Masculino, Product Designer
“I must say, my first Rock the Bells experience turned out a lot more fun than I anticipated. It was a gorgeous drive to Shoreline Amphitheatre from foggy San Francisco. Plus, hanging with my awesome friends & colleagues is always a good time.
Childish Gambino background: He was a writer for 30 Rock before he was 25, stand-up comedian, now stars on NBC’s Community and raps under the name Childish Gambino, which came from here. Go try it. He’s also released his mixtapes, remixes and EPs for free online. Go get ’em if you haven’t already. If you haven’t caught him live, he also likes to open for himself. He does 20 mins of stand-up and little skits as Donald Glover, before he starts his show as his alter-ego.
Childish Gambino was originally slated for 3:10pm on the 36 Chambers Stage, but thanks to Dakin, I was informed that he was moved to 7:55 on the Paid Dues Stage. I didn’t have to skip out on Black Star’s set on the main stage. Yay! Love me some Mos Def! (I’m gonna have to second you on that, Marianne. Plus j’adore his lavender socks!)
After hanging at the main Rock the Bells stage where we caught Common, Black Star, Cypress Hill and some of Nas’ set, we decided to head over to the Paid Dues Stage to check out Mac Miller. Turns out he didn’t make it out to the festival (something about a gal named Irene), but there was already a large group of fans willing to wait—a little over an hour—for Childish Gambino’s set. In the meantime, we watched the band set up. Yep, there was a large, 6-person live band. A bassist, drummer, keyboardist/guitarist and, best of all, a violinist wearing jorts. Awesome. There were a lot of tall, young, white males in the crowd, who like to push their way through the crowd of tiny people (like me!) and stand in front of them. You know, like any concert/festival experience. No big deal. Also, while waiting, we heard bits of GZA’s set a mere 15-20 feet (if even!) away on the 36 Chambers Stage.
As the sun was setting, and I squeezed my way closer to the stage, Mr. Donald Glover finally appeared on stage donning black shorts, jacket and an orange t-shirt emblazoned with Camp Gambino (his upcoming album on Glassnote Records) and just starts in on “Let Me Dope You” from Culdesac The crowd goes wild.
When the first bars of Freaks and Geeks started, the fans went even more nuts. The whole crowd just started dancing, jumping and singing. It was like that the entire 40+ minute set. Jumping back and forth on stage, engaging with the audience, even jumping atop speakers to spit a verse, Childish Gambino’s endless energy was ridiculously infectious. Let’s just say, I didn’t stop dancing/singing along the entire time. Well, except that time I got elbowed in the face, oh well.
Some notable songs included in the set: Do Ya Like, Got This Money, I Be On That, Rolling In The Deep Remix, My Shine, Be Alone, and Lights Turned On. One of my favorite tracks, So Fly, was done really well. Tambourine in hand, lights low, band backing him up acapella, Childish Gambino proceeded to sing in sexy falsetto. *Swoon* He also did a new track called Bonfire which he debuted in July at Comic-Con. He apologized to the crowd for not being on Twitter as much because he was in the studio recording the new album.
His songs stayed true to the albums/eps, but the live band really turned it up. You can tell they were having as much fun as the crowd. Childish Gambino’s lyrics reference a lot of pop-culture, are witty, geeky and unabashedly honest that make him a very appealing and relatable performer. He’s not bad on the eyes, either. I’m just sayin’.
Childish Gambino was definitely a performance highlight of the festival. And a highlight of my life, in general. I give to Rock The Bells & Childish Gambino a double thumbs-up.”
Some Eye Candy
David Price, Customer Support Rep
Photos or it didn’t happen, right? Luckily one of our stellar support reps is also a prolific show photographer. He shoots for Another Planet Entertainment, Spinning Platters, Ticketfly (obviously!) and more. Check out his Flickr for more of these awesome snaps!