Rock The Bells- Crowd’s Eye View
There was no way I was going to miss this show. I had met Chang, head of Guerilla Union. I tried him nearly a month before to see how I could get in as press. No luck hearing from him. Before I knew it, it was time for the show. I tried my luck here and there. Nothing. The very day of the show I had some computer issues and I had to try to get it fixed. Of course that would happen right when my friend calls me to tell me he had an extra ticket. I had to spend money for the computer which wouldn’t allow me to get the $175 VIP ticket. If you’ve ever been to a show like Rock the Bells, you know how tiring it is to stand for hours on concrete amongst thousands of people. Hardly any air. Hot. Close quarters. People pushing past you. I wanted a VIP ticket because at least then I could sit down somewhere.
But as it turned out, being amongst the crowd was actually the most interesting part of the show.
Once I finally got there, I could hear Lauryn Hill singing. I was disappointed that the legends like KRS, Slick Rick, and Rakim went on so early. I feel like their voices and songs should be put in front of the largest audience possible. But hey, who knows what the reasoning was. From what I could hear Lauryn was singing “Ready or Not”. From afar she sounded great. But once I talked to others they seemed very disappointed. There were some mixed reviews. Some said, “If you know Lauryn, you know what to expect.” Lauryn is a free spirit, somewhat all over the place. She’s going to do her songs the way she wants. The question might be, is she doing it in a way that’s most effective for others to enjoy? I know enough people who saw her in LA and in the Bay Area that just wasn’t feeling her. On top of that, apparently she started nearly half an hour late in both shows. There were a few who felt that she must be on drugs or something. Many were looking so forward to seeing her but didn’t get what they wanted. I remember in 2006 I saw her at my last Rock The Bells experience where Wu Tang was the headliner. She came out as a surprise, but the crowd was so restless and annoyed that when Lauryn’s band started doing a “Free Jazz” intro, they started throwing things at her and the band. I wonder if maybe Lauryn doesn’t have all the rights to the songs she did. Some of you may know that you have to still have certain rights and permission to perform certain songs live. Maybe that’s why she had to change them. But I do hope she has someone advising her for a proper comeback. Many people seemed to be heartbroken at not seeing the Lauryn they once knew and loved. I am sorta happy that I didn’t have to witness that if it really was that disappointing.
Once I got there, Tribe Called Quest was the next act. Man, I had never seen them live before. Low End Theory changed my life. So did Midnight Marauders. The thing is that there are some songs on Midnight Marauders that I like, but aren’t my favorites. You could kinda feel that amongst the audience. Sometimes performing an entire album isn’t such a great idea in execution. Luckily they changed it up and did some of the other tracks from Low End, Instinctive Travels, etc. I had never heard those jazzy basslines of theirs on a large system before. You could feel the bass vibrate your whole body. Busta came out and you could hear the whole crowd react in shock. During the set, Q-tip noted to the crowd that in 1993 Midnight Marauders and 36 Chambers by Wu-Tang dropped on the same day. A week later, Snoop dropped Doggystyle. It made me reminisce on how so much great music was dropped between 93-94 that formed my love for Hip Hop. I miss times like that.