Rock the Bells 2011, which started its tour in San Bernardino Saturday, always seems to be the beginning of summer's end. Launching the festival in SoCal only makes sense--its roots are here, plus the weather, women, and weed send it off into the rest of the country high and happy.
But you can't fling your doors open to that many people and not expect the house to get a little heated, or for accidents to happen.
Man of the people Curren$y, who finishes his shows by hopping into the crowd and conducting impromptu meet-n-greets, leapt offstage after his set and promptly broke his foot. Good thing he has lots of our medicine.
We focused on the good yesterday; now for the rest.
The Wait Without Explanation
Black Star (Mos Def and Talib Kweli) were scheduled to perform from 1:30 till 2:25; by 2:15, we were all giving up. The crowd got restless around 1:45, but instead of making an official announcement (where were they, anyway? We know Mos was in L.A. the night before at Kendrick Lamar's show), they threw Supernatural onstage to subdue the restlessness.
He was good, especially the freestyle during which he had a conversation with Biggie about Kim and Nicki. Yet the antsy audience would have appreciated him more had he followed a straight word from the organizers. This is a festival that celebrates old school hip hop. Keep it real.
The Expensive Water
It's one thing to charge $14 for Bud Light Lime (ok, not really--Live Nation, who are you kidding?), but $5 for water?
Desert heat is no joke. While the grassy expanse of the San Manuel Amphitheater is a more comfortable oven than the parking lot of NOS Events Center, August in 'Dino is August in 'Dino. Dehydration of concertgoers should be a serious concern for the festival organizers, especially since both Red Bull and alcohol are sold and were, despite the prices, copiously consumed from our observation.
The Proximity of the Non-Main Stages
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The San Manuel Amphitheater is a sprawling space, but the two secondary stages were crammed together so closely, sound bled from one to the other.
While the main hub was impressive, the smaller stages, set a good distance away in the field, resembled NOS' built-to-order sets. The issue wasn't the sound quality--as Curren$y said, they really spent some money on the systems--it was the proximity of the two. Even when one rapper wasn't competing with another's set, like Childish Gambino was with Curren$y's, records the DJs were spinning were.
The "Grindtime Stage," which featured freestyle battles, was set far enough away that it didn't conflict with the other two, but why punish the acts that actually have succeeded and scored a place on the bill?