Rock The Bells 2013 Live Blog: Day 1

​Aaannd we are live! On location at the Shoreline Ampitheatre in sunny Mountain View. We’re posting live updates all day… staff / September 14, 2013

Aaannd we are live! On location at the Shoreline Ampitheatre in sunny Mountain View and the shows are about ready to get underway. We will be checking out the shows and posting live updates and pics to the blog here, on our Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram. Stay tuned on this page, we’ll update throughout the day today and tomorrow.

10:30: So it took a few years, but tonight I realized that KRS-ONE was severely misused at Rock The Bells. In years past, RTB put his set on the main stage but on an afternoon slot—too revered to not be on the big stage, too small to be in primetime. After shuffling this years lineup and moving the rappers with legend status off to the side stages, we see KRS-ONE closing out the night (at least, for those not watching Cudi), and its a revelation. Instead of watching KRS trying to rock a sparse stage with spots of spectators in the box seats, giving the impression he was trying to rock a small bar mitzvah in a half empty hall, we have a nicely-sized, appreciative crowd onhand.

Not only that, KRS got to put in the last word for the night, a summation of the last ten hours (for us, at least) of hearing all these artists we saw today and frame it with the original sense of the concept. Time and time again, he would put in references to the days past, invoking Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, and Afrika Bambaataa, and himself. He was a part of hip-hop’s original generation, and he didn’t let folks forget it. But a large part that was taking liberally from his 1993 album Return of the Boom Bap, which itself was a throwback album, and was probably his most imaginative. And the results were evident in this crowd that could, evidently, appreciate the purist ideal of hip-hop. And while KRS’ sets tend to have its lulls (KRS’s pro-vegentarism freestyle in the middle of the set was not much talking about), his breakbeat-infused tracks from Boom Bap brought home the common ground that all of these strands of hip-hop on display today shares. And he last track on when he left the stage?James Brown’s “Paid the Cost To Be The Boss”, a nice little reminder where all of our break loops originated, not to mention a sly bit of a pat on the back for himself.—Kevin

8:55: Bone Thugs-n-Harmony is a big deal, and if you need proof y can refer to their twenty-year history they have while still managing to be relevant. But even so, their set felt like an opening act for the much publicized Eazy-E hologram that debuted last week in Southern California and was going to make its appearance here. After performing the well-received “1st of the Month” and “Thuggish Ruggish Bone”, Bone made their way off stage while DJ Yella, NWA’s original DJ, took the boards and did his hypeman best get the crowd going. All the while, the extremely bright main stage dimmed while a platform lowered from the ceiling, a stage atop of the stage. When Yella was done, back came Bone with a somewhat blurry looking Eazy-E on the platform, two members of the crew carefully flanking the ghostly figure in the middle. Eazy-E, rendered in the baggy pants and shirt that he was most seen in, beckoned to the Bay Area crowd, and the crowd responded with force.

Now Eazy was not perfect, he actually looked flat. If you were to the side of the stage, you can see it easily. It was a computer-generated projection that reflected off a translucent screen, with the lights dimmed low enough to barely see the guts of the illusion. Still, with the virtual E performing “Straight Outta Compton” and “Boyz In The Hood”, it didn’t matter to the crowd not one bit. Suspension if belief was in full effect, and the crowd rose to its feet once that high-pitched voice of Eazy-E came in. It might had just been people just wanted to hear those classics again or people’s expectations were lowered by previous reports, but there was a sense of satisfaction to be felt in the audience.—Kevin

6:45: They don’t need it, but A$AP Mob clearly felt like they don’t like wasting stage space on the main stage. A$APs Rocky, Ferg, Twelvy and the rest of the mob were joined by a DJ, drummer, keyboardist, and guitar player, but their vocal output was so loud and overwhelming that noting past the drummer and the baseline could compete with their barking. And really, that was enough to reproduce their tracks and keep the crowd going. Though the set was majority Rocky’s tracks with a few Ferg tracks now and then, they all performed the tracks together, at times sounding like how Wu-Tang approaches their RTB sets. By the end, Rocky took the stage all by his lonesome, closing with “Goldie” and “Peso”.—Kevin

6:30: Tyler the Ccreator was a nice guy as he came on stage. Deferential, apologetic, and even timid maybe, he came onstage and immediately apologized for being too lethargic in the intro. The crowd obliged when he asked for a do-over, taking full advantage of (and playing with) the goodwill he has earned with his established output. He’d keep his meek awkward teenager tone of voice, though as the set wore on, he steadily shed what effort he had in sounding sincere. With a few “hello assholes” in between songs, Tyler kept the tempo high powered while sprinkling nuggets of contempt for the audience. And of course the crowd lapped it up.—Kevin

5:15: So druggie raps aren’t all the same either. In another duel, Curren$y and Flatbush Zombies are on different stages at the same time, and each stage got its own vibe. Curren$y, the New Orleans head of the Jet Life crew, is clearly of the weeded variety. As the tracks stay on the easy going groove that his rounded rhymes seem to lull his crowd into a peaceful contentedness with a lot of little mellow head nods, which contrasts with the as-faded but more sinister Flatbush Zombies across the lot. Now those cats in that crowd, they’re bouncing and hands all over the place. The Zombies love their weed, taking smoke breaks with the crowd, but their whole presence is kinda like The Pharcyde on PCP. —Kevin

4:00: Conscious hip-hop ain’t dead, but it is different. Truth is the term is so vague its inaccurate to use it as a descriptor—in 2013 it barely means much if you try to label someone “conscious”. Point in case are Big K.R.I.T and Immortal Technique, two cats with sets at the same time that definitely follow the original definition of the word, but are miles apart in origin and style, and in distance between stages. K.R.I.T’s set is all about what he represents, his style of Mississippi hip-hop rooted in country values. New York’s Immortal Technique on the other hand is all about action—at times militant, other times belligerent—but always with a cutting remark. —Kevin

2:20: YG is young, but he took to his stage like a a seasoned vet as he commanded the biggest crowd on the parking lot stages. Through his set he got a steadily growing crowd full of youngster going as he got his ratchet styles going to a crowd ready to wake up.

Hit-Boy stepped up next, and being on the smaller stage, the vibes weren’t quite to the level YG went to. He is a bit of an unknown quantity still, despite being an established vet in the music industry. In addition to being a star producer, he handled the mic with authority as he rattled off his achievements, including the head of his own label. And to demonstrate that, he brings out his protege crew Audio Push, who pushed their style of Tasmanian Devil theatrics, running around the stage in a whirl. Toward the end, the crowd was at its hottest with a montage of his most recognizable beats (more recognizable than he is apparently) with Kanye’s “Clique”, A$AP Rocky’s “Goldie”, and “Ni***s in Paris”. —Kevin

1:30: And we’re off… Freddie Gibbs takes the main stage but its RTB vet and Duck Down representative Sean Price on the side stage, complete with his soft as gravel flow and snaps in spades that would make a cap shop jealous. And despite the early timeslot, he’s hitting the mic like he’s the main event. He addresses the folks on Twitter complaining about the early timeslot, and his reponse on stage was, “Well the get here on time!” Stone-face stoic with a bucket cap over his eyes, he show a smirk at the hook of “BBQ Sauce”, right after he told the crowd what their moms could do with his balls, with bbq sauce and bleu cheese dressing respectively. —Kevin

posted: September 14th, 2013, 12:53pm

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