Monday, July 30, 2007

Bells Were Rocked

It's a done deal. Newly reformed Rage Against The Machine and most of the legendary Wu-Tang Clan have rocked the spot at this years NYC stop of the 2007 Rock The Bells festival. My wife and I were there for day two.
The show was at Randall's Island located directly under the Triboro bridge. The stadium, currently undergoing construction, proved to be a difficult experience for the average concertgoer. Where the old concrete seating once was, a strip of the partly built new seating now stood. All of these areas were naturally fenced away from the people making places to lounge almost non-existent. It was consideration good in theory to place lots of porta-potties all throughout the venue, but the end result - it just plain stinks. Imagine yourself trying to eat food around that. My wife and I didn't have to use our imagination. For a good three hours starting at Immortal Technique's set and ending before Rakim's set there was a downpour. I rationalized it as paying dues for no hot sun and humidity, as the people experienced at day one. My last gripe before I break down the entertainment has to do with the crowd control staff who remained incompetent and ignorant of simple tasks and knowledge about the venue. Having your civil liberties violated is degrading and dehumanizing. Being told that you and less than a dozen of people can't leave one way because they blocked off a grip of people waiting does not fly. And for the female staffer who started a shouting match with my wife when we told her we had to leave to get home to our baby girl - you get the infamous four-lettered. Okay, now that I got all that off my soul, the first set we saw was Immortal Technique's. His politically radical, street revolutionary style energized and informed the crowd. His brother, rapper Diabolic and C-Rayz Walz joined the stage as Immortal did tracks off the Revolutionary series and also included "Bin Laden" for good measure. Pharaohe Monch brought his A-game with a high level of excitement and a live band to a crowd that were mostly uninterested or preoccupied. He still gave an excellent performance, pulling out some oldies as well as doing some of the new ones from 'Desire'. Talib Kweli caught a concertgoer urinating in a cup and called him out on it. On the second stage, Brother Ali seemed to be gaining new fans with his earnest and personal rhymes while Mos Def was working the main stage. Rakim along with Kid Capri flipping different beats behind the ones and twos gave an all-out tremendous performance. Breathing new fire into his classics and rocking the crowd, it was unforgettable. For some reason, Erykah Badu was a no-show which pushed Cypress Hill up a few spots, causing small stampedes of drunk and weeded white people to rush the stage. Slug and MURS (Felt) traded rhymes on the second stage about women and Slug made it a point to tell everyone that he loves California. Public Enemy, powered by Flavor Flav did justice to all of their classics including a special guest appearance by Scott Ian from Anthrax for "Bring The Noise." Flavor Flav then shamelessly thanked everyone for making his reality shows on VH1 popular. Then to our right we heard some noise coming from the second stage again. I looked carefully to what appeared to be a fat man wearing a green jersey. I was very confident he was wearing a metal mask too. There lied the definitive conflict of interest: do we go see a few minutes of Doom before the Wu take the stage or do we stay put because they could show up any minute? We made the right choice and stayed put. Very soon after that, we saw an image on the stage's backdrop. Could it be the Shaolin Temple? Indeed it was the Wu, represented this time with the RZA, GZA, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon, U-God, Masta Killa and Method Man. A high-energy performance from the Clan reciprocating from the crowd, they did most of their catalog one or two verses deep each and did a track off the upcoming '8 Diagrams' album. Displaying their street savvy, they incorporated Cypress Hill's "Hand On The Pump" chorus into one part of their rhymes. The Wu also did a tribute to O.D.B. (Shimmy Shimmy Ya) and asked the crowd to join in the spirit. Headliners Rage Against The Machine took the stage and all of the crowd's culminating energy exploded when they went through their material. Guitarist Tom Morello's sharp signature stylings were executed well and frontman Zack De La Rocha's politics were slightly updated with a call to try George W. Bush as a war criminal to be hung and shot. To deal with the aforementioned weather and stadium issues were the dues to be paid. We got to experience a lot of quality music as bells were rocked, and a lot of money was spent this weekend.

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