Rock The Bells Rap Music Festival Rocks The San Manuel Amphitheater

Danny Brown during his set at Rock the Bells

Danny Brown during his set at Rock the Bells

Rock the Bells is a 2-day annual rap music festival that was held in San Bernardino at the San Manuel Amphitheater this year September 7& 8 and featured over 50 performers.

The first day I arrived somewhat late but managed to catch Chief Keef’s performance when he began his set at least 20 minutes later than scheduled. He performed his hits such as “I Don’t Like”, “Understand Me”, and “Hate Bein’ Sober.” Although he brought out many other members of GBE (Glory Boyz Entertainment, his label), the crowd did not seem very hyped and it was a shortened and disappointing set since he began late.

Next I went to Currensy on the Hip Hop Dx stage and chilled out to some mellow rap, however the crowd was much more into the performance than at Chief Keef. He performed the ever popular “Jet Life” and “Chasin’ Papers” among others.

While waiting for Black Hippy to begin, I walked around to the other stages to discover something new. The Fool’s Gold stage featured Chase & Status whom I had surprisingly never heard of but whom have many celebrity fans such as Pharrell Williams and Rihanna. They are a rising electronic music duo from the UK however the crowd was so small that it seemed silly for the MC to be consistently trying to hype up the disappointing turnout but the music was very entertaining to listen and dance to.

Next on the Fool’s Gold stage, A-Trak came out and continued the fun for those wanting to dance as he is another DJ but from Canada. He is also the owner of the record label Fool’s Gold.  Personally I enjoyed this performance more since he incorporated more rap music into his mix whereas Chase & Status was more strictly electronic music.

Finally it was time for Black Hippy, which features rappers Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, Kendrick Lamar, and Schoolboy Q. For Ab-Soul’s “Terrorist Threats”, Danny Brown made a guest appearance. Then Schoolboy Q came on and did “Yay Yay”, “Hands on the Wheel”, and my personal favorite “There He Go” along a few others. Q joked about the crowd getting too excited over the fact that Kendrick is next and that he gets all the attention. When Kendrick came out, he only did a few of his popular songs leaving out “Poetic Justice” among others. Most complaints I heard were that people wished Kendrick had done more songs but since he was not a solo headliner the time was shared with the fellow Black Hippy rappers.

The crowd for Kid Cudi was massive due to both his popularity and the fact that there was only one other show going on simultaneously. His stage setup was a very intricate mountain-like installment that I believe was supposed to represent another planet. The small screens around the stage often showed stars so there was a kind of celestial space concept going on. The only thing I didn’t enjoy about his set was that at the very beginning he laid down a set of rules.

Rule No. 1: No pictures or video of Kid Cudi’s performance allowed.

Rule No. 2: No throwing things onto the stage.

Rule No. 3: No pushing and shoving.

Rule No. 4: Keep partying alive.

However I really enjoyed ending the fun but exhausting day with a mellow act like his.

Day 2

Arriving a few hours earlier than the first day, I made my first appearance at the stage for Danny Brown. Even showing up a half an hour early could not get me front row for one of my favorite rappers but I dealt with second. Since I’ve seen him live two other times in 2013 I knew to expect many of the songs off his upcoming album Old which meant the crowd was about to get crazy and that it did. The entire crowd almost was jumping and singing the words to the annoyance of some stuck in the middle of it all. It got even wilder when he jumped offstage to walk right up to the middle of the fence and everyone tried to get to him. Overall I thought the performance was fantastic and full of energy. It was definitely my favorite performance.

Next we recovered from the craziness at the Dizzy Wright set. He had had an autograph signing at the LRG Clothing booth earlier in the day which was very cool because usually if you want to meet one of your favorite performers you are forced to buy the $399 VIP weekend pass.

Then it was time for Trinidad James, the rapper known for his popular song “All Gold Everything.” Although I didn’t really dig his live performance, he kept the crowd interested by saying he may give away a pair of shoes at the end of his set. He posted on Instagram that he was thinking about giving away his pairs of Nike Penny 5 “Volt”, Nike Air Max 1 “Germany Camo” and the Nike LeBron 11 “Gamma Blue.” However, I’m not sure if this happened but I do know he took off whatever shoes he had worn during the performance and was holding them up in the air right before I headed over to the next stage.

Next I went to see my personal favorite A$AP Rocky when he performed with A$AP Mob on the Rock the Bells stage. Although basically only those who buy VIP tickets can actually see the performers, there were big television screens and extreme volume so that the large audience could enjoy the set. A$AP Rocky performed a few of his songs solo to start off the set. The first was “Long Live A$AP” from his new album. He then brought out A$AP Ferg for both “Work” and “Shabba Ranks.” He then continued to bring out the fellow members of the A$AP Mob such as A$AP Twelvy and A$AP Nast but I went to catch the end of E-40 and Too Short.

When I arrived at E-40, Danny Brown made an appearance for his verse on “All My N****s” one of their newer songs. However most of the songs such as “U and Dat” and “Snap Yo Fingers” took me back in time to my middle school years when I first heard all of these songs.

Juicy J kept the crowd extremely entertained by promising to bring some females up on the stage yet this didn’t happen until near the end of his set when he performed “Bandz A Make Her Dance” and he only had one girl onstage for about 45 seconds to a minute (but this may have been due to the fact that she seemed more than a little under the influence). He performed newer songs as well such as “Show Out” and some off his new album Stay Trippy such as “Bounce” and “Scholarship.” For “Scholarship,” A$AP Rocky made an appearance for his verse and Juicy J claimed after the song that he had no idea that was going to happen and said “That’s hip-hop.”

Finally, the Wu-Tang Clan closed out the weekend with an hour and fifteen minute long set. At the first Rock the Bells ever festival Wu-Tang Clan performed here shortly before Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s death so in honor of the 10th year anniversary of Rock the Bells this year featured the Wu-Tang Clan with a hologram performance featuring Ol’ Dirty Bastard. It was strange because Raekwon and Ghostface Killah never showed up but the rest of the members carried on with the show and performed some of their classics such as “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta F*** Wit.” However after some time, the sound began to cut out and there was a full 10 minutes of no music. Method Man tried relentlessly to keep the crowd entertained and when the music started again told everyone to forget it ever happened. On top of that, there were also technical issues getting the hologram to work and it was easy to see that the wait was irritating for both the performers and the audience. However, it was awesome to end the weekend with some old school rap that continues to be influential to up and coming rappers.

Published at http://www.neontommy.com/news/2013/09/rock-bells-2-day-rap-music-festival-rocks-san-manuel-amphitheater

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Best Coast July 28, 2012

Best Coast is an indie band from California, hence the name. They are inspired by ‘60s surf rock and girl groups and carry the rhythm of the California waves crashing into shore. They performed last night, July 28, 2012 at the Vic Theatre. This was one of their last shows of this tour with Those Darlins’, a country-punk band from Tennessee.

They performed a bunch of songs off of their new album, The Only Place (2012),including “Last Year,” “The Only Place,” “No One Like You,” “How They Want Me To Be,” “Why I Cry,” “Let’s Go Home,” and “Do You Love Me Like You Used To.” Bethany Cosentino, the singer, also dedicated a song called “Summer Mood,” from their Crazy For You album (2010), to the crowd. She divulged that “Bratty B,” also off Crazy For You is an autobiographical song and referred to herself as a “brat” at least one or two additional times. The crowd loved it. She claimed to always forget how to play the song because “since it’s about me, I always think too much and forget how to play the song,” but she went on the play the song flawlessly.

They also played a song for long-time fans off their 2010 EP Something in the Way. The song was also titled “Something in the Way.” They didn’t forget the hit “Our Deal” and closed the show with “Prom Night.”

It was great to attend a smaller show like this where the singer had real talent. Not only can Bethany play guitar seamlessly and record well but her voice sounded flawless in person, even when holding those extremely tough notes. It was a nice wave of summer heat on a surprisingly cool night in mid-July. I walked out of the show with her song, “Summer Mood”, stuck in my head. “There’s something about the summer…”Image

Experience at Pitchfork Music Festival 2012

Friday

Pitchfork Music Festival took place in Union Park in Chicago, IL from July 13-15. All the festival- goers were surrounded with good music, cool fashion, and tasty food, not to the mention the other activities all around the park. Friday kicked off at 3pm with Outer Minds and Lower Dens. The first performance I attended was A$AP Rocky. This show was fun and he had great energy on stage but after a while it felt as though it was almost the same thing over and over again. After almost every song he prompted the crowd to cheer “A$AP, A$AP!” before beginning another. Halfway through, it began to pour and A$AP proclaimed “we are not afraid of a little rain!”

At this point I roamed around the festival grounds and the tents and found there was a lot more to do than just listen to music. There was a free photo booth provided by 93.1 XRT, along with the CHRIP record fair tents, the featherproof book fair, a plethora of artists’ tents, and a smorgasbord of other tables, many giving away free buttons and stickers.

I saw Purity Ring, an indie electronic band from Montreal, next and it was a nice, calm way to end the night and I walked out of the festival that day as a new fan.

Saturday

Flying Lotus’s performance was one of the lesser enjoyable ones of the weekend. It started out really well when the crowd was obviously very excited but the transitions between songs were not smooth and the bass was just too much at some points. When he played “Pursuit of Happiness” (Originally by Kid Cudi), I was getting a little tired of hearing covers and mashups of this song, especially since A$AP Rocky did it the day before, however, Flying Lotus did come out and did a little meet & greet with some fans in the front after the show.

Sleigh Bells was definitely the highlight of all three days. With incredible stage presence and screaming guitars, they rocked the huge crowd and prompted continuous crowd-surfers. They played all of their hits including “Riot Rhythm,” “Infinity Guitars,” “Born to Lose,” “Rill Rill,” and “Comeback Kid.” Alexis even ventured into the crowd at one point, after telling security to let her go, and allowed her fans to hold her up.

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Sunday

Sunday, although I must admit I missed it, included a guest appearance from Lady Gaga. She arrived at the blue stage to watch Kendrick Lamar’s set. And although we were all lucky not to get rained on again, this turned out to be the hottest day of the festival. Sunday was the most laid-back day where I spent time relaxing and listening to the calm, flowing tunes of Real Estate and Beach House. Finally, the crowd did not disappoint for Vampire Weekend in which hundreds gathered for the performance.

Overall, this was an incredible weekend spent listening to bands I love and bands I had never heard of. I am happy to walk away from the festival with new friends as well as new fashion inspiration. It was definitely worth the price of the tickets (3 day pass, $110) because it’s an experience I’ll remember forever.

Tallest Man on Earth at Lollapalooza 2012

Instead of trying to recall every detail of the weekend rom August 3-5, I’ve decided only to write about my favorite set at Lollapalooza. Though there were many talented performers and most exceeded my expectations, one lived up to the praise I had been spreading about him in the weeks before the fest. Kristian Mattson, better known as The Tallest Man on Earth, was scheduled to perform at 5:15pm on Saturday, August 4, but unfortunately an hour before the park had be evacuated due to extreme thunderstorms. Fortunately, the Tallest Man was rescheduled for 6:30 and the park reopened at 6:00 that evening once the storms subsided.

I was surprised and entertained from the beginning when Kristian came out on stage about ten minutes early and began his set. He played all his popular songs, including his new single off There’s No Leaving Now, called “1904.” This also included “The Gardener,” one of my favorites off his first full length album Shallow Grave. He switched guitars multiple times and even switched from guitar to piano for a few songs.

The blue lights shining behind him on the stage gave the whole performance a serene and uplifting quality. He even decided to play a song he hadn’t planned to saying it “seemed fitting.” The song was “It Will Follow the Rain.” He also played “Like the Wheel”  and “The Dreamer” off his EP Sometimes the Blues is Just a Passing Bird and the song “Wind and Walls” off the his new album.

Finally, after he had put on a Hawaiian lay which had been a gift from an audience member, he was called back out on stage for an encore, something I have never seen happen at Lollapalooza, unless in the rare case of a headliner. For this last song he sang “Where Do My Bluebird Fly” and then headed over to the FYE autograph tent to greet his fans at 8:00.

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Conduits, Cymbals Eat Guitars, & Cursive Rock NYC’s Bowery Ballroom

Conduits are friends of Cursive from Omaha, Nebraska who opened the show with a fairly long set which not only didn’t have any energy to it but also sounded somewhat repetitive, as though all the songs had the same beat and simple rhythm.

Cymbals Eat Guitars got the crowd pumped for Cursive by bringing the energy level much higher and including long breakdowns in their set. The singer didn’t offer much entertainment between songs but played a long set for an opening band.

The crowd was ecstatic to see singer, Tim Kasher, step out on stage after a long wait and Cursive opened with “This House Alive” from their new album, I Am Gemini. The album is a concept album about two twins separated at birth.

Having never seen Cursive live before, I was surprised to see that both the guitarist, Stephen Pederson, and bass player, Matt Maginn, were much older than the drummer, Clint Schnase, and singer.

The audience caught a glimpse of Tim Kasher’s humor when he made a comment about his new idea for a horror movie which would be called “Santorum,” as well as the name of a new metal band he’d like to form also titled “Santorum.”

Cursive synthesized new songs in with the old and covered their grounds well album-wise. They played songs from almost every album including I Am Gemini, Domestica, Mama I’m Swollen, Happy Hollow, The Ugly Organ, and their EP Burst and Bloom. 

Although they still sounded mostly like classic Cursive with Kasher’s unique voice and indie rock style, there were a few differences compared to their earlier live performances. The guitar playing seemed toned-down in the way that heavy parts were less heavy than played in the past. This was particularly noticeable on songs from the Domestica album. “The Recluse,” a popular song of theirs, was played in a picky way instead of the way they have traditionally played it.

Other than that, the show was amazing and fans got to hear all the crowd favorites and hits such as “From the Hips,” “The Recluse,” “Art is Hard,” “The Sun and Moon,” “I Couldn’t Love You,” and many more. They played an encore of about four or five songs, finally choosing to close with “Eulogy for No Name,” the last track off I Am Gemini.

Foxy Shazam at the Knitting Factory, NYC 3/27/12

Foxy Shazam’s sold out show at the Knitting Factory, March 27, 2012, NYC did not disappoint. The gig opened with a band called Cadaver Dogs. The singer, Matthew, who more people may know as Foxy’s merch seller, brought an expletive and hard rock filled 30 minute set. They got the crowd pumped and stoked for the headliner as any opening band should through tales of Matthew’s life as a rock star both in his songs and comments he made during the breaks that demanded the audience’s attention, instead of just asking for it. They concluded their set with a hard rock anthem which I’m sure brought them many new fans.

Maniac, the second band playing, had a whole different vibe.  To start, they had a large number of six members in the group. Their first song gave me the wrong impression of them, with a folky number that sounded much like Edward Sharpe & The Magnetc Zeros, but every song following that brought heavier drums to create a distinct sound. They also used quirky instruments to synthesize a variety of rhythms into their songs. These instruments included a tambourine and harmonica. They also had two lead male singers whose voices blended together to create beautiful melodies. Although this band was very different from the other two playing the gig, it was a nice break in between the loud rock’n’roll.

The anticipation for Foxy Shazam was peaking just as all members, but the singer, Eric Nally, entered the stage. As they began playing a song, they left the crowd wondering “Where is Eric?” When the rambunctious singer finally made his appearance, the crowd’s energy had really come alive. To start off the show, Eric dove into the crowd briefly. Although touring with their new album “The Church of Rock and Roll,” Foxy played songs from many different albums including their self-titled album Foxy Shazam, and Introducing…Foxy. Some of these songs included ones rarely played live by the band such as “Ghost Animals,” “Dog in Love with a Kitty,” and “Bombs Away.” Eric never fails to hold his energy throughout the entire performance which is truly amazing seeing as he dances around wildly for the complete duration of each song as well as sings. He told the crowd at one point that he is always asked by reporters why he has to jump around and act like a monkey on stage all the time and his reply was “I just want as much attention as possible and a lot of the time, the best way to do that is to act like a fucking monkey.” Eric is known for his words in between songs and his stories that leave the audience hanging on his every word to see what clever response he will come up with this time and last night he did not disappoint. My favorite thing to see was when he smoked about 6 or 7 cigarettes at a time, which he got from the crowd, and then proceeded to stuff them all in his mouth, burning embers first and chewed them up quite nicely. They concluded their set with a song from their new album called “Freedom,” having thoroughly entertained us for quite some time. The next stops on the Tabernacle Tour have something great in store for them!

2012 SuperBowl Halftime Show

The halftime show was the highlight of the Super Bowl so far with Madonna singing a number of past hits and also promoting her new single from her album, MDMA, out in March.  She first appeared on an oversized gold chair appearing to be pulled by many gold soldiers. The costumes and overall set up of Madonna’s performance looked incredible.

Special guests included LMFAO, Nicki Minaj, and Cee Lo Green, none of whom added much to the performance. They were all left standing somewhat awkwardly while Madonna stole the show. LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” was synthesized into Madonna’s “Music” for approximately 20 seconds before it changed to LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It,” which Madonna sang and danced to alongside the duo. Nicki Minaj performed well for the 15 seconds she was given.  Cee Lo Green could barely be heard during “Ray of Light” since he was thoroughly overpowered by the chorus behind them and Madonna herself.

All in all, there was barely enough time for Madonna to perform without all the additional stars added to the show. Madonna was only given 12 minutes total but she rocked those 12 minutes with her hit songs and showcasing a brand new single called “Give Me Your Luvin.” My favorite part of her performance was during “Vogue” when the floor tiles displayed pictures of Vogue Magazine covers and other fashion images.

Madonna sounded great and looked great. Her costumes and thigh high boots showed off her great figure, especially for her age. She brought tons of energy to the stage, dancing and doing flips alongside her much younger backup dancers. And her songs reminded us that she is a pop legend whose career will live on forever. The final touch to the show was lights at the end that spelled out “World Peace.” A+ performance.