Thursday, August 23, 2007

Rock the Bells Festival @ Hyundai Pavillion, San Bernardino 08/11/2007 - Photo Essay

Like my last photo essay, this one is also being posted a little late (I really need to make sure this doesn't start to become a habit), but better late than never, right?

Anyhow, many of you may be wondering why in God's name anyone would willing drive out to San Bernadino in the middle of August to spend the entire day outdoors at a music festival. Well, when the festival in question carries one of the best lineups of Hip Hop artists ever assembled (not to mention recently reunited Rage Against the Machine) you best suck it up, buy your tickets and figure out a way to deal with the heat later. So it was that me and my brother made the trek to the Hyundai Pavillion to see the latest incarnation of the Rock the Bells Festival.

As you can see, the lineup on the main stage was pretty damn impressive. Oddly enough, the organizers didn't bother to hand out schedules to festivalgoers as they walked in, so many of us walked up to this booth near the interest and did our best to take photos of the lineup that were sitting in a binder at the information booth. Not exactly the most organized festival I've ever been to (more on that in a moment).

Pharoahe Monch

After slowly crawling into the venue amidst the traffic and paying $30 for parking (!!!), we just barely made it inside the venue in time to watch Pharoahe Monch take the stage. He played a blistering set full of songs from his excellent new album Desire, along with old favorites from Internal Affairs, including a certain crowd favorite that instructs the audience to "get the fuck up!" Pharoahe Monch was definitely one of the highlights of the entire day.

Next up was Eric and Parrish Making Dollars, better known as EPMD, striking b-boy poses and bringing the classic old school jams like it was 1989. For people like myself and my brother Damian, who grew up watching the Yo! MTV Raps Countdown, EPMD was a real kick in the pants. Eric Sermon and Parrish Smith didn't skip a beat as they churned out classics like "Crossover," "You're a Customer" and "You Gots to Chill." Unfortunately, most of the crowd looked lost as most of them were either too young to appreciate how great of a group EPMD was/is or just ignorant about Hip Hop because they were mostly there to see Rage Against the Machine (a reoccurring them throughout the day).

The crowd really started to swell (along with the heat) right before Talib Kweli's set.

Best throwback jersey I saw all day. By the way, I think this guy looks pretty close to how fat the real Patrick Ewing is looking these days.

OK, I know this picture sucks, but it was the only remotely decent shot I got of Public Enemy all day from my distant vantage point. Surprisingly, Chuck D and Flavor Flav (along with their accompanying band) showed no signs of middle age as their set included the same energy and power of seeing PE back in their prime. 20 years after their debut, Public Enemy still can hold their own on the same stage as rappers nearly half their age.

On the second stage there was plenty of great music to be seen. Perhaps the best act of the day was Metalfingers himself, MF Doom. After showing up late to his set (he wasn't the only one), Doom blasted through fan favorites from his MF Doom, Victor Vaughn and Madvillain personas at a frenetic pace. I was loving every minute of it.

Of course, since we were in the Inland Empire and 75% of the people in attendance seemed to be die-hard Rage Against the Machine fans, it was only a matter of time before the apes started getting rowdy. About halfway through the Wu Tang Clan's awesome set (I was too far to get any good pictures), some dumbass decided it would be cool to light some trash on fire, which prompted other monkeys to follow suit. At one point I counted eight simultaneous trash fires on the lawn and it didn't seem like the event staff had any plans to put them out. . .that is, because event staff was nowhere to be seen. Eventually more idots joined in on the fun (seriously, what is so entertaining about fire?) and started throwing plastic bottles into the flames, which filled the air with that horrible melting plastic stench. Once Wu Tang finished up, Damian and I decided to bail because we couldn't take the fumes anymore. It was a shame, since we were both looking forward to seeing Rage perform, but at least we beat the traffic. Morons in the crowd aside, most of the day was fun and we definitely got our money's worth.

More pictures:

Living Legends

Amateur breakdancers

Graffiti wall

the Coup

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