Rock The Bells 2009 festival random thoughts

Since I never wrote a true review of the Saturday show at San Manuel’s Amphitheater, here are some random thoughts.

Ice Cube was a great headliner but I wished he would have performed songs from 1991′s “Death Certificate” and 1990′s “America’s Most Wanted” his two true classic albums that made him, at least to me, the best hip-hop artist in the world at one point.

I enjoyed Nas and Damian Marley with the live band but did not stay long because I went to see The Rza on the Paid Dues stage (and I saw Nas last year). Anyway, I’m not sure if it’s the live band feel or what but I felt the Nas/Marley collaborations were a bit underwelming.

Seeing the Rza perform “1-800 Suicide” with Fruitkwan for a true Gravediggaz collaboration (R.I.P. Too Poetic) was a dream come true for me. I was truly not expecting that. I also thought it was strange, at the time, how Raekwon did not perform with him despite going on earlier but that’s probably because of the fight/confrontation/punch with Joe Budden.

Also, and I feel really bad here, I did not catch any of the Budden/Raekwon references on stage made by Crooked I during Slaughterhouse because I was out in the crowd all day taking notes and my computer battery died. I only learned what happened backstage Sunday morning.

M.O.P., despite a crowd that was clearly waiting for them to get off the second stage to hear Psycho Realm, was great despite “Ante Up” being the only thing the audience actually seemed to cheer for. But they had no merchandise stand I could locate. I thought in this day and age, with record sales declining, artists were big on the merch stands??? I also didn’t see any for San Bernardino’s Short Dawg Da Native either. Artists, please remember you have fans.

Tech N9ne got a really, really bad deal. He went on at 3 p.m. with nobody in the arena and he gave one of the best live performances of the day from what I saw. I had to split time between him and Short Dawg but I had caught Tech at the Paid Dues Festival earlier this year so I wasn’t too upset. But I heard grumblings from fans later on about how they missed Tech N9ne.

In fact, the schedule on the main stage was off by an hour or two and caused artists like Busta Rhymes to rush through short sets. On the Paid Dues stage, the last act was Slaughterhouse and not The Rza and people were upset over that. Buckshot and KRS-ONE went on at the wrong time as well … it made for a confusing day where people kept wanting to look at my set list and I would show them and then have to make revisions.

The Roots were superb as usual. They really stretch their songs out with amazing musicianship … their extra long version of “You Got Me” went off into a bunch of different drumming and instrumental directions before coming back to the chorus and it came off great.

I saw two fights at the festival. The first was a scuffle during Buckshot and KRS-ONE where one guy looked like he got in trouble with another crew and they tried to punch him … the guy may have been hit too but I have no idea. Security had to jump in and stop everything while the performance kept going.

The second fight was after the concert ended when I saw a man get punched in the face twice after he got in a shouting match with a woman and another man punched him twice. The man who was punched was later handcuffed and escorted out of the venue.

Surprise guest was Slick Rick, which was amazing. He got a huge ovation, as well he should when he came out to “Lodi Dodi.” My only complaint was the set was too short and they sped up the beat to “Children’s Story” when I wished it would have stayed the same tempo.

The vendor booths, despite no M.O.P. material,  were well thought out. Several people I talked to said they were great when you’re not a fan of the artist performing. The truth.com, the group that puts out those anti-cigarette commercials, had freestyle competitions and even a jump rope competition. Murs was signing autographs at his booth while Sick Jacken was signing autographs at the Soul Assasins booth (I think I may have seen DJ Muggs too but I’m not sure).