Rock the Bells “San Francisco” 2011
August 30, 2011

Rock the Bells is a pretty big deal for me and each year I like to write down some thoughts on my experience at the event.

Got there just in time for Souls of Mischief. (93 til Infinity) Great Souls set, brought out all of Hiero; Pep, Casual, Del, Domino. They performed/closed with “Cab Fare.” Cab Fare is one of those rare B-side tracks on a single and they never perform it live. That was a treat.

Walked over to the side stages. 36 Chambers stage was just starting as we walked back to see Common, but Killa Priest had a live band and sounded great as I was walking away. Common was awesome. Had a live band, they sounded great.

Black Star was awesome, but I think Common with live band edged them out a little and had a better set. Common came back out and did a song with Mos and Talib. Very cool moment. There hasn’t been too many live collaboration's at RTB. I wish there were more. It makes the event and moment feel special. Fans hardly ever get to see all these guys at one festival and several have made songs together at one time or another.

Went back out to the side stages. Could have called it Rock the sound bleed. Sub-par set up. Both stages next to each other at the same time. Checked out Random Axe (36 chambers stage), but Black Milk wasn’t with them so I went and found a cool spot closer to the Paid Dues stage. Watched Fashawn and Exile. Fashawn was impressive, I’d not caught him live before but had heard positive talk about him. Blu came out a bit later, but then I went and checked out Black Moon (36 Chambers stage). Buckshot is good. I’d like to see him again when I can give his set more of my focus.

Back to Paid Dues for Big K.R.I.T. I first heard K.R.I.T. around the same time I’d first heard Yelawolf. (Yelawolf opened the Paid Dues stage last year) His set was awesome. Lots of energy, great stage presence, great mic control. I was surprised how much love the bay area has for him, but everyone was digging him. I heard lots of people talking about K.R.I.T. at the end of the night. Best side stage performance of the day.

Next up at Paid Dues stage was SLAUGHTERHOUSE. Royce came out first and he started “Sound Off” the way he introduces everyone else in the group. Everyone was there. Either the mics were slightly off or they’ve got questionable mic control because it was a bit hard to hear during some parts which was a bit disappointing. Joe Budden was great as stand up comic of the group making fun of a girl eating a hot dog (through the entire set) while not being able to decide between Slaughterhouse and Mobb Deep on the 36 Chambers stage. I wish they had a longer set time and the mics sounded better. Would LOVE to see them again live.

Back to the main stage for Nas doing Illmatic. His stage set up was very cool. Big Queens bridge project building facades on each side of the stage with a metal gate in the middle; park bench stage left. Both DJ Premier and Pete Rock were up in the DJ booth. He brought out Mobb Deep. Great set, really captured and presented Illmatic properly like Snoop did Doggystyle last year.

Saw GZA finish Liquid Swords, but was so exhausted I watched from the back on a picnic table. Ghostface and Raekwon closed the 36 Chambers stage with Only built for Cuban Linx. Capadona came out with them. He was great. They brought up two fans to do Meth’s and ODB’s part from Protect Ya Neck. The girl kinda failed on Meth’s verse but the white jewish looking guy KILLED on ODB’s verse and really saved the song. Very cool moment. After they finished I was tired as hell but we went back to the main stage to see what was left of Lauryn Hill.

Im really glad I went back. The crowd had REALLY thinned and most had left. I saw her do two songs plus her four song encore and everything I saw and heard sounded great! Her stage set up was awesome. Bookshelves in the background while her band was on their own small round stages. Live video of Lauryn shown on the big screen on stage was in black and white. It was a very retro look and feel. It reminded me of the old Ed Sullivan show the way they’d set up the stage for band. I’d heard that she would turn around and yell things at her band and shout commands, but it looked to me like she was “conducting her orchestra,” like James Brown would do when he would perform live. I thought her band sounded great and on point. I really thought her conducting kinda added to her performance rather than hinder it.

Her encore included Fugees songs “Oh La La La” and “Ready or Not.” Sounded fantastic. Then brought Nas out to do If I Ruled the World! This was the best moment at RTB 2011. I’ll never get to see that live again. She ended with Could You Be Loved by Bob Marley. Awesome, awesome ending to what everyone had been saying and complaining would be a train wreck of a performance. After talking to some fans who’d watched her full set, they said she started out a little rougher and it sounded like I caught the better part of her set.

Best performances

  1.  Common (because of his band)
  2. Big K.R.I.T.
  3. Nas
  4. Black Star
  5. Slaughterhouse

Another highlight was getting to see and meet several of the performers and other cool people just walking around the festival and enjoying the show. I ran into, Opio, Phesto, Domino, Casual, Blu, Boy Jones (Young DB), Luckyiam, Murs (he was working his merch booth solo in between hosting the Paid Dues stage), Davey D, Pep Love, Flossafee, and Jennifer Johns.

Bryan Nosanchuk is a guest writer and HoodHype show listener who shared this story with us on our official FaceBook Page. If you have stories, experiences or opinions you'd like to share with us, send it to us via email, facebook or twitter!

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