Tag Archives: rock the bells


Rock the Bells (Toronto) was supremely disappointing

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I’m about as huge a fan of the Rock the Bells series as anyone else.  I was jazzed when it first came out, have written enthusiastically about it every chance I’ve gotten.  But sadly, my faith has been broken.

Despite an embarrassing lack of promotion (as you can see below, the Toronto show was not even listed on the main festival website), I still managed to find out about it, and buy tickets to the Toronto show.  Boy was I disappointed.

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And yes, the Toronto show comes fully branded, with tickets stating that it was a Rock the Bells event, and ads at the venue showing the Guerilla Union branding.  The lack of publicity around the event, let alone the lack of even a mention on the RtB website meant we had no idea of the lineup going in.  We knew at the minimum, that Lauryn Hill and Nas would be there; that Nas would be accompanied by AZ, Pete Rock and DJ Premier; and that some “special guests” may show up.  Nope.

The show was set to start at 6:30, but we showed up late, knowing that’s the way things go.  No big deal on this front, as it’s pretty standard for most shows, especially big ones.  But there was no openers.  No acts, not even a local group to hype the crowd.  We sat, stared at closed curtains, and listened to some recorded music.  At least the hip hop was good.

Nas finally came on at around 8:15 pm, and actually put on a pretty solid performance.  He played most of Illmatic, and had the crowd up on their feet and loving the energy.  Nas let Premo and Pete Rock do their own thing, battling and hyping the crowd.  Then he gave a quick goodbye and left the stage.  Things were looking good! I figured, at the minimum, seeing Ms. Hill and Nas  would have been worth the hefty price tag.  I was wrong, kind of.

Lauryn Hill’s recent touring hasn’t always met with warmth.  When she came through Toronto in January, Toronto’s major newspaper called her set “self-indulgent” and “baffling”.  This time around, more of the same.  Nas left the stage, and we were left to sit there for an hour and a half, again, staring at some closed curtains and listening to canned hip hop.  I mean honestly, this was Rock. The. Bells.  And this was Toronto.  How in God’s Son’s (Nas reference, get it?) name could they not at least call up K’Naan or even Drake and just have them come out to fill in the blanks?  Fill in the huge gaps in the lineup with someone, so that the audience, mostly having paid over $70 each, doesn’t have to sit around and wait for nothing?

The National Post says that Lauryn Hill’s performance at Rock the Bells was an “epic catastrophe”.  Noah Love writes that:

The sad thing is that Hill’s chief attribute, her powerful voice, remains completely in tact. But two things turned this show into an epic catastrophe:

1. She might have employed the worst sound crew in the history of the concert industry. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps Hill simply wasn’t available earlier in the day to do a sound check and it wasn’t their fault. But I will say this: It is close to impossible to screw up the sound at the Ampthitheatre. I have been going to shows at the venue since 1996, and I can’t remember a time where the sound was an issue. (Weather, on the other hand … )

But something on this night was just awful. The bass and drums were pushed through the roof. Or rather to the roof, where they bounced back, creating a dizzying echo in the crowd below. Hill was barely audible through the ensuing mess. What I did hear from her was strong, but that leads me to the second problem …

2. Wow, Hill is an unmitigated disaster as a performer right now. Again, maybe it was just this show, but she spent the entire performance flapping her arms constantly at the sound people at the side of the stage and at her band. It was beyond distracting and, after some time, outright uncomfortable to watch.

Now, I may not say it was a unmitigated disaster.  However, I’m totally on board with most of the sentiments.  This show was supremely disappointing.  I want my money back, and my faith in Lauryn Hill.  Not sure that either of those will happen.

NOW Toronto, a free alt-weekly with enough street cred to sink a ship feels the same way.  So don’t let it seem like it’s just the mainstream media that has it out for Ms. Hill.  According to NOW,

“The Toronto stop of the Rock The Bells tour at the Molson Amphitheatre was one of the most poorly planned, half-hearted hip-hop events in recent memory.”

Furthermore, NOW says this to summarize the show:

Finally emerging past the Amphitheatre’s supposed 11 p.m. curfew, Hill hewed closer to Miseducation’s original sound this time, but with a new, anxious, rapid fire pacing that befuddles fans and breaks hearts. She flew through Lost Ones, To Zion and That Thing (Doo Wop), flailing her limbs and spewing unfocused energy, and then walked off stage, leaving her band behind.

Confused, angry, and resigned fans began to stream out en masse and, morale-wise, that’s pretty much where the show ended.

Hill closed the night with some Fugees material and the Nas duet – If I Ruled The World (Imagine That) – to swaths of empty seats.

As sad as I am to admit it, I’m one of those people that left before the show was over.   The show had upset me, and beating the crowds was, at this point, more important to me than waiting, and hoping, that Nas had stuck around for 3 extra hours and that maybe they’d perform If I Ruled the World.  I feared I wouldn’t recognize it, much like it was hard to pull out a lot of whatever it was Lauryn was playing on stage.


Low turnout at Rock The Bells in WA

Well, it’s never fun to say I told you so, but it looks like Guerilla Union‘s decision to move the Vancouver stop of this year’s Rock The Bells tour to the middle of now… er, the Gorge Amphitheatre, has backfired.  According to this article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the concert suffered from “poor turnout,” a “delayed start” and a few “forgettable acts” (including Jedi Mind Tricks and, suprisingly, Mos Def).  

The article’s author attributes the poor attendance on concert fatigue, noting that “this summer [the Gorge] has already seen a number of stellar festivals including Sub Pop’s 20th anniversary, the Capitol Hill Block Party, Sasquatch! and others.”

To be honest, while I’m still bitter about Guerilla Union’s decision to change the venue of this leg of the tour, it’s definitely not cool that turnout was low.  If anything, my hope was that the response would be overwhelming, and that Tribe would be convinced to return to the Northwest at a time and place I could actually attend. 

Ah well, at least the people who did show up were, aside from the aforementioned exceptions, treated to a good show.  As the Seattle PI article puts it, “good music prevailed and made Rock The Bells a great way to ring out the Gorge’s season.”

Image yanked from: http://flickr.com/photos/15431728@N00/2713822454


Hip hop hates the iPhone

Apparently, according to Gizmodo, a bunch of hip hop icons hate on the iPhone.

Almost everyone had some choice words for the little fancy device, all except Method Man.

You can check out the video here.

[Source: Gizmodo]

Art Music

4080Records Reviews “Rock The Bells”

Like the best horror films, “Rock The Bells” is an exercise in tension.  Although billed as a concert documentary, Bells is an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride, and is far more exciting than most Hollywood fare these days.

The film’s protagonist is an affable concert promoter named Chang.  Coming off a string of successful shows, Chang attempts the impossible: booking the entire Wu-Tang Clan for his inaugural Rock The Bells concert.  After much work Chang convinces 9 of the 10 members (including Cappadonna) to appear at the concert, albeit as separate acts.  The RZA, impressed by Chang’s determination, eventually agrees to appear as well, and, in so doing, certifies it as an official Wu reunion.  And that’s when the movie gets good.

As Chang and his team scramble to pull off their ambitious project, things being to unravel around them.  On the day of the concert security shows up late, equipment malfunctions (forcing Chali 2na and DJ Nu-Mark to freestyle their entire set), disgruntled fans overrun security checkpoints, and – worst of all – ODB refuses to leave his hotel room.  Perched precariously between utter disaster and sublime triumph, Chang pushes on, absolutely convinced that his show will succeed.  The filmmakers capture the moment perfectly;  watching Chang try to placate 10,000 near-riotous fans and plead with a cracked-out ODB is compelling stuff.

Speaking of ODB, the film also serves as a powerful testament to his life and legacy.  Much of the film is dedicated to eulogizing the popular Wu member, and one of the DVD special features is a powerful interview with ODB’s former bodyguard.

Check this film out for sure, even if you aren’t a Wu fan.  It’s easily one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen.


Rock the Bells – Toronto Tickets on Sale now

Despite the Van show being moved to Washington, the Toronto show is going full speed ahead.  Tickets are on sale now.  They’re pricey (the range is $75-$100) but it’s damn sure worth it.

Click here.

The show will take place at the International Centre in Toronto, directions are below:


Hwy #427 North, exit at Dixon Road North which becomes Airport Road. Follow to International Centre.
Hwy #401 to Hwy #409 to Airport Road North. Follow to International Centre.


Rock The Bells Vancouver Date Moved To Quincy, WA

Three days ago Guerilla Union, the organization that puts on the Rock The Bells concert series, announced that the Vancouver stop of this year’s tour had been moved to Quincy, Washington. If, like me, you’d never heard of Quincy before, you’ll be glad to know that it’s in the middle of fucking nowhere. That’s right, in all of their wisdom the Guerilla Union crew have moved their tour’s last show from Vancouver – a city with a metropolitan population of over 2 million – to Qunicy, a tiny hamlet 160 miles from Seattle, a city with only about half the population of Vancouver.

What a stroke of marketing genius.

Perhaps there were some issues at the border. The Toronto show is going ahead, though, so it can’t be that. More likely it was some mistake/ridiculous idea by the City of Vancouver. God knows the mayor, Sam Sullivan, has blundered in the past.

I suppose the one good thing about the venue change is that the show will still be within driving distance of Vancouver, so all of the heads north of the border who were so stoked to see Tribe in their own backyard will still have a chance to catch them perform live. Only now it’ll take a bit of a drive.

Cool Music

Rock The Bells Line-up & Dates Announced! Tribe Is Coming To Vancouver!

A few days ago I mentioned that seeing A Tribe Called Quest perform live would be, without a doubt, the single greatest musical experience of my life. Now, it appears as though all my wildest dreams are coming true: yesterday afternoon it was announced that A Tribe Called Quest would be re-uniting to headline this year’s Rock The Bells tour which will be making a stop in Vancouver on August 20!

But it gets even better. In addition to the Tribe reunion the tour will also see legendary ’90s collective The Pharcyde perform together for the first time in several years. Other artists slated to perform include Nas, Mos Def, De La Soul, Rakim, Method Man & Redman, Raekwon, Ghostface and Dead Prez. As you can imagine, I’ve passed out from sheer excitement twice already.

For more information, including the full concert line-up and tour dates, visit the official Rock The Bells site here.