WATCH: Rock the Bells 2009 Vancouver

Photos by Alex Ramon

In parentheses under the Rock The Bells logo, they should’ve written (The Ass & Assholes Tour). I’ve never seen so many of both in one spot. Well, I guess they do travel as a duo… The day kind of blends together into one sober, sweaty memory, but here are some high and low points: The show begins with Auto Tune. (Didn’t Short Dawg get Jay-Z’s memo?) Boo. I have pizza for breakfast. Red1 has 1,993 people on stage with him. Also, coincidentally, the year he made his first/only good song, ‘Really Livin’. Chali2NA has a cold. No shock then that the gentle giant is sick on stage.

Slum Village comes out, minus a member/friend (RIP Baatin) who died the night before. Hearts on sleeves, T3 & Elzhi rip that fucking stage apart. Amazing. Slaughterhouse slaughters. Commanding, ferocious, funny, they come off like an extremely talented frat house. Later, I buy one of their T-shirts for $40,000,000.

B-Real I line up for 14 years, get two beers and travel back in time. [Fun Fact: Supernatural, the host of the event, holds the world record for the longest freestyle: nine hours.] Tech N9NE & Krizz Kaliko break into an impromptu ‘Ode to Titties’ that is highly amusing, and promise the 17 year old owner of said titties that they will be back next year (when she’s legal) to F the S out of her.

B-Real gets really high. The crowd gets really high. (Why is my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth?) He was only supposed to co-host, but ends up doing a litany of Cypress Hill hits. (Thirsty) Wait. (Is that a goat?) What? [Fun Fact: B-Real plays professional paintball. Yes, there is such a thing. Team name: Stoned Assassins.]

Common is energy, start to finish. Freestyles, hits, a medley of classic hip hop covers, including ‘Passin’ Me By’ by The Pharcyde. Maybe the best set of the day. RZA! Wu-Tang! He’s doing a Gravediggaz song?! Bringing out ODB’s son?!? Wow, he’s crazy. Wow, he’s getting booed. Wow, he won’t leave the stage. Weird. We were told Reflection Eternal was cancelled, yet here they are. Apparently fresh out of a cab, and ushered right to the stage. They race through the 20 minute surprise set powerfully and precisely.

Talib Kweli Finally. NaS. He runs through all of his hits, with the crowd rapping along to it all. Damian Marley and special guest Damian Marley’s Hair™ join him onstage. There is also a guy on stage whose only job is to wave a flag for the duration of the set. (Uh, a dude just jumped up, shirt over face, to share the stage for roughly 2.3 seconds with an amused NaS, before SWAT deploys three operatives to heave him off the stage, presumably into Deer Lake itself, scrambling after him like it’s Christmas morning.) It’s dark now. Single spotlight. NaS. Leon Mobley. One drum. ‘One Mic’. The crowd is still as the song builds from a whisper to a roar. The hair on my arms mimics the audience and stands at attention.

As the moon rises, my raccoon-tan sets in (thanks to not removing my sunglasses for 12 hours). Each act was like a fountain of youth, instantly taking me back to whatever year I first discovered them. During the last few songs, I am 10 years old again. I am brought back 20 years, to that ’Rock The Bells’. Gunshot. ‘Made You Look’. Yes, you did, NaS. Yes, you did.