VIDEO: Talib Kweli live at Rock the Bells
About three songs into the epic final set of this year's Rock the Bells - a dream-like materialization of the fanatically anticipated Nas and Damian Marley collabo project - the hot dog that I buried as a late-afternoon drinking base began to sneak up my esophagus. I made it from my seat to the exit aisle, where I projected a chunky wet stream of stomach ooze. Imagine Lardass from Stand by Me; a few ushers in my way even caught some of the shrapnel shooting through my fingers.
How did it come to this? I suppose my spiral redirected downwards around the time an acquaintance passed me a Percocet during Necro (I had a headache, and, at the time, was unaware that they sell Tylenol in the rest room). I was cool before that; watching K'Naan inside, and Eyedea - who looks a lot like Jason Schwartzman these days - on the outside Paid Dues stage, I had the ideal chemical crossfire charging my system. Even during Psycho Realm's pounding set - and through most of Necro (who rocked despite having laryngitis) - I felt well enough to nod my head. But after that I faded.
Despite dizzy spells and nagging nausea, though, I jogged between stages for the whole day. Some sets were disappointingly lazy (I see you Talib Kweli and Common); others were loud and clear crowd favorites (well done Buckshot, KRS-One, M.O.P., Evidence, Alchemist, and Sage Francis); and some were so charged I had no choice but to further smoke and chug my way into a coma for the duration of their spectacles (as always, thanks for being positive influences Tech N9ne and La Coka Nostra).
While I'm getting too old to handle handfuls of pills and entire days of getting high and boozing in the summer sun, I'll never outgrow Rock the Bells. No other genre has a close to comparable annual tour; the line-up reminds me of my teenage experience with hip-hop, when so-called enlightened rhymes made a comeback, while at the same time dudes like Cage and Ill Bill polluted the toxic side of rap music. This spread has the best of both worlds, plus legions of questionably clad young women (sorry for staring at your teenage daughter, but she was nine-tenths naked with hot pink Lee press-on nails).
After the show, my friend and I got a ride home from two chicks who were far too cute for me to vomit in their car. I played things cool, though there were several intervals during which I couldn't take a breath in fear that I'd cover the back seat with beer and bile. At one point, one of them turned around and asked what I thought of the Nas and Marley encore (which I did catch and enjoy - particularly their melting their respective "One Love" anthems into one another), and the Roots set (which I somehow managed to miss completely). "Sick," I said, unmoved. They agreed.
VIEW: Photos from Rock the Bells. By Derek Green
WATCH: Video of Talib Kweli, and Kurt Vile and the Violators performing at Rock the Bells