Blazing Sun and the Music’s Glory
100 degree plus weather didn’t melt the good vibes felt by crowds this past Saturday at the Blaze N Glory festival in San Bernardino. It was a festival of love that artists from Hirie to Nas made sure to consistently remind the crowd of between song breaks.
This festival is only on its second year run but proved it has the potential to hold an annual place in the Inland Empire’s heart. Last year’s lineup was stacked nicely with both reggae and hip-hop deities like Slightly Stoopid, Rebelution, Iration, Body Count and Method Man. A difference from last year’s festival was that this year it was not split between two days but instead jam packed into one.
The festival consisted of the main stage and the SRH stage both packed with enjoyable acts. The main stage had an efficient way of switching performers by having a rotating stage that was impressive to see function so flawlessly. While one act was performing in front of the crowd, the other act was setting up behind the performing act so that when the act was done, there was a smooth and quick transition which helped each performance maximize time with their fans.
The only conflict with the two stages was that the great performances were often overlapping. This may have brought complications for fans wanting to see two artists performing at the same time, but it also provided choices to the festival goers who preferred some acts over others.
At times the stages provided a contrast of hip-hop and reggae. For instance when Hirie was singing about strong self-worth sewed together with a melodic reggae style, Madchild was on the SRH stage relentlessly rhyming about living above the influence of drugs and above negative outcomes that interfere with happiness. Shortly after, Stephen “Ragga” Marley took the main stage where he brought the essence of love that his father preached through his lyrics to an audience riding a mellow wave of reggae and peace. Meanwhile at the SRH stage, Dilated Peoples weaved words about holding unity in the worst of times. The stages may have been different in styles at certain points but the message of love and unity remained consistent with the crowds.
A later performance from The Growlers was notable to the hip-hop and reggae audiences because their outsider status from both genres. This was out of the usual concerts the band themselves who typically play their annual Beach Goth Party or other solo shows they headline. Their name on the bill may have actually been questionable to some but definitely not discouraged, especially after their beach goth psychedelic rock show they brought to the festival. Not only did the band bring their cult like fans along for the show, but they left with the respect of hip-hop and reggae crowds.
As The Growlers, finished their set the bolstering sun began to set behind a hill and the shade covered the festival at last in an alleviating and satisfying temperature paving the way for an act who was more than just a ten letter word. Atmosphere became the focus on the main stage with no overlapping conflicts of a second stage and this was where things reached a new level of dynamism. Atmosphere came out with a raw energy and lyricism that had people rushing the stage and it became clear the vibe got turned up a notch.
Sean “Slug” Daley and Anthony “Ant” Davis proved how solid their duo still stands. Ant spun his larger than life turntables while Slug matched it with his poetic verses of lyricism. The duo played fan favorites such as “God Loves Ugly” and “Yesterday” which had great reactions from the crowd. At the end of their set they let the audience know a new album was coming in August which has been long anticipated by fans.
Nas came next, which brought the already static energy of a crowd pumped up by Atmosphere to an even further rise. Nas did not disappoint at all bringing the classic hip-hop sound of the 90s to the new age. The set list would shift from older to newer songs from Illmatic’s “N.Y. State of Mind” to Life is Good’s “Loco-motive” which kept the crowd reminiscing but also looking forward.
He also performed “Hip-Hop is Dead” and shared an anecdote of why he thought it was deteriorating but now is refreshed by the new hip-hop pioneers bringing it forward. He then began to preach to the crowd messages of love and togetherness and even got political for a moment.
“We have to be better than the last generation,” Nas said.
He then asked the crowd which candidate they were backing this presidential election, in which the audience cheered when he mentioned Sen. Bernie Sanders, had mixed boos and cheers for Hillary Clinton and loudly booed for Donald Trump.
The closing act of the show was left to Griz a DJ and electronic producer who had a good set but had trouble keeping the crowd from staying for it. He gave a great performance but being after Nas who was originally set to headline, the crowd shrunk. Griz however, still gave it his all for the crowd that stuck around.
Overall the festival exceeded expectations bringing the crowds of hip-hop and reggae closer together and leaving fans with a yearning for next year’s line-up.