The sun hung directly overhead, and it was not about to let us or anyone else loose from its bright, burning grips this weekend. I stood in line already working up a mean sweat while waiting for the gates to open with the likened anticipation of a “Willy Wonka” Golden Ticket winner.
Around 30 minutes past the scheduled opening, my millennial attention span started growing weak, and my now very warm, balding head pooled creeks of perspiration into the seams of my grey Raz Simone snapback. 20 minutes later, the first ding of the ticket reader sang it’s sweet song and, like the crawl of the deli line, we inched forward toward the meat of the action.
As my comrade and I passed the TBD entrance we were met by an array of artists beginning to work on their various projects quickly followed by the attractive smells of Banh Mi and burritos. My sense palette was beginning to fill. Weaving through the eye and nose candy (no not that kind), we drifted to the center of the venue in what resembled a new age bazaar of clothes, cigarette tents, hats, tea bars, beauty products and sunglasses.
Walking through this part of town had me noticing the green faux grass lawn mats that were scattered amongst the shops and were separated only by small patches of dampened soil. How, in the midst of one of California’s worst droughts in recent history, was the ground wet…at all? The answer to that question would become much more clear as the first night wore on and the relentless pounding of the sun subsided behind the beacon of the brightly lit, actively churning festi-ferris wheel.
The sounds that emerged as we pulled out from the open-air storefronts came from the TBD stage with Cathedrals jamming a host of hits to the sway of TBD’s court. Many of the scantily clad crowd members donned neck bandanas, scarves, and even some of those “elevation training” masks that Marshawn Lynch so proudly wears to summon the “Beast Mode Within” during his pregame warm-ups.
I questioned the reason for the high number of fans wearing them, and later, I wished I were one of them.
While their set died down, the floor parted and shifted the fest’s next acts. The first artist on my TBD checklist for the evening was Towkio, the feisty yet soulfully wavy SAVEMONEY affiliate who brought with him a multitude of cuts from his “.Wav Theory” projects and others. The tracks, burning quite the hole in his back pocket, turned into a forest fire when he reached back and let them loose, taking on relatively older hits like his Hotchips N Chopstix cut “Abstract” and the cocaine-dusted single “Reflection” to the absolute pleasure of the SAVEMONEY army before him. Towkio even made his way into the crowd, both during and after his set and graced onlookers with photo ops and cooling splashes of water from his stage side bottles.
Towkio laid down the heat, as did the sun, but the cooling atmosphere of a well-lit set was more than enough to make one forget the temperature. The Jukely Stage was now home.
As Towkio left with the announcement of a Social Experiment sighting for the following night’s SAVEMONEY set with Chance The Rapper, some of the crowd left while others, like myself, stayed near the stage in anticipation of the evening’s forthcoming hometown act.
Death Grips was set to hit the stage, but, as a response to many other D.G. shows, fans and audience members half-jokingly and half-seriously suggested to one another that the group may not show up at all.
Although they are well known for skipping out on shows, would they do that to Sacramento? Could these renegade artists actually skip out on their home base? ‘No, most definitely not,’ we half-heartedly decided, even as the creep of uncertainty crawled up the backs of our heads. We quickly shook it off when the trio emerged from backstage and took their position on stage.
After a quick sound check, they retreated back to the side. Shit. Was the sound that unsatisfactory? MC Ride could be seen talking to someone over there, but what were they talking about?
“They are leaving for sure,” one guy sputtered out next to me.
But wait. I felt someone grab my shoulder and pull me to face the stage front and center. Death Grips was returning. Okay. This is happening.
We were about to get lost in the haunting, industrial vacuum that is Death Grips, and neither soul nor body would be able to resist its powerful suction.
From the jump, the stage seemed to bellow itself, coming to life as if it were the sandy “Cave of Wonders” transforming into the giant tiger’s head. Death Grips’ call was the golden scarab beetle that brought us here, and, today, we were all Aladdin.
Let the dark magic rain upon us.
Almost as quickly as the first note escaped the speakers, the mob mentality within us escaped with it. Hundreds of people would add themselves to this ever-expanding pit, and with it, they would create a storm as encompassing as Death Grips’ aggressive sounds. With each boom of Zach Hill’s drums, with every roar from Mr. Burnett’s mic, the bodies of the crowd were drawn closer together while their minds seemed to revert back to times of cave drawings, spear throwing, and fire making.
What a blaze it was.
The crowd’s gentle violence of pushing and shoving escalated only as much as each individual allowed, creating a harmonious yet chaotic sea of thrashing humans. Each wave brought out flailing arms and jumping feet, causing the ground beneath them to loosen from a full day of sun and human traffic.
This was exactly why the ground was wet this morning. As the earth’s epidermis shifted, it simultaneously rose into the air, enveloping the immediate sky before us and shading the stage in a dusty haze. The opaque clouds took hold over the crowd, as did the music, burgeoning a relationship between each track passed and each step taken, plunging the crowd deeper into the tribal abyss.
Although the dust was cumbersome to some, those living within this darkened religious experience showed no qualms about it. We were there physically, but mentally, we became the music, the atmosphere, and the experience.
From that moment on, the dust never settled.
Written by Jacob Koertge, KCSC Hip-Hop Director