M.I.A. VI: Hyphee for Kendrick, homophobia during Macklemore’s “Same Love,” and the kids and their #EDM
Leaving AlunaGeorge a little early to catch Kendrick live felt painful. I didn’t really want to, but I knew that something really special was probably happening at the other end of the Parkway. It was shockingly easy to get pretty close to the stage by snaking around to the edge of it. And one thing you get good at over the course of two days of fighting crowds is knowing the best way to avoid traffic and sweaty, baby-step-moving blockages. Mr. Lamar was hyping the crowd and testing which side was louder and said “If y’all are weak, I look weak, and we can’t be weak.” Or something like that.
“Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” slayed, with the whole crowd rhyming right alongside him. The mid-afternoon Rocky Stage hip-hop moment wasn’t as hungrily devoured by the crowd since Rick Ross lit everyone up last year. But even though we were pretty amped to see what Kendrick would do, it was over before we knew it. Not before his own version of “Fuckin’ Problems,” though, and the crowd was not made. Even though he was, literally, the third artist to independently perform the song: A$AP first, then 2 Chainz, then Kendrick. If Drake were present, maybe that’d be four. Is everyone okay with this? One verse on a big hit, and then you have to perform it at every festival and concert for the rest of the year?
On a break, I plopped onto a folding chair and talked to two really chill Hip-Hop Wired teammates repping Brooklyn and asked them why it had to be done by all of them. People will ask why you didn’t do it if you don’t, one of them offered. When I confessed that Beyonce didn’t blow me away last night, his colleague offered that she’d heard her hair looked great. I said, “You mean her weave game was tight?” She said yes, that she heard her weave was tight.
In one of the most disappointing moments of the whole weekend for me, I overheard some really tiresome homophobia in a slow-moving, shoulder-to-shoulder zombie shuffle at the very back of the Liberty Stage crowd during Macklemore’s set. I just wanted to get a little closer to that handsome ginger after I took in the respite of Cause Village, where I found the Born Brave Bus and a hot dog and coke ($9). But once you get funneled into the fray, there’s no turning back. It happened to me times ten after I tried to get a little bit of a spot for Miguel.
So, I’m intimately close to hundreds of strangers trying to proceed through the back to meet AlunaGeorge. “Same Love” is playing, horns are blasting, Mary Lambert is singing that charming hook, and one of the biggest radio hits to come from his The Heist is a marriage equality anthem, but one asshole mutters to himself or to a friend in front or behind him, “Yeahhh, I thought I was gay when I was in the third grade … fuckin’ queer.” “DID I JUST HEAR THAT?!” I asked myself and to strangers around me. A young girl looked at me and gave me the eyes of Yeah, I guess. It was icing on the cake. It was confirmed: There really are a ton of assholes at this concert, and even a beloved and well-received giant radio hit’s not going to stop idiots from being idiots.
On that note, for many, the highlight of the night was Calvin Harris. And honestly, another epiphany came over me: This shit is catered to, nay, built for drunks and drugged-out white folks. I’ve had a beef with EDM for a while, especially that Skrillexy ish, and I want to give Calvin a little bit of the benefit of a doubt because I like a lot of the artists that he works with. And while none of them were here tonight, he played a few songs that we all know and love at this point, “We Found Love” included. There were probably about eight points in his set in which he commanded the crowd to jump, and they did. And then there was the steam cannons, which, in front of the stage about six-strong, shot thick plumes of smoke at these moments. Watching so many basics get turnt up from his pulsing Euro beats was so sad, for some reason, partly because everyone looked so fucked up. To be that excited about what I have, rather harshly, classified a glorified DJ set while Queens of the Stone Age—a great modern rock band playing with a full band (and outstanding visuals) to a nearly empty crowd because they’re all waiting in front of the Calvin Harris stage–is baffling to me.
A young woman wisely commented that she places a little bit of blame on the artists themselves, too, for glamorizing and glorifying the effects of a potentially dangerous (even fatal) mix of poisons. Where are these parents!? I saw so many kids, beyond underage, like barely legal, way too intoxicated on God only knows what kind of mix of drugs and alcohol. This on the heels of the announcement of a cancellation of D.C.’s Electric Zoo Fest – next year, M.I.A. might think seriously about addressing the seriously rampant drug intake happening right under their nose.