Los Angeles-natived rapper Kendrick Lamar performs on Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015 at Shaun White’s Air+Style at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. (Emily DeLapp/Living Out Loud LA)
Day 1 of the U.S. debut of Shaun White’s Air + Style music and sports festival on Saturday, Feb. 21 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. gave fans a wide array of fun activities and attractions with a soundtrack of artists just as diverse.
With the massive 16-story high, 450-foot long ramp being the main fixture in the Rose Bowl parking area, Air + Style also features two stages, an interactive kids area, where little ones could snowboard and skateboard on mini ramps, as well as pop-up style street art exhibits.
While the two stages are noticeably different in size, both pack an amazing visual punch for fans. Toronto-based noise rock band Metz was one the first bands to hit the second stage. The trio powered through their impressive set of post-hardcore sludge punk that was reminiscent of early Nirvana (think Bleach) meets latter-day Black Flag (Process of Weeding Out and later albums).
The group, who has been winning over critics with their self-titled debut album for Sup Pop Records, demanded attention from the audience and people who were passing by. By the end of their set those of us who had never heard Metz, would be hard-pressed to ever forget them.
As Metz were winding things down on the second stage, the crowd began migrating to the main stage to secure prime viewing for the festivals first big headliner, New York’s Phantogram.
The Brooklyn two-piece, who are still touring in support of their latest album Voices, played a majority of songs from the new album, kicking off their energetic set with the hypnotic opening track “Nothing But Trouble” before delving into crowd favorites like “Black Out Days”, “Mouthful of Diamonds” and their hit single “Fall In Love”. The crowd was dancing and signing along to singer Sarah Barthel’s words as if in a trance as guitarist Josh Carter led the backing band with group’s swirling guitars and spaced out keyboards.
Back on the second stage, Atlanta garage band, Black Lips were hammering through set of blues-based southern rock. Black Lips have been known for their provocative stage antics in the past, ranging from vomiting on stage, urination, nudity, flaming guitars and other un-predictable antics, played a very tame set by their standards, but did a great job of picking up the crowd’s party atmosphere, playing songs from their latest album Underneath The Rainbow out now on Vice Records.
It was Grammy-winning DJ Thomas Pentz, better known as Diplo, who really brought the crowd out in anticipation of his set. The famed LA-based EDM DJ blasted the audience with covers from Dr. Dre and Jay-Z.
Of course this was a Diplo show. There was insane bass and there was twerking.
The girls on stage dress to the nines and come ready to dance their legs off, and some of them nearly did! The crowd was rabid as Diplo blasted the crowd with wave after wave of monstrous bass. It wasn’t just excitement to see him; it was more like waiting for a bomb to go off.
Having someone as respected as Diplo play a show pretty much ensures that every group playing before him is forced to step their game up.
While essentially steering clear of the genre crossing mash-ups that helped define his early career, Diplo still gave the people plenty of things to swoon over.
The man of the evening however was Compton’s Kendrick Lamar. The 27-year old rapper, who threw the gauntlet down and changed the world of hip-hop with his widely successful 2012 album good kid, m.A.A.d city emerged on stage to ravenous “Kendrick, Kendrick, Kendrick” chants from the audience.
Lamar immediately jumped into the crowd as he started laying down rhymes to “Money Trees”.
Live, Lamar makes virtuosity look easy, as he spit out rapid-fire lines on songs like “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” while retaining smooth and purposeful flow. Lamar also gave a shout out to fellow rapper A$AP Rocky with a cover of “F**kin’ Problems”.
The storyline and rich imagery from good kid, m.A.A.d city were elevated to another level. The backing band and thunderous bass pumped though the crowd’s chest as Lamar dropped “Swimming Pools”, causing the audience to go nuts.
The set wasn’t without its issues. Lamar repeated what is one of his best tracks, “m.A.A.d city” a total of three times due to the sound not being loud enough. Having the songs repeated due to sound issues must have upset Lamar because he ended his set significantly early, nearly half an hour before he was scheduled to.
All in all day one of Air +Style was not without its faults, the sub-par sound on the main stage and ridiculously long beer and food lines were some of the major complaints by attendees, great ideas with poor execution, hopefully it’s something that can be fixed in time for day two later today.
For snowboard and sports enthusiasts it was an awesome event with champions Yuki Kadono (1st), Sebastien Toutant (2nd), and Ståle Sandbech (3rd) placing in the competitions.
Although some attendees to social media to complain about the sub-par sound and massive lines for everything, the festival still managed to treat the audience to a impressive mash up of sports and music, they likes of which the Los Angeles area has been long overdue for. And I am sure many of them will be back for day 2 later today.
Like Lamar said before exiting the stage, “I will be back!”