Rock the Bells Founder Speaks on Tour’s Favorite Moments

With the Rock the Bells International Festival Series 2009 wrapping up on Sunday (August 9) in San Francisco’s Shoreline Amphitheatre, XXLMag,com caught up with the concert founder, Chang Weisberg, to speak on his favorite moments from the tour.

Boasting a lineup that included a slew of hip-hop heavyweights (Nas, Cypress Hill, Ice Cube, The Roots, Big Boi, Common, Busta Rhymes, EPMD, Rza and Raekwon, to name a few) on two separate stages in over 10 major cities across the U.S and Canada, Weisberg said it was no easy task selecting his highlights from the summer’s premiere tour.

The first moment that Chang said came to mind was seeing Slum Village grace the stage on the same day that they found out founding member Baatin died. “Let me tell you,” he shared, “right off the bat, Slum performing in Vancouver was such an emotional thing, the day that Baatin passed away. If it were me, I’d probably be home, but the fact that these guys took the stage the same day that they learned their brother passed away, is something that as a man, you can fully respect.“

Weisberg continued, listing several other notable performances by Ice Cube, Nas, Cypress Hill, and Bussa Bus. “Emotionally just seeing Busta Rhymes just pull off a beast of a set in Red Rocks [Amphitheatre in Denver] in these mountains that are set back in stone, outdoors,” he said. “That’s crazy. Seeing Ice Cube go through the catalog of NWA to Death Certificate all the way up to West Side Connection and have him know that he played right into the hands and hearts of fans at Rock The Bells, that was crazy,” he added. “Nas and Damian [Marley]– Nas performing ‘One Mic’ with Leon Mobley going acoustic on the percussion. And Calgary [Canada], Cypress Hill performing in Calgary for the first time in 15 years, that was pretty crazy.”

One artist’s set that surprised Weisberg was that of Kansas City MC Tech N9ne. “Tech N9ne performing at Rock The Bells is something,” he said. “You know I was very curious when we first booked the bill. A lot of people aren’t familiar with Tech as far as, really having seen his live show. A lot of people [have] heard of him [but are] kind of like ‘man how does a cat sell a million units independently over five records. What’s really going on here?’ And it’s the real deal.”

Despite several setbacks this year, including a recent altercation that occurred in L.A. between Raekwon’s camp and Joe Budden, Chang promises to continue the concert series – which he started in 2004 – for years to come. “Until MTV or radio starts playing quality music that’s covered at our shows,” he explained, “we gotta have our shows so that all the good music that we support has an outlet. That was the mission of Rock The Bells, and we’ll continue to do it as long as they’re fans out there that want to see it. “

In the meantime, RTB will continue to host several more intimate club dates with several of this year’s acts including Slum Village, Reflection Eternal and Slaughterhouse, among others. The first show will be tonight at the House of Blues in Las Vegas with additional guests Pete Rock, Supernatural and Tech N9ne. –Jesse Gissen

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  • Monty B.

    I wish I could of gone… Ice Cube and EPMD in the same venue would make it worth it for me to get out of the house.

  • El Tico Loco

    I’ve only experienced one of these and the turnout wasn’t that good, but what do you expect when you book a damn near all day event on a weekday in a city where crap rap rules, and the fans that support this brand of hip hop are up north transplants with jobs? In other words make your Southern stops on weekends maybe more of the real fans will show up and the ones that are unfamiliar might be willing to try something different.

  • EmCDL

    Damn I was really planning on going this year but my pockets been staying on E lately. My partna went and told me it was off the chain! Next year for sure…

  • levi

    Red Rocks was dope. Nas killed it, damian killed it, big boi killed it. they all killed it.

  • Nate

    Only problem is having 2 seperate stages and making fans choose between the more mainstream artist and the often arguable equal or better talented artists simultaneously sharing the stage time but on the smaller stage.

    Cut the price 20% and take out 6 artists and let them all share the main stage. Adjust the program times, and keep the DJ sets to a minimum 5-10 mins max between artists.

  • latino heat

    as i said yesterday, my biggest let down of this years show was all the no shows. Common, GZA, Cypress Hill, EPMD, Pete Rock. when you book these shows make sure people don’t no show just because it’s the last show of the tour. i feel we should get some kind of refund truthfully.
    also as i mentioned yesterday, when you give people a lineup sheet, stick to it! i missed M.O.P. because they went on about 2 or 3 hours after they were scheduled to because i figured they no showed too.
    i liked it better last year when all the bigger more established names were on the main stage and the less known acts were on the small stage. having RZA and Raekwon on the small stage was kind of a slap in the face i thought.
    other than that though, another great show and i look forward to next years RTB.


    It Was The Shit! San Manuel Amphi theatre! I suggest all of you go next time!

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