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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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