Rock the Bells | 07.28.07 | NYC

Words by: Andrew Bruss :: Images from:

Rock The Bells :: 07.28.07 :: Randall's Island :: New York, NY

Zack de la Rocha - RATM :: 07.28 :: Randall's Island
Tens of thousands of hippers, hoppers, hippies and punks packed a dusty field at Randall's Island to attend the New York incarnation of Rock the Bells, a day long festival that offered up, quite possibly, the greatest hip-hop oriented lineup of all time.

The highlight of the event was a headlining performance by the recently reunited Wu-Tang Clan. However, when Rock the Bells came to New York City, Wu-Tang Clan was just a fraction of the hype behind this year's bill. This time around, Wu-Tang would be sharing their headliner status with the newly reunited Rage Against The Machine. In addition to the two headliners, the main stage was overflowing with hip-hop legends like Public Enemy, Cypress Hill, The Roots and a blood boiling performance by Immortal Technique.

RZA - Wu-Tang Clan :: 07.29 :: Randall's Island
As the gates opened, folks flooded the massive field, hoping to position themselves close to the stage and, if all went according to plan, hold their ground to see the headliners up close. Unfortunately, plans rarely work out. The heat was strong enough to dehydrate anyone with a beer in their belly, and for those hoping to CamelBak up, the massive water trucks the promoters rented were out of service. As difficult as these realities may have been, it didn't stop all of the Rage-heads and Killa Beez from getting what they came for. With well-rationed bottles of water, sun block and petroleum jelly to prevent crotch chaffage, fans began positioning themselves early on, knowing that they were in for a long, long haul.

Mos Def :: 07.28 :: Randall's Island
One of the first and best sets of the day was performed by Peruvian born, New York bred Immortal Technique. The rapper's aggressive, politically charged rhymes and radically left wing outlook has earned him the reputation of being "the Che Guevara of hip-hop." As he meticulously spit fiery rhymes, Technique gave the impression rapping was just a means to end - this guy is looking to start a revolution. Much like Zach de la Rocha of Rage, when Technique does his thing, he does it with the fury of a jungle rebel and the charisma of a Baptist preacher. Technique is relatively new on the hip-hop scene, but judging by his performance at Randall's Island, his revolution is just getting started.

Scott Ian w/ Public Enemy :: 07.29 :: Randall's Island
Following a collaborative set by Mos Def and Talib Kweli, politico-hip-hop pioneers Public Enemy took their message to the people. Their set featured an attention starved Flavor Flav shouting out his trademark catchphrases, but more importantly, Scott Ian of Anthrax jamming on "Bring the Noise." Public Enemy was on hand as part of their 20th anniversary tour, which one would have hoped would earn them more than a 45-minute set. However, the event had an early curfew and an extensive lineup, and as a result the group left the stage before they got a chance to hit their stride.

Public Enemy's premature set-close ushered in a performance of instrumental hip-hop by The Roots. After they wrapped up their intriguing, yet ultimately uninspiring set, Cypress Hill tore into a haze-friendly set featuring a three-foot bong, an inflatable Buddha and enough second hand ganja smoke to give any cop on hand a contact high. Given the changes the group has gone through over the years, folks were skeptical of the authenticity they would muster. However, by the end of the set, the qualitative delivery of their punked out hip-hop combo was sure to convert even the most cynical doubters.

Method Man - Wu-Tang Clan :: 07.29 :: Randall's Island
As the sun began to set behind the stage, the eight surviving members of the Wu-Tang Clan tore into rhythms that featured the RZA's trademark mixing methods, a tribute to fallen Clansman Ol' Dirty Bastard and a stage overflowing with their pseudo-entourage army. Wu-Tang featured each member on their beefed-up choruses while the verses provided individual members a chance to show off their skills. The GZA and Ghostface Killah dished out some rhymes worth bragging about. However, it was Method Man who crowd surfed, mic in hand, for the majority of the set, and shone brightly above the rest.

Even with all the energy the group brought to the stage, Wu Tang's set was a bit sloppy. The performance of "Bring Da Ruckus" was dragged out and off rhythm. But, considering the feuds these guys have had over the years and the strong likelihood that they'd never grace a stage together again, the sheer thrill of seeing them all on one stage is what ultimately made their set a success.

Rage Against the Machine :: 07.28 :: Randall's Island
When the break between Wu-Tang and Rage Against the Machine drew to a close, chants of "Rage" grew loud and fast. As the lights dimmed, a simple, yet adrenaline-triggering message blanketed the crowd. Signifying the start of the chaos, Zach de la Rocha welcomed the crowd saying, "Good evening, we are Rage Against the Machine from Los Angeles California." At that very moment, the sea of people before the stage erupted as though an earthquake had shaken it. Rage dove hard into their set with "Testify" followed by "Bulls On Parade," a tune that criticizes the military industrial complex and features a solo by Tom Morello that has forever changed the way people view the guitar.

Rage Against the Machine :: 07.28 :: Randall's Island
As the set progressed, de la Rocha belted his way through his militant poetry on tracks like "People Of the Sun" and "Guerilla Radio." The group was on fire, but questions began to arise regarding the relationship between Morello and de la Rocha. Morello, currently on tour as the acoustic guitar slinging Nightwatchman, was long rumored to be the stubborn holdout against a Rage reunion. Obviously, he got past whatever was stopping him, but the difficulties that once distanced the group's frontman and guitarist still seemed to exist. Throughout the entirety of their 90-minute set, de la Rocha romped around the stage, buddying-up to bassist Tim Commerford but failing to once make eye contact with Morello.

Even with a possible feud still brewing behind the scenes, to say that Rage's performance was anything short of amazing would be ridiculous. The fact of the matter is Rage Against the Machine helped to radicalize a generation of politically apathetic music fans. When Rage takes their message to the stage, every crowd they perform for responds with fire coursing through their bodies. What the future holds for them is uncertain, but for anyone who caught their set at Rock the Bells it was abundantly clear that Rage has still got it.

JamBase | New York
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[Published on: 8/21/07]

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RonCronDon starstarstarstarstar Tue 8/21/2007 09:25PM
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Rage on 7/28 was one of the top 5 concerts I've EVER seen and I've been to 30-something Phish shows and seen every other jam band in between. The energy was unparalleled!! I also loved his anti-Bush rant, it was concise (~1:30), direct, and articulated... not to whiny or drawn-out.

spaceface7 starstarstarstarstar Wed 8/22/2007 05:43AM
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GOD DAMN! I wish I was at this... but tickets sold out in one day. not really surprized, just very pissed off! this was a sick review broham. just call me a hippie-hopper.

RothburyWithCheese starstarstarstarstar Wed 8/22/2007 07:02AM
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Amazing. I've been listening to Rage and PE since 1992 (I was 13) and saw Rage in 1996. These are the kind of artists we need in this time of chaos and greed. They will put that wretched festival Vegoose on their backs and carry it to some respectability thru the Nevada desert. Thank you Chuck, thank you Zach, and all the rest of the wonderful musicians associated. Much love!!!!

AZ~*Droo* starstarstar Wed 8/22/2007 09:31AM
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"Wretched festival"

Huh, sounds like someone hasnt been to vegoose before! And this will be the worst vegoose ever!

Marcsmall Wed 8/22/2007 10:11AM
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I liked Mos Def in Something The Lord Made....Other than that, I don't listen to any of these bands.

RGxB2807 Wed 8/22/2007 10:48AM
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Rage was no doubt amazing. Immortal technique blew my face off. The Roots were a funk band, a sick funk band. This show was awesome.e Gotta say Rage, Immortal Technique and Roots were my favorite. Wu-Tang was sweet and I gotta say I was disappointed by Talib after so much hype. So much went down, no regretts about the money spent.

Andrew Bruss Wed 8/22/2007 01:01PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Andrew Bruss

seriously guys, for anyone who plans on going to any sort of music festival between today and the day you die, that thing about petroleum jelly preventing crotch chaffage couldn't be any more of a life saver

willrich1 starstarstarstar Thu 8/23/2007 09:39AM
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I went to this show.. Was amazing was front row center for wu tang but man it started to get crazy and mad hot between sets i had to chill on the outside area for the rage show but it was intense mosh pits everywhere.. But one thing that really bugged the hell out of me was flavor flav he wasted way to much time on pointless stuff. who introduces their kids when u are on a time limit.. all and all was a great day just wish i had sun block.

COLOSKIER Fri 8/24/2007 11:49PM
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i saw this same fest. in san bernidino on aug 11. it was sick to say the least minus the heat. was there a "paid dues" stage in nyc? that was one of the best parts of the fest in my opinion. sage francis was awesome along with mf doom and brother ali (first time seeing or hearing this dude) on that stage. the magnitude of the "main stage" was a little overwhelming for me and i thought having the smaller/more intamite "paid dues" stage made the fest a lot more enjoyable. but ya, as expected, rage did tear it up...;)

PCPrabbit Mon 9/17/2007 12:57PM
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very sweet show indeed. I almost passed the fuck out during rage from sheer freaking out. no drugs, hardly any alcohol cause they're so expensive and after two 20 oz of water. rage literally had me in a catatonic frenzy until my body gave out.

getgreen Fri 5/1/2009 11:32AM
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nothing will ever compare to seeing rage reunited