Pemberton Fest Opening Day Proves Young and Hungry Trumps Hall of Fame Complacency

Photo by Ryan Johnson
Photo by Ryan Johnson

The beauty of any festival is those discovered gems, artists that are either happened across by chance, or musicians stumbled upon during the cram period that happens leading up to a festival of Pemberton’s magnitude. A cram period which if done right usually yields some gravy to pour on top of a bill that garnered one’s interests in the first place.

Day one and first targeted performance of the festival saw Pell, my personal newly discovered gem handling his business like a man on fire.  Holding down the always bumpin’ Bass Camp was the rapper out of NOLA being credited for reinventing the sound of hip hop coming out of the Who Dat?! Nation , Pell. Spotting the talent gleaning off of the young rapper is one of the easier tasks when trying to wrap one’s head around the emerging star. It’s easy to lump Pell in with other upbeat more positive sounding emcees like Chance, The Rapper. However, Pell’s set kicking off the festival for me was anything but kind, instead bringing his delivery from a genuinely ferocious place illuminating a drive inside the artist not captured in studio. With all due respect to Snoop and Cypress Hill who both showed up on day one, there was a discernible difference in the hunger behind the younger emcee, still having much to prove comparatively to the two future hall of famers. Already a fan albeit a new one from his recordings, Pell’s set cemented my intrigue in following him and his ascension up the rap ranks in the coming years.

In addition to Pell’s lit performance, having stole day one, other noticeable highlights included a surprise for me which was Savages. Clearly not given the pre-festival opportunities of other artists on the bill. I had written them off as not my cup of tea, however, live, Savages were a lot heavier and more straight ahead than I recalled on their recordings; having a Pack A.D. or Dead Weather thing about them that had I been paying better attention to prior to the festival, I would have circled a longer stay at the Mount Currie stage during their set.

Surprisingly Grace Potter didn’t have that same intangible ‘it’ factor that musicians like The Rolling Stones and so many others have praised her over. Obviously trusting the opinion of the rock gods over mine should be considered, but I wonder about how dated that opinion is, and how tied to wishful thinking for the genre it could be associated with? The legendary voice heralded as being one of the best in modern music was great, but without the aforementioned intangible didn’t do enough to rank her in my top three just yet.

The consummate gangsta Snoop handled his business as one would expect. You’ll never see a bad show from the S.N. double O.P,  however, song selections clearly geared towards the charts and the festival environment had the performance paling comparatively to his more intimate gigs such as his performance at The Imperial in October or Fortune Sound last month.

Due to not having any other acts up at the time Pemberton Festival basically shut down for Snoop. So whatever the door saw for draw beyond the turnstiles plus every visibly impaired security guard, maintenance person and grounds crew staff member was funneled towards the Pemberton stage for Snoop. The massive influx of people for The Dogfather made the already impersonal feel to a festival show that much more exasperated with congestion, as well as leaving spectators with the options of a view in hostile terrain, or comfort and binoculars (strong ones).

The night was rounded out with a very different sounding B-Real than the one we have grown accustomed over the years, which actually took me out of it for much of the Cypress Hill set. However, hearing some of those tracks off of their debut self titled album as well as followup Black Sunday brought me right back to my formative years in high school very often taking the advice offered by Cypress Hill at the time, and that of Snoop for that matter.

Day One was capped off for the pie-eyed festival goes with Rae Sremmurd at Bass Camp. To their credit they did a great job of sending everyone back to their tents with ears ringing on what was anything but a blasé opening day. Blasé” of course being the year old song the duo performed with Ty Dolla $ign and Future, as well as the best send off into the evening that one could ask for.

Day 2’s personal schedule includes:

– Joey Bada$$

– Kehlani

– Doug Benson

– Methodman / Redman

– Jak Knight

– Nick Swardson

– J.Cole

– FKA Twigs