When I heard about the Paid Dues music festival a few years ago, I was mildly curious but passed due to the venue selection. Exclusively hanging out in a concrete parking lot, standing for hours just wasn’t my idea of a good time anymore. I was going to pass this year too but the lineup was too enticing plus I wanted to support Murs (who I discovered had various meet and greets and walked through the crowd very approachable during the day) and indie hip-hop. Still not thrilled with the venue selection of the NOCC Center, when I learned of the San Manuel Ampitheatre venue change, I was optimistic. I had never been there before but having a seated ampitheatre earned a few points in its favor. I sat down with the artist schedule and set my plan for the day- a few meet and greets, a few sets and I’d be all set. A lingering bummer stayed at the back of my head that I’d miss Lalah Hathaway at Club Nokia to attend Paid Dues but the choice was made.
Planning to arrive around 1:30 PM to attend the first meet and greet of the day- Jean Grae and Joey Bada$$, things did not go as planned. Snaking traffic caused by a bad accident on the 215 and the traffic around the one lane road to get into the parking area prevented me from doing so. When I arrived at the parking area, I was told there was VIP parking and VIP VIP parking which was $20 extra and not included in the VIP ticket I purchased (Strike one). After the long walk from the VIP VIP parking and a big hike uphill to the venue entrance (Strike two), I went from one line to the next to finally get what I needed to start the day. By that time I missed Jean and Joey so I sulked my way to the Paid Dues stage to catch The Internet and The Grouch and Eligh. Not sure how far the Dues Paid and Monster Energy stages were, I decided to investigate after meeting The Grouch and Eligh. G&E’s set provided one of the highlights of the day.
Held in the VIP tent which had dope DJs playing all day, the meet and greet started with each artist being asked by the staff when they arrived to sign 40 posters for whomever which put some in a bad mood before greeting their fans. Not sure whose idea that was but that should have been done beforehand and discreetly. G&E were friendly as usual and accommodating to fans who had several memorabilia pieces for them to sign and posed for pics. Was happy that The Grouch remembered me from our interview back in December so that made me smile. After checking out a bit of De La Soul’s (my first time seeing them solo) set, I set out for the long trek to the other stages. Saw a bit of Joey Bada$$’ and Killer Mike’s sets but it was a little hard to concentrate as the stages were right next to each other with competing soundsystems. Hiked back to the Paid Dues main stage to catch the tail end of Talib Kweli’s set who was joined by Jean to do a song and met him in the VIP tent. He seemed a little shy but I was thrilled to meet the second half of Black Star so of course I awkwardly blurted out I was a big fan and he smiled. Ran back to the main stage to catch Immortal Technique who made the crowd say “Viva La Revolucion!” at the end of his set and then went back to the VIP tent to meet Hopsin. I missed his set but he was so nice, I made it a point to check out his music when I returned home (He’s dope!). Ended the night with Tech N9ne, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and Black Hippy (with Kendrick taking a backseat to the other members until the end). Had heard third-hand about the hype around Macklemore and his set wasn’t what I expected at all. He danced, made funny comments about white people being sunburned at music festivals and set up each song well. He was a pleasant surprise. All in all, it was a relatively fun experience minus the logistical items and the best part of the day was listening to new artists and reconnecting with familiar ones. Rock The Bells it was not but was still worth the time and effort.