ODB Hologram and Wu-Tang Clan (Phillip Cosores/Radio.com)
By Philip Cosores
Rock the Bells celebrated their ten-year anniversary in San Bernardino, California this weekend with two days of hip hop that showcased both how long a decade really is, and how short. While Wu-Tang Clan has remained a fixture of the event — appearing at both the first installment in 2004 and headlining this year’s lineup — now fans have the opportunity to watch a hologram of Ol’ Dirty Bastard perform with his original group. This interplay between tradition and originality is the hope with anniversaries; that the relationship is not merely about survival, but that you improve whatever you are celebrating over that time. The take-away with this edition of the music festival was not only has Rock the Bells not grown significantly over the many installments (figuratively, not literally), but it just might be worse than ever.
Ol’ Dirty Bastard passed away four months after the Wu-Tang’s 2004 appearance at the inaugural event and I don’t think much thought was placed into what emotional conflict it might cause the group. Following Saturday night’s hologram of Eazy-E with Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, which was mostly successful despite it being a bit too dark, Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s synthetic persona was lucky to have actually an act that didn’t need a hologram to be noteworthy. But the hologram’s appearance was botched when a technical malfunction caused Wu-Tang’s DJ to lose sound 25 minutes into their set. Method Man took control of the situation, offering up freestyles that pointed out his narrow range in that department, as he admitted he wasn’t good at freestyling. Had Ghostface Killah or Raekwon actually attended the show, they would have been ideal for passing this time, but no one stepped up to assist Meth, and he grew increasingly more agitated with the lack of a backing track, threatening to walk off stage “hologram or not.”