Rock the Bells 2012 Saturday performances

Some of this photo set’s images were added to a multi-part CNN photo essay on Rock the Bells 2012. The links are below. Click them to see if a photo of you is on CNN’s website:

I had the opportunity to attend the Saturday performances of the 9th Annual Rock the Bells, an annual music festival that features world class hip-hop artists, which travels to multiple locations around the United States. The journey to the concert was a bit last minute, and I wasn’t sure up until we arrived that we would be able to get in. But thanks to Qi Chi, Wu-Tang Brands CEO Divine. . . and a little ingenuity. . . we made it happen.

Spread out amongst the two stages – which included the main “Rock the Bells” dais and the aptly named “36 Chambers” venue – were performances by artists including DJ Lance Rock, Future, Schoolboy Q, Salt-N-Pepa, 2 Chainz, Tyga, Big Sean, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Jadakiss, DMX, Method Man & Redman, Ice Cube, Wu Block, Dipset, Naughty by Nature, Prodigy, Pusha T, Tinie Tempah, Watsky and other late addition Wu-Tang Clan members, including a guest appearance by RZA himself.

RZA’s presence was felt throughout Saturday’s production, with the numerous members of Wu-Tang performing, along with the promotional material for his upcoming directorial debut The Man With the Iron Fists, material that lined the great bandshell at Holmdel’s PNC Bank Arts Center. Everyone earned their keep, as both stages competed hard for audience attention, with surprise appearances, thumping beats and classic rhymes that could be heard up and down New Jersey’s Garden State Parkway. It’s difficult to pick favorites with the quality of all the performances, but Method Man and Redman were definite standouts on the Rock the Bells stage and Ice Cube shouted classics hits from one of my personal favorite rap albums of all time, Death Certificate, on the 36 Chambers. Jadakiss and Wu Block turned the main stage upside down, just as RZA came in for a landing, throwing the crowd into a fanatical state of handwaving, with piece signs and Wu symbols everywhere.

It all added up to my feeling that these performers generally work so hard to please their fans and make it all look so easy. However, being so close, you can see the effort that goes into every move and every word.

DMX ended the show with an inspirational first concert appearance in ten years and showed no sign of the wear and tear that expect after being away from the game for so long. I didn’t attend Sunday’s performances, but they included sessions by Action Bronson, Dom Kennedy, Sean Price, Common, J Cole, Big Daddy Kane, NAS and many others, and from what I hear, they kept the venue rocking from beginning to end.