Last weekend, the Eidé Magazine crew spent the day at ONE MusicFest, now in its third year and at a new venue— the Masquerade Music Park. I’d heard about the single-day festival in years past, though I never seemed to meet folks that actually attended. Thus I was particularly interested in checking out how a festival touting its “innovative infusion of diversity” actually ran, and who the hell was going to it in the first place.
The line-up this year offered more than enough reasons for casual fans to brave the near-oppressive Atlanta humidity: local favorite Bosco, rising Mississippi rapper Big K.R.I.T., global genre-bender and indie darling Santigold — making her Atlanta debut, no less — and a round-robin finale featuring the Legends of Hip-Hop: Doug E. Fresh, MC Lyte, Big Daddy Kane, and Slick Rick. So yeah, ONE MusicFest gets high marks for diversity (some new school, some old school) but not eclecticism. Ultimately this works in the favor of a single-stage festival. The crowd was neither dominated by a particular crowd nor fractured between fundamentally opposed groups (rap kids vs. metal kids), so thankfully the festival avoided the lamentable “everybody catches one act then ignores the hell out of the next or heckles them mercilessly” phenomenon that too often plagues “diverse” line-ups.
The front lot of the Masquerade was turned into a food-truck court featuring a coma-inducing low-country boil that was totally worth $20 at the end of the night. Throughout the day, the court functioned as a nice respite from lounging in the grass of the Music Park, featuring local DJs including Speakerfoxxx and Dibiase spinning all the BBQ-appropriate hip-hop you could want. Unfortunately I just missed Marsha Ambrosius by lingering here, but from all accounts her set was excellent.
We made it into the Music Park to find an appreciative crowd vibing out to Bosco, who’s never appeared the slightest bit hesitant in commanding the stage every time I’ve seen her perform, and this afternoon was no different. She didn’t deserve her slot because she won a contest — she deserved to perform because she is one of the finest, pure, young talents Atlanta has produced in some time. She claimed Savannah as her base at the end of her set, but I think of her as ATL all the way.
Bosco was followed in what seemed like mere minutes by Big K.R.I.T., which underscored the attention One MusicFest payed to timeliness: the flow between acts was efficient and never felt like DJ Jaycee had to kill unnecessary amounts of time while the stage was set-up. The crowd up front had filled in a bit with obvious fans, if not diehards, and curious onlookers when K.R.I.T. burst onto the stage following a short set of Southern rap classics everybody bounced to appreciatively. His extensive back-catalogue of mixtapes favors syrupy, low-slung bounce made for riding slow to, but K.R.I.T.’s stage presence made the songs explode with a rowdiness that effectively quadrupled the energy of the crowd. The old-schoolers in attendance were truly blown away.
The energy was flipped again once Brooklyn’s Santigold came on. I was expecting the crowd to have been overrun with MJQ club kids and general indie pop fans, which of course there were a few, but the only noticeable change was females now outnumbering males 3 to 1 in the front. More high marks for ONE MusicFest. Hipsters, hip-hoppers and soul sisters, young and old, were practically writhing in anticipation. When her band, then her dancers, then finally the petite Santigold herself hit the stage, the awesomeness of her live show washed over the audience in waves. Everybody was processing what exactly was happening on stage with the outfits and choreography (and horse, at one point) that the applause for the opening was somewhat dampened. I won’t describe everything that happened during the hour-long set, but watch her performance at Jay-Z’s Made In America Festival from the next day for an idea of what went down in Atlanta. Even while dealing with repeated sound issues stemming from a faulty microphone, Santigold had us all in the palm of her hand.
The Legends of Hip-Hop set felt like a cleanser following the craziness of Santigold’s performance, or did so for the remaining younger audience members like myself, who consider the golden era of rap to be sometime starting in 1993 and ending around 1998. For the middle-age set, however, the quick interplay between the MCs was as hard as any Waka Flocka show. Don’t think I’m being slight to the night’s finale — Slick Rick and MC Lyte in particular seemed ready to battle any younger rappers and had more swagger to boot. Personally I was hoping for Rick to perform his verse off Outkast’s “Da Art of Storytellin’ (Pt. 1)”, but you can’t expect everything after a phenomenal day of music. Atlanta can only hope for ONE MusicFest to build on its strength of presenting diverse (but not completely random) line-ups in big spaces that feel intimate. It’s worth sweating all day for.