Rock The Bells 2010: Worth the Wilt

Lauryn Hill at Rock The Bells on Sunday

I’m on a bit of a D.C.-high after learning about new Zoo babies, so I can’t resist crowing about another recent surprise which put the “Delightful City” in D.C.

On Sunday, I was at the final concert date for the 2010 Rock The Bells tour, held at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Rock The Bells is an annual hip-hop festival which always promotes “surprise performances” at their engagements and this year, they delivered, pleasing a crowd filled with 13-year olds– and their parents.  This year’s show was notable because each of the headlining acts performed one of their most popular albums in its entirety (interesting aside: three of those albums from A Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang and Snoop were all released in November 1993).

At the end of an abbreviated set that featured songs from her hit solo album, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” Hill drew a cheer from the wilted crowd by bringing out rapper (and last year’s headliner) Nas to perform “If I Ruled the World”. It was the highlight of her act. Nas also made an appearance during the Wu-Tang Clan’s raucous performance of “36 Chambers”, later on.

Oh, and about Lauryn Hill…she may not have as many fans in Chocolate City as she did before this weekend, not after making the crowd stew for hours in steamy summer heat. The show’s organizers initially announced that she would not perform because was sick, but the Washington Post reported that she was actually backstage, getting a manicure and pedicure while her fans waited in sweltering, near 100-degree temperatures. After two hours of no music the crowd was thrilled to see A Tribe Called Quest take the stage.

For me (someone who had the “Midnight Marauders” cassette in her car from 1993-1996), Tribe’s joyful performance of that album was the highlight of the festival, which only visited four cities in the United States this summer (LA, SF, NYC were the others).

The music. Reason #4 why I love living in Washington D.C.