Les Ardentes, 14/07/2009
This is the XL story. Well, what…?! Did you think these pictures fell in my lap or what? Or, even better, that these are PolaDRoids…? Come on, people, you should know me better than thàt.
It’s been a while. But they are back. The infamous, the notorious, rap duo: Redman and Method Man are back in the Building. (with an extra pronounciation on the B.) Or, like the duo love to call them selves: The Scotty Pippin & Michael Jordan of Hip Hop. (baby) We all know the Blackout album. We all watched the How High movie. For the ones who did not: Please listen, please watch. They just don’t make ‘m like that anymore. They have been around since the 90’s, and to this day, there is just nobody like them.
Method Man has always been my favorite Wu-member. His voice drew my attention the minute I heard it for the first time. It makes me think of a caramel with honey sundae ice cream with chocolate chips on top. Smooth but with that special rawness. The fact that he guest-stars in one of my favorite HBO series, THE WIRE is a plus, I must say. Add some iconic collaboration tracks with folks like Mary J Blige, Busta Rhymes, D’Angelo and you might get the picture. I’m not very familiar with Redman. I just know he got discovered by Erick Sermon and remember him from that rattling, firing, snapping, sharp voice with some dogbarking to the top things off. So the both of them, after a long silence, where back to promote The BlackOut 2 ànd to spread the word about the release of the How High 2 movie. It was about time they came back. Like they say themselves : Hip Hop changed tremendously the last decade.
I was thinking how on éarth I was going to pull this one off…? Two big dudes at the same time? One is already enough work as it is. So, obviously when I entered the little concert venue in Ghent, the place was pàcked. I was alone that night. Jules was sick and couldn’t back me up. I already accepted the fact that I might not get a picture, but hey.. you never know. It took them a while to appear on stage. Around 23H00 we finally saw some movement on stage. Entourage walking around, DJ ready for soundcheck. The room was completely packed, the concert was sold out months ago. It was extremely hot. I looked around me. The public were mostly men. A few women here and there, but mostly men. I managed to squeeze myself front row and ended up next to a blond girl on my left and a wheelchair behind me.
And then, It began.
2 hours of complete madness. They performed some old Blackout songs, some new ones, ofcourse a tribute to O.D.B. finishing with Da Rockwilda song and topping it of with a Michael Jackson medley. The crowd went completely nutz. I honestly mean it, when I say that this probably was one of my best hip hop concerts I ever saw. Deep down, I secretely thought that they would not give their best. You know, ‘spitting the lyrics and off they go-kinda style’. But you clearly saw the energy between them. They just LOVED the crowed, jumped from boxes, climbed the balcony ceelings to greet the people and goof around with the audience on top of the venue. They performed approximately 2 hours! And DAJUMN! I didn’t knew Method Man could dance? Gsus, the man got skills. He was moonwalking the stage away.
Now, where was I in all the frenzy? I was slowly dying. Being front row in a Meth & Red gig is not the smartest thing to do. Nor the safest. Oh yes, the view is pretty awesome but enjoying it in a nice way is out of the question, actually. Remember the weelchair? Well, I have nothing against weelchairs, and I mean nothing. But this was just a little odd if I may say…. The minute the concert began, the crowd started jumping, elbow throwing, kicking all that enthousiasm out of them. That’s one thing. But, the minute this show began, I felt this weelchair aiming for my heels like Paris did with Achilles centuries ago, smashing my legs against the stage. I looked behind me and I saw this dude in the weelchair and his girl, and I’m telling you, they were:
1. Completely stoned. Which makes sense. I mean, it’s a Meth and Red concert.
2. Totally drunk.
3. The combination of the above.
So, when I looked back because I was fysically in pain, since my legs were being pushed against the stage so hard I was afraid of falling right IN the weelchair (and nobody wants that right?) the couple looked at me real mean. You know like: “HOW DARE YOU ASKING TO PULL BACK, THIS IS A WEELCHAIR PATIENT FOR CRYING OUT LOUD” kinda look. (and also very unstable, they were completely…spaced out) How on earth do you respond to that? I just looked at them, bègging with my eyes to understand me and hoping they would see that I was under attack by a fucking wheelchair and pull the chair at least a little bit back. Add some hysterically jumping fellas on my right side, kicking, jumping, yelling, kicking some more. Oh, there’s a fist agains my jaw. And to finish off, a dozen of small water bottles that both Method and Redman just PORED out of people. You know, to cool things down since it was oh so hot and stuff?
If you still don’t get the picture, it was fucking impossible to take pictures. I was soaking wet from all the water they threw on people, mostly front row of course. Taking a picture and focusing on the subject was just a mission impossible since the duo jumped and danced around continuously and the fact that the crowd felt like a bunch of wild elephants, stomping everything and everyone around them into mashed potatoes didn’t help either.
There I was, juggling my Polaroid around, protecting it from Redman’s ‘path of liquid destruction’. I just took every moment I had, snapped a picture, and managed with all my power to put the picture safely away in my bag. I never had so much trouble in my life, putting a simple polaroid picture in my bag. The film kept on sticking to my fingers since it was so damn hot, and since the moving space between your left, right and behind neighbour was about 1 cm, it was just the fucking hardest thing to do éver
And then they left. The stage was soaking wet, it was like Katrina’s baby girl passed by and raged around the little venue. There I was, completely wet, with poor pola results. I walked around a little bit, hoping I would see some entourage I could approach, but nobody to be seen.
Jules text-messaged me, tipping me that there was a door close to the toilets where you possible could slip through. That’s my girl, even when she is not able to be physically around, she is there with me in spirit. Immediately I checked it out. Because I didn’t want to draw too much attention, I was obliged to go to the toilet to check things out. I went to that toilet 3 times in 15 minutes. But, there was nò way getting through that door. I started to panic a little bit inside. This was turning out to be another failure. I ran to the back of the venue, hoping I could catch a familiar face on stage that could help me get backstage.
All of sudden, I see GUS. GUS is a familiar face in the Belgian urban scene. (Ofcourse we have an urban scene!) Not only is he a DJ, he presents ‘THE HOP’ on Studio Brussels Radio and was so kind to give me a shout out about the blog, when I just started out. I waved desperately, begging with my eyes If he could help me. He made some signs, and shrugged his shoulders and pointing out in the exit direction. Was he telling me to go to the toilets…? I didnt even thought twice about it and started to run. Once arrived at the toilet, I noticed a girl leaving the backstage. She saw me hustling to get in, and then she told me that there was no use in trying to get backstage, since Method Man and Redman had left the Building. Damn…
I took my bag, threw a final look at my Polaroids and went towards the door. While I was walking outside I heard people talking and yelling excited. I looked up and what did I see…. Two cars, the first one with Redman in the front passenger seat and the other one with Method man in the passenger seat!!! I immediately ran to the first car and asked to snap a picture. Redman was taking pictures of people taking pictures of him. He yelled something…
3.2.1. Flashing Lights. SNAP! Gotcha!
Ow. I guess I was standing in the way. I went straight to Method Mans car, he was just about the put his car window up, so I quickly knocked on the window. He looked at me, I gave my most innocent, ‘Can I please take a picture smile’, waving my Polaroid camera. He looked at me for 10 seconds and turned the car window down.
He looked straight at me ; 3.2.1. Flashing Lights. SNAP. Bingo.
Almost immediately they pulled their engines up and left with screaming tires. Now can you believe thàt? How lucky can you get? I looked at my 11 (?!!) polaroids I snapped and although I was happy with the results, I still wasn’t completely satisfied, since the last car pictures had a very high ‘paparazzi’ vibe on them and it was not what I hoped I could get, but I realised that I had to be happy with the results I managed to get. But still…perfection is a bitch.
It was 03 o’clock when I was laying in my bed, only 3 hours of sleep before another busy day at the office, but hey. It was worth it… UNTIL…
The next day, I received the following news….: METHOD MAN AND REDMAN REPLACING LIL WAYNE AT THE LES ARDENTES FESTIVAL! Turns out, LES ARDENTES happen to be my next stop for my blog! Boy O Boy, 2 times Meth and Red in one week? And even better: another chance, to maybe, just maybe get a better result…? So there I was, just 5 days later, on the hunt again at Les Ardentes in Liège aka Toxcity.
About the festival. This is a young festival and it was the first time I attended it. It drew my attention quite fast, since they had a great line up with a remarkable attention for urban artists. Q-Tip, Laurynn Hill, Lil’ Wayne, Grand Master Flash, Kid Cudi, Mulatu Astatke… Most festivals in Belgium are more rock or electronic music orientated. Urban artists you’ll see more throughout the year, in concert venues. It turned out that both Laurynn Hill as well as Lil’ Wayne cancelled their tours, but I decided to go anyway since I wanted to check the festival out.
The cool thing is, I was able to hustle via via via via via a bracelet, that authorized me to be left, right, behind, in front, (even under if I really wanted to) the stage. This meant, If I did my job right, I could draw their attention while the artists are performing, and immediately run behind the stage to hopefully have an encounter with them on their way to the backstage/artist area? (where I was not allowed) HOW PERFECT IS THAT!!!
By the time Meth and Red were scheduled to perform, I already checked the perimeter (21h-22h) like a thousand times. When the artists arrived, they were immediately dropped off at the artist village where they and their Entourage received their bracelets. When they arrived before – or on time, they are then escorted with drivers to the mainstage outdoors. Other artists were scheduled to perform indoors, which is very close to the artist village. Just a three minute walk away to be exactly. (Yes, I calculated it, I was alone for most of the time, what else could I do?) Where did Meth & Red have to perform. OFCOURSE. The Mainstage. Meaning. Very. Very. Far. Away. This meant that the chance of meeting them on the way to the stage or away from the stage would be very hard since they would be in a blinded car.
This time, my P.I.C. Jules was in the area, she arrived later than me, since she had to work that day, but she arrived just in time, to give me that little extra help. I quickly calculated àll the possibilities with Jules. Since I had been hanging around all day, I’d hang out with some security people, some journalists (who looked at me like I was completely nuts, my Blog was completely Nuts and repeatetly asked me why O WHY I took pictures on Polaroid.) but also…with the drivers that escort the artists.
Now, the drivers were very discrete, since that is the main goal of their job, but, in thàt way, I had a better view on how things might turn out. So we decided, after long concideration, to hang around the artist-village, to hopefully catch them when they arrive at the festival. So we waited. And waited. And waited. Clock is ticking….Clock is ticking 19HOO. Still nobody to be seen. Clock is ticking 20H00. Still nobody to be seen. Clock is ticking 20H30. Now, around that time, we réally started to flip out. WHERE THE FUCK WERE THEY!! We started to panic. Are we at the wrong spot? Are they already around the main stage somewhere. What should we do? Stay or leave? Stay or leave? ARGH!
The thing is, we were very aware of the fact that we would possibly miss them out, once they got off stage, and from the experience we had, asking an artist right after he performed for a picture is a big No No…and might ruin your chances to get a picture for the rest of the night. So, when I received a tip via sms that they would possibly arrive in 10 minutes, there was nothing else to do than to RUN. So we did.
May I state that the distance between the artist-village and the main stage is very interesting? On your path you cross a school, a garden, a lot of fences, the road is going up and then down again, straight through a play garden with climb tools for kids to eventually arrive at the main stage. Where….like a billion photographers with digital cameras with colossal flash lenses were waiting for the next artist to arrive. (“Who is next? Who…? Method Man…? Who is that? Is he a Rapper or something?) No fucking way, I would be able to take a picture. The minute the artists and entourage would see the masse of people they will basically fly on and off stage into their blinded cars and drive asap the fuck away.
And that was éxactly what happened. They were more than forty minutes late, delaying the whole schedule of the festival and getting on the nerve of an – in the meantime – very impatient and boo-ing crowd. They started out their performance and I was glad I’ve seen it already. You could not even compare it with the gig they did in Ghent. Also, they were not able to play their full track list since Q-Tip and band were waiting to perform right after them. The concert was running to its end. This was our final chance. If we wanted to catch them, we had to catch them BEFORE they arrived at the artist village and were out of our field of authorisation.
We noticed the Entourage slipping in the cars, ready to move out… Jules and I looked at each other. And then we RAN… We ran our lungs out of our body. We ran àààll the way back to the artist village, hoping we would arrive before the cars did. And so we did. When they arrived, we were sweating, out of breath and not looking very sexy at all, to be honest. But what did they do? Instead of walking straight into the village, they walked straight by us, they did not even SEE us, they were clearly focused on sòmething and It was NOT in our direction. WTF?
I carefully checked out where they might have gone, but there was nobody to be seen anymore. FUCK FUCK FUCKING FUCK! (I’m sorry, but that was exactly what I was thinking…) But then, I noticed the entourage. Halleluja for Entourage. PRAISE THE LORD FOR ENTOURAGE! Apparantely Meth and Red were missing in action for them as well, and they looked around and then asked me (!!) where the catering was… I see….The catering…Ofcourse…Big Boys gotta eat! So, I pointed out the direction, (since it was on different signs on the wall anyways) and smiled at them. One smiled back, thanked me, and I heared him say: “I know that girl from somewhere”, and they continued their way to the catering. (To be honest, that is impossible. I just have an ordinary, familiar face that’s all. Unless he saw Madonna somewhere, since apparantely people think I look like her, which frightens me, since GrandMa Donna is so botoxed these days, I’m not so sure being compared with Madge is necessarily a good thing. Anyhowww…)
Behind The Entourage there was already somebody rùnning with a champagne bottle, ice and some glaces. Great service at Les Ardentes… So, we sat on a couch, with our eyes fixed on the direction of the catering, where the entourage disappeared behind a corner. No, we were sitting there for almost twenty minutes without any movement and I decided to take a risk and approach the catering area. This an area where both me and Jules were basically NOT allowed. Slowly we approached the catering room, to eventually see Redman, walking àààlll relààààxed heading our direction. “If I please could take a picture?” Suuuuuuuure, not a prooooblem. He posed. I clicked. BINGO.
He was actually very nice, polite even. It seemed like he did not have a problem with a picture what so ever. Cool… Give a man some food, and you can ask them anything. (Well, any man but Pharrell Williams, òbviously. :-s) I wanted to take a second picture just to be sure, but I only had 2 Polaroids left, take out the risk of a bad Polaroid, that only left me 1 for Method Man… So, I let him go.
Shortly after Redman left, an Entourage member approached us. Turns out to be that the man was the roadmanager with a beautiful name called ‘Butter’. Butter clearly needed a nice normal conversation, since he sticked around, talked with us some more about Belgium, being on the road, not knowing where he is all the time, trying to sell us some Wu-Mami T-shirts. Since they arrived so late, they could not sell any goodies and stuff. Talking some more, and so on. I asked him, where Method Man was, and Butter replied that he was already in the bus, did not want to be disturbed since he was on the phone with his family. Shit…apparantely we arrived just a little too late at the catering-area. Damn…
So, we said goodbye and we looked at him, slowly walking away further and further away, towards their big tourbus. I looked at the bus. We looked at each other. Hell with it, I see my feet taking steps towards the tourbus called ‘Star Cruizer’.
The Star Cruizer was standing in an obscure lodge and was looking very scary to me. I know I was stepping on hostile grounds. Jules and I were whispering behind the bus, because I swear to god, we were too chickened out, to go any further. Fuck this, I said, I pulled Jules’ hand and there we went. All for the Polaroid.
Immediately somebody that was guarding the bus’ main door, warned the passengers. “Carefull, 2 girls are coming this way.” Immediately I see three heads sticking out. Entourage and one new rap artist that joined Meth & Red on stage. I gave my best smile and then the hustle began. “Can I please take a Polaroid of Method Man?” “Pretty Please?” They looked up, to the first floor of the tourbus where I see a hand from another entourage member signing a big “No No No”. They shrugged their shoulders and looked at us with a big smile and a: ‘Nope, sorry no can do kinda look’
Basically, they were looking at us like hyenas looking at a lambchop drenched in honey. Licking their lips. Glancing with their eyes up and down and up and down again… I knew what direction this conversation would go, but I decided to stick with it as long as mentally possible.. One man with the name called Seven approached me. I already saw him in Ghent. He looked like he was with the NAVY SEALS or something, or straight from a FULL METAL JACKET movie. He came closer and whispered in my ear: “Whatcha doing tonight..hmm?” “HMM, what will I be doing tonight, Gee, I don’t know, what do you think Jules, besides being SUCH A VERY GOOD GOOD GIRL.”
Immediately the four of them replied at the same time: “Nò good girls on the bus!” Seven asked why on earth I had to reply on that question in front of everybody, he was whispering for a reason?! “Well, I have nothing to hide, they can all know what my plans are for tonight, right?” Seven replied: “Careful there, you might get kidnapped…” while he was whipping Jules ass with a lace. (Yup, Uhu.) I replied: “Well, that would be a shame! It’s such a loooong drive to Germany (I knew that this was their next stop), man, you people would get BORED to death with a woman like me…” Seven:”Sure, you don’t want to come back on that decision?” I confirmed him that nor Jules nor I were putting a foot on that bus since we were such good girls and stuff…really réally boring. Again I replied: “I’m sorry Seven, I’ve seen to much…uhm….Horror (?!)movies, you know, you gotta understand me…” Seven: “It won’t be that bad…”
I noticed Butter looking at us and I felt he was feeling sorry for us. There was no way, I was stepping on that bus, but that meant that I could not get my final picture as well… Butter looked at me and pulled his hand out while asking: “Give me the camera, I’ll take the picture for you.” Silence. The entourage was as surprised as I was… Meanwhile I see one entourage member touching Jules’ hair while whispering: “Losen up your hair..put some heels on baby.. put on that lipstick…, come on baby…”
Ok, it was obvious that the boys had been on the road for a looong time and female presence was not doing any good for their hormones. I had to think fast. I answered Butter:”Look…this is not a game to me, this camera means a shit load to me… I hope you won’t close this busdoor after I give this to you, and leave with my camera!” Butter:”Woman, give me the damn camera, I’m not going the steal it, I wanna help you. Tsss.” I gave him the camera. He went upstairs. and he came back… with the best Method Man Polaroid Picture I could imagine… We politely shook hands with all the guys, wished them good luck with the carreers and left….
Ok, I could not take this last picture myself. But, it’s never how you want it, and I was fine with this ending. So, Thank You very much, my dearest Butter…! And, a very special thanks for J.Y.R
For my lovely loyal readers. A big thank you. Please watch my favorite Meth and Red song, sit back, light it up, and relax:
PS: Me and Jules are official Wu-Mami’s now. Ofcourse we bought a T-Shirt! I wanted to be a Wu-Mami all my life. 😉