Last year, Red Bull came to our city for 30 Days in Chicago, a month-long music project that took over November. It was a massive project that brought dozens of touring artists to Chicago and teamed them up with local acts for one of the best months of music. This year Red Bull twisted things around a bit. This time it’s giving local artists even more of a spotlight and highlighting some intriguing venues throughout the city. There’s the new industrial space Saffron Rails, some rare shows at places like Garfield Conservatory, and more traditional but still awe-inspiring venues like Thalia Hall and more.
Red Bull kicked things off this past weekend with a massive show at the Wintrust Arena. On paper the event looked to good to be true as they gathered some rising star and hip hop legends on one stage. In reality, the opening night of the Red Bull Music Festival was a nonstop party that never faltered.
The non-stop aspect of the show is not an exaggeration, there was barely a lull between the moment that local Chicago poet and Whitney M. Young Magnet High School student Jalen Kobayashi performed his powerful poem “Wings” to the final Nas track. Jalen’s poem set the mood right away and opened the night for 070 Shake to take the stage.
070 Shake had the shortest set of the night. I definitely would have loved to see her perform more, but the two songs she did fit perfectly. Since she was in Chicago, 070 Shake decided to perform “Violent Crimes” and “Ghost Town”, two tracks of Kanye West that she was recently featured on. The crowd ate it up as they would for Valee, who took to the stage next. Valee’s set had a little more time to stretch out and feel the vibe with the crowd, dropping some excellent bangers that really started pumping up the crowd.
It wasn’t long after when the all too familiar “Panda” started blaring through the arena and Desiigner exploded onto the scene. Jumping on and off stage, finding himself right up against the front row guard rail and in the crowd a handful of times, This was easily the most energetic set of the night and Desiigner was all smiles throughout. He was clearly having a good a time as everyone that was watching him.
Teyana Taylor came next and was a revelation. Backed by a fleet of dancers, Taylor completely took me by surprise with her commanding presence and extraordinary voice. She was determined to make an impression with songs like “Rose in Harlem” and “Issues”. The crowd by this point was clamoring for more as Taylor looked on with a satisfied grin, diving into “WTP” to finish off her set.
If there was a wait throughout the night it was definitely felt between the headliners. IN reality it was probably a minute or two but the excitement was palpable. When it finally came for the iconic headliners, I don’t think anyone was prepared for just how fun they would be. Pusha T emerged first, performing the entity of Daytona without missing a beat and living up to his living legend status. Every track received a huge roar from the crowd before getting a huge pop for his final song: a remix of Chief Keef’s “I Don’t Like”.
Nas could have easily taken the same route as Pusha T, but instead came to the stage with a career spanning set. Opening up with “Adam and Eve” off Nasir before diving in headlong into old school tracks like “NY State of Mind” off of Illmatic, It was Written‘s “The Message” and “Hate Me Now” from I Am. It was definitely a set to remember as Nas was firing on all cylinders and giving the crowd way more than they could have expected. Hearing newer tracks like “Cops Shot the Kid” and followed immediately after by classic “Got Ur Self a Gun” underlined Nas’ talent and staying power.
If Red Bull Music Festival‘s Opening Night is any indication of the rest of the shows in the series, then Chicago is in for a treat this month. This weekend there will be more Red Bull Music Festival shows including the Drone Activity Showcase and the Xicago showcase at Saffron Rails and the Cupcakke show at Thalia Hall. You can see the rest of the shows happening in November over at their website.