Review by Jason Klaiber
To dispense an account of a concert experience, especially one such as this, and focus only on the music at hand would be an exercise in impracticality.
Last Saturday, the date of the Syracuse stop on The High Road Tour, the summer expedition jointly billed to headliners Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa, severe thunderstorms also seemingly wanted to bask in the limelight.
Fellow Bonnie Josh Svetz and I headed toward the Lakeview Amphitheater, situated in the town of Geddes, in a blinding downpour, which let up long enough for us to get bombarded by aspiring rappers selling their CDs in the venue’s parking lot (picture pidgeons flocking to a handful of Ritz crackers, and you’ll get the idea).
After some brief but unnecessary confusion on the part of the ticket inspectors, we entered the amphitheater, gleaming with false hope upon seeing sunlight sneak out from behind gloomy clouds.
We found a less crowded spot to stand on the lawn behind the arena, unwilling to sit in the rain-soaked grass.
During his set, DJ Drama played about 20 hip hop hits, scratched his turntables once every 10 minutes and intermittently shouted out verbal gems that any hype man would be proud of, like “ya’ll ready for Wiz and Snoop?!!”
Casey Veggies wasn’t present at the show, although he had been advertised as an opener on this tour. Instead, Jhené Aiko followed DJ Drama and performed songs from her solo album Souled Out as well as TWENTY88, the EP she made with Big Sean. It’s safe to say she lost my interest the second she started singing “Post to Be.” Aside from that, though, her voice didn’t sound too shabby, and she excited a lot of the concertgoers, who hooted and hollered during each instrumental break.
At around 8 p.m., in the middle of Aiko’s set, a lightning bolt purportedly struck her stage equipment, inspiring a couple thousand people from the lawn to stampede and jump the gates of the already-filled, 5000-seat pavilion with hopes to withstand the approaching storm with more insurance than umbrellas could provide. Security tried to stop the frenzy, but they gave up within seconds. Svetz and I rushed through the aisles and ended up in the 100 Level seating. This was an exhilarating moment, for us at least. It appeared as though it would be a short-lived triumph. That is, until one of the venue’s staffers took the stage just as Kevin Gates began his set. The crowd prematurely booed the staffer, crouched under the assumption that he would either declare an end to the concert due to the weather or demand everyone to return to their original seats. Instead, he invited the remainder of the crowd to enter the safety of the pavilion (exactly how much safer the covering made the crowd is indeterminable, but at least it lessened the risk of getting drenched).
This announcement can be labeled as either a great unifier of those at the concert or a regrettable decision that ended up sparking a claustrophobic atmosphere. It would probably vary from person to person on which side they’d latch onto, but I’d go with the latter of the two. It felt like the molecular configuration of a solid object after a while. Whenever someone would navigate through the crowd, they’d have to shuffle slowly and press up against you. At least take me to dinner first, I’d think to myself each time this happened. A couple dancing behind me unknowingly kicked the back of my shin multiple times, which halted my enjoyment of “2 Phones.”
At around 9:30, Snoop and Khalifa came on stage while smoking huge blunts. They rotated stage time for the first half-hour or so, then they joined together for the rest of the two-hour concert. They collaborated on “All I Do Is Win” by DJ Khaled and a cover of 2Pac’s “Gangsta Party” as well as tracks from their 2011 collaborative soundtrack to Mac & Devin Go to High School, among others. For me, the highlight of the entire concert, all acts considered, was the duo’s performance of “Young, Wild & Free.”
However, in my view, the two rappers have become something close to parodies of themselves over the years. In effect, they felt the need to reference weed in every aspect of the stage monitor’s imagery (spinning marijuana plants, etc.) and in every address to the crowd. Wiz also wore a white cap that read “Don’t Pass Trump the Blunt,” which at least was comical. I’m an advocate for weed, but it just felt like too much. Perhaps they’ve been typecast as such, and they figured if you can’t beat the image, you might as well go full-force in its direction. I mean, hey, it is called The High Road Tour; I should’ve expected as much. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for any of it. After all, it wasn’t exactly the most relaxing environment. If it had been, it would’ve been exponentially more ideal for what I had to behold there.
In summation, I suppose all I can say is that a concert laden with thunderstorms, bad company and confined spaces is usually something to avoid, unless you truly adore the musicians putting on the show. Oh, and just as a postscript to this, don’t be a menace when it comes to law enforcement at a concert…and don’t, in any situation, automatically rely on someone else to recall where they parked the car.