The Sound of Music Festival has been one of the biggest music fests in my area for decades, and surprisingly this was only my first time attending as an adult. Many Canadian artists get to perform across ten stages by the lakeshore in Burlington over the course of a week; the free event I chose to attend featured Maestro Fresh Wes, and was headlined by Classified. Those who follow my blog regularly know I just saw the legendary Toronto emcee, Maestro Fresh Wes perform just last month at the Hard Rock Cafe. This would, however, be my first time seeing Classified perform.
Classified is arguably a Canadian hip-hop legend in his own right, with over a dozen albums and both an underground and mainstream appeal. I can’t say I’m his biggest fan, as I’ve only listened to two of his albums, but I have enjoyed most of what I’ve heard. Self Explanatory was one of my favourite albums of 2009, and Handshakes & Middle Fingers was a good listen too, but I just haven’t gotten around to his older work or even his newest self-titled album from last year. He does tend to have some corny singles (like “That Ain’t Classy”, “Oh…Canada” and “Inner Ninja”), but his album cuts do have a lot of substance and showcase true talent.
By the time we got to Spencer Smith Park, Maestro was already halfway through his set. Mississauga’s own Rich Kidd was on stage with him; I was hoping they would perform “Gladiator”, but I must have missed it because Rich Kidd soon left the stage. Maestro went through some of his classics like “Black Tuxedo”, “Stick To Your Vision”, and took it back to 1991 with “Conducting Thangs”. This show was different from his set at Toronto’s Hard Rock Café as he didn’t strictly stick to old school tracks, and he had some live instrumentation to back him up, including a violin player. He also brought out the Guinness World Record holder for longest freestyle, D.O. to perform a track with him, and wrapped up his set by bringing a kid on stage to do some break dancing.
After Maestro got off stage, there was a short wait to see Classified. It was a nice atmosphere with the stage being right next to the lake, beach balls being thrown around, and clear skies above. The crowd was really diverse, with young kids, teenagers, young adults and old folks. Classified had some toy lightsaber-like ninja swords (promoting his latest single) thrown into the crowd before he got on stage, and the party was on.
The crowd got crazy when Classified hit the stage. I didn’t know all of his songs, but I recognized “That Ain’t Classy” near the beginning of his set. The energy was great as he had a live drummer and guitar player to recreate his beats, along with a DJ of course. Pretty soon though, more energy had to be put towards managing the crowd than enjoying the music. Classified kept the show rolling, but the crowd was filled with people who had no regard for others around them. Teenagers were crowd-surfing, kicking people in the back of their heads who couldn’t see them coming from behind, and others were pushing to the front of the crowd, knocking people off balance rather than passing by politely.
Normally I’m down with mosh pits, but this was a free, all-ages show with kids and senior citizens around, and Classified doesn’t really make mosh-pit music either. I was spending more energy pushing guys off of me, keeping my crew together and helping girls keep their balance than paying attention to Classified. Half of my crew ended up leaving early because the crowd got too rough. It was still a fun time though, as Classified kept the energy up and kept the crowd moving. He brought out his brother Mic Boyd to perform some songs, and at one point his guitar player and DJ went through samples of other famous rap songs like “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and “O.P.P.” by Naughty By Nature.
Classified did his newest single, “Inner Ninja” before bringing some more guests on stage. Maestro returned to the stage to perform “Reach For The Sky (Try)” with Classified, and then they brought out Choclair to do “Quit While You’re Ahead”. Class then wrapped up his set by performing “Oh…Canada”, running up to the crowd and giving high-fives to the people up front. I was hoping he’d do “Get Out The Way”, but that song never came. My crew decided we needed to beat the traffic and leave, so I’m not sure if Classified ended up doing an encore or not, but we did see some fireworks go off as we were leaving.
Overall, this was a fun show. I wasn’t expecting the crowd to be this large or this hyped for Classified, but the energy was great, even though it may have been too much. The crowd may have been too rough for some, but it was nothing a Wu-Tang fan couldn’t handle. The live instrumentation gave Classified and Maestro’s songs some extra energy, and it was a rare thing to see a violin solo at a hip-hop show. The atmosphere was especially nice at The Sound of Music Festival, as we got to see the sunset by the lake while attending the concert. The hip-hop portion of Sound of Music was excellent, and the festival continues for the rest of the weekend!
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