If you know me, you know that two things represent me the most: an inner struggle and music. These were personified at the Eaux Claires Music Festival this past weekend. A sea of people on their paths in life anywhere from younglings at their first festival, to the habitual festival goer to the new parents bonding with their infants through the blessing of music. As with any festival, there is more than music available. From the food to the arts, this festival allowed for a break from the main stages with an array of naturalistic displays. While these displays were fruitful for the eyes, the main reason we are all hear was the music that was fruitful for the soul. The stark contrast between Chance the Rapper's gospel hip hop and Danny Brown's inner struggle was on full display for any hip hop fan who knows them.
First up, the Friday night headline was worth the wait. Chance finally stepped on stage just after 10:15 pm with a smile bright enough to ignite the stage, and a crowd loud enough to do his job for him. Chance embodies the inner child in all of us. From songs like "Nostalgia" to "Same Drugs," he creates a feeling reminiscent of a child's joy without making a child's song. Chance focused on his new tracks to begin the set, playing hits from Coloring Book like “No Problem” and “Mixtape.” With a full choir, a light show, The Social Experiment band and of course his right-hand man, Donnie Trumpet, it still wasn't enough to take away from the pure joy exuberating from Chance as he called out his signature “uw-wu” chant that echoed back to him from thousands of onlookers. Chance also never missed an opportunity to claim his faith to God in a manner that would have even the most serious doubter feel overwhelmed by Chance's power to exude greatness. Earlier in the day, I had the pleasure of watching a festival favorite in Francis And the Lights perform their hit “May I Have This Dance” which features Chance the Rapper, and then was given an encore performance on the mainstage as Chance brought out Francis. They not only performed this uplifting joyful song but gave the crowd a well-choreographed dance number that showed Chance truly as a jack of all traits. From Choir numbers to dance numbers to featured artist to trumpet improvisations there were many changes occurring on stage; however, the one thing that remained constant was the bright glow of Chance's smile.
For those who don't know Danny Brown, his music can come off as misogynistic, small minded, and arrogant but for those who take a minute to dive into it, he offers listeners a deep insight into the mind of someone struggling. Often fighting with drug addiction, sex addiction and the overall tug-a-war between popularity and freak show, Danny Brown gives a voice to the voiceless in his music. What truly amazes me about his music is that he does it in the least depressing of ways, with high-energy beats, a tongue out second only to Gene Simons, a chipped tooth smile, and the devil horned rock and roll fist in the air. Beginning his set with his homage to the rebels of the past, “Die Like A Rockstar,” Danny maxed out the system at Eaux Claires Festival with an all out assault of bass. With references to Kurt Cobain, Brad Nowell, River Phoenix and others, Danny shows that while he loves to party, he is well aware of the daunting path ahead of him. His latest music video explained this further in a brilliantly shot cinematic event by Jonah Hill. “Ain't It Funny” explains how Danny feels like a spectacle when in reality he is just struggling and unfortunately it is seen more so as an episode of tv than a person's cry for help. Danny started off with hits from XXX then moved into Old with a personal favorite “(Side B) Dope Song” before moving into his critically acclaimed Atrocity Exhibition.
The ever-present balance in the universe between good and evil, between calm and chaos, and between inner peace and inner struggle was on display at Eaux Claires as Chance the Rapper and Danny Brown performed their sets. While their lyrics and style have very different approaches, the way the hone their craft is unlike any other. Before the festival, I was most interested to see how Danny Brown would approach the audience at Eaux Claires as the other artists in the lineup were more folk/indie oriented. Danny Brown took the full on experience of himself and bombarded the fans, and they responded with open arms and mosh pits. I am rarely stunned nowaday, but the image of people in peace sign painted on their faces and flowers in their hair moshing to a song like “Die Like A Rockstar” definitely peaked my interest and I was pleasantly surprised at the welcoming Danny received.
Photos by Samantha Petersen Instagram.com/samanthaaleeann
Photos by Isaac Ford Instagram.com/ifo531