What will we remember from Kansas City’s first ever summer hip-hop music festival?
The weather? Oven-like conditions gave way to a storm strong enough to knock the power from thousands of homes.
The music? KC got to see Playboi Carti, Lil Uzi Vert and Rae Sremmurd — three of the biggest young names in hip-hop — give monumental performances: Playboi Carti inciting a crowd eruption with “Magnolia,” one of the de facto songs of the summer. The hysteria when Lil Uzi performed “XO Tour Llif3,” the 2017 rap version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The duo Rae Sremmurd debuting “Pegasus,” probably their next big hit.
The local up-and-comers? This is where many first took notice of Super Shaq Gonzo, Duncan Burnett and Staxx. Perhaps this is where you were officially convinced that Rory Fresco might actually have what it takes.
Or will it be remembered as the festival where Gucci Mane, consummate professional, waited for hours through the storm so he could give a high-octane show to a crowd that had dwindled down to barely a tenth of its original size?
One thing seems certain: Saturday’s Flyover Festival at the Providence Medical Center Amphitheater was a resounding success.
Despite a few twists and turns, local production company Mammoth Live delivered a well-organized event to 9,000 fans and set the foundation for what should be a staple event on our music scene for years to come.
“Considering the circumstances, I think we did really great,” Josh Hunt, Mammoth Live’s co-owner and director of operations, said Monday.
“I honestly think the festival was very well put together,” said Taylor Consbruck, an 18-year-old festivalgoer from Garden City, Kan. “All the performers were pretty well known, and I thought the local rappers were very good, too.”
After the ominous weather reports came in, the first artists were forced to perform a half-hour earlier than expected — just 10 minutes after gates opened at 5 p.m. Still, local artists Super Shaq Gonzo, Rory Fresco, AyEl, Duncan Burnett and Staxx each gave high-energy sets that served as the appetizer for the main acts.
“I enjoyed how the lineup paid attention to younger hip-hop crowds but also thought about other fans and crowds of all ages,” said Estee Smith, attending Flyover while visiting from Chicago. Smith, who has also attended major hip-hop festivals such as Made in America in Philadelphia, was impressed with more than the music.
“I always think of security first,” she said. “If festivals can get security and safety taken care of, it usually goes well for the other areas of the event.”
From the moment doors opened, lines in general moved quickly and without much friction. Onstage, both the local and national performing acts put noticeable energy into their sets. So much so, it was hard to single out the best moments in the nearly two hour string of best moments from headliners Playboi Carti, Lil Uzi and Rae Sremmurd.
Carti, in his first ever performance in Kansas City, appeared genuinely excited to be performing in front of the Providence crowd, often flashing a wide grin as he danced and bounced around stage. The earliest fever pitch of the evening came when he was joined onstage by Lil Uzi for their collab “wokeuplikethis,” Carti’s next radio single.
Uzi was the night’s biggest surprise. After a borderline unprofessional halfhearted showing at the Uptown earlier this year, the Philadelphia artist possessed a palpable brio. “I’m in a good spirit,” Uzi said to the crowd in the middle of his set, “which means I’m in a bad mood.” He followed with his current biggest hit to date, “XO Tour Llif3,” sending the Providence crowd into a frenzy.
The first half of the night concluded with a set from the ever-reliable duo Rae Sremmurd, who have fast built a reputation as one of the liveliest live performers in hip-hop, as they rattled through a number of their hits (“Throw Some Mo’, “Come Get Her,” “No Type,” No Flex Zone,” etc) and debuted “Pegasus,” an upcoming single from their next album, “SremmLife3.”
And then came the drama.
“I’ve got some bad news,” Cameron Birdsall, one half of the resident Flyover Fest DJ duo Assjamz announced to the crowd after Rae Sremmurd ended their set at 9:20 p.m. With the imminent storm, Mammoth put Flyover on hold. Concertgoers were told to seek shelter. (Some said event security staff encouraged them to leave; Hunt says Mammoth is investigating.)
“We are not done! Gucci will be performing,” Birdsall said from the stage. But when the sprinkle transformed into a tempest, most of the crowd headed home.
Turns out they shouldn’t have.
At 11:20, after the rain let up, Gucci Mane emerged to a crowd of less than a thousand for a 40-minute set.
“Gucci was a total professional,” Pat Fielder, Mammoth’s talent buyer, said Monday. “He was like, ‘I’m here, I’m performing.’ ”
Consbruck of Garden City, who saw Gucci earlier this year at Coachella, was one of the lucky ones who caught the show.
“We actually left to go get something to eat,” she said. “We were in Lenexa and saw on Twitter that he was performing in five minutes. … We drove and we literally made it back to Bonner Springs in less than 10 minutes.”
A surreal ending to what can only be considered a memorable first stab at a sustainable local major hip-hop festival.
There’s still room for improvement. Wi-Fi as bad as Providence’s is inexcusable in 2017. For an event spanning seven hours, charging stations would have been nice. There’s also room for better vendors and more food options. Pittances, ultimately, in the larger view of things:
“For the first year, we couldn’t have asked for more,” Fielder said. Asked if Flyover would be back next year, beginning an annual event, he responded
“Absolutely. Back 100 percent bigger and better.”