G-Eazy used to ride an Amtrak train between Oakland and Fresno, ferrying between divorced parents. These were trips spent looking out the window, dreaming of a night like this – on stage, getting turned up in front of thousands of screaming fans.
Fresno was a second home for the Oakland rapper and he referenced it often during his 90-minute set to end the second day of Grizzly Fest 2019.
The annual music festival returned to Woodward Park Saturday and Sunday for a second year. While there’s no official tally yet, organizers surmised they topped last year’s attendance of 15,000. It certainly felt that way walking the festival grounds during G-Eazy’s set.
This was the rapper’s first time playing Fresno since he sold out the Selland Arena in 2016 and he kept the crowd hands-up bouncing with fan favorites (for those with him since day one) and several new tracks, including a never-heard-before collab with Bay Area rapper Nef the Pharaoh, who happened to be on hand for a guest spot.
The singer Marc E. Bassy, who performed earlier in the day, also guested on several tracks.
It was the kind of one-off performance that makes music festivals worth seeing.
Here’s a recap of the rest of the weekend.
See some of the acts at Saturday’s Grizzly Fest 2019
While Portugal. The Man was technically the day one headliner (and gave a visually stunning performance), Los Angeles rapper ScHoolboy Q was the obvious draw Saturday night, with the biggest crowd and highest level of excitement., even if he only made it through a dozen or so of the 20 songs he claimed were on the set list.
He did play “Numb Numb Juice.”
Matt and Kim came looking for a wild crowd. They got it.
The pair were sheer exuberance for all of their hour-long set on Sunday. It was all smiles and jokes and some mild nudity (just a quick flash from drummer Kim Schifino).
Matt Johnson channeled early Elton John doing jumping gymnastics on the keyboards.
The performance also included hundreds of balloons, dozens of beach balls, inflatable sex dolls bouncing through the crowd and confetti. Plenty of confetti.
The festival got a major upgrade in terms of vendors. That included a massive tent at the end of the festival grounds that was curated by Root General. It proved a chill spot to shop, though plenty of people were just hanging out, while still being able to see the main stage.
Dutch Bros. had its own tent lounge that remained crowded, which seems on brand for the coffee chain.
Shaed (pronounced Shade) hasn’t yet hit nationally. But the Washington, D.C., trio (vocalist Chelsea Lee and twins Max and Spencer Ernst) had people wondering why they didn’t play late in the lineup on the main stage. As it was, they played the secondary stage in the heat of the afternoon and had Saturday’s stand-out set.
The key here is Lee, who channels Florence Welch (of Florence and the Machine fame) over the twin’s electro-pop backing.
Jessie Reyez had day two’s standout set. The Canadian singer has a killer voice and an onstage persona that manages to be at turns massively fierce and quiet and vulnerable. That was especially apparent on the “Gatekeeper,” a song inspired by Reyez’s own #metoo moment with a well known music producer.
On the whole, the local talent played the early slots on both days, before the crowds filled in. It’s a shame because there were strong showings from veteran acts (Planet Asia, Patrick Contreras, 40 Watt Hype) and newcomers (Orosi’s Macondo and the pro-girl power Fatty Cakes and the Puff Pastries, to name two).
Then there was Fashawn, who is the only performer to have played every Grizzly Fest. During his set Sunday afternoon, he performed the entirety of his “Boy Meets World” album in celebration of its 10th anniversary.
The set included a tribute to the late Nipsey Hussle, who Fashawn met during the XXL Freshman Class photo shoot in 2010. It also included a guest spot by Planet Asia, Fresno’s original hometown rap hero.
For Fashawn, any success – the trips to Russia, Paris or Chile, for example – only exists because he gets to come back to his hometown and do these kind of shows.
“That’s the reason I’m traveling. So, I can bring it back home. So, I can bring it home to Fresno,” he said.