Kendrick Lamar gave Houston just a few days to prepare for his arrival, but that didn’t seem to stop what seemed like just about everyone in town from making their way to Discovery Green on Saturday night for a free concert at the March Madness Music Festival.
I spoke to a number of fans on the way to the three-day live music attraction that accompanies the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament, and the only thing anyone seemed to care about was the fact that arguably the most popular rapper on the planet was going to be playing live downtown.
You can imagine the strain this put the scene.
When I heard earlier this week that Lamar would be headlining, I knew that I wanted to go but there was no way I was using my car to get downtown for this, ahem, madness. I decided to take METRO up on its weekend NCAA bus pass option. Good idea in theory, except for one glaring oversight on my part — this is a FREE music festival, downtown and I was at the mercy of the bus.
The first bus that neared my stop on Westheimer and Hazard passed me up because they were completely full.
As this happened, a helpful kid employed by a new Montrose apartment complex to spin an advertisement sign near my bus stop told me that the buses have looked like that all day long. While I waited hopefully for the next bus to take me downtown, me and the kid started talking about the music he listens to while he spins those advertisement signs. “Oh you know, good beats. Loud things. Run the Jewels, Kendrick Lamar, that kinda stuff.”
I asked him if he knew that Lamar was playing for free downtown in a few hours. “Yep,” he replied, “that’s why I’m quitting early today. Going to cash my check and head down there.”
My bus came shortly afterward, and I was lucky to find standing room on this one.
Discovery Green reached capacity around 4 pm, a full three hours before Lamar was set to take the stage. (Fire marshals reopened the gates later, but closed them again before Lamar's performance.)
Luckily I was able to make it into the grounds and scope out the scene before Lamar’s set. A crowd near the main stage was already forming during the Jason Derulo and Twenty One Pilots performances, but during the day there was still plenty of room to walk around and check out what the festival had to offer.
Food trucks such as The Waffle Bus, Koagie Hots, and The Burger Joint were doing a brisk business, alog with such attractions as a promotional area with photo booths, a mechanical bull and free Coca-Cola, and of course the ferris wheel that has become an icon of the annual March Madness Music Festival.
By the time Lamar and his band took the stage after the end of Villanova's rout of Oklahoma was showing on the big screens, there was no room to move except vertically, and the funky energy Lamar’s band brought to back up these songs made that easy.
Lamar ran through favorites from albums good kid, m.A.A.d. city (sic) and last year’s Grammy-award winning To Pimp A Butterfly, inciting the crowd to keep their hands up and participate. A couple of lucky fans were asked on stage to rap words to “m.A.A.d city,” a trademark of Lamar shows. “He’s doing my job for me!,” Lamar quipped as one of these fans, who proudly announced his name as David, killed it on stage.
If you were lucky enough to make it down to Discovery Green with me, I hope you enjoyed the experience as much as I did. Kendrick Lamar's performance might just go down in history as one of downtown Houston’s biggest moments.
If you missed the action today, remember that there is plenty more to come Sunday at Discovery Green as Aloe Blacc, Flo Rida, Pitbull and Maroon 5 are set to perform tomorrow starting at 3 pm.
You'd better get there early.