The Mishawaka Amphitheatre’s beauty has long been a staple in Colorado’s outdoor music scene, and it holds a strong reputation as an intimate venue where larger than life artists such as Phil Lesh, George Clinton, and more have performed in years past. This night’s show had me experiencing the Mish for the very first time, and with legendary hip-hop group Jurassic 5 headlining, my head was in the clouds as we shuffled into the small venue. A sold out crowd beneath a starry sky conspiring to unite the lovers of hip hop past – it was destined to be one for the books.
We arrived in time to catch a set by Wasteland Hop, a Fort Collins band that defied genre classification. Describing their sound as ‘an exotic menage a trois between rock, hip hop, and folk’, it was more than evident when the band played ‘Bad Habits’, an original track that felt remniscent of Flobots. They even busted out an incredible cover of ‘Flowers’ by Lupe Fiasco, leaving the crowd impressed and screaming for more.
Whereas most hip hop acts are pegged with having an affinity for tardiness, Jurassic 5 came out ready to rock the stage at 10 sharp to 1,000 pairs of waving hands. DJs Nu-Mark and Cut Chemist positioned themselves on either side of a giant turntable prop, and the four MCs who make up J5 – Chali 2na, Akil, Marc 7 and Zaakir – took the center.
Performing massive hits such as ‘I Am Somebody’, The Influence’, and ‘Break’. Their lyrical prowess was upfront as ever; these guys live and breathe Jurassic 5, and they have the ever lasting fan-base to support it. There wasn’t a still body to be found as every fan shouted back lyrics, pumped their fists in the air, and reveled in the love of pure hip-hop goodness. Dropping more fan favorites such as ‘Improvise’, ‘What’s Golden?’, ‘Quality Control’, and ‘Concrete Schoolyard’, it was everything a fan of J5 could ever ask for. The group also did a cover of Al Green’s ‘Love and Happiness’, before seguing into ‘Baby Please’.
As longtime staples in the hip-hop culture, J5 made sure to remind us all that this wasn’t just a show. Chali called out to the crowd to give his thanks. ‘Colorado, shall we continue? Thank you, every single one of you, for supporting us the last 20 plus years,’ he takes a pause and then asked jokingly, ‘Does anyone want to guess what song we’re not going to play next?’ and erupts into laughter. The next twenty minutes of the set are spent taking crowd requests, one of which included the politically charged ‘Freedom’.
At this time in the show, Cut Chemist and Nu-Mark dueled onstage in a classic yet futuristic DJ battle. Welding instruments that have to be seen to be believed, Nu-Mark’s keytar meets turntable fought against Cut Chemist’s insane wearable CDJ mixer – to say this was one of the rowdiest parts of the night is putting it mildly. The battle ended with the two DJs mixing Dead Prez’s ‘Bigger Than Hip Hop’ by scratching the large turntable that had been center stage the whole night, finally revealing it to be usable.
When the show came to a close, I won’t exaggerate when I say that the phrase ‘That was the best concert of my life’ was heard several times as I headed back to the car. Being able to experience my first Jurassic 5 show at the beautiful Mishawaka was perfect – my head is still buzzing with the soul satisfying feeling of floating on a hip hop cloud.
All photos by Samantha Hanus of Rival Mind Media.