At the end of the Oakland Music Festival on Sept. 26, one of the founders of the event stood on stage and professed his love for the city while promising to bring “Jay-Z out to this motherfucker” next year. It’s exactly this fusion of local pride and nationwide talent that made OMF so dynamic, with attendees equally excited for local and national stars.
Performing early was Berkeley’s own Caleborate, fresh off the release of his debut Hella Good and riding a wave of love from his listeners, who enjoyed an infectiously lively set. Next was DUCKWRTH, who kept the energy going with a bass-heavy set that featured a little Future sprinkled in to amp up the listeners.
The bangers continued with Noodles’ set, as she dropped early 2000s nostalgia trips and more modern hits to keep the crowd jumping all the way through. Anderson.Paak showed up to invigorate the crowd with his stage presence, dance moves and incredible vocal range. All throughout the day, the crowd kept up its dancing and chanting on all stages. Shot throughout those blocks around 22nd Street and Broadway, this perpetual energy was unavoidable, and didn’t just come from the free Monster drinks at the venue.
Festival goers stopped to observe live mural and art installations from local artists. “The Danger Room” was an exhibit that promised to surprise any viewer who entered its foreboding tent, and curious viewers were not disappointed, laughing as they realized what it was. There was a plethora of delicious East Bay food, from oxtail tacos, to organic smoothies to Jamaican jerk chicken. It was a surreal atmosphere — not unlike a block party, as many performers commented — with good music, food, people and vibes all around.
It started to get dark when the headliners showed up. BJ the Chicago Kid, a supporting player on numerous recent hits, stepped out of the shadows with a soulful set, singing with such passion that his crowd size had doubled by the end of his set. Los Rakas brought Latin-inspired hip-hop to a crowd that ate it up. Next up was the East Bay’s own Kool John and a huge amount of hits in his arsenal. Every time he dropped a beat, the listeners went absolutely crazy. The crowd, which had by now swelled well past the block allotted to the Sideshow stage, screamed and danced along to his lyrics as Kool John and cohorts from his HBK Gang such as Skipper and Jay Ant dropped bangers such as “100 Grand” and “Bitch I Look Good.” Another highlight was when John brought out Bay Area star Nef the Pharaoh to play his local hit “Big Tymin.”
After Kool John’s set, the crowd migrated to the Town Stage. DJ Kidd Marvel entertained with his Drake mashups and smooth remixing before Washington, D.C.’s Goldlink came out dancing and singing with an unthinkably fast flow and a contagious stage presence, playing EDM-influenced hits such as “Aquafina” and “Sober Thoughts.” The crowd chanted and grooved along with him onstage, as he won over hearts by cooking to “Wonton Soup” and dropping “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for all the “old motherfuckers.” At the end of his set, which ran overtime by about 15 minutes, he thanked Oakland for “being (his) favorite city in a long time.” The feeling was mutual.
It was amazing how the crowd had brought equal energy and affection for acts both local and from far away. The growing Oakland Music Festival might actually get Jay-Z sometime in the future, if not in the next year. But the best part about it is that the city of Oakland will be there every step of the way, going crazy for the big names but also never forgetting the incredible talent right here in the East Bay.