Through the good fortune of having a kind girlfriend with good taste and a disposable income, I was at the Wireless Festival when Kanye got booed. It happened about halfway through his set. An image of a waterfall got projected up behind him, this big and rushing extended and mammoth GIF of a Niagra, and he started into “Runaway” and as those first few piano dings went off, the crowd went nuts, as they had been the whole night. The “Look at you” and “I wanna show you how you all look like beautiful stars tonight” were ringing in the English air and Kanye, bejeweled mask having him look like sparkly Shredder, had the crowd in his pocket. Place was going nuts, an old man next to me on a blanket with his wife eating ice cream and nodding along to “Black Skinhead”, conducting with the spoon when he felt like it. Where Kanye lost everyone was after “Runaway”, or, I guess, during it. He extends that song to something like 20 mins in concert. A lot of vamping and declaring about the awfulness of the media. How they want to perpetrate specific stereotypes about a person. How they want the worst for you.
And this is what you get with Kanye. And this is, really, what I wanted. The full Kanyexperience. The speeches. The outlandishness. The explanation for the diamond mask — he’s not trying to save face any longer. It was the timing of the speech that hurt him. Wasn’t at all cosmic. The temperature had dropped significantly since the start of the day and the wind had picked up, beer cups and cardboard cartons of fries getting tossed around, and then the rain started. It wasn’t a hard rain, somewhere between a drip and a sprinkle, but it was falling, and few people were prepared for it. And being wet and cold is not pleasant, but still the Londoners stayed, expecting Kanye to be in and out of that song like he had been for the whole set prior. But he didn’t. He sat in that thing like it was a jacuzzi bath with a TV at the end of it projecting his finest moments. He kept on with the freestyled and auto-tuned magnificence for something like another ten minutes. And this is when the sometimes shirtless but mainly heavily tank-topped crowd began to turn. He’d ask for responses to his sung claims and the boos sprinkled in with the encouragement like the rain. Still Kanye kept on. And the crowd’s next response was heavier with boos. Still he tells us that we can be anything we want to be because we are awesome and he is awesome. Some cheers, but more boos. The song ends. Lots of booing. Kanye never commented on it. He just goes into the next song, “All Falls Down”, and the crowd loves him for it. There are no boos the rest of the show. People got over it, or, at least, sat it aside for a time. He played “All of the Lights” at one point and I thought the ground was going to give out from a dude in a knock off Coco Chanel shirt using the earth like it was a trampoline, hands out, fingers pointed, rap hands sometimes. Apparently the booing hurt Kanye. He never showed it. Also, nothing I’ve experienced before is like hearing the beginning of “Bound 2” in concert. That’s a new emotion for which a new word is needed. Kanye will probably make the word up someday so I don’t want to poach here.
The NBA jerseys, though. A list, before anything else.
2 Derrick Rose, Bulls, Black — one male and one female
Jeremy Lin, retro Rockets, Blue – the one with the actual Rocket on the jersey. The late Hakeem era look
2 Shaq, Magic – the black with pinstripes
Antoine Walker, Celtics, Female
2 Kevin Garnett, Celtics – both green and too big for the people in them
White Larry Bird, Celtics
Ladanian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates – not NBA, but found it odd.
Damian Lillard, Portland, Black
Scottie Pippen, Red, Bulls
Barkley, Suns, Black
Barkley, Suns, Purple
Jordan, Red, Bulls
Steve Nash, Lakers, Purple
Brooklyn Nets generic jersey
New Era Jersey #20
Magic Johnson, Purple, Lakers
Generic Lakers — dude wearing this rocked a pair yellow air maxes, a yellow Kangol bucket hat and really liked Pharrell
Pistol Pete, Atlanta Hawks
Kobe Bryant, Yellow, Lakers
Kobe Bryant, Purple, Lakers
LeBron James, Heat, Black
Patrick Willis, 49ers – next to a guy in a Pharell hat. Like, an actual Pharell hat.
Hasselbeck, Falcons – this was a girl wearing it like it was dress. Have no idea what thrift store in London was lucky enough to acquire such a piece. Namely because in googling both Hasselbecks, neither ever played for the Falcons.
Jim Thome, Phillies
Those are all the ones I saw. There were certainly more. The throwback jersey movement amongst the hipster – that word – population has been well documented so I won’t beat it into the ground too much here. But some of the jerseys did really surprise me, granted without context, in London. The Lin one in particular had me spinning. I had to take a picture of it. It was that late 90’s Barkley era Houston vibe and it was clearly a knock-off. The pinstripes on the jersey didn’t line up and they overlapped in places. I’m not throwing stones on buying knock-offs. I own a green Bird jersey I waited on for three months. Bought it from some Chinese website for $50 because it was cheaper there than anywhere else. They slapped an Adidas patch on the front of it to give it some legitimacy. When it arrived it was a couple sizes too small and when I looked into returning it I got a three sentence email back saying that wasn’t possible but, “please to let us know if any problems more arise.”
We’ve all, probably, been burned, but this dude wore the jersey – two sizes too big for him – to a place where people, and this was news to me when I arrived, showed up to be seen. Girls in high waisted shorts and low hanging tops and sandals like they were taking a visit to 1st century Ephesus. Lots of flowers everywhere and I will talk more on that in a second. Dudes who it looked like had been working out with this very day in mind. Their T-shirts hanging out of the back pocket of their shorts, their hands occupied with one or more beers.
The rest of Lin 2.0’s outfit was filled out with an undershirt, some tight and cuffed jean shorts that fell around the lower thigh and a floral print Supreme hat. The shoes I never got a good look at. Some canvas numbers hidden by boxes of chicken tenders and fallen burger patties.
There were flowers throughout the festival and they were on girl’s bodies and heads. Flowing sundresses with daisies on them and headbands or wreaths or some other term I don’t know adorning their braided heads. These were everywhere, like they wanted this to be their Woodstock. White girls would have little jewels glued along their eyebrows or between their eyes and their makeup would make them look like a kind of poorly adjusted panda bear. Shoes seemed to be suggested, but in no way required, and everyone was eating Japanese noodles.
One girl in front of us, in a group of about seven or eight, went to the ground in a panic/allergy attack, her noodles falling to her side, the brown strings spilling out for people to slip on. A couple of the girls ran of looking for the medics and two others stayed with her while she freaked out, people crowding around the exact way you’re not supposed to. The girl on the ground had a skirt that was light and pink and flowing that went to the ground and a black top that showed quite a bit. On her head were lilies, the purple kind, and it looked kind of like a crown. They stayed on there through the wailing. When the medics arrived they got an IV in her but that was it. They never connected it to anything, the girl ultimately claiming she was alright. Several of her friends had bailed and she was left to walk off with the medics holding her up while the one friend who stayed trudged along behind them.
In the hysteria all those involved had dropped their cartons of noodles and now they were all spilled out on the ground in a heap. And people would walk along and get their bare feet messy with the sauce and look down like “WHAT HAPPENED HERE?” It was great fun to watch.