"This is experimental!"
That's a common stance these days for Cypress Hill member B-Real, who shouted those words during the waning moments of his Dragon Festival on Saturday at the National Orange Show Events Center in San Bernardino. Master of hip-hop, then of hard rock and now high-speed dance music, the rapper has become an unlikely pop renaissance man.
He stood on a small stage Saturday, performing Cypress Hill's "How I Could Just Kill a Man" and "Insane in the Brain" across the frantic beats of DJ AK1200, the result sounding a lot closer to drum-and-bass than old-school rap.
The Dragon Festival offered a variety of unexpected twists, from performances by such premier turntablists as the X-ecutioners and Mixmaster Mike to a quirky performance-art troupe of drummers and nearly naked dancers called Worms Union. An offshoot of Cypress Hill's hugely successful annual Smoke Out concert, the nine-hour Dragon Festival was an intentionally smaller gathering, lacking Smoke Out's star power (Cypress Hill, Limp Bizkit, et al.).
The closest thing to a big-name headliner on Saturday was Linkin Park, the latest entry in a wave of bands merging metal and hip-hop. Currently enjoying a radio hit with "One Step Closer," the Los Angeles-based quintet offered a relentlessly thundering, pounding, screaming, scratching and screeching assault, tied together by an undeniable flair for melody.
It's a trick still best pulled off by Deftones, but Linkin Park already outclasses such hyped, hit-and-miss combos as Limp Bizkit and Crazy Town. They played with clarity and overflowing testosterone, and without any words of violence or self-pity.
Not all the acts were as memorable. But earlier, the Beatnuts celebrated good times across spare beats and a hazy DJ mix that was just one step short of experimental.