Nelly - Wildflower! Festival - 5/18/12
Drew Gaines See more shots of Nelly here
Friday, May 18
The modern music festival exists as three very distinct types: The mega-fests put on by corporations, which bring together some of the world's biggest acts and are able to cut huge checks so bands can reunite (ACL, Coachella); the righteous upstarts that bring together a more niche line-up in hopes common themes draw a loyal audience (Fun Fun Fun Fest, Rock the Bells); and then there are fests like Richardson's Wildflower! Festival.
Largely city-planned and supported, these fest exist so towns can pad their tourism numbers with a tax-revenue-generating weekend filled with fun for the masses. These festivals tend to book to the common denominator, then fill their line-ups with family-friendly acts that are either locals with broad followings or legends past their prime, which is why Wildflower's Friday night headliner was a bit of a surprise.
It would be hard to call Nelly a legend, as the rapper du jour of 2000 has only been around nationally for 13 years. Though, judging by the size and response of the crowd Friday, it's certainly up for debate. With a crowd numbering well into the thousands, the MTV Rock and Jock Hall of Famer took to the stage holding a chrome mic and rocking a Mitchell & Ness throwback Cowboys snap back, and launched into the hottest songs of 2000-2004.
In a tight hour and 20-minute set, Nelly played to the crowd, keeping the energy up and the hits coming, and at one point he brought various young ladies on stage to "strut" along to his songs. Never once did he fail to flash the grin that landed him a movie role or two. Hits like "EI," "Country Grammar" and "Ride Wit Me" were met with uproarious cheers and whenever Nelly felt like it, he would let the crowd take a verse. They never missed a word.
I'm not really sure how many St. Lunatics there were during the early Aughts peak, but Nelly's onstage entourage was pretty sparse. The imitable Murphy Lee was there to drop a verse from time to time, while Nelly's brother, City Spud, a few years fresh from his nine-year prison stint, was there to drop his verse on "Ride Wit Me." It should be noted that Mr. Spud was able to do a verse while sitting side stage, texting on his iPhone.
Hands down the most interesting thing I witnessed was the group picture taken shortly after the show ended, as various VIPs gathered around the night's star for quickie iPhone photos they could post on Facebook. The highlight was a shot of Nelly with what seemed like half the Richardson police department.
By the way: During "Hot in Herre," I witnessed Richardson's Mayor Pro Tem indulging in a little risque dancing side stage.
Notebook dump: Next to each set list, there was an extra sign that said "CLEAN SHOW" in huge type. This all went by they wayside when Nelly let "pussy" and "Tim Tebow" slip into one verse.