656 Fest 2019: A Field Report
Huge thanks to guest contributor Humble Among.
Day 1: Friday The 13th
A black cat ran in front of my car as I turned down Carson Hill Road in Harmony, Maine. The final stretch to 656 Fest Volume 2. A five hour drive from my home in Southern Vermont.
A year before, during Volume 1, I was coincidentally camping a mere 25 minutes from the festivities, completely unaware of what was going on just down the road. I spent that weekend last year in a KOA campground, smoking weed and listening to episodes of the Desus and Mero podcast. I could’ve been raging with the Vermont homies. For a year now, I’ve heard stories of rap music in the woods, networking and general debauchery. How did I let this slip my attention?
With redemption in mind, I pulled up to the sequel with a ticket provided by the accurately named Jibba “The Gent,” who was welcomed to the fold and given his ceremonial 656 Records chain last year by The 6 Don, Dylan “Kartoon” Ryan. Dylan and his crew planned and executed this festival and deserve major props.
I was directed to General Parking, which was located directly behind the stage. I can hear the familiar voice of controversial Juggalo podcaster Chuck Reeves, as it is the 4:20 Smoke Sesh. He is carnival barking for the crowd to partake in free dabs. This is far more than just a music festival. Over a half dozen different marijuana vendors on deck with a variety of goodies and gimmicks. (I came with the specific intention to buy THC infused lemonades.) I introduced myself to Chuck Reeves and took a dab with the aid of a rapper named Khing Kosher. (I am still a rookie at this dab shit.)
My Vermont Hip Hop brothers are filing in by this point. D. FRENCH and Kasidon of Street Religion are the first performances that I see. I am supposed to perform a song with my homie Ciurleo. He pulls up with a truck full. Modest, HLR Boss David Phair, and the homie Joe all in tow. Jibba, Vazy and Raw Deff all show up while Ciurleo is performing. Vibes are good.
After we are done performing, it’s time to get weird. I pop my trunk and make a drink. Vodka and red bull. I know, I’m an animal. I quickly down that and make another. Now it’s time to find that damn lemonade.
Rezno and Nine Millz are on stage as I am on the hunt. I am on a mission. These vendors tend to intimidate me because I know they have all this super ganja science knowledge and I’m just over here like, “Is it good shit?”
I get some food and have more drinks but can’t find any that are THC infused. Granted, I was feeling silly off the drink at this point and not investigating thoroughly. A lot of laughs with the VT homies are had.
Jibba “The Gent” takes the stage as the moon is rising. It’s a special blood/harvest/full moon combo. He performs what is hands down the best set I have ever seen from him. Vazy comes out for some Causin’ Effect action and they close with their new song “All Right”. We need that new Causin’ Effect album, boys.
Next, Grizzy Hendrix, who was sadly losing his voice but provided a very strong performance anyway. His content is conscious without being overbearing. I have to seek more of his work out. He also paints his face, giving the crowd their first taste of a Juggalo rapper (I don’t think Grizzy claims Juggalo). At one point, he jumped into the crowd and put his arm around me and we jumped up and down together while he rapped. It was adorable.
The Sewa Side Squad is a crew from MA that I have been hearing about for the past year. They put on an excellent and gritty hardcore rap show. While watching them perform, I came to the realization that I was on the same Grind Mode Cypher track with two of these dudes, Arichussettes and Putchewin Payne (pronounced “put-chew-in-pain”). The Squad brought out their frontman, Block McCloud, about halfway through their set and continued crushing.
The Dirtball performed next. A former Kottonmouth King and mushroom enthusiast who has a very fast and super clean delivery. His performance was so tight that it seemed almost studio quality. I was very impressed.
Death metal frontman and one of the hardest working rappers in New England, Dilyrium, hit the stage with his hypeman, Tommie Trichomes. Both are 656 Records artists. They gave us a very high energy performance that has me looking out Dilyrium’s new album, which I hear was recorded and mixed by Block McCloud.
To close out night one was Cash Money Records signee, Caskey. I was completely unfamiliar with his work but he quickly got my attention and had me dancing. He came out with his right arm in a sling and explained he broke it fighting a guy at the 7-11. He still managed to turn up, even holding the mic with his bad wing at times. Moshing in the crowd as well. I left quickly after he wrapped up his set. Back to the hotel to get some rest for my Grind Mode Cypher debut on Saturday.
Day 2: Saturday The 14th
I arrived at Freedom Field a little before 1:30 PM. It was raining. It was almost as cold as the night before. A lot of people didn’t look prepared for the weather. One of the parking guys told me that he thought he was the only one of the staff to bring a poncho. (I saw at least one other poncho.) He directed me to an even sweeter parking spot in the first row behind the stage.
I went to the stage to watch MA rapper Aly K perform. I believe she was the only female on the entire bill and wanted to support her. She performed a vulnerable and graceful set in the rain and danced on the slippery stage. Her performance and balance impressed me.
Ciurleo appeared after Aly’s set, along with some of the VT homies. I found Grind Mode Cypher mastermind, Ryan “Lingo” Fletcher, and confirmed the filming location was under a shelter made of tree branches and a couple giant tarps. We walked over and I heard someone say “Gibby” and looked over to see a familiar name printed on a hat.
“Are you Gibby Stites?”
“I’m Humble Among. Nice to meet you!”
Gibby Stites is a name I’ve been seeing around the Underground Hustlin’ Mixtape circles. We were both pretty shocked to find each other filming Grind Mode Cyphers together. Gibby is a super nice guy and a very talented rapper. It was great to meet and talk with him about Juggalo shit (I hardly ever get to do that) and non-Juggalo shit.
This was my first Grind Mode Cypher but not my first cypher taping. I’ve been part of two Unleash The Underground Cyphers and organized my own 420 Cypher this year. Grind Mode is different. They film with multiple cameras for maximum coverage. Standouts among the spitters included a tall hippie rapper named Treetop who had the word “cunt” written in sharpie above his left eye. (“My girlfriend wrote this because I was being a dick last night.”) The earlier mentioned Rezno came with a verse that had me shaking my head at how hard it was. Kudos to both of those gentlemen and everyone involved in the cyphers. A bunch of killers.
There were at least 5 (I suspect 6) Grind Mode Cyphers filmed at 656 Fest but I left to go get some drinks and take a piss. The rain had cleared up a bit and after a proper buzz was achieved, I decided to return to the hunt for THC Lemonade.
I remembered that the night before, the homie Joe had brandished a bottle that looked like it might be the aforementioned juice beverage. I was too busy laughing at Raw Deff immediately snatching it from him and pocketing it. “That’s mine now.” (Of course he gave it back.) I was told Joe had taken a large dose of edibles. When I saw him next, he was walking up to us with a look of concern on his face.
He said, “I shouldn’t have ate all of those...”
I asked him which tent he got the juice from and, after a moment of measuring his options, he pointed to a red one and said: “the red one”.
I went over and, sure enough, they had them out in the open. I bought 10 of them and ran back to the car with my arms full, giggling like a fiend. I nursed two of them while taking occasional gulps of Ketel One, pacing myself. Vermont Hip Hop keeps it professional.
After a 4:20 dab contest (I regret not entering. The prize was a Championship Belt.), The Hate Street Dialogue took the stage. The East Coast Beast Host himself, Chuck Reeves, handpicked this group for the festival. They are 5 emcees with a very raw performance style reminiscent of $uicideboy$ and City Morgue but not derivative. When all 5 are hitting the same notes together in harmony, it is a magical, adrenaline fueled feeling. The Hate Street Dialogue had the best set of the fest for my money.
The Vermont contingent started to gather around the stage before Cognac Cousins even came out. Yung Breeze almost busted his ass walking out onto that still-slick-as-shit stage. He caught and corrected himself like any true winter worn Vermonter knows how to do. Raw Deff and Yung Breeze have some of the best chemistry I’ve ever seen on stage. They caught the attention of a lot of people. See them if you get the chance.
A rap battle happened and another Championship Belt was awarded. By this point the combination of drinks were definitely effecting me.
The sun sets and HVZE hits the stage. One of 656 Records’ strongest prospects, HVZE is a rapper after my own heart. He has a lot of dark themes in his music and horror movie clips in his videos. That’s my shit. I am hoping that he has a project coming real soon. Check the video for “Japan” here:
Majik Ninja artist Lex The Hex Master was next. Now the Juggalo contingent was in full effect. This was one of my favorite things about 656 Fest; watching the Wicked Shit/Juggalo crowd mix and interact with the Hip Hop/Backpacker crowd. I noticed Sista Hatchet handing out promo. (Sista Hatchet is a well known figure in the Juggalo world. Dressed as an evil nun, she hugs people at shows and spreads good vibes.) She came over and gave D. FRENCH and I each a hug.
Brodie James performed a set that saw many of his 656 brothers make guest appearances, including Kartoon himself, who dons the new 656 signee Boizee with a brand new “6” chain. A revamp of the old design. (Somewhere, Vazy is asking Jibba for his old one.) Brodie has one of the best albums in New England in 2019. They got the place moving and warmed up for Twiztid.
Twiztid took a little while to come out. (Facepaint, I assume.) The only hiccup in an otherwise immaculately timed Festival lineup. Everything seemed to be on schedule. I have been a fan of Twiztid since their debut album, Mostasteless. This set is rare in that they were performing without their touring drummer, Drayven.
Madrox and Monoxide Child took the stage and performed a mix of songs from all over their discography. I got to hear old school faves “Rock The Dead”, “Bagz” and “We Don’t Die”. Jamie Madrox summed it up by saying, “This place gives me Gathering vibes. It like it. I feel like I’m home and shit. I feel like its 4 o’clock in the morning in some corner of the woods.”
Unfortunately, I had to get back to Vermont so I missed the 3rd day. I missed my Vermont homies Modest and the Four Horsemen; Sirhco Bangz, Fresh, Flex 45 and Just Cauz (who had the whole fest saying “Early”).
656 Fest Volume 2 was an event that brought different kinds of people together and had no drama at all (that I saw). Everyone was kind and friendships were forged throughout the weekend. I got to see people “Whoop Whoop!” that I never thought I would even see at a Juggalo show. Seeing New England come together as a single rap family.
Hashtag #656Fest2020 to help make next year happen, as it seems that the odds are not looking good. Kudos to Kartoon and everyone who volunteered. I know they worked very hard so that we could all have fun. Maybe we could bring it to Vermont next year? #Early