If you’re still recovering from this past weekend’s charged emotions, you’re not alone; Mike Shinoda took the stage twice for the first time since October’s memorial concert, and there still aren’t enough words.
Kicking off the upcoming Post Traumatic tour, Mike hit KROQ’s annual Weenie Roast at the intimate side stage late afternoon. As tempting as it was to try both, Linkin Park Fan Corner decided on Identity LA without a single regret. Dragging @LinkinParkMX’s Ambassador out of bed at 5:00 AM, our group of four was second in line.
Let’s skip the next ten hours of waiting in line and tell you about the festival: Identity LA is an annual festival celebrating Asian Pacific American heritage. Presented at no cost to the community and its supporters, the stage is on the steps of City Hall and brought to life with help from Los Angeles Councilman David Ryu.
Now, there’s no denying this year’s immense pull was by Korean-American artist Jay Park; a fan of his claimed front of line since Thursday. But the artists that left a impression so big, that we need to see them open for Mike one way or another, were early on stage and late to leave our minds.
Performing after DJ Zo’s opening mix and The Flavr Blue, Filipina Ruby Ibarra was introduced essentially as a ‘YouTube star’ most likely to make mouths drop even lower once she turned on the mic. She proudly makes her culture and personal experiences into sharp verses, and it’s hard not to relate to the lyrics you’re fast enough to catch; like Mike’s verses on “Reading My Eyes” from Xero, if not more intense. Hearing her native tongue in her tracks is probably what did us in.
Coming right after was Japanese-American ‘rap-poet’ G Yamazawa with a smile, humor, and personality you couldn’t resist. “My real name is George” likely delivered the festival’s intent in the best way; “Look at y’all lookin’ all diverse!”
The laughs and good vibes he gave us before Mike’s headliner helped stand against the impact.
The third charm and loss of breath came by Chinese-American artist Milck. Setting aside the fact that she has a stunning voice, Milck is in fact a sexual assault survivor that refused to keep quiet; she debuted her song “QUIET” days before the Women’s March where she performed as a flashmob. The march, and the relation of sexual assault to mental health, are two aspects important to the band and crew at personal levels. It was an honor to discover her talent on such an important night for us all, and on a night celebrating Mike’s heritage.
Mike was scheduled for 9:05pm, but we were slightly delayed since afternoon. Watching the stage clear out for Mike’s set up was a troubled mix of excitement and anxiety with a hint of dread. We were ready to support him, but we were not ready to hear his songs, both his own and with Linkin Park. On the barricade since the beginning, though, we weren’t going to leave him.
He opened his set with “Welcome,” the first few seconds choking fans up until we could fall into the words with him. “Place to Start” was debuted with “Watching As I Fall,” where he juggled the guitar and nearly took it off forgetting he needed it for the next song; where he brought out a ‘special quest’ by the familiar name of Mr. Hahn. The explosion of cheers was endearing and it was a whole new sense of love to see them on stage together, even though we’ve seen this for nearly two whole decades.
“Kenji” had a silence throughout the crowd for all the right reasons. It was an overwhelming, powerful experience to hear it performed in Berlin back in 2015, and the same can be said at a festival of Asian heritage. It may not have Japanese spoken within, as other artists had their native tongues in their songs, but it stands just as powerful for its story.
Another guest the Linkin Park community has welcomed was Taka from One Ok Rock, “in town” from Japan for the weekend to join Mike on stage again. Coming out after Mike’s beautiful performance of “Roads Untraveled,” Taka and Mike tackled a combined heartbreaking rendition of “Where’d You Go” and “Waiting For the End.”
Additional debuts were made for One More Light’s “Sorry For Now,” as well as Post Traumatic’s “Crossing A Line” – which some fans were in fact hearing for the second ‘debut.’ Mike had joined us back in March on the streets of Hollywood with a portable speaker and himself, first playing the song for us to listen to. The second time he played it, he sang, with us already knowing the chorus by heart. At Identity LA, it was our first time seeing him perform the song, a complete one-eighty from seeing him just hold a speaker in hand.
It was then what could be the most important part of the night came. Before he played the piano notes an entire generation could know anywhere, Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park gave us these words:
It of course would not be right, if we did not acknowledge our friend… who we love very much… who is looking down on us right now… who wants each and every one of you to be okay.
It would not be right to not take this opportunity to thank Mike. He has been incorrectly quoted to have said “who wants each and every one of you to be happy,” and it matters that he didn’t. For most, nine months is no where near enough time to be past our grieving for Chester, and it matters that he told us that is okay. It matters to tell fans struggling with depression, that our beloved hero wants us to be okay, because ‘happy’ can be too far for too many still grieving. Okay. He wants us to be okay, while we each make our way through the darkness at our own pace. Breathe in and breathe out “okay.”
Singing Chester’s words for “In the End” was a defining moment. I can only hope this is our future with Linkin Park, because in that moment between band, crew, and fans, the love and strength in our voices all together is more than the pain.
We can’t wait to see you on tour and #MakeChesterProud, Mike.
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