Is There A Difference Between JMBLYA’s Dallas And Austin Offerings? This Year, We Finally Hit Up Both To Try And Find Out.
Photos 1-49 of JMBLYA’s Friday stop in Dallas. Photos 50-105 of JMBLYA’s Saturday offering in Austin.
It’s long been one of the most revered festivals in the state, but, in its fifth straight annual offering this past weekend, the Texas event promotion company ScoreMore’s yearly springtime JMBLYA festival seemed intent on proving itself to be all grown up.
Of course, no one exactly needed this weekend’s offerings to see that much. It was known heading into this weekend, actually, thanks to the fact that this year’s Austin and Dallas bills had been long set to feature performances from some of the biggest names in hip-hop — Chance The Rapper, Migos, Gucci Mane, YFN Lucci, 6lack, Lil Uzi Vert, Young Dolph, Pell and North Texas’ own Snow Tha Product — along with a DJ set from EDM hero Steve Aoki.
Yes, at this point, you kind of know what you’re going to get with JMBLYA. It’s a highly anticipated, youth-focused event that features some of the hottest names in the game, massive turnouts and insanely hyped-up crowds — and, every time, it goes down on back-to-back nights in two of Texas’ biggest music markets, first in Dallas and then in Austin.
The only real question that remains about JMBLYA, actually, is how its Dallas and Austin offerings differ from one another. Without having seen anyone else ever really tackle that question before, that’s what we set out to learn this year by attending both Friday’s Dallas deal in Fair Park and Saturday’s Austin event at the Circuit of The Americas.
Here, we take a look at what we found.
The venues. Long having outgrown its early indoor homes, JMBLYA these days takes place in outdoor spaces that are as big as the festival is ambitious. And, in Dallas and Austin alike, you can’t really get any bigger than Fair Park or The Circuit of the Americas, respectively. Each space has its perks: In Austin, JMBLYA sets its stage up at the bottom of a big of an incline at Circuit of the Americas, giving the grounds a bit of a natural amphitheater vibe and allowing even those on the back of the grounds to get decent views of the stage; in Dallas, nestled by Fair Park Coliseum, JMBLYA’s set-up takes advantage of some of Fair Park’s amenities, using some of the grounds’ festival games to give audiences something to do between acts. Each of those elements has its benefits, but both grounds suffer some due to the fact that neither really boasts much in the way of trees or places to shade audiences from heat, although Fair Park’s few shaded areas is vastly better than Circuit of the America’s none — something that actually because a big factor this year as the heat in Austin on Saturday was particularly unbearable and left many attendees suffering from heat exhaustion. Advantage: Dallas.
The lineup. Aside from the surprise special guests (more on those in a moment), JMBLYA’s Atlanta-heavy 2017 lineups for its Friday and Saturday offergins were supposed to be exactly the same. But YFN Lucci had to back out of Austin’s offering at the last minute due to some unforeseen circumstances, making what should’ve been a wash in this category a slight win for the North Texas version. Advantage: Dallas.
The surprise guests. In Austin, Gucci Mane brought Houston rap legend — and perpetual Texas rap show surprise guest — Bun B out on stage for a surprise appearance during his set. That was cool. But it wasn’t as cool as the surprise Dallas fans got at the end of Chance The Rapper’s headlining performance on Friday night when, in addition to bringing out earlier performers Migos and Gucci Mane to join him for a bit, he also brought Rae Sremmurd out. Along with 6lack, Rae Sremmurd is currently on tour with The Weeknd, who performed at the American Airlines Center in Dallas the night before JMBLYA went down. With no scheduled Friday date for that tour, it seems Rae Sremmurd decided to stick around town for this JMBKYA appearance, and that was a super cool treat that this crowd at all the way up. Unlike Bun B’s appearance, no one expected it. Advantage: Dallas.
The crowds. If you’ve ever been to a Dallas hip-hop show or festival, then you know how fucking nuts the kids who attend these things can sometimes be, and JMBLYA was no different in this regard. These kids went hard — sometimes event getting into short skirmishes before being distracted enough by the music to get back into rapping and dancing along and letting bygones be bygones. Austin’s crowd was definitely more chill, with a certain musty flavor lingering in the air throughout the grounds. That alone would probably explain why Austin’s audience was less rowdy than Dallas’, but the heat isn’t to be discounted, either. At Circuit of the Americas, the onsite medical staff was forced to deal with higher temperatures and that kept them consistently busy treating kids for dehydration and overheating. Vendors did what they could to help keep everyone hydrated, handing out free bottles of water — but, either through ignorance on the part of the crowds, or just the lack of shade to offer some respite for the heat, it just wasn’t enough. Things got pretty sloppy. To a degree, this isn’t really JMBLYA’s fault: Its attendees are super young, with at least half of the attendees at each sold-out 25,000-person affairs being under 18, and these kids just don’t have much experience in pacing themselves with their turn-ups. They do, however, all have tons of experience in picking out basketball jerseys! I don’t know that I’ve ever seen more basketball jerseys than I did attending both JMBLYAs this weekend. Advantage: Take your pick. Aside from all the kids getting sick in Austin, there are advantages to a rowdy crowd and a chill crowd, and choosing one over the other is likely a matter of personal preference.
The performances. Everything went pretty smoothly in Dallas. All of the artists performed admirably — even an injured Chance The Rapper, who was limping around stage some after having hurt his leg during a backstage pickup basketball game earlier in the day. Everyone was on time. Everything ran smoothly. But, and there’s no real denying this, the Austin performances were just better. In retrospect, it’s almost like every artist treated the Dallas event like a warm-up. 6LACK was way more energetic in Austin. Lil Uzi Vert climbed the stage rigging in Austin. Gucci Mane just seemed looser in Austin. And, with his leg feeling a littler better, Chance also brought more energy to his Austin set, which he used to celebrate four years since the release of his seminal Acid Rap mixtape — something he didn’t really acknowledge in Dallas. Advantage: Austin.
If the above is a scoreboard, then Dallas’ JMBLYA had a few more advantages over Austin’s this year, sure. But, just being real here, there’s no doubt that the weather played a big role in that win. The truth is, it honestly doesn’t matter which one you go to. Each has its pros and cons, but they’re both equally fun and well-run events.
Alone, either is enough to be the envy of the rest of the country. But that there are two of them? That’s pretty incredible. C’mon: 50,000 people can’t be wrong, can they?
No. See, there’s a reason why JMBLYA’s been able to establish itself as one of the biggest events on the annual Texas concert calendar each year for hip-hop fans and even non-fans alike. It’s just a great take, a consistent offering of the hottest that music has to offer in a given year.
And, barring catastrophe, we see no reason why that is going to change any time in the future.
We can question whether the Dallas or Austin version is better all we want. The answer is always going to boil down to the fact that JMBLYA is fucking great.