A Tribe Called Quest was supposed to play Outside Lands‘ Lands End stage last Friday night, in the slot just before the Day One headliner, Gorillaz. Citing “unforeseen travel issues,” the pioneering hip-hop collective canceled the day of. They were tentatively rescheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m. — in a slot that, for the first time in recent memory, was listed on the official schedule as “TBD” — but ultimately bailed on that, too.
While Little Dragon and Claude VonStroke of Dirtybird filled in the spots, criticism from fans was rather withering, especially as this tour had been billed as the last for rappers who’ve been together since the 1980s, after they lost founding member Phife Dawg in March 2016 at age 45, to complications from diabetes. There may never be another opportunity for Bay Area residents to see them, and after the act’s acclaimed performance at FYF earlier this summer, it looked like they might be going out strong. In all likelihood, there were many people who’d bought an Outside Lands wristband specifically to see Tribe, and had their hearts broken at the last minute, not once but twice.
Well, it turns out that their hearts aren’t the only ones that have been broken. In a lengthy apology first published by the L.A. Times, the band explained in detail the reasons why the performance never happened. Here it is in full, emphasis ours — and yes, it has to do with Phife:
We want to sincerely apologize to you for our absence at the Outside Lands Music Festival. Your love, dedication and support of our music is important to us. Our performance at the festival has been months in the making and in those months we have been fraught with an emotional and eager excitement to touch the stage in the place where Phife Dawg made his home.
Upon the eve of playing for you, we performed not to a mixed crowd of festival patrons but to a filled house of solely Questers. It was humbling. The beautiful Red Rock amphitheater was filled with voices helping us get through a difficult performance without our brother Phife. You would think that with every performance we heal a little more and the sadness is easier to handle. Sometimes that is the case and sometimes the grief and loss is compounded. Although the house was filled with love and we felt it all, we also felt the huge void of Phife’s absence. We walked off that stage deep in grief.
In show business there is a notion that the “show must go on” no matter what. Sometimes though, when you have lost someone close, you are riddled with the notion that there is no going on. That Friday morning upon traveling to San Francisco, a wave of grief was still on us and in that moment we could not see the “on” to go on to. Eventually though in face of loss you find that glimmer of light to bring you to your center and you find the “on.”
We missed Friday but we found our “on” the following day. We wanted to play for you and we wanted to honor Phife’s wife in their hometown. Unfortunately, everything did not come together before the closing curfew. For that, we are deeply sorry. We look to correct this and regain your confidence.
Actually, let us restate that — we will correct this and regain your confidence.
A special shout out goes out to Another Planet Entertainment, the promoter/organizer of Outside Lands.
They put together an incredible event that was enjoyed by many despite the fact that we were unable to add to that joy. We want to express our appreciation for their efforts and encourage our fans to continue to support them. And to those who traveled far and wide, we sincerely apologize and are looking for ways to make this up to you. We are fully aware that without you (the fans), we would not be where we are today. We appreciate you having our back during this challenging period.
We are not making excuses for our absence. We just wanted you to know that we are still grieving and yet we want to honor each and every one of you for 28 years of music love. Thank you for the support.