Many a Gen Xer and Tribe Called Quest fan likely bought tickets to Outside Lands 2017 expecting that Tribe was going to be a major highlight of the weekend. The group, having just released their first album in 20 years and going on what they say will be their final world tour, left thousands disappointed twice after rescheduling their OL appearance, and then canceling altogether on Saturday seemingly minutes before they were set to go on.
By way of explanation, they've issued an open letter to fans, which seems to explain the troubles as stemming from grief that they felt over the recent loss of member Phife Dawg, who died in March 2016 at the age of 45 from complications from diabetes.
They say that performing without Phife on Thursday night at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Denver affected them deeply enough that they could not summon the proper energy to perform Friday, but thought they would be able to pull it together for Saturday. Then, it's unclear what happened.
"We wanted to play for you and we wanted to honor Phife's wife in their hometown," they write. "Unfortunately, everything did not come together before the closing curfew."
They promise they "will correct this and regain your confidence."
Below, the letter in full, obtained by the LA Times.
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.