Few of the attendees had expected Keef's holographic appearance, at least initially. Craze Fest was organized independently of Keef's team; Craze co-CEO Nick Watts, better known locally as DJ Hoop Dreams, estimated that 2,000 tickets were sold prior to the announcement that Keef would be performing, and that 3,500 attended in total. But Keef's appearance, beamed from Beverly Hills by L.A.-based company Hologram USA, triggered police to rush the stage just before 10:30 p.m., forcing festival attendees and organizers away from the equipment.
Keef, who recently signed a two-album deal with Greek billionaire Alki David's FilmOn Networks, has been in the middle of a storm of controversy in the region. His surprise appearance at the Wolf Lake Pavilion was the culmination of an attempt by the rapper and his team to throw a benefit concert for the families of 22-year-old Marvin Carr, also known as Capo, an associate of the rapper's who was killed July 11; and 13-month-old Dillan Harris, an infant who had been killed by an automobile as the alleged shooters fled police.
Chief Keef Announces Concert to Memorialize Toddler Killed After Capo Shooting in Chicago
An attempt at throwing a show in Pilsen at the Redmoon Theater last week was cancelled after Chicago's City Hall argued the show posed a significant public safety risk, according to the Chicago Tribune.
A war of words resulted, as Saint Sabina Church's Father Michael Pfleger protested Keef's involvement in a "stop the violence" campaign in a Facebook post; in a response, Alki David suggested that it was Pfleger himself who had pressured the Redmoon Theater to cancel the benefit performance in Pilsen.
Keef's secret performance at Wolf Lake Pavilion was revealed in a hastily deleted Instagram post on Saturday, followed by a tweet that suggested the performance would occur at Chicago's Lincoln Hall. When news of the possibility of Keef's appearance in Hammond broke, three men, one of whom claimed to be a representative of the Mayor's office, came down to the pavilion and said that Hammond's Mayor Thomas McDermott, who was in New York at the time, had been receiving numerous media requests about the possibility of Keef's performance. At the time, festival organizers told the Mayor's office they had no intention of having the rapper perform.
There had been some disagreement amongst organizers as to whether the hologram should be given the space to perform, according to one source. But DJ Hoop Dreams defended the decision after the show.
"We felt it was important because Keef is the favorite of our generation right now and we took the risk because we know at the end of the day, that we're doing it to bring the youth together. The first thing Keef said was we're putting the guns down and stopping the violence."
Throughout the night, fans were enthusiastic for locals Tink and Lil Bibby, as well as Atlanta-based R&B singer Jacquees, who was greeted with screams. DJs throughout the night played Chief Keef's "Faneto," and the crowd shouted the lyrics back at the stage each time.
When Keef's holgram finally hit the stage around 10:15 p.m., he spoke as if reciting a koan: "If you got goals, achieve 'em. If you got dreams, believe 'em. Stop the violence, stop the killing, stop the nonsense. Let the kids grow up," before jumping into his 2012 hit record "I Don't Like." He appeared in a Cubs jersey in front of rainbow-colored lights for several minutes.
The song and his appearance seemed to initially underwhelm some in the audience, who expected more recent material. Suddenly, the sound cut off; then the picture dropped out as well. Backstage, police had swarmed the equipment.
"I wish somebody would have told me before they started the damn hologram!" one policeman shouted at a security guard. When asked why the show was shut down, another policeman demurred. "I couldn't tell you. I don't know."
Minutes after the event was shut down, Alki David shot out a press release. "Shame on the mayor and police chief of Hammond for shutting down a voice that can create positive change in a community in desperate need. And for taking away money that could have gone to help the victims' families. This was a legal event and there was no justification to shut it down besides your glaring disregard for the first amendment right to free speech."