The 2010 Year in Review: My Very Own Music Festival

I have moments when I believe I battle with a touch of insanity; none of these moments more evident than my decision to attend five concerts in four days after spending the previous two weeks recovering from an operation. I knew summer was coming to an end and I would be returning to face the day-to-day escapades of the working man soon, so I set out to cram as much good music into a weekend as a man could stand. So I refilled my Metrocard, took out the Subway map and got to steppin’…

Intimate Friends

Nestled in the heart of New York City’s SoHo neighborhood SOB’s has a cozy appeal that cultivates closeness between performer and audience that’s not matched in many venues around the city. On a late summer Thursday night, Kindred the Family Soul took the stage at SOB’s and celebrated their love for one another, their love for music and appreciation for their fans with an inspired performance.

Fatin and Aja Danztler are closing in on 12 years of marriage and decided to start their anniversary celebration with a few intimate friends and a lot of classic Kindred music. The show opened with “Rhythm of Life” and they effortlessly moved through tracks from their three albums such as, “Can’t Help It”, “Where Would I Be (The Questions)” and “Woman First”. A moving performance of “House of Love” was preceded by a cover of Eddie Kendricks’ “Intimate Friends” which also served as a theme of the night.

As they moved into crowd favorites “Stars” and “Far Away” it was obvious there was more of a kinship between the artists, the music and the audience as the couples in attendance held hands, rocks to and fro and identified with the running commentary the Dantzler’s provided between songs about the highs and lows of marriage and parenthood. By the time members of the audience joined them onstage to perform the chorus of William DeVaughn’s “Be Thankful for What You’ve Got”, a family reunion of sorts had broken out after the sing-along was complete, and everyone went their separate ways into the New York City night.

Gettin’ Funky on the Scene

The next morning I was en route to Bryant Park to catch Bad Boy Records’ Janelle Monae entertaining a lunchtime crowd as part of Levi’s “Wear What Fits” event in Bryant Park. Levi’s was promoting their new Curve ID line by giving away new pairs in exchange for old articles of clothing to be donated to charity. While the few who made it inside of the barricades took part in the activities, those who came specifically to see Janelle Monae and passerby’s lined the barricades and all jockeyed for a good position to see the high-energy performance.

Ms. Monae hit the stage in a blur and her frenetic energy contagiously worked its way through the onlookers who stood more than a hundred feet away as a couple dozen people in the immediately gallery watched, rocked, swayed and made their way from booth to booth to take part in all of the free offerings of the day. That didn’t deter the person many folks had come to see from going through songs from her critically acclaimed debut album The ArchAndroid like “Locked Inside”, “Cold War” and “Faster”.

I had to be standing next to her #1 fan, who even rocked a similar hairstyle and sang all the lyrics to her songs, especially loud when technical difficulties through two songs. But the mic came back to life as she slowed it down a bit to dedicate Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” to Michael Jackson before launching into her hit “Tightrope”. It was obvious what song those in attendance were waiting to see as the crowd exploded when she yelled, “You can’t get too high!” However, there were more troubles with her microphone and a portion of her trademark hairstyle came undone from all of her dancing, but she kept on singing, danced with her hair and the young lady next to me climbed the barricade, sang, bumped, yelled and did everything she could to show her appreciation. And just like that she was gone…leaving those who bore witness to talk about it amongst themselves as they went back to work or continue

Doin’ It in the Park

An order of sticky wings and slice of red velvet cake later, the R train brought me to City Hall Park where Roc Nation newcomers Alexis Jordan and J Cole were showcased as part of the 16th Annual J&R Music Fest. Jordan, the former “America’s Got Talent” winner had the #1 Dance song in the country with “Happiness” and gave a slick performance of her hit. The 20-year-old seems poised to make a run in the Rihanna pop lane, but this crowd was not here for her, as evidenced by the “J Cole” chant that began as soon as she left the stage.

A few moments later the Fayetteville, North Carolina native, St. John’s University graduate hit the stage and immediately went into his mixtape songs with the crowd singing along. I was surprised of the following he’s amassed in such a short time, but a park full of teenagers reciting his rhymes shows that his buzz is growing to a surge that may lead to some success on the charts. While his stage show is still in its infant stage, he definitely rhymes like a grown man, confident, witty, comfortable with his identity and adept with the issues of the community.

While he may overshadowed by another light-skinned young rapper that’s been on fire over the last 18 months and his boss may be the greatest rapper of all-time; J Cole is creating his own lane and judging by the reaction to his first single “Who Dat” and his verses on Miguel’s “All I Want is You” and the young lady who planted her lawn seat at the front of the stage at 3:30, many people are going to ride along with him. Besides, as he told those in attendance that evening, he left St. John’s with “a lot of debt”!

Doin’ It After Dark

Once J Cole left the stage, so did the youngsters who made their way to see him. As they left, the after-work crowd made their way to the immediate vicinity of the stage where Marsha Ambrosius was set to sing some grown folks music. As the moon took its place in the sky, the songstress formerly of Floetry to her place center stage to sing a few Floetry standards such as “Superstar” and “Say Yes” before going into a few of her mixtape favorites like “Co-Star” and “Take Care”.

Marsha kept the mood light with plenty of playful banter, she even flirted with a guy in the audience (though she missed me saying yes) and then remixed “Getting Late” into a tale of infidelity that ends with her confronting the mistress of her lover. This was the perfect segue into her current single “Hope She Cheats on You (With a Basketball Player)” from her debut album Late Night and Early Mornings, a song about the real emotions a woman feels when her ex has found someone new, the bitterness, the wish that he feels the pain you feel right now. She even punctuated the song by hoping that the new love interest cheated with Amar’e Stoudamire, a nod to the Knicks’ free-agent signee, much to the delight of the New York City crowd.

Marsha said good night after performing “Butterflies”, a song she wrote and Michael Jackson performed as a dedication to his birthday. Moments later she reemerged for an encore consisting of her many guest appearances and a performance of the title track of her album, a very sensual tale of a passionate night (and day) that put the exclamation point on an excellent performance that no doubt sent spectators away anticipating October 26th for the release of Late Night and Early Mornings.

No Bourgie People in the Park

That was what Leela James announced as she took the stage on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. That morning I returned to the place I’d left a little more than twelve hours before and found myself directly across from the spot I occupied the evening before watch Leela James’ soul revue. After announcing that she only had a few minutes, she exploded into a truncated short filled with songs from her debut album A Change is Gonna Come and last year’s cover album, Let’s Do It Again.

Her distinctive, soul-filled voice ripped through the air as she performed “Music” and set the tone for her set. She moved into “Love and Happiness” and the late-arriving crowd sang along to the Al Green classic before she went into “I Want it All” (the only song performed from her latest album My Soul), a throwback song about the aspirations of personal and social improvement. Someone in the audience yelled out “My Joy” and Leela switched gears and provided that fan and the couple hundred others with an exceptional performance of the song.

After the final verse, the band played on and she decided that she wanted to be up close and personal with her fans and walked among them. She even made her way to a group of people in the back that she said were looking at her funny, so she returned the favor. As she made her way around the park, she talked, sang, joked, plugged her album (in stores now) and reminded each person there to never let anything or anyone take away their joy. In under twenty minutes I made up my mind that the next time she’s in a four state radius I’ll make my way to her.

Guys Night Out

A few hours more sleep than I had in three days was right on time as I made the drive down to Camden’s Susquehanna Bank Center to check out the 2010 incarnation of the Budweiser Superfest starring Raheem DeVaughn, Jaheim, Kem and Anthony Hamilton. I remember my mom attending the Budweiser Superfest a number of summers during the 80’s & 90’s and always wanting to go, so the final heat wave of the summer did nothing to deter me from buying the best seats available on the night before the concert and it didn’t keep the thousands in attendance glued to their seats as these four soul men took turns wowing the crowd in four distinct ways.

Raheem DeVaughn led off with a performance that became sexually charged after he performed “You” and “Woman” and “Believe” and went into “B.O.B.” from his current album, The Love and War Masterpiece, letting the ladies in the building know their battery operated boyfriends were no match for his bedroom prowess. Jersey boy Jaheim on deck about 45 minutes from New Brunswick where he grew up to assume the role of crooner as he started right in with a few songs from his debut album Ghetto Love, before going into “Put That Woman First” and “Never”, much to the delight of the females concertgoers. He took to the floor to sing current hit “Finding My Way Back” and removed his shirt (more screams and even my lady-friend lost her cool) as he returned from the stage singing “Ain’t Leaving Without You” before he made his exit.

While many of the Raheem DeVaughn and Jaheim fans sought pictures with the two men in the atrium, your auntie’s favorite singer Kem took the stage and showed why he’s a favorite amongst the Adult Contemporary crowd as he went through his chart toppers and crowd pleasers “Find Your Way Back (Into My Life)”, “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and “Why Would You Stay”. He took a break to testify before the Sunday evening crowd about how good God is, bringing the entire crowd to their feet before he moved into “Love Calls” from his debut album “Kemistry”, and the 70’s babies in the audience sang along to every lyric of his spirited performance.

Batting cleanup was the man it seemed everyone came to see, Anthony Hamilton, assuming the role of everything man. He hit the stage to “Mama Knew Love” remixed to Drake’s summer hit “Over” before giving a classic Anthony Hamilton show full of energy, passion and most important, soul. The hits were performed, “Coming from Where I’m from”, “Can’t Let Go”, “The Point of it All”, “Cool” and a revival style rendition of “Fallin’ in Love”, replete with tambourine and soul clap and one of numerous trips to the crowd for Mr. Hamilton. When he settled onto center stage to sing “Charlene”, everyone felt his anguish over losing a lost love and many drifted into a memory as his monologue told of a man making progress for the sake of himself and his relationship.

A little less than four hours after most people took their seats they were heading back into the night air, wiping sweat, laughing, singing, holding hands and maybe, just maybe, a little more in love than when they took their seats. That statement may even ring true for the couple next to me that arrived extremely late and proceeded to argue through Jaheim’s set, but settled down while Kem performed. Yeah, five concerts in four days seemed like a crazy idea, but it gave me a weekend filled with good music, good times and great memories.

Leave a respond