The summer is only complete after you’ve been to a festival– a good one. The shining staple of the Merriweather Post Pavilion, Summer Spirit Festival, offered attendees a full line-up of local, national and global acts. Hiatus Kaiyote, Black Alley, Rare Essence, Busta Rhymes and Erykah Badu made the much-anticipated roster. You may notice D’Angelo missing from the list. Although his image dominated the golden flyer that promoted the festival, the soul singer missed his performance due to illness. Disappointment was evident in the atmosphere as event staff told fans the unfortunate news. The Summer Spirit Festival team moved quick and enlisted local crooner Raheem Devaughn to fill the male soul performance slot.
Comedian Mike Epps kept the show moving and the crowd engaged during frequent lulls between sets with his inappropriate banter and hilarious shtick. Australian transplant Hiatus Kaiyote opened up the show with their organic sound and gave the audience a sampling of soul from down under. Black Alley rocked the stage with their go-go remakes of popular radio hits and had the crowd beating their feet to the new school dynamic energy they always bring to the stage. It was only right to keep the festival’s go-go soundtrack going with a performance by Rare Essence, who granted attendees the classic go-go they’d been longing for.
After Mike Epps transitioned the show by making fun of cougars in the audience, Busta Rhymes came onstage to an onslaught of applause and excitement. Busta went straight to 1997 with” Keep Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See.” When Busta performed 1996’s “Got You All in Check” and then 1992’s “What’s the Scenario” he confidently stated, “I got classics motherf*cker.” There was no one sitting down after Busta came back to the 2000’s with “Look At Me Now.” He wowed the crowd with his signature 100-mile a minute delivery of his verse and threw down his mic in triumph. “Ain’t no special effects here n*gga,” Busta said as he did the verse again, later fanning the mic. After fitting in his classics that span 22 years into a 30-minute set, he closed his show with “Twerk It” and “Pass the Courvoisier” and humbly thanked the crowd for enabling his longevity.
Off of the high of Busta Rhymes, the crowd welcomed homegrown talent Raheem Devaughn to the stage. Devaughn gave a versatile performance with his original hits and remakes of classics. Devaughn later channeled his inner Prince as he sang “Until the End of Time” while writhing provocatively on his back on the Summer Spirit Festival stage. To keep his romantic repertoire going through the end of his performance, Devaughn ventured into the crowd to serenade (and caress) a few female attendees.
Cue Mike Epps again, who also walked into the audience to dance with the crowd and take photos. After Epps bossed around the stagehands to get Erykah Badu’s set ready on time, the lady of the hour arrived. Badu, who has headlined the Summer Spirit Festival line-up for the past few years, entered to “20 Feet Tall” with ethereal lighting and a glittery headdress to boot. Popular bassist Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner accompanied Badu’s set, showing off on songs such as “My People” and “The Healer.” Badu’s show wouldn’t be complete without her drum machine and trusty visual media display as the backdrop for her performance. Crowd favorites included “On & On,” “Love of My Life,” and “Danger.” Badu even gave a shoutout to Kendrick Lamar by playing “Backstreet Freestyle” as she tested her drum machine and prepared for the rest of her set.
The crowd was excited when the riff to “I Want You” filled the pavilion. She revived the song with Yarbrough & Peoples’ “Don’t Stop the Music.” Badu then performed “Dear Misery,” which the crowd wasn’t too impressed with as some guests took the performance as an opportunity to beat the exiting traffic. Badu re-engaged the crowd by ending the show with a sentimental performance of “Didn’t Cha Know.” Badu stayed to hug fans and pose for photos as the Merriweather Post Pavilion crew broke down her elaborate equipment in the background.