Erykah Badu, Janelle Monae, The Roots and more turn the 2016 Summer Spirit Festival Into A Party

Photos courtesy of zenarfoto

On a sweltering hot Summer day in DC, thousands crowded into Merriweather Post Pavilion to enjoy the annual Summer Spirit Festival. This year, CD Enterprises, the producer of the Summer Spirit Festival, which was a two-day event, stayed true to a diverse line up covering all genres of music- Jazz, Blues, Soul, Hip Hop and Indie. British soul singer Daley opened Saturday’s show. Daley received a warm reception as people were still arriving but Avery Sunshine got a rave response, winning new fans and keeping her old fans.  After Avery turned the stage out, it was time to mellow out with Gregory Porter.  He brought his jazz/blues strong voice and filled the air with smooth melodic vibes. Which seemed to be the theme of the entire festival, Mr. Porter wrapped up his set with a jazzy gogo song.

Setting the stage for Leela James who hit the stage stomping while bellowing out songs with her power house voice that she’s known for.  During her shows James always includes her  “tell it like it is” skits, this time was no exception. Along with the skits she went on to perform “Whose Gonna Love you”, “Music” which was performed flawlessly, with the crowd swaying and singing the words verbatim. To round out her set, she took the audience back in the day with a skit about the good ole days of African American’s partying in the summer playing spades, bid whist and then she broke out into her old school music set.  She went into the 80’s pop hit, “Ride the White Horse” and a dedication to Hip Hop where the band played MOBB Deep “Real Ones” where Leela got down on her knees and rocked just like Mobb Deep then went right into the Godfather of Soul, James Brown’s “This is a Man’s World”, which she made her own.

After her set it was time to party DC Style, Bela Dona and Sugar Bear and EU came out to represent the DC GoGo scene. Looking around the crowd, it was filled with the Baby Boomers, Generation X, Y and Millennials alike.   The all-female band, Bela Dona, kept the high energy flowing when they launched into their locally popular rendition of Adele’s “ Hello” which rocked the pavilion and the yard but the real party started when Sugar Bear and DJ Kool came on stage backed by EU. The highlight of EU’s set, was when Sugar Bear asked the elderly to get out of their seat and the entire crowd (including myself) waited for that drum beat to hit and we all turned the Pavilion into the largest party on the East Coast on August 6 by “Doin da Butt”. The energy in the air was so charged by 40+ crowd showing the youngsters how it is done that no one cared it was 90 degrees anymore because we were all dancing that hard to the “Go Go Beat”.

Janelle Monae, when one sees her name- one word comes to mind – “electric”. This almost 5-foot beauty hit the stage armed with a full band and two background vocalists -who put on a flawless choreographed stage show. Monae donned the stage in a throwback look yet modernized- short black skirt with suspenders, her white shirt, bow tie topped with a Haute Couture Leather Feather Fringed Jacket, showed Janelle in a more feminine light while staying true to her “uniform”. Her trademark pompadour hairdo w/ loose long ringlets that hit the middle of her back added to the look which made you want to stay staring at this timeless classic beauty.  “Electric lady” was a crowd hit and her band infused some Gogo drums and mildly suggestive pelvic rolls are a perfect contradiction to her strong personality, yet sweet girl next door charm.  Her set was about thirty minutes long (which was too short) and she totally SLAYED! She ended her set with a tribute to her iconic influence – James Brown. If you want to be enthralled by an artist from beginning to end, I would definitely recommend going to see Janelle Monae live.

With the stage lit from all that energy it was now time for Erykah Badu aka Fatbellybella aka Medulla Oblongata aka Sara Bellum Aka Low-down Loretta Brown aka …..(a few more names but y’all get it). Badu opened her set with “Out of My Mind” and quickly switched over to her love- deejaying. She showed her skills on the beat machine and then went back to hitting all the crowd favorites ranging from “On and On”, “Next Lifetime”,“Orange Moon” and “Love Of My Life.” After going on a bit late her set was cut short to comply with the venue’s curfew. But all in all Day 1 of Summer Spirit Festival was a great one.

Day 2

Wisdom Speeks , a local DC band whose self confidence and talents are under development but the audience still gave them love for their tenacity and musicianship as they went through their go-go set. The CrossRhodes -which features Wes Felton and Raheem DeVaughn did not disappoint. Although a lot of their material was new to some of the crowd, but they soon warmed up when people realized that “R&B, Hippie, Neo-Soul, Rock Star” , Raheem DeVaughn, is one half of the CrossRhodes, the fireworks and party started for Day 2 of the Summer Spirit Festival!  Next up was Kindred the Family Soul, who had the audience all the way involved and loving the infectious duo. They performed a nice long set of some of the crowd favorites like “Where Would I Be” and “Stay With Me” and their set ended with Aja singing a song about how after 18 years she feels about her husband/partner Fatin. It was clear to the me that the crowd adored the Kindred Classics vs their newer material. One of the highlights of their set was when Philly Trumpet player, Jeff Bradshaw did a mini set to round of their set.

There is no one word in the English vocabulary that can embody and described what the Legendary Roots Crew experience is like. Black Thought came out “summer fresh” with a Navy and white striped naval inspired polo, khaki shorts and a mean white shorts started the set the local classic act, DJ Kool, hyping the crowd back up, backed the Roots performing “Let me Clear My Throat” which was met by lukewarm reactions due to the crowd’s anticipation of wanting to hear classic Roots song. Black went into their newer music then gave Damon Bryson aka Tuba Gooding Jr., the sousaphone player setting off choreographed band moves. The highlight of this set was Jeremy Ellis on the Beat Machine. The audience dug Ellis so much that they gave him a standing ovation. He actually used a scratch style made famous by the X-Ecutioner’s DJ Collective. The crowd went wild as Black Thought went into a smooth rendition of “Break You Off’ turning the air into a charged sense of sexual sensations that couples fed off of and women gyrated to as they sang along.

The piece de resistance finally came when Jill Scott aka Jilly from Philly hit the stage. Jill donned in loose fitting black and white flowing pants suits and gold adorned faux locs opened with “He Loves Me ( Lyzel in E flat).  She then launched into “Hate On Me”  backed by her dynamic all male back- up singer squad was absolutely amazing!  Song after song from Jill’s extensive music discography, Jill performed flawlessly with the crowd of thousands singing , swaying, dancing in rows and aisles and even on the lawns inside and out of the venue. Seems like the entire DMV came out to check the internationally known, Jill Scott. She’s emerging into an icon , who did it by creating her own lane, and that’s why we love her!

It’s safe to say that we are already anticipating the 2017 Summer Spirit Festival!