Now that everyone’s back to school and their daily routines, here’s my equivalent of the what-I-did-over-the-summer assignment. I was fortunate to experience a musical collage of hip-hop, pop, R&B, rock and some genres that defy description.
A Roots Picnic after party in Philadelphia unofficially kicks off the summer with two fusion acts.Producer/emcee duo STS x RJD2’s mix of melodic beats and smooth southern twang flow gets heads nodding. Any man who weaves Your Arms Too Short to Box with God and Shel Silverstein in the same rap is ok by me. Eclectic conglomerate, Johnny Showcase & The Mystic Ticket leaves an indelible mark on your psyche.
The band is one part acid trip, one part funk machine and one part Red Bull, combined into an incredible stage show.Tweet This
Dru Hill and 112 turn out Baltimore’s Horseshoe Casino. In the 90-degree heat singing 90s R&B hits, both groups deliver full choreography, soulful ad libs and legions of fans. Check out the recap.
A bottle of whiskey sits on a table. Instrumentalists clad in white jackets. With absolutely no introduction, a dark figure emerges and serenades the audience with the 1960’s ditty Love is the Same Anywhere. The musicians are the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the artist is none other than award-winning actor and director, Seth MacFarlane (yes, that Seth MacFarlane). In between jazz standards and show tunes, the comedian cum crooner interjects his trademark humor, quipping that these songs “remind you of a time when music wasn’t a Swedish guy dicking around on a laptop.” MacFarlane performs about 20 works curated to show off his vocal chops. The second encore—The Love Boat theme song.
I am enjoying dinner with a friend and hear a woman with a booming voice at the piano. I turn to discover The Voice alum Ddendyl belting out her rendition of Radioactive. I buy her latest release on the spot.
A scruffy-faced Sam Smith rouses the crowd under a gorgeous July sky. His distinctive falsetto hypnotizes everyone in earshot (see below). The new face of fashion house Balenciaga bares his soul through more than a dozen songs. Fun Fact: The choir featured on Stay with Me is actually Smith’s voice recorded in 40 takes. Opening act Jazmine Sullivan is accompanied by an acoustic guitar, evoking a stripped down, raw vibe. You feel her frustration in Bust Your Windows and her resolve in the self-love anthem, Masterpiece.
August brings a trek to Portsmouth, Virginia to see the incomparable Erykah Badu. I’ve had the privilege of experiencing the multi-platinum selling songstress several times. You always get your money’s worth served with a side of knowledge. Phony Ppl starts the show with its brand of “vintage astral funk, colorful world music, and dusted-out hip-hop/R&B.”
My real life summer mixtape culminates in September with an introduction to YouTube cover song sensation Andra Day. She embodies the panache of Billie Holiday, the grittiness of Amy Winehouse, and the rebelliousness of Rihanna–all in her own style. Day’s debut album dropped a week before I see her skillfully warm up the audience for the only man in heels (other than Prince) that can get it, Lenny Kravitz. His unadulterated, bona fide superstar status is undeniable. The veteran entertainer makes the crowd his b*tch, as he performs from his 25+ year catalog. From the first guitar riff to the last note,
And that’s what I’ve been up to for the last few months. How did you spend the summer? Lazy days at the beach? Travel to a cool destination? Share your summer fun in the comments section.