Festival Review: Soulquarius

This weekend I was blessed with the opportunity to attend arguably the most eclectic R&B festival of the year. Despite the impending promise of rain, Soulquarius radiated the brightest vibes. While there were 20+ performances, I was only able to catch 6 and a half shows (my friends and I left in the middle of Kelis’s set to get a good view for The Internet’s set; "Bossy" is still a banger though, love you Kelis).
 
Due to the fickle weather and poor planning, we arrived at the Observatory grounds in Santa Ana at 1:30 P.M., right at the tail-end of Ari Lennox’s performance. Needless to say, I was highly upset as I was looking forward to the soulful songstress’s live performance of her hits like “Backseat” and “Yuengling.” However, by 2 P.M. we were front and center for Willow Smith’s set. I had always been wary about whether or not the 16-year old had merited her place in the music scene due to her inherent connections to the “higher ups” of the industry. Surprisingly, she proved her worth ten times over with this performance. Her vocals and stage presence were phenomenal and she had a command of the crowd that was becoming of such a young artist, regardless of who her parents are. To be honest, I was sold once she performed an alternate version of “Whip My Hair” that actually had a contemporary groove to it. I’ll definitely be looking out for her next album scheduled to drop sometime this year.
 
Willow’s stellar performance was a great start to the festival. And with the rest of the lineup being more seasoned artists, there was no telling how overwhelming the rest of the performances would be…or so I thought. If you know me, you know I am the biggest fan of The Internet. Ever. So you can imagine my sorrow when their set was overall lackluster and ultimately cut short due to technical difficulties. Their performance was decent, given the problems they had to deal with. The lead singer Syd did phenomenally as she softly crooned lyrics from the band’s hit tracks from Ego Death and her first solo project Fin. I swear she was looking at me when she was singing “Special Affair” and if so, Syd girl hit me up, I’m down for the cause. All in all, I’d say that she brought the personality to the performance which is good for her but I felt like the entire band didn't give as much as she did. I know that they are capable of so much more and because of that, I was disappointed. Still their biggest fan, but disappointed.
 
After The Internet’s set, my homies and I were able to catch Ashanti, Ja Rule, Jhene Aiko, and the queen herself, Erykah Badu aka Sara Bellum aka Badulla Oblongata aka @FatBellyBella aka SHE ILL aka Manuela Maria Mexico. Now, I had already been lucky enough to see Ms. Badu perform live at Camp Flog Gnaw this past November which was a cathartic experience so I was unsure if she would be able to live up to my newfound, heightened standard for her… She did. The performance was actually crazy. Not only is her voice timeless, she also has a very personable air about her that makes you want to hang out with her and just vibe. She performed classics like "On and On" and newer pieces like "Hello" (unfortunately Andre 3000 was not in attendance but I’m not complaining). Overall, she seamlessly weaved together a set of songs to craft an experience that I literally will never forget. She was a great, probably the best way, to end a long day of R&B jams. 
 
Ultimately, I think that Soulquarius organizers did extremely well with the line-up, bridging the gap between avant-garde, neo-soul artists and the forefathers (or mothers) of R&B/soul. However, the technical side of things definitely needed some work. With this being its inaugural festival, I hope that with time the planning and logistics are more on point and smooth to ensure a good set for all performers. I have high hopes for the festival in years to come and plan on attending in the future!
 
 
UGONNAYA (GOGO) CHILAKA, DJ
THE WAVELENTH, FRIDAYS 12 P.M. - 1 A.M.
(Photos from LA Times)

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