R&B love and showers at Fair Saint Louis. STL. R&B mainstays Johnny Gill and Keith Sweat served up soggy Stone Soul Picnic realness during the urban night of Fair Saint Louis Friday at Gateway Arch National Park. I was expecting John Legend or India.Arie’s Live on the Levee numbers as far as the crowd size, but I had to remind myself that, since lunchtime, the weather was acting like it was going to cut up. Considering the storm clouds that were constantly ready to clown, it was a respectable representation – with record breaking enthusiasm. Johnny and Keith responded by matching the energy of the crowd that stayed put even after the drizzle stayed steady – especially Johnny! He sang, he stomped the stage down with some fully orchestrated combination choreography, he worked the crowd. The folks had the nerve to have a few cute little notes in them when he went to the audience and gave them a chance to sing along. And most importantly he gave our city credit for having his back from the get and showing him support over the highs and the lows of his career. Now before folks start accusing him of jumping on Beyoncé’s bandwagon as far as the Frankie Beverly and Maze “Before I Let Go” cover, I must let y’all know that he has been performing that song about as long as he has been handing out individual roses during “My My My.” I’ve seen him perform it twice at The Ambassador alone. And who else feels like they have been sleeping on Mr. Johnny’s new stuff after hearing his performances of “Game Changer” and “Soul of a Woman?”
A cute set from Keith Sweat. Keith Sweat’s portion got off to an interesting start even before the singer took the stage, when his gorgeous background dancer twirled clean up out of her wig during her opening solo. The poor thing. I can’t blame her for hitting a kick-turn-spin with enough force to carry her right back off stage. It was like a tornado, girl. I’m not sure if I ever saw her again. That wig logistical nightmare was the only setback of Keith’s portion of the show. His little hype man/dancer came out with him and Keith came out rocking to “Make You Sweat” with that little shoulder dip, hip swivel move that he has made last forever. Y’all know it was filled with croon crying, but that’s Keith Sweat’s trademark, right? And I wasn’t mad about any portion of the show – which he kept more upbeat and family friendly than usual. I was even more thrilled that Keith and Johnny were on the same bill for the show when he came back on stage with Keith and paid tribute to their LSG days with a rendition of “My Body.” It made me sad that my late great teddy bear Gerald LeVert couldn’t be up there singing with them, but I still enjoyed it. And speaking of enjoy, that female backup singer Keith carries around with him is absolute life. Can anybody confirm whether or not she is the original Kut Klose lead singer, because she sure sounds like it. And she hits spot-on with the “Make It Last Forever” vocals as well as spot on delivery of the Kut Close featured tracks. And Keith followed Johnny’s lead with a family cookout classic by closing the show with Cameo’s “Candy” – which worked much better than I expected it would from him.
Hot and heavy at Hey Luv. Listen, the folks were out in these streets on “4th of July Eve!” The club was going up on a Wednesday, honey. My first stop was R&B groove offered up by Shadzilla, DJ Reminisce and DJ J Mo, better known as HeyLuv. I don’t know what was in the air that night, but the folks who stopped through Sophie’s were definitely in the mood for some 90s raunchy slow jams. From “Knockin’ The Boots” to “Freak You” to “Freak Me,” there was a NSFW R&B sing along happening from the time I came through until I left. And who was that couple in white that decided to reenact the words of those filthy songs for everyone in the spot to see? I was lowkey uncomfortable. I promise you that is not what the creator of the classic quote “dance like nobody’s watching” had in mind. Shame on y’all!
Pepper Lounge was poppin’ for FireWorks. After I left Sophie’s, I scooted on down Locust to Pepper Lounge for what has now become an annual tradition for me the “FireWorks” pre-holiday jam. Because the HeyLuv crowd is an early one, I got to the Pepper Lounge just as things were starting to get popping. They had all the who’s who in the building – and they had the VIP booths on lock. Just like last year, it was full of cute folks having the cutest of times. Because of how Pepper Lounge is set up, I couldn’t quite see who was spinning the sounds for the night. But whoever you are, you were getting it in!
A Smoke Session with Twista. Before y’all accuse me of any illicit activity with the rapper that can spit verses as fast as Usain Bolt can run, let me break it down to y’all that Smoke Session is a North County Hookah Lounge that hosted the hip-hop veteran Saturday night. Smoke Session lived up to its name – so much so that I regret not taking the time to do a full wash and deep condition before Sunday service because there were some serious sniff/side-eye combinations. But back to the event: I have never been in the spot before – which was more intimate than I expected, to house a big name like Twista. They had a full house too – and I’m glad that it was a chill vibe where folks weren’t falling all over each other and getting rowdy like some folks can be when trying to make connections with rap stars when they make club appearances. I also want to give a special shout out to the organizers of the Saturday’s set for pulling out all the stops to make sure that I felt at home for my first time at Smoke Session.
A Breakaway jazz triple header. I know y’all don’t care to hear too much about jazz – even if our city has been putting its foot in the genre from the very beginning. But it would be silly for me not to mention that I stopped through Breakaway Productions Jazz Triple Play at The Grandel Saturday Evening for some smooth sounds featuring Mark Harris II, The Coleman-Hughes Project and the show headliners The Bosman Twins. It was a good grown time with a groove that could hold its own against any seaside festival!