Shante Redden, Kountry Wayne and Jo Lena Johnson

Shante’ Redden, rising comedy star Kountry Wayne and Jo Lena Johnson following his Saturday, August 31 performance at Helium Comedy Club. He made a name for himself as social media sensation, but has become one to watch among the latest crop of standup comics.

Two weeks until Salute. Yes, I am hongry (yes, hongry), but I am almost to the point where I can exhale without a real fear of busting clean up out of my glorious and glamourous Salute ensemble like the Incredible Hulk or an overheated canister of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls. What? Beauty is pain. And I plan to  show up even the most stylish repeat-offenders of the St. Louis American Foundation’s 32nd Annual Salute to Excellence in Education Scholarship and Awards Center Saturday after next (September 21). But enough about me and this killer gown, bag and shoe combo; let’s talk about how St. Louis premiere evening for black St. Louis elegance is just two weeks (and two days) away. I cannot wait! Aside from Dr. and Mrs. Brown sharing the Lifetime Achievement Award honors – I honestly cannot fully express how much I love them both – the night is shaping up to be absolutely everything. We have fresh talent for the Jazz Cabaret in the form of the Coleman-Hughes Project. And the official after party is going to be ____________(insert new slang for lit) with DJ Sir Thurl on the tables. Yo, I’m telling y’all to get these tickets and get your life! Visit to purchase online. Or all my analog folks can call (314) 533-8000.

En Vogue in Memorex. A lot of people might not know this, but I am one of En Vogue’s biggest fans. So much so that I smuggled a “Hold On To Your Love” freakum dress in and out of the house in a bookbag to change into without my folks knowing how fast I actually was. So y’all already know that I was making my way to the River City Casino to catch them live Friday night. Now let me say that they looked absolutely fantastic. They sounded good, and their performance to those tracks was rehearsed to perfection. But there was something missing for me. No shade to the new girl, but I guess Maxine and Dawn took the soul with them when they left the group. It was a cute show, don’t get me wrong. And the last thing on earth I want to do is to be accused of being like those delusional Toni!Tony!Tone fans who still haven’t grasped that Raphael Saddiq has not been a member of that band for 20 whole years. Understand that En Vogue still had the range, but in hindsight, it was too pop for me. I’m guessing that’s what a Vegas-style performance feels like. I liken it to the off-brand oatmeal crème pie vs. Little Debbie. The flavor is pretty much the same, but they are so dry you need a quart of milk to fully wash down. And how y’all gonna come all the way to my city and not sing “Don’t Go.” Terry leads that song, so there is no excuse.

Coco Soul, center stage. A funny thing happened as I booked it out of the River City concert hall, fully focused on catching a few free smells from their steak, jumbo shrimp and crab leg buffet before it shut all the way down. I was walking through the casino and heard a voice I could recognize anywhere. By the time I made it to the club Judy’s, I knew for sure it was my girl Coco Soul. And she was giving me all types of energy that I truly needed but didn’t get from En Vogue. I can’t say I was crazy about the song selection that included Bruno Mars, Lakeside (the band that brought us “Fantastic Voyage”) and all sorts of songs in-between. But her stage presence could not be denied. Girl, Why didn’t you’d be back in town for a show? I’m glad my need for a cheat meal aroma allowed me to catch a part of the show.

A house party hit. Anthony Robinson took the party up a notch with his end of summer set at the architect house. Lord, I don’t ask for much, but can you give me a convertible house that can accommodate a full party and a live band? Amen. After seeing Kalonda Kay and her band rip it in his living room, I will be forever ungrateful for my current habitat. That was so live, that I got over my jealousy and had a good time. Speaking of “good time,” am I the only one that was Saturday years old when I found out that Beyonce had mixed Cameo’s “Candy” in with her “Before I Let Go” cover? Perhaps I was too unbothered to hone in. Happy belated b-day, Bey. 

Biko’s nod to MJ. I knew he would do it just right, so I hit up the Ready Room Saturday night for James Biko’s Michael Jackson spin session. Let me call out a man who goes by Mr. Black personally. I knew your fandom was not a game when you rolled up with the red jacket (sleeves zipped off) and the zippers. But you still impressed me with your mastery of the “Smooth Criminal” choreography. “Billie Jean” and “Thriller” is one thing, but to know all the moves to “Annie are you ok” is a level I can only dream to reach.

Night of the living day parties. I knew the folks weren’t going to let me have a lazy Sunday on a holiday weekend. But can I tell y’all how grateful I am that most of the kicking it took place with the sun kind of still up. My first stop was Delmar Hall for the Mo Spoon, Orlando, Rhashadism and Triky Everybotee joint venture. It was too cute. Even though I don’t really remember any memorable shirts, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to kick off a long day of kicking it. Just like I stumbled upon Coco Soul, it was serendipity that led me over to the day party that had Blue bursting at the seams. The handsome men of Kappa Alpha Psi rounded out my day party scene. They were as dapper as always in their all-white ensembles. The one thing I love about kicking it with the Kappas is that you see different generations getting together for a good time. I get a real kick out of seeing the all-age inclusive “Freaks Of The Industry” stroll. And I found out when the DJ played “Pretty Girl Rock” that there were plenty of AKAs in the house as well at Dos Salas. 

Applause for Art & Soul. My weekend wrapped up with Bell Darris and her team’s triumphant presentation of Art & Soul: A Live Exhibit Sunday at .Zack.  Three floors of action that included live music, art being created on the spot, plenty of Afrocentric vendors and a rooftop silent party was a great way to close out the weekend. I was even more impressed this year than the last one!

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