Review: The Steel City Blues Festival
The Steel City Blues Festival took place Saturday, March 17, 2018 at the Bill Harris Arena in Birmingham, AL.
The show’s lineup included Blues acts: J-WONN, Ms. Jody, Omar Cunningham, T. K. Soul, and Tucka.
I am a newbie to the Blues’ scene, so I had no idea what to expect. Let’s just say I was in for a shock and a treat.
The Bill Harris Arena or what locals like to call the Fairground (as fairs use to frequent this area) wasn’t at max capacity, but that did not stop the party from going strong. The energy felt like a backyard cook-out and there were enough men in linen suits, ladies in sundresses, and beer flowing, to literally see a card game going on and grill smoke in the distance.
Soul singer Solange once asked in an interview,” Where can we be black?” in the wake of all the violent racist acts going on in America. My answer? The Steel City Blues Festival.
I felt at home, I felt at peace, and as Johnnie Taylor played on and on between each intermission, I felt as if modern blues is really the song of our people.
DJ Darryl Johnson from 98.7 Kiss radio station acted as the MC for the evening and the first act he brought onto the stage was J-WONN.
The Jackson, Mississippi native, with a hairstyle identical to Erik Killmonger from Black Panther, brought youth and high energy to the stage. His musical style was a hybrid of classic Blues and today’s R&B.
The down-home artist wowed with lush vocals and at one point came down from the stage to bring a group of ladies up front for a more up close and personal experience
. He got the audience to their feet with original tune after tune, including a particularly catchy song called Daddy’s Girl. J-WONN closed after a few very sexy numbers where he asked the ladies of the audience for Permission, Ro James style.
Next up was the bodacious Ms. Jody.
I was anxious to see what Ms. Jody would bring to the table, as the only woman on the show’s ticket.
Her band members were all male, sporting white tuxedo pants, shirts, ties, and blue silk vests- looking more like groomsmen than musicians.
As they set up the equipment for Ms. Jody’s set, my interest piqued intensely. In no time, a middle-aged woman arrived on stage with a crippled and hunched-back gait.
Once to the mic she shyly asked the audience, “May I ask you this question? Can I take my shoes off?” I looked down at the kitten-heeled clear shoes and wondered what difference would taking them off make. To the loud roar of, “Yeah!” from the audience she walked slowly to the back of the stage and took them off neatly. She ran back centerstage revitalized!
Without the heels inhibiting her movement, she became a new woman. Twisting and shaking to the sound of her own singing, I could see the Tina Turner style black dress with rhinestones glittering along the fringe exaggerating each movement.
She broke out singing her hit song, Sugar Daddy, then explained with her mic acting as a phallic symbol, exactly how she pleased her “Sugar Daddy” orally.
During her performance, one of her band members acted as her hype man. He answered the many questions she asked the audience with diplomacy and humor.
A very tall and distinguished looking gentleman, he even acted as her duet partner for a Bluesy ballad about being hurt. He begged her apology at the end of their duet by singing a perfect cover of Johnny Gill’s My, My, My. If that wasn’t enough, he bowed on both knees to sing Soul Maxwell’s intro falsetto of This Woman’s Worth.
Ms. Jody responded to his beautiful apology by wiping her genitals with a towel, throwing that same towel onto his face, and singing the phrase “hell naw” while she gave out lap dances to several men in the audience.
The crowd was in a hysterical uproar! By the time she got to the end of the set and sang, Just Let Me Ride all while dancing astride another man on stage, Millie Jackson blushed somewhere in Brooklyn.
Next up, was Alabama’s own Omar Cunningham. Cunningham came onto the stage with a flash of stage lights and smoke.
Clad in all black, carrying more than a dozen long-stemmed red roses, he crooned a very impressive version of Frankie Beverly and Maze’s Before I Let Go. At the sight of the roses (and Omar), women from the audience rushed to the foot of the stage.
If Ms. Jody was for the entertainment of the men, Omar was all about catering to the ladies. He sat on the edge of the stage for a moment as women rubbed every part of his body they could reach.
Omar pointed out one of the overtly affectionate fans and said, “Look at her. She [sic] just rubbing and rubbing. Ain’t [sic] nothing wrong with rubbing, though.”
As he sang, he passed out the roses and copied of his CD, which the ladies fought over. The standout song of his set was Baby, Don’t Leave Me, which almost everyone sang along to.
When he finally exited-stage right-there was an audible sigh of contentment from ladies all around.
The announcement that T.K. Soul would be performing next caused audience members to rush to the foot of the stage like never before.
When he arrived wearing a silk white robe trimmed in black with his back to the stage like a professional boxer, the applause and yells were deafening. Finally, he turned to face the audience, removed the robe, and started singing, “I’m looking for a little girl, I want to know if that’s you (song- Looking for a Lady)?” The crowd went wild!
T.K. Soul isn’t just a performer, he is an entertainer. He did spins and kicks, thrusted on time to the banging of the bass, and flipped his microphone a thousand times without ever threatening to drop it once.
Two of his band members looked as if they belonged more to Metallica than a Blues group, but they were amazingly skilled with rocking out on the guitar.
T.K. Soul kept the audience engaged and each song brought on an even greater response than the last. He confidently boasted, “These are my own rhymes, look them up, I don’t sing anybody else’s rhymes.” However, he did shout out Prince and did an amazing job mimicking the falsetto adlibs of Adore.
My favorite song of the evening declared, “If you’re sexy and you know it clap your hands.” There were excited handclaps heard all over the arena. At one point, T.K. Soul turned his buttocks to the audience to allow one lovely lady in the throng to rub to her heart’s content.
T.K Soul left the audience breathless and ready for the last act Tucka.
Tucka was set to be the big-ticket item of the evening, but honestly everyone was amazing.
Tucka arrived to the stage with a very southern accent and a laid back swag. With a fitted cap, a red athletic jacket, and black pants, he was like the country cousin at the family cook-out.
Like J-WONN he brought youth and a hip-hop/R&B vibe to the stage. Known for his bedroom music, he was also quite the heartbreaker. Identical to all the male artist before him, Tucka took a seat on the stage and let the ladies show him some love.
Tucka’s set was relaxed and cool and when it was over people lingered around the arena not ready to let the good time go.
The Steel City Blues Festival was a new experience for me that I do not regret. The show felt like a fun backyard party full of uncles and aunts who knew how to have a good time.
Each artist brought natural talent and soul, but their own personal style to the stage. There was something for everyone, and I think this would have even been a very fun event for the twenty-something crowd.
Each artist did a fantastic job, but Ms. Jody and T.K. Soul stole the show. If you love Blues and are looking for a really good time, I would highly recommend checking out the Steel City Blues Festival when it hits your town.
Special Thanks to my partners and colleagues at Access 205 for this experience.
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