2019-05-07T12:15:17-04:00 2019-05-07T12:10:20-04:00

The second annual Sol Blume was a mesmerizing celebration of modern hip-hop and R&B [Festival Review]

Sacramento, CA - The second annual Sol Blume delivered a special mix of hip-hop and R&B that showcased soulful, new artists who delivered in every way imaginable. Even in the heart of downtown Sacramento, festival-goers experienced a well thought-out and memorable getaway. 

Photo by Ariel Nava Photography

April 27th was a hot day in Northern California, as the sun was beating down on the green grass from the event's early 11 AM start time. The historic Cesar Chavez Plaza saw plenty of art installations, local food trucks, lounges, and, of course, incredible music. The Bless Stage and the Blume Stage alternated performances, making it nearly impossible for any of the 6,300 festival attendees to miss one artist trying to see another. Sol Blume 2019 was, logistically, a significant upgrade from the previous year. There were minimal hiccups and the performances seemed to flow in and out of one another. The boutique festival epitomized an outstanding "small" festival; the vibe was specifically curated to maximize positivity and good energy. 

First to take the Blume Stage was Seattle R&B/pop artist Parisalexa. Even with a limited, early-morning crowd, Parisalexa's voice and confidence were mesmerizing. She performed her song "Dandelion," perfectly singing the fitting lyrics "I woke up this morning with a smile upon my face." She dedicated her song "Ballin" to her mother, who happened to be in the crowd. Both guys and girls in the crowd were flipping their hair for the performance of Parisalexa's personal favorite "Like Mariah." In her first festival outside of Seattle, Parisalexa more than impressed. 

Photo by EJ Aban

After her performance, she revealed she was "excited and surprised about how many people knew all of [the] words." Her confidence, she said, comes from having to be her own biggest fan earlier in her career. But after her Sol Blume performance, she undoubtedly made a plethora of new fans that'll stay with her. As the first of three Seattle acts, Parisalexa set a high bar for the rest of the day's performers. The talented singer joked that she would "be here even if [she] wasn't performing," but everyone (and myself included) was glad she was. 

Next up was Ivy Sole, whose onstage demeanor and presence were truly entrancing. Sacramento, she said, is a "beautiful ass city" as she brought Philadelphia's spirit with her to the Blume Stage. The rapper-singer started off with a low tempo with a gradual build as her songs hit harder and harder as her performance went on. Namely, "Backwoods" heard her rapping with a more poignant flow; she repeatedly used vivid imagery through her rapping and soft singing to convey an array of feelings that resonated with the crowd. Her song "Rollercoaster" had everyone irresistibly nodding their heads before she told them that "the fact that you're here so early means a lot to me." She invited rapper Dave B to the stage to perform their collaboration "Life" for the first time. The crowd felt the expressive nature of the song in Ivy Sole's most powerful moment. 

Shortly after the crowd sprinted across the grass to the Bless Stage where Seattle artist Dave B came out with a special liveliness. He utilized every inch of the stage excitedly introducing himself numerous times, once saying "my name is Dave B, I'm from Seattle" and another time saying "my name is Dave B, my momma's right there." He was fun to watch whether or not you knew his songs, but there wasn't a shortage of people who knew his lyrics. His slightly quirky, noticeably passionate rap style was on full display as he brought out fellow Seattle rapper Romaro Franceswa for a song from Dave B's upcoming project, due out in June. He finished his spirited Sol Blume performance on a high note with his song "Leaves." 

Seattle was out in full force at Sol Blume. Singer UMI took the Blume Stage and immediately radiated infectious happiness and awe. The crowd had grown noticeably in size as the day progressed, and UMI first brought them through a short meditation before performing her song "Butterfly" to cheers. UMI's smile never left her face. She introduced "Remember Me" to even louder screams;  seemingly surprised and excited about the love she was receiving. During "Remember Me," her vocals shined as she stretched out lyrics to show her range. After asking the crowd to sing "Happy Birthday" to her sisters, UMI showed appreciation for her band and introduced each member individually. "Fuck school, but stay in school," she said before singing her most recent single "High School." UMI authentically curated a relaxed, positive vibe throughout her 20 minute-long set, even asking the festival-goers to dance with her as she finished her performance. 

Next, the growing audience made their way to the Blume Stage for Jess Connelly's set. As she took the stage, the Aussie-Filipino singer drew the crowd's attention without saying a word. Connelly carried herself like she's already a superstar, and her set felt like that of one. Her performance was soft but powerful, still but moving. After singing "Wait," she introduced herself to the thousands in attendance. "What's up my name's Jess and I came from the Philippines" she said to everyone's screams, working through a setlist filled with emotional songs that she shared are largely about love. Connelly didn't ask anything of the crowd and her performance did the talking as she maintained an extraordinary vibe throughout the entire 20 minutes. 

Photo by Gabriel Brown

In slight contrast to Jess Connelly's more intimate performance was Tobi Lou on the Blume Stage. He immediately brought a heavy bounce and got the crowd jumping. It was upbeat, but still perfectly fit Sol Blume. The minor league baseball player-turned-rapper told a story about meeting a girl at the airport who came to Sol Blume just to see him. He found her in the crowd and gave her a Buff Baby Plushie. Tobi Lou continued to be personable throughout his set; he never took himself overly seriously, even telling the festival-goers to tell their friends in the crowd not to "ever backstab me you dirty bitch." "The whole vibe today is so beautiful and peaceful and loving," he also said. He perfectly encompassed the day with this description and finished his set strong with his song "Buff Baby." 

Raveena took the Bless Stage with an elegance only she could bring. "Hello beautiful people" were some of the first words out of her mouth. It was evident immediately that she would give the epitome of a great Sol Blume performance. The word "beautiful" was repeated during her set and that was no coincidence. She curated a personal moment with the crowd as she openly sang a passionate song about depression that would stick with each person whose eyes were glued to the center of the Bless Stage. Raveena radiated happiness and joy during every minute of her time at Sol Blume. 

Next was Kiana Ledé on the Blume Stage. Her passionate, pop-leaning R&B sound gradually unfolded while songs like "Fairplay" impressed and captivated the few members of the crowd who didn't already know the lyrics. She slowed things down with "Wicked Games" and began to take the festival-goers on a journey through a series of emotions. "Wicked Games" heard an acapella finish that made Kiana Ledé's ridiculous vocals instantly memorable, but she hadn't even gotten to her most popular song. The winding melodies from "EX" uniquely engaged the crowd as they belted out every lyric back to her. Ledé put obvious effort into hitting every note, and it paid off. 

Snoh Aalegra exuded a glowing confidence on the Bless Stage. She didn't immediately do much talking, instead opting to let her guitarist shine with a solo. The Swedish born crooner's smoothness was unparalleled as she went through her half-hour long set. She went a step further than showing appreciation for the festival-goers in the crowd; she complimented them on how beautifully they sounded when they sang back every line of her track "Fool For You." 

Dreamville's first act of the day, Ari Lennox, set the bar even high for J.I.D to follow. She took the Blume Stage with her song "Whipped Cream" and then introduced herself, but it was obvious the introduction wasn't necessary. "I love this festival, they gave me mad weed" the R&B singer said to a mixture of laughs and cheers. There was no difference between her live performance and MP3s of any of the songs she performed. It was laid back and she made an incredible set seem effortless. Even with the festival's speakers experiencing a couple minor hiccups, Ari Lennox never missed a beat. Just days before the official announcement of her new album Shea Butter Baby, she let the Sol Blume attendees know that it was coming in "probably a couple weeks or something." She didn't lie. Additionally, Lennox let them in on what she feels is an album highlight, "Break Me Off," and played the project's title track amidst screams. Anyone who wasn't already a fan immediately left as one. 

Tierra Whack wasted no time in bringing her unique bounce and peculiarity to the Bless Stage. The Philadelphia rapper called for (and got) a sea of middle fingers for her track "Fuck Off." She did a call and response of strange sounds, putting her self-assured, lovable weirdness on full display from the get-go. The performance was uniquely Philadelphia, but even more uniquely Tierra Whack. She ran around the stage, crafting an upbeat tempo different than any of the day's other acts. It was exciting to watch and left a smile on countless faces, satisfying both new and old fans. The recently-released "Unemployed" was last in Whack's set; this track showed her incomparable rapping abilities and remarkable song structuring. 

The sun first began making its way behind Sacramento's tall buildings as Masego took the Blume Stage playing the saxophone to almost limitless screams. After his first song, one impressive thing became evident: his voice wasn't overpowering the music, but delivered a trance-like effect that gave festival-goers the confidence to sing along. During "Old Age," his timeless voice again lead the way for his musicianship to shine. His entire set heard a lot of natural call and response, but most impressive was when he made a beat live on stage. He started by beatboxing and went from there; to put it bluntly, both the beat and its creation were really, really good. After crafting a beat, he had each of his band members show off their own talents with solos. Near the conclusion of his set, Masego had everyone put hearts in the air, promoting an appealing positivity. 

Photo by Joseph Baura

Dreamville's second artist of the day, J.I.D, was next up. Before performing a single song, he expressed his appreciation for the festival. He mentioned how much he enjoyed it to this point, and then broke into The Never Story highlight "LAUDER." After exhibiting his quick-spitting abilities with songs like "EdEddnEddy" and EARTHGANG's "Meditate," J.I.D took a few minutes to slow down and play "Hereditary." He then told people to stay "on [their] shit," whatever it happens to be. "Make some noise for self-discipline," the Atlanta native said to the diverse crowd. His rapping abilities unsurprisingly impressed, but so did his positive messages. He then brought his characteristically high energy for "Off Deez" and held it for the duration of his set. "The rest of the show gon' be amazing" he declared before exiting the stage. 

Festival-goers made their way to the Blume Stage for the last time of the day for singer Queen Naija's performance. She played an unreleased song that, even though no one initially knew the words, ended up being as catchy as could be. The crowd maintained an excitement as she went through a series of songs including "Butterflies." As a testament to her well-known discography, Queen Naija made a point to ensure she was performing songs that everyone could sing along to. She performed "Medicine" before asking the sea of waving hands if they could be on her vlog. "I grew up singing in church," the Michigan-born singer told the audience before breaking into her latest single, "War Cry." It was the perfect note to end her performance on; every attendee believed every lyric of the powerful song. 

The night sky set in as Jessie Reyez, arguably Sol Blume 2019's best performer, took the smoke-filled stage and asked, "you ever love somebody that didn't love you back?" The singer-songwriter immediately stated that she wanted the crowd to take two things away from her performance: one was to not "fuck up an opportunity" and the other, "if you don't love yourself no one is going to love you." The first powerful message came with an anecdote about how five years ago she was handing out mixtapes on the streets and finally got her foot in the door in music through songwriting. "You can make anything into a fucking W" she declared. Following this story, Reyez fittingly played the Dua Lipa and Calvin Harris number one song "One Kiss" that she wrote. She took the festival-goers through a variety of emotions; at some point during her set, everyone was inspired, sad, and excited. 

Photo by Jessica Padover

After an acoustic performance of "Sola" from her 2018 project Being Human In Public, she told a story about how she met a producer years ago who told her that she was talented but that "if [she] wanted to succeed, [she'd] have to suck dick for a deal." Her story segwayed into a performance of her song "Gatekeeper." She spread a strong, positive message that came off more as empowering more than preachy. Referencing the second lesson she wanted the crowd to take away from her performance, Reyez told another story. "Has anybody been through a depression? Years ago I was heartbroken. I wrote this song when I was in the deepest part of my life. If it wasn't for this song, years later I wouldn't be here with y'all. If you're going through something, cry, take your time, be sad," she said of "Figures." The festival's most powerful moment came during the song's performance. Every person felt what she was going through in the way she passionately sang to them. It was relatable, raw, honest, inspirational, and, most of all, a moment no one would soon forget. The Colombian singer finished her incredible hour-long set strong with "Blue Ribbon." 

Headlining singer-songwriter Miguel took the stage at 9:20 PM as downtown Sacramento grew cold and windy. He came out from behind the stage playing guitar as he sang "Criminal," the first track from his 2017 album War & Leisure. After setting aside his guitar, the R&B veteran freed himself up to dance around the mic as he took fans through hit after hit. As if on command, the crowd's cheers commenced every time an instrumental came on. Being that he is no newcomer to performing in front of thousands, Miguel seemed comfortable and fearless. He took the mic stand to the front of the stage and stood still before slowing down the tempo of his set to perform "Come Through and Chill." His voice's slight rasp and unique tone were on full display at this moment more than any other. For "Adorn" it sounded like he had 6,300 backup singers, only furthering the notion that Miguel is a star in a league of his own.

He gave festival-goers an idea of what life was like growing up in Los Angeles before saying, "you got to be fearless about what you love, who you are, and what you believe." Sol Blume's positivity was embodied by Miguel's performance and words to the crowd. "You ready to skywalk yet?" he asked the audience. Miguel seemed to enjoy himself during the performance of one of his most popular songs to date. He sang the chorus to "Sky Walker" multiple times as nearly every attendee's hands rolled like an ocean's waves. In Miguel's first performance in Sacramento in seven years, he delivered and closed out Sol Blume on an undeniably high note. 

Photo by Jessica Padover

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