The Soul’d Out Music Festival took the Rose City by storm with brilliant performances from a variety of soul, jazz and hip-hop performers, including Solange, Travis Scott, Cory Henry, Bilal, Big Freedia Queen Diva and more. With the festival now in the books, relive your favorite shows through our coverage.
A Tribute To Jimmy Mak
The Soul’d Out Music Festival came to an end by honoring one of the most important people in the Portland music scene: Jimmy Mak. For nearly 20 years, Portland musicians played weekly and visiting artists from around the world came to play at Jimmy Mak’s. The venue in the heart Portland’s Pearl District was one of the last surviving jazz clubs in the city until it closed on Dec. 31, 2016. Just after the new year, Jimmy Mak passed away after a prolonged battle with cancer.
The tribute Sunday to Jimmy Mak was part musical journey, part ride down memory lane, and part reunion to all of those that knew the importance of the now-closed jazz club named after him. Portland Legend Mel Brown orchestrated the night sonically, leading his quartet though an array of tunes — including an inspiring rendition of Charlie Parker’s “Salty Nuts.” Multiple video tributes from musicians around Portland gave the night historical interludes providing those in attendance a true since of what the Rose City had lost.
— David Stuckey
Yells of “cheehoo!” filled Star Theatre as Spawnbreezie performed one of the final shows of this year’s Soul’d Out Music Festival on Sunday night. The Hawaiian colloquial exclamation equivalent to “woohoo” echoed throughout the night as Spawnbreezie captivated his fans who grooved along to his upbeat, feel-good “Island Hip Hop” sound.
The night opened with a traditional Polynesian-style roast pig dinner and Fai Kava serving for VIP ticket holders and performances by Portland State University’s Pacific Islanders Club, Lagoon, King D, David Rhythm and more. Spawnbreezie played fan favorites and ended his performance interweaving short covers of Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” into his smash hit “Oh My Goodness.”
— Shirley Chan
One thing was made clear Saturday night: It’s still bigger than hip-hop.
Dead Prez put a black fist on top of a multi-layered cake of calculated consciousness when they headlined a hip-hop heavy night of the Soul’d Out Music Festival. The set was filled with a bold declaration of black pride, political analyzations on the state of the world, and a message that the fight for freedom is still ahead. Throughout the night, Dead Prez did three things: they taught, they rhymed and they rocked the house. By the time their classic ‘Hip-Hop,’ dropped, all in attendance were fully entranced in their seasoned stage show.
The Soul’d Out Music Festival ends Sunday night with a tribute to Jimmy Mak’s.
— David Stuckey
The Ohio Players
Fans of The Ohio Players have definitely grown up with the band, but the fact that most of their audience members are over the age of 50 doesn’t make the legendary funk group’s performances any less lively. The Players put on an energetic and well-received Soul’d Out show at The Roseland Theater on Saturday night. The band, formed in Ohio in 1959, came out of the gate swinging, starting their set off with the ever-funky hit, “Love Rollercoaster,” and although the show was sold out, the crowd had no problem finding space to get down.
— Meerah Powell
Not that she needed to prove it, but Solange Knowles in no way stands in her sister, Beyonce’s, shadow. Solange brought eclectic dance moves and a powerful performance to a sold out crowd at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on Friday night.
A layered wonderland of soul and R&B, peppered with horns, funky bass and Solange’s delicate voice, the night’s set was filled with tracks off her newest, critically-acclaimed album “A Seat at the Table,” as well as older material from her EP “True” and previous albums.
From the get-go, Solange had an unspoken connection with the audience, all of whom abandoned their assigned seats for the majority of the night in an attempt to dance as gracefully as her. For many audience members, especially African-American audience members who deeply connected with songs like “Don’t Touch My Hair,” Solange’s performance seemed to be more than just a concert — it was an experience. — Meerah Powell
Since “A Seat At The Table” debuted in 2016, Solange’s art has felt nothing less than critical. For many, the album came right on time — putting raw emotions they felt about the state of the world and their respective places in it into words and sounds.
Solange’s live performance gave that energy direction, somewhere to escape the traps of our bodies and minds. It was like an art museum come to life.
The elegant and regal choreography bathed under the red lights of rage and imposing architecture at Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall was a message to everyone in the room that they could be mad, upset or enraged without losing who they are. So when the red eased into a purplish glow and Solange left the stage to perform with the crowd on the floor, people saw their connection to the artist and the feelings behind “A Seat” materialize.
“A Seat” took years to make; the live performance, months. Solange said Portland was her first time performing that particular arrangement live. No matter when the album or the show would have come, they would have felt right on time because they are indeed timeless.
And so it was gratitude that filled the concert hall — overwhelming gratitude. The crowd was grateful Solange picked them to share the experience. And Solange was grateful to find a welcome place to share it. — Bradley W. Parks
Big Freedia Queen Diva
It’s not everyday in Portland you see a diverse stage full of people twerking, jumping and shaking the entirety of their beings, but that’s just what a Big Freedia show entails. Freedia played to a packed Dante’s on Friday night, and the crowd was diverse not only in terms of race, but in terms of gender, sexuality and age.
It seems as though Freedia’s signature choppy mix of electronic and hip-hop, or “bounce,” music can unify just about anyone. Playing a mix of her own originals as well as stylistic covers of songs like Adele’s “Hello” and Beyonce’s “Formation,” there was no way to avoid a full-on dance party. With backup dancers hyping up the crowd with on-stage antics, like twerking to no avail, doing the splits and even backflips, it’s no wonder there wasn’t a tired eye in the building at 1 a.m. — Meerah Powell
Philadelphia-bred jazz and soul singer Bilal opened his Soul’d Out Music Festival set at Portland’s Revolution Hall with a request: that audience members feel one another’s energy. Love, synergy, jazz — those themes carried Bilal’s transcendent performance.
At the show’s apex, Bilal sang his 2001 cult classic, “When Will You Call?,” a song about a man desperately wanting his lover to call him back.
“When will you call?” Bilal belted from the stage’s edge, before putting a topical spin on the original lyrics: “They’re dropping bombs all over the world! Girl, this could be it! Please, call! When will you call!?” The crowd released a collective gasp.
Another highlight came when Bilal and his co-singer (not a “backup” singer) took “Back To Love” down a new path. The two got into a melodic duel: scatting jazz riffs, trying to outdo one another — but also searching for a unified sound.
Bilal is a performer who can truly reach a higher level of artistic consciousness. He may not be a big mainstream name, but he’s definitely an American treasure. — David Stuckey
Portland-based Dan Vidmar, better known by his stage name Shy Girls, wooed the crowd with his dreamy, electronic R&B sounds Thursday night before Bilal’s performance at Revolution Hall.
Performing a combination of new songs from his recently released debut album, “Salt,” and old classics from his EP “Timeshare,” Shy Girls filled the venue with smoky lights and his passionate soft falsettos to match the intimacy of his music. — Shirley Chan
Lupe Fiasco’s career didn’t end up where many thought it would — and he seems to know it. The now-dreadlocked Lupe is a long way from the “peach-fuzz-buzz” wunderkind on Kanye West’s “Touch The Sky” in 2005.
“Can you believe that I’ve been doing this for 15 years?” he mused in a freestyle at Roseland Theater on Thursday. He went on about how he felt the radio buried him, and how he sometimes felt boxed in as one of the conscious, meticulous lyricists of the genre.
That thread of personal reflection took the audience on a journey through Lupe’s career — almost like he were performing a one-man musical rather than a concert.
Lupe invited audience members to indulge their nostalgia. He reveled in playing his pile of smash hits and blockbuster cameos for the crowd, meanwhile performing the hell out of every song the “Kick, Push” and “Show Goes On” fans may have missed in his long, fascinating career. — Bradley W. Parks
Travis Scott feat. Drake
Travis Scott loves Portland. He said it before on Twitter and the trap music superstar said it again at Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday night, where he brought out rumored guest Drake to perform their song “Portland” off the later’s new playlist, “More Life.” Scott’s performance, part of his nationwide Bird’s Eye View Tour, kicked off the 2017 Soul’d Out Festival in style. The energy was nonstop from both Scott and the crowd, as the Houston musician bounced around the stage, throwing water on the crowd and climbing atop everything from speakers to a giant animatronic bird as he performed. Whether you were down in the mosh pit or up in the stands, there wasn’t a moment where you weren’t dancing or jumping to Scott’s melodic and infectious trap sounds. — Shirley Chan
Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles
Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles’ mix of funk, gospel, R&B and sometimes dubstep is an emotional thrill ride — like a chopped up (not slopped up) version of Prince’s “1999” sandwiched between groovy dance tracks type of thrill ride.
Their two-hour set at Wonder Ballroom left you wanting to apologize to wronged lovers and confess your sins to God, all the while tapping your feet.
“I want you to know how I feel,” Henry crooned in one love song’s refrain.
So he let the audience know. To finish his set, he sang a riff about police brutality and brought himself to tears. — Bradley W. Parks
Toots and the Maytals
A night full of positive vibes! Opener Lee Fields showed the crowd what the epitome of North Carolina smooth looks like and literally left the stage singing ‘I Love You.’ Headliner and legend Toots and the Maytals then delivered a reggae- and soul-inspired set that had the Roseland Theater crowd swaying and grooving well into Thursday morning.
Want to dance the night away again during Soul’d Out Music Festival, check out the European Godfather of Disco Giogio Moroder Friday night back at Roseland! — David Stuckey
Soul’d Out Music Festival Prequel
Known for frenetic live shows, Scott comes to Portland after a Coachella set in which he climbed on top of a giant mechanical bird on stage. (No word on if the bird will appear in Portland.)
So it seemed fitting that Gucci Mane, one of trap’s forefathers, kicked off a monumental week for the Portland music scene before handing it off to Scott, one of trap’s favorite sons.
Related: Gucci Mane performs at NPR’s Tiny Desk.
Gucci was not an official part of the Soul’d Out lineup, but to call his show an appetizer would ignore the fact a performance by the self-proclaimed (and widely recognized) “Trap God” amounts to a full meal on its own.
Fans filed out of a packed Crystal Ballroom after Gucci’s set Tuesday night sweating. They were greeted outside the venue doors by a man handing out fliers for, who else, Travis Scott.
See photos from Gucci Mane’s performance below and stay tuned for more as Soul’d Out gets underway. — Bradley W. Parks
Not sure what to see next? Check out KMHD’s list of five Soul’d Out performances you won’t want to miss.