Attending LA Soul Fest on Sunday was a good idea. The post-church vibes were high, and anyone who knows me knows I love gospel music.
My family had a post-church tradition of picking up catfish from JJ Fish, and low and behold there was a catfish and fried chicken truck at the festival with a fiercely-efficient line of hungry concertgoers.
Belly full, I was ready to take in some jawns. It was hot as hell, but Avery Sunshine was a welcome ray of light. She won me over with her from-the-pulpit-to-the-comedy-club charm and her strong piano playing and singing, and was the only act to play an instrument. Her voice is big, wide and reedy, and I am now a fan.
Next up was Lyfe Jennings, who burst onto the scene over 10 years ago with songs about broken love and time spent in prison. He scrubbed the bad boy image a bit for this family-friendly atmosphere, but the edge was still there.
He gruffly ran through the highlight of his set, “Must Be Nice,” his biggest and first hit. I played this song 46,000 times when it came out, and this live rendition was even better than the recording.
Jennings’ voice has gotten smoother over the years. His early work stood out in large part because of his jagged, genuine delivery, but this more-even delivery suited a man solidly into his 40s. He performed hits like “S.E.X.” with a newfound maturity. Huge applause from the crowd as he left the stage.
Marsha Ambrosius is an obvious star. Voice, songs, style to spare. I had no idea she was so funny, though. She was stellar when I saw her in Minneapolis a few years back, but on this night she joked openly and saltily about rumors, sex and two-timing men.
The highlight of her set was “Getting Late,” her first smash hit as a member of legendary hip-hop duo Floetry. She milked every note for maximum sensuality. I should also note that she wore a flowing red gown with voluminous, glowing jewels, and was the best-dressed performer of the weekend.
Sunday night’s headliner has been rocking my world for years, but she was still one of the freshest faces of the weekend. Jazmine Sullivan has the churchiest, most visceral voice in the industry; like Mary J. Blige with an armada of riffs and ad-libs. It punches and prods you in emotional places you didn’t know existed.