Photo © Collin LaFleche
By Mawuse Ziegbe
You know that part in The Wiz when Evelline dies and all the workers unzip their fug suits and reveal themselves to be finely crafted specimens of muscular excellence swathed in cherubic linen? That’s how I felt this weekend. The sun finally dropped its deadbeat ways and while picking out miniskirts on Sunday, I felt like a liberated Oz worker.
The journey to freedom started with an acoustic set featuring Van Hunt at soul haven, S.O.Bs. Van is one of my favorite artists ever. Take a whole mess of grunting, sweaty Prince, mix in the panty-droppin’ falsetto of Maxwell and toss on stage. With no band and just his guitar and piano, he strummed and hummed through songs like “Hot Stage Lights,” “Dust,” “Being A Girl,” “Character,” and “Down Here In Hell.” All the while, he regaled the army of Van nuts with tales about everything from his penniless musician days to getting his dranky drank on. Sadly, he didn’t play his last Blue Note single, “The Lowest 1 Of My Desires” but he did take it back to the Dionne Farris slow jam “Hopeless” from the Love Jones soundtrack.
Friday night, I hit up Madison Square Garden to take in a performance from some rapper named Jay-Z and this rhythm and blues singer, Mary J. Blige. I think they’re big on the internet or something. But for serious, I’d never seen Mary in concert and only one word can describe her performance: Wooo!! Homegirl was squatting and bellowing hits like “Real Love,” “Be Happy,” and “Work That.” She shouted out celeb pals in the audience (Oprah, Jodie Foster) and ended the set with “Just Fine,” replete with hair-singeing pyro. “Lil’ Project Mary J. Blige” – as she charmingly referred to herself – put the “hot damn!!” in the Heart Of The City Tour. Sadly, Jigga was packing more “ho-hum” than heat. His set, although peppered with hits like “Can I Get A…” “H to the Izzo” and “Give It To Me,” withered into tedium. I genuinely screamed when Beyonce swished on stage for a 10-second booty wiggle but that’s only because I was really bored.
Photo © Collin LaFleche
The summer continued to blossom anew as Studio B unveiled its spiffy new rooftop with a par-tay featuring NuBlu stalwarts Brazilian Girls. Getting to the venue was on some ‘ol MacGyver foolery (Dear G Train: Get it together!) but I slid into the B’girls set just as they were in mid-song and the crowd was in mid-rapture. This night had a gang of potential. But, Spank Rock , who always brings sunny, good-natured debauchery, had to bow out due to illness (Curses!). The rooftop we were feting became too crowded (Rats!) and the music was almost amazing. However tinny, crowd-thinning tracks were not mixed out quickly enough (Foiled Again!).
I wrapped up the week with a beer at Habana Outpost, which is basically day camp for Brooklynites. Swiggin’ my draft in the cool night air, I knew that summer, in all its blockbuster tour and rooftop splendor, was finally rolling in. I felt like I could unzip my face and toast to a brand new day. Bring on the flying monkeys.