lloyd soulquarius

Even a logistical nightmare can ruin the best R&B lineup ever with Soulquarius.

While the rest of the world had put their partying eggs in a New Orleans beignet basket with the NBA All-Star Weekend, I took my happy black self to Los Angeles for Soulquarius. Touting one of the best festival lineups these eyes have ever laid eyes on, it was too good to ignore or pass up. As I dragged my body back to Houston early Sunday morning, I looked back with a small amount of remorse.

There was no way someone could ruin that, could they? There’s no possible way you could screw over a paying customer base with a lineup that boasted Erykah Badu, DMX, The Internet, Jhené Aiko and more. Not a lineup with The-Dream, Too $hort, The Pharcyde, Mya, Ameriie, Pretty Ricky (!) and more could fail. The kind of thinking probably made Soulquarius organizers think about money first. “Sure, let’s keep selling tickets to this swollen already music festival,” they probably assumed. “$100 tickets? No problem. VIP being $200? Shit, we gotta get this money!”

That kind of logic is what doomed and ruined Soulquarius for many an attendee. People cried because they missed acts. The merch tables served as a turnstiles for whether or not you wanted to partake of overcrowded hell or slightly crowded hell. It’s how a person could miss Lloyd while waiting 40 minutes for Monica and their sets were no more than 10 feet from one another. A logistical nightmare saw the following things happen, unbeknownst to anyone in attendance.

ashanti soulquarius

A List Of The F*ck Ups At Soulquarius, Not Ranked

Brandy Went From Mid-Day Performer to Closer: Nobody knew how Brandy and her handlers may have finessed Soulquarius or the other way around. But Brandy closed the Observatory Stage when she was supposed to be on the House Party stage – 30 mins before Monica took the main Soulquarius stage. Those who even caught Brandy were lucky. Those that wanted to couldn’t due to the Observatory also booking a 6LACK after-party in the same venue.

The Outdoor Stages Were Doomed By Set Issues: Vocalists and bands will be quick to point out sound issues. Monica knew her mic was bad but still soldiered on. The Internet’s drummer was visibly agitated but still teamed to put on a show. R. Kelly & Erykah Badu spent two hours apart, causing the festival to end nearly at 1 AM rather than 11 PM.

VIP Doesn’t Mean Shit: Here’s what you got for paying $200 for a VIP wristband to Soulquarius: alcohol, a cabana tent and a wristband. That’s it. No primo standing space closer to the stage, nothing. You know who else could join you in the cabana tent and got access to alcohol with a wristband?. General admission festivalgoers who only needed to show ID. Yeah, VIP isn’t very important if people who paid $80 more can feel ripped because those who paid anywhere from $85-$110 can get the same perks.

General theme of the night: “I want my money back.”

The Odyssey Of Getting In: It’s a maze to cover the Observatory parking lot. It’s an even longer trek to try and maneuver between thousands of people, all in disorganized lines trying to get into a music festival. Some waited as long as three hours to make their way through the massive throbbing organism of twenty-somethings who wore their best club attire for a 50-degree festival. Even as I walked out of Soulquarius, I grimaced when I saw people were still in line, albeit for something else.

I Almost Died At A Pretty Ricky Set: So, for anyone needing a visual idea of how the Observatory’s indoor stage works it goes as such. It’s a 1,000 person venue that feels like a condensed version of Fitzgerald’s or even House of Blues. After Ameriie finished her set and Pretty Ricky began theirs (unable to perform “Grind With Me”), people attempted to file out. Well, imagine 400 of the 1,000 people inside trying to leave through one exit upstairs and creating a Lord Of The Flies situation where fisticuffs seemed to be the best possible means of survival. Imagine me seated on a couch trying to charge my phone. Now consider people trying to jump over me while still on said couch to get out. Some poor woman almost got caught with a Rock Bottom, I’ll leave it at that.

Let’s keep it simple – had there been no issues in terms of logistics, Soulquarius would have been an amazing time.

The Actual Good of Soulquarius

Ari Lennox‘s “Backseat” sounds just as intoxicating as it does on record and Ameriie delivered a more than spirited set, nerves be damned. The Ying Yang Twins proved that America’s great unifiers are two things: G-Funk & crunk music. I’ll never lose the memory of grown women, white, black or otherwise singing twerk songs at the top of their lungs. Skipped, dancing, constantly moving. All the crooners from Lloyd to Jon B to BJ The Chicago Kid delivered vocally, serenading the ladies with material old and new.

DMX prayed for people and ran through a medley of greatest hits, because that’s what DMX does. Too $hort played in the afternoon because of course he did. Had Short managed to get a set during the night time, a hole in the freaky space time continuum would have occurred.

Walking into Santa Ana on Saturday, I didn’t pencil myself in as a fan of Willow Smith. Once she was finished with her mid-day set on the main Soulquarius stage, I was enchanted. A thin, yet improving voice, Smith sang records from her new album, a distorted version of her first big hit “Whip My Hair” and a political track “November 9th” that she created after the election. Her father, Will Smith was on hand. Sporting grays in his beard and hairline, the former Fresh Prince had become graceful cheerleader.

At least he found total happiness under the sullen sky of Orange County. The musicians attempted to win Soulquarius by sheer force. Even they ultimately had to understand that it was a fight only few would find joy in.

All Photos: Breanna Loose / @saybreaaa