Big Freedia, Photosynthesizers, Others Close Out Fall Line Fest, Twerk To End The World
I have been living in the Richmond area for three years now, and somehow never attended a local hip-hop/soul show before Saturday. Yes I know, into the corner of shame I go. Thankfully, the inaugural Fall Line Fest saved the day by bringing some of the best local and national acts in the category to the historic Hippodrome Theatre.
First to take the stage was Ms Proper. I walked into the Hippodrome just in time to catch Ms Proper mid-song, bouncing on her toes on stage, completely feeling it, and generally owning her sound. Unlike most mainstream female rappers, Ms Proper spits her rhymes with attitude and knows how to own a stage while packing a punch. She performed a few songs from her upcoming album, Escaping Reality and closed out the show with Destiny Da Chef and Cakes joining her onstage for 3 Queens. I genuinely felt bad for any Richmonder who missed out on her act, because Ms Proper was on fire.
Next to perform was Petersburg native, Doe The Paperboy. After a few sound hiccups, Doe the Paperboy got into his groove and filled the Hippodrome with energy. An old image of the theatre served as the background during the majority of his set, and it put Doe’s lyrics about determination and struggle into perspective. After performing for half an hour, Doe left the stage but I found myself still wanting more.
After a few minutes of setup the next performer, Ohbliv, was ready. Using only a Mac laptop and a sampler, the Richmond native chopped and remixed classic R&B albums to create a new electronic sound. Unlike the previous performances, Ohbliv’s music kept the full attention of the audience on his beats. Sometimes keeping up with the music felt like a cat and mouse game. As soon as people would start dancing, Ohbliv would throw in a new rhythm and switch up his sound. His performance was less upfront and in your face than traditional hip-hop, but the way he mixed sound and placed silence still had an intensity of its own.
Following Ohbliv was the group, The Photosynthesizers. I had never heard of the band before, so I spent the setup time trying to guess what their sound would be. With a drum kit being assembled and a guitar in sight, I assumed rock music. Then a woman stepped on stage with an impressive afro and a black-studded dress, which made me think soul or funk music. Before they started performing, Marc Cheatham of the Cheats Movement made it clear that The Photosynthesizers were one of his favorite groups. I quickly learned why.
They opened with a explosion of sound and powerful vocals from the female singer Samsun. I couldn’t fit their music into one box because at times it was straight rock, then Barcode on vocals would rap a few lines and Samsun will follow him with an emotion-filled chorus. Her singing was strong, but when Samsun rapped she became fierce.
A few seconds into her first rhyme brought to mind the female version of Zack De La Rocha. The audience was clearly feeling the music, as the dancing shifted from calm swaying to full-bodied gyrating. Near the end of their set, the band did a dedication for the late Joe Threat which was surely appreciated by the many hip-hop heads in the building. By the time The Photosynthesizers played their last song, the crowd had literally doubled and were cheering louder than ever before.
Set to follow such an enjoyable act was No BS! Brass. It’s hard to live in Richmond and not hear anything about this group. Being my first time seeing them live, and I was buzzing with excitement along with everyone else in the audience. After what seemed like the longest sound check, No BS! finally started their set. Their sound reminded me of the New Orleans swing music, and the floor of the Hippodrome instantly became one big dance party.
I never realized how fun a cover of “Take on Me” could be until No BS! started playing. By the time the chorus hit, people were jumping and howling “In a day or twooooo” as loud as they could. There was a wide variety of ages in the audience, but the young people certainly enjoyed the brass ensemble as much as the older generation. The band ended their set with a “Thriller” medley, and I definitely saw a few people bust out the music video’s dance routine.
The final performance of the night was New Orleans native Big Freedia. After the whole Miley Cyrus train wreck, the last thing I wanted to hear was the word “twerk”. Yet, the dance was all I could think about.
I knew Big Freedia traveled with a twerk team, and their skills would be on point. As soon as she grabbed the mic, the audience rushed to the stage. Big Freedia asked everyone if they were ready for her performance, and I prepared to be amazed. Her team comprised of two female dancers and one male. They all had skills. My jaw literally dropped when one dancer twerked across the entire stage.
For some reason, I did not think that Big Freedia could dance in the same vein. Next thing I know, she grabs a chair and goes face-down/ass-up. Everyone in the crowd was cheering her on, and I knew that I could never match her skills. After a few songs, Big Freedia invited members of the audience to join her onstage. To my surprise, GayRVA Editor Brad Kutner took her up on that offer.
Seeing Brad shake-it with a stage full of local twerkers was the greatest thing I had seen the entire night. Big Freedia brought the party, and shut the Hippodrome, Fall Line Fest and Richmond down.
Maya Earls and is a second-year journalism student at Virginia Commonwealth University. She was born in Los Angeles, and moved to Richmond in 2000. Her first journalism experience was managing social media for the Rock4Life benefit concert.She enjoys exploring Richmond on her bike and finding good views of the river. Her favorite past-time is watching people dance in their cars from her apartment window.
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