Freestyle Fest was a Party Despite Problems: Before the event started, Freestyle Fest had lost a couple of notable artists (Taylor Dayne and, more upsettingly, Snap). Some of that downer was upped up again by the addition of freestyle king Stevie B to the lineup. But then there was the issue of actually getting in, of parking, of trying to purchase refreshments in hour-long lines. The music had barely started before it was running behind. There was a revolving stage, yet massive gaps between acts. Oh, and at the end it was discovered that headliner Soul II Soul was not going to be performing what would have been a rare US date. The event was not without its problems.
Still, despite the many negatives there were many more positives. We arrived in time to see Minniapolis family band the Jets and, let’s be honest, “Crush on You” is a tremendous song. Tapps, specifically Candy Berthiaume, was on hand to sing a few of that band’s hits, including “My Forbidden Lover.”
Tiffany picked up the pace somewhat. The former starlet might have made her name in malls, but the grown up version prefers to rock out, as the new song she played proves. But of course this nostalgia-loving crowd wanted to hear “I Think We’re Alone Now,” “Could’ve Been,” and Beatles cover “I Saw Him Standing There.” She didn’t let anyone down, and Tiffany was an early highlight.
Timmy T and Sweet Sensation delighted the old school freestyle fans, and JJ Fad had “Supersonic” to 0ffer. Over on the smaller Whittier Blvd Stage, L.A. pop-R&B band Klymaxx looked and sounded fantastic and they warmed the crowd up for what proved to be the festival highlight.
The Sugarhill Gang, led by Master Gee, is cool enough. Add Melle Mel and Scorpio from Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and you have some serious OG rap credentials. The people on stage rotated on and off, but between them they put on an incredible show. Fuck, you got “White Lines and “Rapper’s Delight” in the same set. And the people loved it. “Nobody gets shot, nobody gets stabbed,” said Mel, extolling the virtues of old school hip-hop. Can’t argue with that.Back at the main stage, it was clear that the running order was about 90 minutes behind, which was concerning. It did mean that we got to see Exposé, and hear “Point of No Return.” Stevie B sounded great, even if he does look startlingly like Germs/Foo Fighters man Pat Smear nowadays. Young artist DJ Livia is a star in the making, and Angie Vee kept the party going when people were starting to flag.
Berlin could have seemed a little pout of place on this bill with new wave anthems like “The Metro” and classic power ballad “Take My Breath Away.” But they fit in perfectly with the ’80s vibe, and singer Terri Nunn seemed well up for the occasion despite the short set.
Because of the looming end-time, Lisa Lisa played a reduced set and, as we said earlier, there was no Soul II Soul to finish it off. Which is sad, because “Back to Life” is a banger.
Still, what did happen was great. A ton of memories flooding back thanks to a ton of amazing old bands. Maybe there were a bunch of original members missing, but a good time was had by and all and that’s really all that matters.
Freestyle Fest was a Party Despite Problems
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