Monthly Archives: February 2012
It was a cold and snowy evening in Detroit but the atmosphere was warm and inviting inside Prive Deux on Friday, February 10th. Urban Organic put together yet another great show featuring indie-soul artist Sy Smith and friend of Distinguished Detroit, Zo! as her accompanying keyboardist/Music Director. The hilarious Heather Jay was the host for the evening and Charity was the opening act. As usual, Charity left the audience speechless with her smash single, “Sounds Like Love”, available on iTunes, amongst other great compositions.
When Sy and Zo! hit the stage everyone was ready to receive the Foreign Exchange singer’s energy and angelic vocals. Sy was dressed in a beautiful grey tunic with black cut-out leggings and black heels that had the ladies in awe of her poise as she performed without kicking them off or standing in an uncomfortable stance. Her makeup was flawless and her signature curly fro was bouncing as, Zo! perched behind his keyboard with his Detroit fitted cap and a smile. Surprisingly, Sy was playing the synth bass keyboard as she was singing!
The first song to get it started, befittingly, was “Fa Sho” off of her latest album, The Syberspace Social. The funky party anthem had heads bopping and fingers snapping as she sang her way to the second verse, but then abruptly stopped the band when she didn’t get the response she asked for in her lyric.
“Last but not least
Give us some energy
Positive is the best”
Once the audience got the hint, Sy counted the band back in and rocked out the rest of “Fa Sho” and it set in for everyone that this was going to be an interactive show filled with awesome vibes from Sy, Zo! and the band. With Detroit’s own Brandon Williams on drums, Kenny Rocket on guitar and LaDarrel “Saxappeal” Johnson on saxophone, how could they go wrong? And Zo- a Detroiter himself- awesome composer and pianist, who has released quite a few records under The Foreign Exchange’s music label, had everyone mesmerized by the chords he played. You could tell he was happy to be home and with every stroke of the keyboard, he beamed a smile to us that was all love!
In the interview I did with Zo! a while back (check it out here), he told me that Sy Smith was his favorite to perform with because of how she flowed effortlessly and just did her thing minus staying on a grid. We got to witness this first hand as they played “Driving” a cut from Zo!’s Just Visiting Three, and “Greatest Weapon of All Time” from Sunstorm. Sy joked that when he sent her the latter track she was excited to write “A million dollar song and make millions of dollars”, but instead their currency was “millions of smiles”, said jokingly. Then finally Sy stepped from behind the synth bass to serve us her and Zo!’s rendition of Prince’s “Crazy You” and then hit us with a soulful rendition of “My Funny Valentine”. She was in her element and we were zoned in to her vocal mastery, body language and overall stage presence!
We were also gifted the live experience of Sy’s solo music with songs like “Aquarius Rising” and “Time” along with a host of others. I am sure there wasn’t one person in the room who wasn’t caught up in the rapture of Syberspace as she wooed and grooved us into a good time, leaving us wanting more when she announced the last song of the evening. Sy Smith and Zo! truly make a phenomenal pairing in chemistry and artistry and it was a delight being in the room with them to share a mutual love of music. The musicianship, stage presence and overall sound of the band didn’t go unnoticed in my book and I’m looking forward to hearing much more from both extraordinary artists!
Friend of the site, Jon Aferi is a professional photographer who can be seen at any and every event in the city taking photos. Not only does he capture great moments from concerts to weddings, he also has a great eye for capturing breathtaking shots of Detroit. Mr. Aferi gave me one of his wonderful snapshots to post on the ‘about’ page of this site and you can see more work at www.OhenePhotography.net. I am going to start featuring his photos monthly on the site- they embody how Distinguished, set-apart and noteworthy our city truly is!
It was a cold and rainy evening on Wednesday, January 27th but neither rain nor cold stopped the Tangent Gallery from filling up to capacity. Drinks were pouring, popcorn was popping and vendors were showcasing hot items such as jewelry, hats and tasty treats (Shout out to Fancy Schmancy Cupcakes for the Eric Roberson-themed cupcakes)! Urban Organic & Rain Man Entertainment teamed up to present not only a concert but an interactive experience that gave us a fusion of live music and creative arts. This marks my fourth Eric Roberson concert and each experience leaves me with an elevated appreciation for indie music’s hardest-working soul artist! Mr. Nice Guy is the title of Mr. Roberson’s latest album that dropped October of last year and it has been in heavy rotation on my iPod.
“Mr. Nice Guy yeah…last to be thought about. First one’s she’s turning down (Guess I’m the odd man out). Mr. Nice Guy tired of coming in last. Maybe I’ll be better off just chasing the ay, ay, ay!”
Yum Delish Treats provided delicious chocolate-covered berries to VIP ticket holders (click here for our first feature article on their services). DJ L Boog was holding it down with good music in between sets and Nick Austin was our host for the evening. The first act up was J. Tait- a local artist and back-up vocalist for Detroit’s own Dwele- who will soon be making his mark in the music world. He gave us a bit of old school soul and engaged the audience with his presence. Next to grace the stage was Charity, an acoustic princess whose music exudes love, energy, and self-respect. It was my first time hearing her perform the sensual “Indescribable” and that song most definitely took us “there”! Once J. Tait and Charity got the audience warmed up, L’Renee came out and took us to school as she opened with her original song, “Yes I Do”. Her jazzy and melodic riffs were giving me chills as she sang “Material Girl” and “Reflections” amongst other hits from her roster of albums.
It was finally time for the man of the evening, Mr. Eric Roberson, to grace us with his presence. The audience was amped and cheers exploded in the room when he came out, dapper as ever in a nice suit and his signature glasses. The band was playing “The Newness” and Eric sang every note with a swagger that had the audience in the palm of his hand. There wasn’t a dull moment during his set-people were swaying back & forth, waving arms, snapping fingers and up dancing- under the Erro spell! And wasn’t hard to get caught up since he performed signature classics such as “Pretty Girl”, “Softest Lips”, a radio-favorite “Borrow You” and off of the latest album “Fall” and “Picture Perfect”. Then there are always the medleys where he fuses his music with old school jams and matches with the classic dance moves. And I think I would be pretty accurate to say that veterans of his show always look forward to the segment of his show where he freestyles a song from words yelled out by the audience. Eric never misses a beat and knows how to keep the audience engaged!
To cap the night off with a happy ending to another sad departure (we always hate to see him leave) Erro and his fantastical (yes fantastical) band gave us a funky house mix that had everyone on their feet jumping around like we were at a rave in a remote warehouse in the country! While jumping around onstage to his special “Change for Me” house mix, Eric Roberson departed and everyone stood to their feet cheering and dancing as the band played their last notes.
Happy New Year to all of you!
Yes, I know that I am a month late but I wanted to take a month off to re-evaluate my motives behind Distinguished Detroit. For starters, it is much more than a blog (that is all you see for now) but to whom much is given, much is required- and this scares the dickens out of me! This causes me to question if I can handle the task set before me. Do I have enough discipline, patience and long-suffering to grow with the process of building a brand? Am I transparent enough in my personal dealings where I can deliver pure content without any hidden motives? Can I selflessly go forward without seeking accolades, attention or rewards and still faithfully carry on anyway? Do I simply enjoy this enough to make it a part of my life?Needless to say, I did NOT like my answers. It is
true that you can learn from your past and I did a lot of digging so I could see the root of why I am still struggling to master discipline and self-confidence.
Here’s an example: I started running track when I was in the fifth grade and didn’t start again until my sophomore year of high school. I always loved to run and was told because of my long legs (I am all legs) that my stride would pretty much eat up any person on the track. And I’m a slender miss so it’s not like I had to lose weight to get in shape. But I did have to do a lot of strength training to make myself stronger so I could battle it out on the track with girls who were running since birth. Because it was needed and I never done any strength training in my life it was embarrassing to be in my high school weight room with my teammates, struggling to lift a bar. I didn’t believe that it would make me any stronger over time so I copped out and found ways to skip out on strength training. That one bad decision caused a negative thread to produce bad results after that. I got by on the track out of raw talent but the lack of training made a lot of races harder than they should have been. Then in my junior year, as a result of not doing strength training over the summer, I got a fracture in my knee that pulled me out of the entire indoor track season. By the time outdoor season came around (the most important season for track), I was even weaker than before and not even my talent could help me keep up in races. Instead of working harder, I completely gave up. I didn’t believe that I could reverse it and try harder. And I definitely wasn’t even looking at a track scholarship as an option even though I was told on numerous occasions it was a strong possibility. By the time my senior year came around, I made it to captain of the team but I was the weakest link. I had the title by seniority, which was rightfully mine in theory but belonged to my junior class teammate, in practice. And on top of all of my negative thoughts on not being able to get a scholarship or beat my own race times, I dealt with the insecurity of my younger and inexperienced teammates surpassing me and blowing my race times out of the water. Ultimately, I quit…in my senior year. I didn’t even finish out the indoor or outdoor season. I was too embarrassed and too busy loathing in self-pity and regret.
Looking back I realized that my lack of discipline to go through with adequate training and fight off self-doubt caused me to pass up opportunities that were set up for me. And what makes all of this even worse is my father was, and still is, a personal trainer! I had free, in-house training-an advantage over ALL of my peers- but I didn’t think it would make a difference because I didn’t take believe in the great possibilities and rewards of discipline and hard work. I also dropped the ball in other areas of my life- hindsight is 20/20 vision! Just as I had the advantage to make it into school, tuition-free, I also had many advantages to graduate. I saw the light at the end of the tunnel but was too afraid to keep walking through the darkness of my mind. And the dark mindset carried over to my work ethic and creative opportunities that were available to me. Even today, right now, I have in-house advantages to set myself up for a great future. But my lack of discipline and self-confidence is still lurking over my head like a dark cloud.
With all this being said, I wanted to quit on Distinguished Detroit. Quitting, for me, was like second nature (I’m speaking in past tense by faith). Self-doubt showed its ugly face again and told me that my time and effort into DDET isn’t worth it. But- I know I have a vision and it wasn’t born out a selfish motive. Let’s be real- everyone wants to be appreciated and recognized for what they do- human nature. What I have decided to do is appreciate and celebrate myself and not look for it elsewhere so I can keep the humble mindset of celebrating the good in the city- what Distinguished Detroit is all about. I wasn’t born here and I never attended school in the city (unless you count the Northwest Activity Center’s summer program and Vacation Bible School) but I have an invested love in Detroit. My maternal and paternal families are from Detroit. My appreciation for music came from the summer road trips to Detroit, listening to the classics in the car with my parents, and watching my grandmother rehearse church music on the piano in her basement. I know way too many creative, talented and zealous intellectuals who put their blood, sweat and tears into doing what they love and their passion drives me to love, appreciate, promote and celebrate their efforts- they are not in vain to me! So I refuse to quit on something that brings me joy. Simply put.
The culture is vibrant and regenerative and we are constantly redefining our art and business ventures. Our history bred ingenuity and individualism and our resources aren’t dried up, they just aren’t utilized. There is plenty of room for re-structuring our mindsets and investing in our youth, re-building our neighborhoods and having nationwide recognition for our artists and events like any other major city. I hope to be of service in all of the above areas, as well as garner enough motivation for others to do the same.