If you love R&B, Soul, or Jazz music then you’re probably made a trek to see one of your favorite acts perform live. Whether they hit your town, or you hit the road for a weekend getaway, you know the joy that comes from joining a few thousand fans to see one of your favorite groups perform live.
Music festivals, a particularly a big summer draw, are the concerts you love on steroids. Typically spread out over two to five days, these events can include expos, art displays, forums and rap sessions, day parties, night parties, beach parties and even an awards show. If the festival isn’t in your hometown, then add into the fun, the opportunity to visit a great destination, take in the sites, the food, the night life and the atmosphere. One final add in, thousands of fans, set on having a good time. It’s a combination worth checking out for the first time, or for a repeat adventure, maybe this time at another great spot.
So, if you haven’t already made plans for your 2017 vacation days, here are few festivals worth considering this year. If you can’t make a festival this year, no problem. Most of them repeat around the same time, year after year. FYI, some of the festivals are just around the corner, so you might want to get steppin’.
By no means is this a complete list, and it doesn’t include one-day festivals, which are less festivals and more multi-act concerts. If you know of other festivals, please email us, and we’ll add them to our online listing. (If you’re reading this story in the print edition of The Community Voice, check it out online for live links to learn more about each of these festivals.)
We found lots of festivals on the East coast, but most of them have a cross over or Hip-Hop appeal. We’ll cover those festivals later, so read on.
Capital Jazz Fest, Washington, D.C.
This year will mark the 24th year for this annual festival that annually features more than two dozen new and classic R&B and jazz performers. This year the festival will be held June 2-4 at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD (no, it’s not actually D.C., but close enough.) This year’s lineup hasn’t been announced but last year’s festival featured New Edition, En Vogue, Will Downing, Brian Culbertson, The Isley Brothers, Lalah Hathaway, David Sanborn, Toni Braxton, Fourplay, Al B. Sure, The Brand New Heavies, Take 6, and many more! www.capitaljazz.com
Jazz in the Gardens Music Festival, Miami Gardens, FL
Great spring weather in South Florida makes this festival one of the earliest of the year. Throw in great beaches, food and culture and you’re already off to a great start. However, add in a line-up of top-shelf acts, one after another, and you can’t miss. This year, the festival is March 18-19 and the line-up includes: Will Downing, Mrion Meadows, Chante Moore, Betty Wright, Morris Day and the Time, Herbie Hancock, Robin Thicke, Jill Scott, Esperanza Spalding, Andrea Day, LL Cool J, Common and The Roots. www.jazzinthegardens.com
Go West for a great line-up of music festivals
Long Beach Jazz Festival, Long Beach, CA
This is the 30th year for this festival that blends a picturesque outdoor location with an amazing line-up of artists. This year’s festival is August 11-13. True to its name, this festival is heavy on contemporary jazz artists. While the lineup hasn’t been announced for this year, last year the festival featured Gerald Albright, Jonathan Butler, Dave Koz, Dave Sanborn, Jeffrey Osborne, the Rippingtons, Norman Brown and Kenny Latimore. www.longbeachjazzfestival.com
San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival, San Diego, CA
This festival disappeared for a while, but it’s back this year, thanks to Rainbow Promotions, the group behind the Long Beach Jazz Festival. There’s not much information available yet for this festival set for July 7-9. Based on the limited information available, it appears you can expect a similarly heavy jazz line-up. Announced so far: Brian Culbertson as host and artist Eric Darius and L.A. Collective. rainbowpromotions.com
Playboy Jazz festival, Hollywood, CA
This is a granddaddy of festivals, dating back to the 70s and features an all-star line-up of illustrious jazz greats, next generation leaders and festival perennials. This internationally acclaimed event, is one of the premier jazz festivals in the United States. Set for June 9-11 in the Hollywood Bowl, some of the announced artists include: George Lopez as host, Gregory Porter, Corinne Bailey Rae, Kenny Garrett, Common, John Medeski and John Scofield; Taj Mahal & Keb’ Mo’ Band, and more. www.hollywoodbowl.com
LA Soul Music Festival, Los Angeles, CA
This is just the second year for this festival set for July 14-16 at Exposition Park in Los Angeles. Reviews were good for the first year, and impressive lineup of classic and new R&B artists have already been announced for this year including: Music Soulchild, Tony Toni Tone, After 7, Yuna, Kindred the Family Soul, Avant, K Michelle, Carl Thomas and Ro James. The event also built in a vendor fair featuring nearly 75 artisan and dozens of food trucks. Expectation are high for the sophomore show. www.lasoulmusic.com
JazzFest West, Los Angeles, CA
This is a festival with a rich history but it disappeared for a while. The festival dates back to 1996 and each year lived up to its slogan as “the hottest party of the summer.” The festival was absent in 2014 and 2015, but returned in 2016 with a lineup that featured: Patti Labelle, Charlie Wilson, Mint Condition, Boney James and Brian Culbertson, just to name a few. However, there hasn’t been any information released about this year’s festival. Not only hasn’t there been an update on their website, their social media has not been active since Sept. 2016. Hope for the best and keep a mid-July date in mind. 2016 dates were July 16 and 17. www.jazzfestwest.com
BET Experience, Los Angeles, CA
This immersive festival has quietly become one of hottest festivals in the country. Just four years old, this four day event is built around the annual BET Awards Show and features A-list R&B, soul and hip-hop artists for a weekend of concerts, wellness seminars, celebrity panels and a free fan expo. Think Essence festival and certain to grow with the BET name behind it. Last year, the festival drew its highest attendance, 165,000 guests; a 10% growth over the previous year. Dates for this year are June 22-25 at the Staples Center. Last year’s line-up of artists included: Usher, Rho James, Rae Sremmurd, Lil’ Wayne, Kehlani, 2 Chainz, BJ the Chicago Kid, Bryson Tiller, Fat Joe and Fetty Wop. www.bet.com
Close enough to drive, these festival are worth consideration.
Urban Music Festival, Austin, TX
Austin has gained a reputation as one of the best cities in the country for live music and the reputation lives on with the help of this 12-year-old festival. This is another early season festival, held March 31 – April 1 at Auditorium Shores. This year’s lineup includes: Tony Toni Tone, McLyte, Keith Sweat, The Whispers, LaTonya Luckett, and many more. www.urbanmusicfest.com
Essence Festival, New Orleans
This is by far the biggest urban music festival in the nation. Typically held during or near the July 4th weekend, this year’s dates are June 29 – July 2. Billed as “the party with a purpose”, this event is way more than just music. Participants can enjoy the Beauty and Style expo, Essence Festival Marketplace, and the daily empowerment experience.
This festival began in 1994 as a one-time event to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Essence magazine and has been going ever sense. It’s been held in New Orleans every year, except for 2006, when it was held in Houston, TX due to Hurricane Katrina.
The daily concerts feature performances on the main stage and on four superlounge stages. Here’s a list of this year’s main stage headliners: Mary J. Blige, Diana Ross, John Legend, Solange, Chance the Rapper, Monica, India Arie, Jazmine Sullivan, Jill Scott, Mystical and Master P. www.essence.com
You’ve heard of destination weddings, well these are really destination festivals. Pack your swim suit, but make sure you leave the beach long enough to enjoy the great music these festivals offer.
Annual Soul Beach Music Festival, Aruba
This is the 17th year for this festival help annually around the Memorial Day weekend. This year’s dates are May 24-29. This festival was previously selected #4 in by USA Today readers’ choice “10 Best Caribbean Celebrations” and #1 “Caribbean Summer Festival” by Jetsetter Magazine.
The festival boasts an unforgettable three-in-one experience featuring live music performances, comedy shows and beach parties. This year’s comedy show features headliner Cedric the Entertainer and concerts featuring A-list artist Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans and Usher, with the announcement of more performers to come. www.soulbeach.net
Aruba Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival
This festival, in its 11th year, is a jazzier, more laid back version of its island mate, the Soul Beach Music Festival. Expect a jazzier mix of artists, although this year’s line-up has not been announced. Dates are Sept 15-16. www.caribbeanseajazz.com
Tobago Jazz Experience
On a small island like Tobago, the beach can’t help but be an integral part of the festivities. The mainstage, in Pigeon Point Heritage Park, has some of the most breath taking beaches and views. This year’s festival dates area April 22-30. Like most of these festivals, expect a mix of Caribbean artists in the lineup. Scheduled international headliners include: Grace Jones, D’Angelo, Maxwell, J Cole and Lauryn Hill. www.tobagojazzexperience.com
Saint Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival
This is one of the best known and oldest Caribbean music festivals. Celebrating its 26th year, this festival includes, dance, art, theater, culinary arts and even couture fashion shows with events spread throughout the island. Expect Jazz, Calypso and Reggae performers. Some of the past year’s headliners have included: R. Kelly, the Jacksons, Diana Ross, and John Legend.
The island alone should help put this festival on your must do list. The island bills itself as “simply beautiful,” and by the photos, it is. Festival dates are May 12-14. www.stlucia.org/summerfestival/
St. Lucia Roots and Soul Festival
Still want to visit St. Lucia, consider this festival dedicated to musicians who are setting new trends in reggae, conscious hip-hop, Afro-punk and R&B. This event is also on Pigeon Island, but over Father’s Day Weekend, June 16-18. www.stlucia.org/summerfestival/
St. Kitts Music Festival
This festival, which dates back to 1996, features R&B, Soca, Reggae and Hip-Hop performances. This year’s date is June 21-24 at Warner Park, Basseterre, St. Kitts. Top artist so far is Shabba Ranks but more artists are still be announced. http://www.stkittsmusicfestival.net/
Reggae Sumfest, Montego Bay, Jamaica
This is a festival that holds true its reggae roots. Join in on the week of fun from July 16-22. As is customary, Reggae Sumfest kicks off on Sunday with the Sumfest Beach Party; the All White Party on Tuesday; followed by Sound Explosion and two nights of electrifying live performances beginning with Dancehall Night on Friday and culminating with International Night on Saturday. The 2017 lineup has not been announced. http://reggaesumfest.com/
Hip-Hop & Crossover Festivals
Rolling Loud Festival, Miami, FL
This is true Hip-Hop festival May 5-7 with 2017 lineup including Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott, Lil Wayne, Future and Lil Yachty, just to name a few. At Bayfront Park, Miami. www.rollingloud.com