It was the most anticipated music festival of the summer. A sizzling collection of old school and new school R&B stars were set to throw down in the San Fernando Valley at Lake Balboa Park in Encino, CA. The artists scheduled to perform included Gladys Knight, New Edition, Robin Thicke, Keyshia Cole, Cameo, SWV and Kelly Price.

On September 15th, fans and avid concert-goers lined the historic park with beach chairs, umbrellas and coolers. The excessive heat, nearly 108 degrees, did not stop concert-goers from attending the event. It was reportedly flocked by an estimated 10,000 attendees.

Putting on an event this large during the summer in the San Fernando Valley is a huge undertaking due to the consistent high temperatures the Valley is known for. Couple that with it being a first time event, there were sure be problems. The concert was plagued with shortcomings mostly erring on the side of the promoter not organizing the event properly and not carrying out the logistics that were promised. Concert promoters promised valet parking, shuttle service, assigned seating in the premiere sections, all of which was non-existent. The wait to enter the premiere parking lot was 45 minutes. There was one line for entry into the venue and one line for those holding VIP tickets. Then, the wait to enter the pavilion was nearly 2 hours as there were only two people slotted to check handbags, tote bags and coolers, none of which occurred.

With the excessive heat, needless to say, the LAFD paramedics had one heck of a day. People were fainting and the traffic made it difficult for emergency crews to get to those needing assistance. The ambulance crews had a run of it trying to get in and out of the venue to transport patients.

The LAPD had a small presence on the outskirts of the venue but security was basically non-existent inside the venue. Once inside, those holding tickets for the premiere seating whether it was gold, silver or bronze seating, were yet duped again. Promoters promised assigned seating when tickets were purchased. The ticketing website showed a full seating chart with multiple price ranges as well as a general admission section. General admission tickets sold for $55 each while reserved seating ranged from $70 to $300. However, the seating turned out to be a hodge podge of general admission white plastic seats in the premiere section. The VIP section had round tables for those carrying VIP tickets but since there was no security, there was no one to enforce seating. So whether or not you paid for a VIP ticket, a platinum ticket, a gold ticket, a silver ticket, a bronze ticket or a general admission ticket, you could have sat anywhere in the venue that you wish. It was truly a free for all.

The performers were supposed to begin playing at 11am but due to the obvious fact that people were still waiting outside in lines that took two hours to get in the venue and all resources weren’t put into place on time, the concert didn’t start on time. The event was running behind more than two hours.

Alright, let’s fast forward to the actual concert. The concert promoters were able to secure an awesome lineup; some of the hardest hitting R&B acts around. The first performer to take the stage was Kelly Price. She is such a talented writer and performer. She performed songs from her latest album, Soul of a Woman, as well as a myriad of songs she wrote for other popular artists. Before leaving the stage, Kelly paid tribute to the late Whitney Houston as she sang another song she wrote, “Heartbreak Hotel.”

SWV was the next act to take the stage. With style and grace, they sang such songs as “Co-Sign” from their latest album as well as “So Into You” from their classic album, It’s About Time.

Cameo was in true fashion with their mega hit, “Word Up.” The crowd went wild with the ever so popular, “Candy.” They brought the funk and performed as only Cameo could.

The next artist to take the stage was Robin Thicke. He wooed the crowd with songs such as “Magic” and “Lost Without U.”

By the time New Edition made their way to the stage, the crowd was amped and New Edition definitely returned that sentiment when they wowed the crowd with an energy and enthusiasm of their own. They performed hits such as “If It Isn’t Love” and “Hit Me Off.” We were even able to hear Johnny Gill’s lyrical prowess on “My, My, My”, Bobby Brown’s finesse on “My Prerogative” and the edgy grooves of BBD.

Up next was Keyshia Cole. She rocked the stage with her usual style and swagger that fans love. However, at 7pm, her set was cut short as the Fire Marshal was forced to shut down the entire venue due to time and lighting constraints.

Unfortunately, headliner Gladys Knight was not able to perform. Concert-goers were forced to pack up their belongings and head for yet another dreaded line to exit the venue parking lots.

All in all, the negatives of the festival seemed to have outweighed the positives. But one thing is for certain, those who attended the festival enjoyed the performances of some of their favorite artists. They truly tried to make the best of the event even in triple degree heat.

– Submitted by Rochelle Matthews, Music Design