Urban Music Festival rocks Elmwood Park

GO-GO–Crowd dances to the sounds of EU at the Urban Music Festival held Saturday, Aug. 10 in Elmwood Park. – Photos by S. Hale

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The bright sun beamed down in Elmwood Park, August 10, as R&B and Jazz invited a crowd of jam hungry attendees to the dance area. Lighthearted conversation encompassed the event and the smell of grilled food and Caribbean dishes filled the air.

As the audience moved their hips to the beat while waving their arms about, others were encouraged to join in the excitement. The Star City Urban Music Festival proved to be a good time for many on this warm, yet breezy Saturday.

The event was organized and promoted by Ken Loggins and Jack Woodson. Their goal was to raise money for the Virginia Prep Sports Academy, a post grad school that provides student athletes with financial assistance toward their college careers. While satisfied with the event, both organizers agree there is room for improvement.

“That’s the nature of the beast,” Loggins said referring to the festival’s numbers that weren’t quite what he expected. “You don’t complain when you win and you don’t complain when you lose, but it is hard to reach the Black population.”

Loggins has had much experience in the music industry and has managed major groups that have gold records. Regardless, he goes on to explain that being an African American promoter can be a challenge in terms of earning revenue. According to him, pinpointing what will attract a large African American crowd can be difficult. He also states that he may not always get the same inside deals that other area promoters get.

“You just have to do the best you can,” Loggins said. “You need to know what your budget is before you go in. You need to use your own money sometimes. If you don’t have your own money you may not be able to do it.”

Gregory “Sugar Bear” Elliot, lead singer and bassist of E.U. pumps the crowd.

The collaborative effort of Loggins, Woodson and other Roanoke residents helped create a show with a variety of performers. The event kicked off at 3 p.m. and lasted until 10:30 p.m. Performers included those of local prominence as Ann Artist, Fhat Rob, Jojo Stockton, etc. Also artists such as Rise Rashid, Cold Drank, J-Dot, etc. and renowned 80s and early 90s artists E.U. (Experience Unlimited), Norman Connors and Stone City Band were among the more notable stage acts. The dual intent of organizers was to create an event that would showcase urban genres and attract a variety of ages.

“I wanted to find music that is still relevant and still being played at nightclubs and on the radio to this day,” Woodson said.

Woodson felt it was a great idea to invite E.U. to perform. The award-winning band had been an opening act for the 2019 BET awards after actress Regina Hall welcomed the D.C. group to the stage.

“I’m looking forward to giving people a good show and a good time,” Gregory “Sugar Bear” Elliot, lead singer and bassist of E.U. said prior to the group’s festival performance. Elliot captivated the audience with “Go Go” and unabashedly demanded everyone to get up from their seats and dance as they performed their well-known hit “Da Butt.”

At his request, audience members flooded to the front of the stage and danced freely amongst each other. Submerged in the groove, they welcomed others still seated, to take part in the fun.

From left: Kelly Gravely, Norman Connors and J. Staton back stage at the festival.

Norman Conners and his group, featuring former Roanoker, drummer Kelly Gravely opened with a high-powered fusion jazz tune. Others in this multi-group lineup–with their satisfying sets–created an event that was a mere start to what the two organizers hope to turn into an annual festival!

Woodson hopes for better funding for advertising and promoting future events. Next year, Loggins wants to go “bigger and better” and to target a younger audience in order to attract more people.

Louis and Britta Webb of Elegant T-Shirts & Apparel, One of several vendors at the festival.

“I am very appreciative of the people that did come out,” Woodson said. “I think everybody who came out had a good time. Even to the last group that performed people were still dancing and having a good time. Ultimately the event was a success! We would just like to use that as a foundation to continue to grow