LEE FIELDS Holding down the soul revival table. Sesse Lind

For the past eight years, the Soul’d Out Festival has taken over Portland at the height of spring, when the city’s streets are coated with the cotton-candy pink aftermath of cherry blossom explosions and cloud breaks reminding us that yes, the sky really is blue. With all that pent-up winter energy, it’s the perfect time of year to spend a week scurrying to and from venues across town and hearing some fantastic music from local and touring musicians. Though, as the name implies, Soul’d Out loosely centers on soul—and in years past the festival has hosted some of the genre’s legends, from the late Sharon Jones to the ever-beloved Charles Bradley—its shows feature all sorts of artists playing smooth R&B to experimental electronic to traditional Mexican folk. Everything you’ll hear is meant to move you, draw you closer, and speak to some corner of your soul. Here’s the Mercury music staff’s list of artists you must experience live at 2017’s Soul’d Out Festival.

BILAL

If you’ve listened to much popular R&B or hip-hop in the past decade, you’ve likely heard Bilal’s voice. He’s featured on tracks with Kendrick Lamar, Common, and Erykah Badu, but the Philly-born neo-soul singer also boasts a series of notable collaborators from the jazz world, like Robert Glasper and Terence Blanchard. Following his 2001 debut, 1st Born Second, Bilal’s highly anticipated Interscope follow-up was famously shelved by the label in 2006 over concerns about marketability after it was leaked online. Ever since, his solo releases have gotten increasingly idiosyncratic—the experience seems to have pushed Bilal toward embracing his less commercial impulses. The muted, spacey jazz of 2013’s A Love Surreal and the restrained funk of 2015’s In Another Life explore new corners of his impressive voice. Bilal’s definitely got the chops to stretch out, having studied jazz at the New School in New York, and there’s something undeniably fun about watching a malleable talent who, more than 15 years into his career, still hasn’t yet settled on a niche. NATHAN TUCKER Thurs April 20 at Revolution Hall


FLYING LOTUS

After all this time, Flying Lotus (AKA Steven Ellison) still never ceases to intrigue and amaze. Though the experimental and electronic artist’s projects vary on the creative spectrum, what’s constant is his love of J Dilla, the continual growth of his Brainfeeder label, and his involvement with Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming, which led him to assume the rap alter-ego Captain Murphy, named after the character from Sealab 2021. He’ll release V, his debut studio album as Captain Murphy, in all its five-track glory sometime this year. A few of its songs have already been released, but like Captain Murphy, FlyLo’s keeping it mildly mysterious until its eventual release. In the meantime, we’ll all be waiting patiently. CERVANTE POPE Wed April 19 at Memorial Coliseum


LAS CAFETERAS

After meeting at an East LA community center to learn how to play son jarocho (folk music from the Mexican state of Veracruz), Las Cafeteras was born from its members’ shared passion for preserving the beauty of this traditional sound. With rich academic backgrounds in social work, cultural analysis, mechanical engineering, and sociology, you’d best believe the group’s lyrics challenge the systems in which we all exist. As the Chicanx sextuplet sings about social justice, they fuse folk melodies with rock, spoken word performance, and hip-hop to reflect the diverse musical landscapes that influenced their bicultural upbringings. With unique instrumentation like the quijada (donkey’s jaw), jarana and requinto jarocha, and cajón, several members of the band also utilize zapateado, which is a customary style of dance (similar to tap) that directly translates to “shoe tapping.” Las Cafeteras recently dropped a second full-length, Tastes Like LA, and its single “Paletero” is an ode to the iconic heroes of every Mexican kid’s childhood: paleteros, the brave men who walk the streets behind pushcarts full of popsicles, bringing joy to jovenes one barrio at a time. EMILLY PRADO Fri April 21 at Melody Ballroom


LEE FIELDS AND THE EXPRESSIONS

The throwback soul revival has calmed down considerably since its fever pitch at the turn of the decade, but it’s no surprise that Lee Fields is still going strong. Despite his vocal resemblance to a certain cape-wearing funk titan (which earned Fields the nickname “Little JB”), the North Carolina native is more of a grizzled veteran than a nostalgia act. His powerful voice graces a string of 45s dating back to 1969, but he didn’t break outside of the Discogs-scrolling vinyl obscurist set until he started releasing music on the now-defunct Brooklyn soul and funk imprint Desco Records in the late ’90s. Fields and his band the Expressions now record for Desco co-founder Philippe Lehman’s Truth and Soul Records, and the last decade has seen the prolific Fields churn out records at a rate that belies his 65 years. Also astonishing are his dense touring schedule and impressive range in performance: Fields can jump from sweet crooning to agonized belting at just the slightest adjustment of his signature power stance. He does it so many nights a year that he nearly has his doppelganger James Brown beat on that “hardest working man in show business” thing, too. NATHAN TUCKER Wed April 19 at Roseland Theater


LUPE FIASCO

Chicago-raised Lupe Fiasco used to have an aversion to hip-hop due to its misogynistic tendencies. After dabbling in and leaving gangster rap, Fiasco began looking up to the style of rappers like Jay Z and Nas, subsequently becoming associated with the “conscious hip-hop” movement alongside artists like Common, Mos Def, and Talib Kweli whose message focuses on social issues like poverty, education equality, and access to nutrition rather than sex, drugs, and material possessions. Speaking of drugs, the seasoned rapper’s newest full-length is called Drogas Light (drogas = drugs in Spanish). My favorite track is the seven-minute “Kill,” which features Ty Dolla $ign and vocals from Victoria Monet. But Fiasco’s show is sort of a peculiar choice for 4/20, only because he doesn’t smoke weed or drink alcohol. (This is attributed to him being a devout Muslim, and having grown up learning how to use guns to defend himself from drug dealers.) But just because Lupe doesn’t partake in burning the legal leaf doesn’t mean we can’t toke up and enjoy the veteran rapper’s set! Plus there’s no way he’s not gonna perform 2010’s “The Show Goes On,” right? That’s gonna be feel-good and nostalgic AF while high. JENNI MOORE Thurs April 20 at Roseland Theater


OHIO PLAYERS

Like their more well-known contemporaries in Parliament-Funkadelic, the Ohio Players have left a long list of group members in their wake since the band’s 1959 formation as the Ohio Untouchables. Despite the turnstile membership, however, the band remained one of the more innovative forces on the pioneering funk landscape throughout the ’70s and ’80s, with mega-hits like “Fire” and “Love Rollercoaster” both reaching #1 on the R&B and Pop charts in 1975 and 1976, respectively. But before their burgeoning funk freakouts molded to the kind of horn-peppered groove-bombs that would later influence artists like Dr. Dre, the Ohio Players’ 1969 debut Observations in Time dabbled in more of a soul-rock vein. The record’s powerful opener “Here Today and Gone Tomorrow” featured the affecting vocals of longtime frontman/guitarist Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner, and received a new audience when David Bowie covered the song on his Diamond Dogs tour in 1974. The group’s 1972 follow-up Pleasure featured their first hit single with “Funky Worm,” a song squirming with ARP synth and slow-plodding grooves that became a sampling-ground for early hip-hop artists like Too Short, Xzibit, Game, and Ice Cube. RYAN J. PRADO Sat April 22 at Roseland Theater


SHURA

For the past several years, the surge of electro-pop with neon ’80s vibes has been a wonder for the ears and a workout for underused dance muscles. We’ve enjoyed taut rockers (Haim), sparkling synth-herders (Chvrches), big-budget strivers (T-Swizzle), and pop perfectos (thee goddess Carly Rae Jepsen). Now along comes Shura, an English singer/songwriter whose debut full-length, Nothing’s Real, was one of 2016’s best albums. The daughter of an actress and a filmmaker, Shura makes music that’s buoyant and beautiful, but never feels like it could blow away at any moment—a common pitfall in this particular sonic neighborhood. On Nothing’s Real, she slides effortlessly from punchy Grimes-style pop (“What’s It Gonna Be?”) and funky post-disco (“Nothing’s Real”) to gorgeously gauzy ballads (“Kids ’N’ Stuff”) and slinky 21st century R&B (“Touch”). Threaded through it all is Shura’s compelling personality and absolutely pristine production, a credit to the artist herself, as well as Adele’s right-hand man, Greg Kurstin, and rising pop wizard Joel Pott of the London band Athlete, who co-wrote several of the songs. BEN SALMON Thurs April 20 at Holocene

TRAVI$ SCOTT

Jacques Webster is the true college dropout-turned-millennial success story. Known to us now as Travi$ Scott, the new mogul’s beginnings were humbly creative since he first started playing music at age three. His skills at drums and piano took him even further once he absorbed himself in the depressive melodies of acts like Portishead, Björk, and, of course, Kanye West, who he worked alongside for 2012’s Kanye West Presents Good Music Cruel Summer. If anything, Scott’s become a mini Kanye himself. He’s produced some of the hottest tracks for artists like Rihanna and Drake (and contributed a feature to Drake’s new song “Portland”) to fashion endeavors like his trapwear with famed designer Helmut Lang. As for Scott’s own songs, they’re heavily beat-driven, with lyrics guided by ego tripping, flexing for the ladies, drugs, and partying. They may not be the most socially conscious, but not everything needs to be serious all the time. CERVANTE POPE Wed April 19 at Memorial Coliseum


TYuS

When news broke that a local 20-year-old R&B singer named Tyus Strickland had signed to Warner Bros. last summer, many Portland music fans (including myself) had no idea who that was. Strickland started making beats at 13, and released rap tracks online over the past few years, but certainly hadn’t expected to go from mildly SoundCloud famous to nationally recognized with a big-time record deal. Last October TYuS (how he prefers to stylize his moniker) released his debut EP, Never Forget, nine tracks of heavily Usher-influenced R&B that centers on his smooth, honeyed vocals and outer-spacy production. It’s slow-burning and sultry; the track “Stay” even has a “bedroom version.” The EP’s standout is “My Way,” particularly the throwback hook, which he sings in an angelic falsetto: “Excuse me while I play/These bitches, they love me.” It took a while for Portland to appreciate the talents of TYuS—now’s our chance. CIARA DOLAN Sat April 22 at Star Theater


TRIBUTE TO JIMMY MAK

This past New Year’s, Portland lost an icon. Two days after Jimmy Mak’s hosted its final concert on New Year’s Eve, the jazz nightclub’s founder Jimmy Makarounis passed away after a battle with throat cancer. Without Makarounis and his beloved venue, the city’s music scene has felt an undeniable loss. In order to celebrate his life and enduring legacy, this Sunday Soul’d Out and Tony Starlight are taking over the Roseland Theater for one blowout tribute concert. The lineup features some legendary Portland musicians: jazz drummer Mel Brown, who will play both with his hard-bop septet and his Hammond B-3 organ quintet, Andy Stokes, LaRhonda Steele, Bobby Torres, Dan Balmer, the Yachtsmen, Jarrod Lawson, Moose E. Lee, Paul Creighton, and the Soul Vaccination Horns, plus an after-party downstairs in Peter’s Room with the Chris Brown Quartet. A percentage of the proceeds will fund a PSU music scholarship in Makarounis’ name. CIARA DOLAN Sun April 23 at Roseland Theater

And check out our Soul’d Out Festival Super Pick: Solange here!