GOING ON four years now, the Soul'd Out Music Festival has presented eclectic, wide-reaching lineups that expand the classic definition of "soul." And from April 10 through April 21, they're all over Portland again, with musicians that span a spectrum of generations, countries, and styles. Festival coordinator Elliot Blair lent us some important insight into the origins of Soul'd Out, and why he feels it's important that the festival take place in this city.
"We're interested in highlighting a type of music that is often overlooked in Portland and the Northwest," says Blair. "Portland gets pigeonholed as a city that plays or listens to a certain type of music—but it's more diverse than we recognize off the bat."
With headliners that swing from Ghostface Killah to Booker T. Jones to Medeski Martin & Wood, there is a little action for everybody, and that range of flavors is a big part of the mission of Soul'd Out. Blair says, "Soul music is a subjective thing—the point of the festival is to connect the dots between jazz, hiphop, electronic, [and] soul, and show how they've intersected and influenced each other over the years."
For those Portlanders who don't think there's enough soul in town, for those who don't generally listen, and for everybody in between, this is an excellent opportunity to experience some fun and fantastic music—regardless of genre. Here are the highlights we're looking forward to.
Kicking off the fest is DāM-FunK, with his synth saturated, future funk beats. DāM (pronounced Dame) is an LA-based artist who has spent the last few years perfecting silky, '80s-style dance tracks. His debut album, Toeachizown, is a swirling mixture of electronic rhythms, sexy soul, and echoed vocals. Catch DM, or as he is known, "the Ambassador of Boogie Funk," at the Star Theater with Starship Connection and Suzanne Kraft, and get down with some tripped out beats. Wed April 10, Star Theater, 13 NW 6th
Ghostface's new record, Twelve Reasons to Die, is a concept album based on a comic book about an Italian mobster family. If that doesn't sound intriguing and dramatic enough, it's performed with a live band, and composed and produced by Adrian Younge of Wax Poetics. All cozied up at Mississippi Studies, this is not a show you're going to want to miss. Wed April 10 (two shows), Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi
Portland's '90s revival shines bright thanks to Dan Vidmar's Shy Girls. Their smooth tracks are spiked with the occasional and highly appropriate saxophone solo. Live, you can almost forget that you're living in the 21st century. This music takes soul, R&B, and pop, and creates its own addicting recipe for sultry jams. Sat April 13, Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison
Booker T. Jones, Charlie Hunter & Carlton Jackson Trio
You know Booker T. Jones' name from Booker T. & the M.G.'s, and as the organist that defines modern-day blues and soul. On his most recent album The Road from Memphis, Jones collaborated with Sharon Jones, Lou Reed, and more legendary artists. His music is timeless and distinct, from the infamous song, "Green Onions"—which he wrote in high school(!)—to "Progress," featuring vocals by Jim James. Jones is joined by guitarist Charlie Hunter (Garage à Trois) and drummer Carlton Jackson for their first-ever show as a trio. Sun April 14, Dante's, 350 W Burnside
Medeski Martin & Wood
Well known for their renegade jazz oeuvres, MMW have been composing and playing music together for 21 years. Their latest, Free Magic, is made up of live acoustic recordings from a 2007 tour. The sometimes chaotic, sometimes serene tones encapsulate the improvisational, conversational process of the trio's cooperative effort. The result is a glance into the intuitive and mind-melding world that MMW call home. Thurs April 18, Roseland, 8 NW 6th
Lee Fields and the Expressions/Lady
Lee Fields started making music in 1969, and is one of the O.G. soul artists who is still alive and kicking today. His voice evokes that full-hearted mixture of nostalgia and pleasure, and his newest record, Faithful Man, is the best taste of pure soul that our generation is going to get. The duo Lady, made up of Nicole Wray and Terri Walker, opens the evening with soul/funk/R&B songs that are joyous and full of attitude. Fri April 19, Star Theater, 13 NW 6th
Dr. Lonnie Smith
This legend of the Hammond B-3 organ has been composing music since he was a young'un in the '50s. His music defies genre—though he is credited for being a father of "acid jazz." Smith's style, above all, is free-flowing and hypnotizing; momentous compositions segue into one another seamlessly, with their steamy energy sustaining them. This is Smith's fourth Soul'd Out; he's become an anchor of the festival as well as one of its indisputable highlights. Sun April 21, Star Theater, 13 NW 6th