Mark Allen Felton. Photo by Malcom Ali
The air was filled with excitement and anticipation at the 94.7 The Wave stage as over 250,000 clapped and cheered for the musical acts at the 6th Annual Taste of Soul.
From gospel to funk, the stellar musical line up wasted no time pulling out all the stops on the stage at Crenshaw and King Boulevards to entertain a sea of audience members who got their “groove on” despite the blazing hot sun.
The Chosen Gospel Recovery Ministry, a vocal trio composed of Bryant A.M.E. members Reverends Darlene Watley, Carolyn Cookie-Brown and Tony Jones, kicked off the festivities with a joyous celebration that got audience members on their feet and raising their hands in worshipful praise.
Dressed in vibrant purple, the trio sang “Holy,” “Emmanuel,” “Roller Coaster,” “What’s On Your Mind” and “Heaven.” Delivering a message of salvation, one of the trio announced, “This is for those suffering, who are less fortunate and struggling with homelessness.” The message stuck home for one audience member who jumped up and shouted, “They’re talking about me! “I ain’t lyin’! I’m from the ghetto!”
Backstage, Cookie-Brown smiled in gratitude when asked how it felt to perform for the Taste of Soul, Los Angeles’ largest street festival. “It was fantastic, I totally enjoyed it,” she said. “There’s no better way to start your day with an enthusiastic audience than to say, ”Thank you, Lord.'”
Watley also enjoyed getting feedback from the packed audience. “Performing at the Taste of Soul” was exciting and an opportunity for attendees to hear that God is still alive and performing miracles.”
Watley said that the Chosen Gospel Recovery Ministry had another mission–to call attention to Ruby’s House, a cluster of homes in South Los Angeles that house women who are recovering from domestic violence, mental health issues and substance abuse. “We perform at a lot of community events to raise money to help keep the doors open at Ruby’s House,” said Watley. “Right now, Ruby’s House has 16 women and 12 children. We are proud to say we are helping women get their lives back on track. We have a lot of success stories,” she said.
The lively sounds of Andre Ray and LTD Forever rocked the house with a litany of LTD classics, including “Back in Love” and “Joy and Pain.”
Ray kept the party mood in high gear shouting, “When we party, we party hearty! When we boogie, we boogie woogie!”
Ray then brought up the upcoming presidential election by getting the crowd to chant, “Who’s going to be reelected? Obama! Obama!”
“I never thought I’d see myself singing on Crenshaw Boulevard in front of a crowd of this magnitude that has come together in love and harmony,” said Damon Ray, Andre’s brother who sings tenor and baritone in the group. “It’s amazing to witness how LTD’s music crosses so many generations and eras.”
Tori Bailey, LTD background singer, said she thoroughly enjoyed singing for the massive crowd. “It was tremendous performing for the audience. These are the songs you listened to growing up. We had a great time performing.”
Next up was “Alana’s Masterpiece” featuring superb souls singer Alana. Dressed in a striking silver outfit that glittered when she strolled the stage, Alana (who uses her first name only) got the crowd grooving and dancing with crowd pleasers such as “Bad Boy,” “Joy and Pain,” “Soldier,” “Rude Boy” and “Proud Mary.” In the middle of the set, veteran crooner Hank Carbo rocked the crowd with a rockin’ version of “Down Home Blues.”
“Performing at the Taste of Soul has been wonderful,” said Alana. “The crowd was superb. I want to thank the Sentinel and Danny Bakewell for inviting us. We certainly hope to be invited back next year.”
Members of the crowd, many who had brought their own lawn chairs and wore sunglasses and hats to ward off the sun, said they thoroughly enjoyed the Taste of Soul Performances.
“We come every year,” said Saleem Omari. I like the fact that there’s no violence and it dispels the myth that black folks can’t get together and have a good time.”
For Fran Holloman, attending the Taste of Soul, brought back the days when she enjoyed the heyday of music in New York in the ’40s and ’50s. “I grew up two blocks from the Apollo Theatre and my dad owned two nightclubs in Harlem. I saw Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald when they won amateur night at the Apollo. And I still remember when I saw Sammy Davis Jr. at the Apollo for the first time. He came out with this patch over one eye, and I thought, ‘What on earth can this little man do?’ Well, not only did he blow me away with his incredible singing, but he played every instrument in the band.”
“I come every year to the Taste of Soul. I like the music and the people here,” said Steven Hodge, who was sitting on a ledge at the Department of Water and Power building. “There’s been no problems, no gang violence and nobody’s trippin’ out. That’s a good thing,” he nodded.
“I’ve never missed a year,” said Fred Riley, a View Park resident. “I’ve been behind the Taste of Soul ever since it started. Most of the time, they have a good message for people saying to come together and show their love for one another. It’s great to come out and have a good time and learn something about your community.
Riley, who stayed most of the day, added, “I enjoyed seeing Herb Wesson, Bernard Parks, Wendy Gruel and Laura Richardson. Overall, they had a good message for black people to stay together and make sure they vote.
Pausing, he continued, “I shook hands with Sentinel owner Danny Bakewell and told him he needs to hit the streets and get back to his activism because we need him more than ever before right now.”