Last weekend, we packed our bags and headed to Toronto to cover hip hop artist Drake’s first annual O.V.O.(October’s Very Own) Festival in support of OurStage “Thank Me Later” winning artist Lokz and backstage correspondent Megan Sumpton. The widely anticipated O.V.O fest was best hyped by Drake himself who promised concertgoers a “magical night.” The excitement grew as Drake personally invited Megan on his tour bus where he admitted he regularly follows her on Twitter. During his interview, Drake spilled the beans to Sumpton that heavyweights Eminem and Jay-Z were going to be joining him during his set. When Drake finally hit the stage later that night, the crowds went wild. The excitement of seeing Drake, Young Jeezy, Bun-B, Francis & The Lights and Lokz was enough to sell out the Molson Amphitheatre, but when Drake said he had some surprises up his sleeve, no one could have expected what was to come. When Jay-Z and Eminem took the stage for the respective performances, the audience twice erupted into a frenzy of screams and cheers. Of course, Drake’s performance stole the show and was the culmination of the day’s events for Lokz, Sumpton and 15,000 devoted fans.
Check out all the backstage video coverage here on OurStage.
When I first found out that HANSON was going to be partnering with OurStage to hold opening band contests for each stop on their “Shout it Out” tour, I thought, “Great! I love getting to check out new music!” I have loved HANSON since I was in fifth grade, and whenever they’re on tour I usually make it a point to see them at least a couple of times, so I knew I was going to be interested in the outcome. I was already familiar with the way OurStage works, as I had judged other channels in the past, and I think it’s a really fair and effective way to determine the most talented and deserving artists within any given category. Then, on top of that, when I found out that OurStage was ALSO giving away two tickets and a meet and greet session with the band for each show, I was all that much more excited to participate in the voting process. Although I’m from Massachusetts, I had planned on going to see HANSON and A Rocket to the Moon in Sayreville, NJ, so I made sure to judge that channel all throughout the month of June. Fortunately for me, all that listening paid off and I was selected as the fan winner for the show! I was beyond thrilled!
I have been fortunate enough to briefly meet HANSON a few times over the course of my travels as a fan, but I had never met them in such an intimate setting before. I was a little nervous but really excited on the day of the show. My friend Michele and I arrived to the Starland Ballroom about an hour and a half before doors, and in addition to the two of us, there was also a group of HANSON fans who had won meet & greets through their fanclub, so we all waited around together until a little before doors opened when we were brought inside to meet HANSON!
The fan clubbers had some time with the band first, while Michele and I waited over to the side and watched them interact. After a few minutes they had finished, and we had our time with Isaac, Taylor and Zac. I have to say, every time I have had the chance to speak with any of the guys from HANSON, they have been more than welcoming. HANSON’s music has had a huge influence on my life, so you would think it would be hard for me to even form words around the guys, but they are so down to earth that it feels more like talking to old friends than meeting my idols! We took our group picture and then I asked the guys to sign a photobook that I had brought with me. There was a little debate on whether they should sign the front or the inside, so they ended up signing both. Haha! We talked for a few minutes, and I put in a request for them to play their song “I Will Come to You” during the show that night. The meet and greet ended with a round of hugs, and then Michele and I walked back through the venue to the stage.
Doors were already open by the time we were finished, but they must not have been open for long because the 2nd row over to the side was still open! Free tickets, a meet & greet, AND a great spot for the show? Incredible! And then on top of all that, the whole show was fantastic! The OurStage opener for Sayreville was called Brightside Drive and they were really talented. They had a really upbeat pop/rock sound that was perfect for getting pumped for the rest of the night. I definitely enjoyed their set and would encourage other people to check out their music. A Rocket to the Moon went on next, and I was really excited to see them play. I have not been able to stop listening to their album On Your Side since it came out last fall, and they performed quite a few songs from that record, including their song “Like We Used To” which is one of my favorites, so I was stoked. They started things off with a stellar cover of Tom Petty’s “American Girl”, too. I loved it.
Finally, HANSON came onstage. At this point, I have been to over 30 HANSON concerts, and I think this one takes the cake for my favorite show and setlist. They played quite a few songs from their newest album Shout it Out, in addition to a bunch of old favorites, plus a couple of rare songs and some great covers as well. It was just an overall great, well-rounded show. Highlights included “I Will Come to You” (which I had requested that they play during the meet and greet), Taylor’s solo “Never Let Go” (one of my favorite songs”this was my first time hearing it live), “More than Anything” (a rarely-performed ballad from back in the day), “Thinking ‘Bout Somethin'” (Hanson’s new single), “Penny & Me” (a fan favorite), and a cover of Sam & Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Coming”.
It was an incredibly high-energy performance, enhanced by the crowd’s enthusiasm and singing along with every word. HANSON ended the show with a cover of AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock & Roll)”. Taylor jumped up on his piano right above where we were standing in the crowd, and then at the very end of the song both Zac and Taylor jumped off the drum kit. It was absolutely amazing! What a great way to end the night. I could not have imagined a better day, between the meet & greet, the awesome opening bands and HANSON’s incredible setlist and performance. I don’t know that it will ever be topped. I have to send out a HUGE thank you to HANSON, and especially to OurStage. You guys are the best! Thank you so much for this opportunity!
In June, OurStage partnered with Radio One Inc. and media mogul Andre Harrell to find the next big thing in R&B/Soul music with the Andre Harrell Superstar Soul Search Competition. Artists had the opportunity to enter their music in regional channels as well as one national channel for a shot at auditioning in front of Andre Harrell himself. In July, these auditions were held in cities across the country to narrow it down to the final few. Ten artists were then chosen to compete at the finals, which were held in Atlanta this past weekend. All 10 artists performed in front of Andre Harrell and a panel of celebrity judges including Keith Sweat, Ann Nesby, DJ Eddie F and Dwight Eubanks.
After an “exciting and explosive” final competition, Louisiana native Mr. Ayers wowed the audience and judges alike and was chosen as the winner. Mr. Ayers won a career-making grand prize package including a check for $10,000, free online promotion from Radio One and a digital single deal with Andre Harrell Records/Atlantic Records. Stay tuned to the OurStage blog to read firsthand about his experience at the competition in our upcoming interview with Mr. Ayers!
Embattled is a funny word. With a connotation leading virgin ears to believe that it’s used to describe a subject fighting in at least a two-sided battle, it’s thrown around a lot to describe musicians (often rappers) and their struggles. Using that word to describe someone engaged in conflict is fine, but it gets irritating when the embattled subject has no one to blame but themselves. OurStage rapper ANatural (display name TheRealANatural) was embattled for real for most of his childhood and adolescence, but for no fault of his own. Bouncing around various NYC housing projects with no parents to speak of and seeing his beloved grandmother (also serving as his sole guardian) pass when he was only 10, it would be easy for Joseph Boykin to throw in the towel and let life devour him and his potential. But he didn’t. A strong sense of resilience triumphed the easy way out, and now Boykin finds himself fielding publishing offers and networking with TV personalities and, even more surprisingly, rapping like he’s king of the world.
One such song with this lofty air is Flyest. It may be difficult for purists to make sense of lines like more pictures/ more press/ lookin’ like VIPs/ no guests/ anything I feel I need I’m gonna get if they’re fully aware of his history, but he wouldn’t be the first to separate rhymes and his past. Not everybody has to brood like Eminem. The beats underneath Boykin’s happiness, consisting of a repetitive lubricated synth arpeggio and a smothering helping of ascending chords as accompaniment, all combine to make the young MC sound like he’s walking on cloud nine. Go Getta follows in the same vein with adequate ego trips, but this time the sound is an amalgamation of electronic snippets, 80s hair metal guitar power riffs, and a barrage of kick drum. While his happiness was tinted with conceit in Flyest, that conceit is now pushed to the forefront as he furiously rhymes about being a boss capable of doing it all, but not without giving a little advice along the way: Livin’ large is right/ I suggest it endorse it perfect it/ madness for the method/ roll with the punches/ I’m ready for the next one/ go until the wheels fall off/ this ain’t a test run.
Though enormously subdued in comparison to Go Getta, Boykin keeps the didactic effort up in Is It Me? Opening with morose piano and a slick minor synth riff, the track never really grows past its humble beginnings, unlike the life and times of ANatural. That said, we should probably pay attention to the guidance he gives us. Despite the egoist rhymes in the aforementioned tracks, something tells me that lines like Everywhere he go no desk work/ sleepin’ on the floor while his spine and his neck hurt/ all you can do is be the best you/ best kept secret step into those shoes and keep spittin’ til you see green like Flynn, don’t expect nothing not a thing out of them/ not a chain not a gem/ not a hi not a bye not a grin/ wish them the best whether enemy or friend are really ANatural’s true colors. Homegrown philosophies from the school of hard knocks are the best he’s got, and it’s safe to say they’ve worked for him thus far.
Boykin’s been climbing the rap game ladder since his first LP at the age of 14, and he shows no signs of slowing down. His first major music project, Musical Therapy, has caught the attention of B.E.T.’s DJ Teddy The Deal King who’s agreed to host it, and it was released last Tuesday. Get it while it’s hot!
Here’s something that happens, well, never. You’re a new band, playing a show, and an A&R guy from a favorite label happens to be there. You give him your demo, he invites you out to Seattle to showcase, and a week later you have a deal. Thus goes the serendipitous back story of Poema, a folk-pop sister duo from Albuquerque signed to Tooth & Nail Records. Growing up in a musical family, sisters Elle and Shealeen Puckett had ample time to perfect their vocal harmonies and learn their instruments (piano and guitar). The results of their woodshedding can be heard on 2 AM, a catchy acoustic pop number that puts the Puckett sisters’ talents on full display. A sugared ditty about first-date recriminations, the song is cheerfully woeful and rings oh-so-true. But even more than the subject matter, we love the lilting vocal harmonies and hooky melody, which call to mind a youthful, more mainstream version of the Dixie Chicks. Poema’s story is just beginning”can’t wait to hear more from this sister act.
Premiere Philly underground hip-hop act, Philadelphia Slick, are hitting the prime time with their new EP, Everything’s Game. Their latest offering blends fresh blasts of jazz, funk, hip hop and other genres to create a unique sound mixture that will surely cause even the most resistant head to move to the beat.
Having ranked first 5 times in 3 different channels on OurStage, the group has had quite the successful run. As this week’s Needle in the Haystack, Philadelphia Slick will be giving away “Everything Must Go” off their new album. Keep an eye out for more from them throughout the week!