As concerts resume, HER will headline two festivals of its own

It was going to be the start of something big. In 2019, HER inaugurated, organized and presented its own festival: Lights on , a one-da...


It was going to be the start of something big.

In 2019, HER inaugurated, organized and presented its own festival: Lights on, a one-day marathon of young R&B artists which also included Jhené Aiko and Ari Lennox. It sold nearly 13,000 seats at the Concord Pavilion Amphitheater in Concord, Calif., So a sequel in 2020 was the obvious next step. But with the pandemic, it took a year.

For Lights On in 2021, HER hasn’t just doubled; it has quadrupled, going twice as long, two-sided and multigenerational. “I feel like this is the perfect way to celebrate the reopening,” the singer and guitarist said by phone from Brooklyn earlier this summer, before the rise in Covid-19 cases has had the concert market stop, restart and add rules regarding vaccines, tests and masks. For events this fall, the festival will follow the rules imposed by the local government of each location.

The Lights On 2021 festival in Concord went from one day to two, September 18-19, with headlining HER and neo-soul mother earth Erykah Badu; it sold out immediately. Then HER announced an East Coast edition of Lights On: Two Days at Barclays Center in Brooklyn October 21-22, with HER and suave 1990s hitmaker Maxwell headlining. (On both coasts, lineup also includes Bryson Tiller; HER made their first nationwide tour, in 2017, opening for Tiller.)

With more than a dozen acts on display at the festival – as well as surprise guests, HER promised – the daily show is expected to last around eight hours. The California version of Lights On is expanding outdoors, with rides, game rooms, and sponsored exhibits like Fender House, where spectators can try their hand at playing guitar. Barclays Great Hall will also house festival-style attractions.

HER, 24, was born Gabriella Wilson; she said HER means To have revealed everything. She has been performing her own songs since her teenage years: singing, rapping and playing keyboards, guitar and bass, displaying an old-fashioned musicality in the tradition of Prince and D’Angelo. HER won their first Grammy Awards in 2019 for Best R&B Album (“HER”) and Best R&B Performance. When Shawn Gee, the president of Live Nation Urban, approached HER to start her own festival, she had a clear concept.

“R&B is not dead – it’s the tagline, it’s the theme,” HER said. “The rhythm and the blues are the basis of everything. It’s raw, genuine, organic – just the truth and the feeling, the straightforward feeling. It makes you want to fall in love. He tells stories. It helps you get through grief. It is literally the soundtrack of our lives. There are so many different elements of R&B that live in other music, like country and pop and so many other genres. It’s in everything. And people show up for R&B.

When the pandemic brought it to a halt, HER said she was considering putting on a virtual festival, but “it didn’t work out the way we wanted.”

But she still had nationwide exposure during the pandemic. She performed Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” for the Emmy Awards in 2020, “America the Beautiful” before the Super Bowl in February 2021 and “Hold On” as a duet with the country singer. Chris Stapleton at CMT Prize giving in June. In April she performed “Fight for you” – the song she wrote for the film “Judas and the Black Messiah” – at the Oscars; it won the award for best original song.

During the pandemic, all kinds of musicians made webcasts from their homes or in other rudimentary settings. HER has launched an Instagram Live series, “Girls with guitars” which has become a showcase for other songwriters. She believes the pandemic has reminded listeners of the value of practical, unvarnished musicality. “I think people forgot how much they loved that intimate feeling of a singer and a guitar,” she said. “Like, ‘I haven’t seen this in a long time. I haven’t felt this in a long time. Now you’re looking at me from my living room, and not a big stage, and you have a different feeling. I really think that. people were missing that.

But HER became nostalgic to remake live music in person. “There is nothing quite like performing in front of an audience who are there for you and who know the songs,” she said. “It’s a different energy when you can be connected to the fans in this way. This is what I look forward to the most with everything coming back, just this connection. “

HER also used midlife isolation, she said, to refocus after years of touring: to cook and play video games while writing and recording songs. She completed an album, “Back of My Mind”, which was released in June, while in 2020 she also wrote ” I can not breathe “ his response to the police murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests. “I Can’t Breathe” won the Grammy for song of the year 2021.

“To see someone who looks like me get killed or attacked – of course I’m going to write about it and feel very deeply about it,” she said. “As I get older I see more, understand more and learn more about my story, I think all artists should feel responsible for talking about how they feel. And how could you not feel something towards an event like this?

As the prospect of live concerts reappeared, HER was eager to resume and expand Lights On. “With more people vaccinated and things opening up, being able to host a festival didn’t seem ridiculous,” she said. “We knew things would have to come back eventually. We planned last year, but we’ve really locked it all in ”since January, HER said.

Organizing a festival in 2021 means reactivating complex mechanisms: staging, sound, lighting, security, food, promotion, sponsorship … But Gee, from Live Nation, said that production logistics were easier to restart than planned.

“Everyone was ready to go back to work, but everyone had to wait to be told when they could return to work,” he said by phone from Philadelphia. “The fans were ready to come back and relive the music live in a safe and healthy environment. As an industry, we have listened to science and we have listened to governance. Each local government has decided what can be done. And once everyone got the green light to restart productions, the recovery was almost like muscle memory. “

The concert production companies had not been entirely dormant during the quarantine. They had prepared to produce live broadcasts and other online shows instead. “Every virtual event still needed a big production team,” said Jeanine McLean-Williams, president of MBK Entertainment, which manages HER. “There have been so many Covid tests! Even now, to this day, I am vaccinated, but we are tested for Covid three times a week. ”

The latest wave of infections and the rise of the Delta variant still present uncertainties. “Honestly, we just prayed that everything was going well, and it still works,” HER said. “We were very lucky to have everything in place. And if it wasn’t, it was for a reason and we recognize it later. So I’m going all out and I’m excited and I’m hopeful.

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Newsrust - US Top News: As concerts resume, HER will headline two festivals of its own
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