Hip-hop isn’t exclusive to the art of rhyming, so it’s no surprise that A Night at the Soul Lounge, a monthly event at The Avenue Café, offers a diverse blend of the culture — and doses of tried-and-true R&B.
The evening will feature emcees, heartfelt soul music with live instrumentation, DJs, dance parties and more. The event series launched in 2019 and returns from its hiatus Saturday with performances from MikeyyAustin & the Soulcial Club, DJ Ruckus (Lansing) and DJ Kaely Kellz (Detroit). Beyond that, there’ll be an Erykah Badu Dance Party, with a prize going to the person with the “best Badu outfit.”
Aside from top-shelf music, Saturday’s event will showcase mid-Michigan underground streetwear brands and small-owned businesses as vendors. Attendees can also play pinball while ordering up some Ruckus Ramen and event-themed cocktails and mocktails.
The series, hosted by Ourspace (517) and Black Eden, was created by local musician and Ourspace (517) founder Michael Austin (aka MikeyyAustin). It’s an idea he’s kicked around for years in his head.
“A lot of people have mixed feelings about this comedian, but Dave Chappelle is someone I grew up watching,” said Austin, who also co-hosts 517 Juneteenth Weekend in REO Town. “Not necessarily his ‘Chappelle’s Show,’ but the events he would curate.”
He specifically referred to the 2005 film “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party,” which documented an outdoor neighborhood concert. He said it’s “always been something that resonated” with him, especially one tidbit from Chappelle.
“In the documentary, he mentioned a bar in NYC where, in the ‘90s and early 2000s, you could go and see some of the most popular hip-hop and soul artists of that era randomly performing live,” Austin said. “Some nights it’d be Erykah Badu. On other nights you’d find the Roots. Sometimes it’d be A Tribe Called Quest or D’Angelo.”
“I’ve always wanted to curate a space reminiscent of this New York bar — while fusing hip-hop, neo-soul, jazz and more,” he added.
Austin’s version of this concept took shape at a now-closed local venue, which shuttered following the COVID-19 lockdown.
“A Night at the Soul Lounge first hit Lansing’s downtown corridor in 2019,” he recalled. “The idea was to fuse hip-hop, neo-soul and R&B. To combine live instrumentation, DJs and local and regional artists for a night unlike most shows. The first Soul Lounge event packed out The Loft (defunct Lansing venue), and the second event was held in Detroit.”
“Our goal was to continually activate Lansing corridors and promote diversity and culture through the curation of free and accessible events,” he said. “All these things pointed clearly to bringing back the Soul Lounge as a residency.”
In addition to fantastic turnouts for the first two events, Austin said his recent projects encouraged him to curate a series of soirees and make each one unique and unforgettable.
“At this past Juneteenth Weekend, we brought out over 3,000 attendees to the REO Town corridor,” he said. “After reflecting on the incredible event, I realized, ‘I’m going to have to wait an entire year to feel like this again.’ That thought sparked the idea of creating Ourspace (517), an arts, culture and community development organization — and curating special events throughout the year.”
While this month is Erykah Badu-themed, A Night at the Soul Lounge returns Feb. 24 with a tribute to “Soul Train,” the long-running dance and variety television show. From there, it’ll happen on the last weekend of the month through May.
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