Three years in, and Sacramento’s Sol Blume Festival, which has an eye for some of the best R&B acts, has taken that boutique feeling and grown into a large-scale event able to book performers at their peak.
Having attended each year, I’m constantly telling people that Sol Blume has probably the most well-curated lineup within its genre of music. The fact that it started at a park in downtown Sacramento and has grown to the much larger grounds of Discovery Park but staying in the capital gives it more charm as well. This year, the festival’s growth was noticeable in almost every detail.
First off, the headliners are performers at the top of their game – Jhene Aiko (who headlined the first Sol Blume back in 2018, but had more of an underground feel at the time), Jorja Smith, Summer Walker and Jazmine Sullivan are all artists with a much bigger stature than previous headliners. The stages at this year’s festival dwarfed the previous stages, and Sol Blume kept with the schedule of alternating performers between the two stages with minimal downtime, so the music was about non-stop.
With the larger grounds also came the opportunity for more art installations and interactive photo ops, as well as some new big-name sponsors such as digital music service Pandora who had a spacious lounge with swinging chairs where the crowds could go for a break from the sun-drenched lawns, and D’USSÉ Cognac who packed a bunch of patio couches and tables into the VIP area with prime views of the headliner stage. But the fest’s interactive art installations from previous events – flower walls, large entry arch, photo ops with mascot statues – expanded into larger participatory experiences. This year included a butterfly room where handlers would swipe visitors’ hands to lure the butterflies onto them, and a roller rink with silent disco headsets where anyone was welcome to skate though watching a bunch of somewhat inebriated fest-goers on wheels from a distance may have been even more entertaining.
With Sacramento’s blistering heat, daytime crowds often sought refuge beneath the trees further from the stages. Spanish/English singer Lauren Jauregui took the stage, sighing, ‘It’s hot as fuck and I chose to wear black velvet!’
Highlights of the festival were Thundercat’s hyperjazz improv which worked well in the live setting, singer/dancer Tinashe injecting the mellow R&B vibes with a set of kinetic energy fronting a troupe of dancers, Alina Baraz dimming the lights to let the pole dancers backing her up set the tone for her crooning, and Jhene Aiko building an entire dreamy storyline as she weaved through her chilled songs while bubbles, psychedelic lights and a full size bed covered in white sheets made up her stage backdrop.
The third Sol Blume Festival took the event from a smaller enclosed area in downtown Sacramento to the larger more festival-like atmosphere of open fields with a lot more of everything going on – more art installations, more racing around to catch performances, unfortunately more standing in lines for the food trucks, but also more excitement buzzing around the performers. That it was an all-female headlining festival should be noted, as so many others struggle with representation for female performers. However in the crowd and onstage alike, Sol Blume presented a welcome environment for all, which translated to just an friendly experience with everyone around you.
Updates on Sol Blume can be found on the fest’s social platforms: