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Acts to Watch From the Springboard South Festival

Jamell "Melly Mel" Richardson
Jamell "Melly Mel" Richardson

Someone suggested "Music Is Life," which is a nice slogan but simply isn't true. Life includes mowing grass, getting oil changes and scrubbing toilets, all things that kept me from the Springboard South Music Festival on Saturday.

So, with apologies to those who performed on my honey-do day, I tried to make up for some lost time by seeing as many acts as I could on Sunday. Here's a rundown on some of the talent that brought a strong close to the 2014 festival:

The C.I.T.Y. The C.I.T.Y. took the stage just after Matthew Knowles, one of Springboard's mentors, said less than one percent of musicians ever "make it" in music during a set-change address to the audience. That sobering news was promptly met with a raucous, get-on-your-feet set by the band, with vocals that recalled the Ohio Players' Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner and band chops to match. They turned the audience out with a show-closing take on E.U.'s "Da' Butt" that said they were less interested in "making it" than enjoying the moment.

Grant Harrison Harrison stood onstage, with guitar slung over shoulder, and peered out at the audience between songs, noting it was "weird" seeing so few people there. He's a local, from Magnolia, so he's probably used to bigger crowds from the area following he's building. He took the opportunity to give listeners an intimate set of well-crafted pop/rock songs.

Maggie Szabo True, this music festival was unlike others that feature multiple stages and scheduling conflicts. Still, I missed a lot of the set by Szabo, a Canadian pop and soul singer who's got a healthy Youtube following. What I heard was pretty damn great, with Szabo delivering sizzling vocals while playing keys. Youtube's fine, but it's even better when an Internet famous artist can deliver the goods live. Szabo did just that.

Lucas Jack
Lucas Jack

Lucas Jack I had no idea a talent like Lucas Jack existed in San Antonio. I walked into his time in the Warehouse Live Studio just before he started and saw a piano on stage, so I was hopeful. He did not disappoint. After his collection of songs, which were poignant, funny and well-orchestrated, I fumbled for words while unfairly comparing his act to Ben Folds Five. I even weirdly suggesting he resembled a young, Honkey Cat-era Elton. The truth is, he's got his own thing going on, including an excellent album, Sun City.

Jamell "Melly Mel" Richardson I snuck over to Lucky's Pub to chant and cheer with the soccer fans Sunday evening. After the U.S. men lost their lead in their World Cup match with only seconds to go, I had the blues. We slunk back over to Warehouse and, appropriately, into Richardson's set. My blues lasted momentarily. But every day Richardson has the blues.

You can tell, because you can't fake that feeling that comes from the gut and explodes in face-contorting singing and not-so-gently-weeping guitar. Watching Richardson work, there's an excitement that says you could be witnessing something special, like folks who once saw a young B.B. or Albert King. Plus, his band, from Mobile, Ala., is just plain nasty. These guys are the real deal.

Story continues on the next page.

 

Five Times August
Five Times August

Five Times August Dallas' Bradley Skistimas performs as Five Times August. He made great use of his time, pulling the audience into each next song with just enough backstory. Introducing "Break," from his 2009 effort, Life As a Song, he said he was having a writer's block and asked his wife for some subject matter. What kind of song would he write if she were suddenly not around, she asked. As in "pushing up daisies" not around. Then, he said, she left for the store, leaving him alone to ponder...and write. Another song, "Satisfied," was a white hot mojo-kickstarter meant more for late-night candlelit rooms than Sunday-afternoon concert halls.

Soulfruit It took me a minute to realize Soulfruit was delivering the Good News during its set. It took my brain a little longer to catch up with my heart, which was already feeling the music and, especially the passion behind it. Singers Toby and Vanessa Hill and Ty Covington sounded spectacular. Lots of gospel groups do, but Soulfruit is also ripe with a practiced, enthralling live show. Dancing in step and even featuring a song-stopping scene right out of The Matrix, Soulfruit was as exciting to watch as to hear.

Niqui Donye Donye had the unenviable task of following Soulfruit, but was the perfect choice. No band backing her. No fantastic light show or choreography. Just one woman singing her heartfelt praise to her God with a stronger-than-horseradish voice. Between songs, she was amiable, thanking her husband for supporting her and sharing inspirational words with the audience.

The Jones Family Singers
The Jones Family Singers

The Jones Family Singers The Spirit wasn't just speaking by Sunday evening, It was hollering from mountains high, thanks to The Jones Family Singers. My mandible is sore from pushing my dropped jaw back into place from witnessing the group's powerhouse vocals and polished stage presence. The ladies opened the celebratory set and set the tone before family patriarch Bishop Fred Jones, Sr. came out and took us to church. Good thing, too, since a few of us still had Five Times August's "Satisfied" lyrics rattling around our heads and nudging us towards sins of the flesh.

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