by Gus Marshall
Music floated through the streets as people packed restaurants and bars, spilling out onto the sidewalks of Rainier Avenue in the warm, sunny glow of the evening to celebrate the second installment of Columbia City’s 24th-annual Beatwalk.
The South Seattle summer music festival—supported by several local and international sponsors—regularly kicks off in June and events take place on the second Sunday of the month (through September this year). Since its inception more than two decades ago, the homegrown festival has featured local artists from the South Seattle area and typically draws crowds of hundreds. The attendance Sunday proved no exception to the rule, the multigenerational and multicultural crowd reflecting the South End’s diverse makeup.
Among this year’s musical artists were self-described “jazz soul singer” Sheila “Kay” Blackwell and pianist Beth Wulff. Wulff’s instrumentals flowed water-like in complement to Blackwell’s lounge-esque vocal stylings. The pair played inside Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria, just a couple doors down from another vocal powerhouse, DeChelle Monet, who was featured at the Royal Room. Monet’s covers of everyone from Michael Jackson to Stevie Wonder quickly packed the establishment, leaving later-arriving patrons with standing room only. South-End-based band Thaddillac had a similar effect on Lottie’s Lounge, where listeners overflowed outside and craned their heads to hear the group’s rhythmic twang that filled the cozy bar.
Across the street, Andra Green and The Solution rocked Rumba Notes with the funky sounds of fusion jazz. Like many of their fellow musicians that night, Green said the group’s stylings didn’t follow a script.
“Live music is always about improvising, it’s impossible to play a song the same way…the same tempo…every time,” Green said.
On the street, local keyboardist Curtis Seals played a solo set outside the Columbia City Bouquet, while on Ferdinand Street, local vendors sold homemade wares, jewelry, soaps, oils, and clothes to a soundtrack of classic cuts spun by Beatwalk veteran, DJ G. Prez, who kept the party alive with old-school hits ranging from ‘80s pop to soul and funk.
Later that evening, Silas Blak & Company showcased a hip-hop revue at Columbia City Theatre’s Bourbon Bar. Blak’s coded language, cerebral subject matter, and poetic delivery provided an onslaught of beats, rhymes, and culture. Blak said he was excited, because he had “never rocked two sets in one night before…or at the Bourbon Bar before.”