Winter Soulstice is an event that comes to UCR once a year courtesy of ASPB, a time for all the R&B heads on campus to come together and sing their hearts out for one night. It’s more low-key than any of the other concerts, being held in the Student Recreation Center (SRC) and lacking the large-scale advertisement that other mini-festivals have. This makes the concert more intimate and, consequently, less rowdy than HEAT (R.I.P.), Block Party or Spring Splash, which is ideal for sultry R&B. This year, ASPB chose three artists — Kyle Dion, Marc E. Bassy and H.E.R. — to get everyone in their feelings. All three artists’ styles are rooted in R&B but have distinct features: Dion has a sultry, funky flare; Bassy is pop-oriented; and H.E.R. offers a raw, intimate passion. The mixture of these R&B styles resulted in one smooth night. “The night was a twelve out of ten for me,” said Allison, a first-year. Every act had something to bring to the table but the question is, who brought the most soul?
Kyle Dion brought the soul, sexiness and an impressive falsetto
The 23-year-old singer sprang out of South Florida in 2014 when he released his first mixtape, “Sixes and Sevens.” He continued to make a name for himself by landing features with artists like Kehlani and Austin Mahone. Although this opener was a mystery man to a majority of the crowd, his obscurity did not stop the audience from getting down with his music. His fervent stage presence had everyone dancing along with him as he glided from one end of the stage to the other.
Dion had the audience weak in the knees as he hit every high note with ease. The crowd steadily moved to upbeat songs like “Timed Out” and then slowed it down to newer singles such as “Brown.” By and large, attendees unfamiliar with Dion engaged well with him, becoming new fans. “I didn’t know who he was before this but I will definitely look him up after the show to see what he is about. His vocals, his falsetto and vibe were great. I liked how he was just so smooth,” said Mia, a third-year. Some people, like first-year Simone, who came to see H.E.R., liked him so much they wished he was the second act and not the opener, “He should have gone right before H.E.R, their styles mesh better together.” Interestingly enough, Dion wasn’t on the original line-up; canadian singer, K. Forest was set to open but dropped due to unforeseen circumstances. This cancellation seemed to work out fine as UCR students embraced Dion with open arms and added him to their music libraries.
Marc E. Bassy brought the hype
Bassy is no newcomer to the music industry. He started his professional career in 2007 as lead vocalist for the boy band 2AM Club. They signed to RCA records in 2008, having a good run for about five years until Bassy created an independent following of his own. His popularity did not go unnoticed at Soulstice: The moment he set foot on the stage students fought their way to the front to get a glimpse of the pop-soul singer.
Bassy began his set with high energy, singing some of his most popular tracks like “Some Things Never Change.” Unfortunately, there were a few technical difficulties; the keyboard was not working and the mic gave off horrible feedback. However, this did not stop Bassy from putting on a great show. DJ Shabazz kept the energy alive by spinning popular songs like “Bodak Yellow” and “m.A.A.d city.” Shabazz even stole the show for a little bit by performing some great scratch work. Once all technical difficulties were taken care of, Bassy brought the heat with his double platinum song, “You & Me.” “He got the crowd super hyped and I loved his DJ,” said Natalie, a second-year that was drawn to the event by H.E.R. Although most people really enjoyed Bassy and Shabazz, he wasn’t as smooth and soulful as the other performers, “I thought he was kind of awkward and he didn’t connect with me that much, but I noticed that everyone else in the crowd loved him,” admits Tiffany, a third-year.
Bassy knows how to put on a show, but he is not as emotionally profound in his music as the other two performers. After the show, he walked right into the crowd and was swarmed by the iPhone cameras of fan girls who wanted to know where his afterparty was. Despite the lack of soul, it was clear that UCR loved him.
H.E.R. — Hearts: Simpin’. Minds: Blown. Souls: Stolen.
The headliner of Soulstice gained recent popularity through her work with R&B singer Daniel Caesar on his latest album “Freudian” and has cultivated her own loyal fan base through her EPs “H.E.R. Volume 1” and “H.E.R. Volume 2.” Despite her fairly recent success, H.E.R. has been involved with music since she was a child. Through years of experience, the artist developed a dynamic, ardent style that listeners are still slowly uncovering.
In a word, H.E.R.’s set was effortless. She came onto the stage in sweats and a UCR gear which automatically earned her the love of the audience. “I loved how she wore a UCR sweater and represented us,” said Myles, a second-year. She displayed her raw talent outside of her vocal performance by randomly jamming on the drums, piano or guitar with an incredible sense of proficiency. Songs like “Focus” showcased the sheer vocal control she has on stage and in the studio.
The amount of chemistry between H.E.R. and the background vocalists made for an intimate jam session. One of the vocalists even took to singing Daniel Caesar’s verse when they performed “Best Part,” which the audience loved and supported by singing alongside him. After passionately singing “Changes,” she addressed the women in the crowd when speaking about relationships. “Sometimes in love we allow unnecessary people and unnecessary things to get in the way of us loving and being loved by someone,” the singer said. “I know all the females out here have been through some bullshit and they’re tired of it, I know I am. That’s why I sing my heart out on this stage, I try to relay a message with hopes that someone will connect to it.” This resonated with the audience, igniting waves of cheers and hollers.
Second-year student Skylar loved it, saying, “I’m so thankful she was comforting us and letting us know we aren’t the only ones who go through bad relationships.”
H.E.R. knew how to connect and relate to the audience better than any of the other performers. By speaking to the crowd’s sensibilities and expressing herself effortlessly through her music, she capped the night off excellently. So, who really brought the soul? “H.E.R.,” said everyone.