Soulquarius Music Festival at a Glance
The Observatory Orange County hosted the inaugural Soulquarius festival on February 18th, 2017, and while the lineup was jam-packed, sadly so was the venue. The festival brought in many big time names that guests may have forgotten about prior to seeing them on the lineup- Brandy, R. Kelly, Ashanti, The Dream and Monica to name a few. It was love at first sight for those who bought their tickets for this sold out R&B spectacular, but sadly, the venue just couldn’t accommodate the large crowd. Maybe it was due to over-selling tickets or the looming rain storm that never happened, but the day was chaos. Most of the early afternoon was spent waiting and wandering in confusion. Set times were pushed back about 2 hours, staff didn’t really have any answers for any questions, and the walkway to get to and from stages more so resembled a mosh pit. Attendees took to social media to voice their complaints, and did so in such large numbers that The Observatory eventually took down the Soulquarius event page on Facebook. Ouch. Once the night progressed the festival became a bit more accessible. If you kept an open-mind and calm spirit, and avoided moving from The Soulquarius Stage, you were able to enjoy yourself.
Music genre: 90’s R&B, Neo-Soul, Hip Hop
Crowd type: Trendy Millennials
Water stations: No
For the first-timers
This festival is held in the middle of Orange County, California so hotels and AirBnB’s are abundant. If you find yourself coming from out of state for a festival or show at The Observatory, John Wayne Airport is the closest airport to fly into, however LAX is about 45 minutes away and flights are often much cheaper into there. The “venue” was more so a closed off parking lot in the middle of a business park, so comfortable shoes are crucial to surviving standing on concrete all day. It took me the whole day to figure out that while the outside bars were only serving beer and wine (9-11$ a pop), inside the Observatory you could purchase cocktails.
It is apparent that the Observatory has many kinks to work out before they decide to host a festival of this caliber again, but I won’t continue to go too in-depth on the flaws of the festival. Under-preparedness and over-selling definitely characterized the day, but hopefully the event producers can reflect on this to make improvements for next year.
The food options at Soulquarius were diverse. Like any proper festival, Mediterranean food and pizza were present. However, I paid $15 for a Mediterranean platter and while it sounded promising, my hummus was frozen and falafel was dry. Bummer. Ice cream, hot dogs, BBQ, and mexican street corn were also options and for those health-conscious festy goers, kale caesar salads were also an option.
3 stages made up Soulquarius, with two of them being outdoors. Main stage, the Soulquarius Stage, could be viewed from the beer garden which I was very thankful for. It took me a couple Lagunitas pilsners to regain my chill after pushing my way through to the stage from The House Party Stage. The House Party Stage was smaller with less production and on the opposite end of the lot. This stage was special because it was more compact and you could really see those around you twerkin’ and shaking like a salt shaker. It felt extremely reminiscent of dancing away a Friday night in the basement of your college friends’ house. The Observatory Stage, which was my favorite, was the indoor one. This stage is where the Observatory actually holds smaller shows year round, and I see myself potentially coming back to the area for those.
This festival hit the nail on the head with inviting legendary artists that many of us can now check off of our bucket list, although not under the easiest circumstances.
- The Ying Yang Twins opened the festival up, and while it was behind schedule it was just in time for when most people got into the venue. This was the most high energy set of the festival, as they are the creators of songs that have played in the background of all our partying and dancing memories since 6th grade dances. Their set was a fun reminder that yes, we may be getting older, but it is quite possible to remain forever young at heart.
- Brandy, although subjected to a pretty big schedule shift, ended up closing the festival out at the Observatory Stage and she absolutely rocked it. She took the stage with two backup dancers and those three had enough energy to captivate the whole place. Hearing her songs that characterized much of the 90’s was a trip down Memory Lane that I won’t ever forget.
- Erykah Badu brought the soul and sang many of her popular songs from the last twenty years of her career. “On and On” is a song that always gets me in my feels and seeing her perform it from about 20 feet away was my most treasured moment. She had a way of connecting with her audience that made it feel as though we were just hanging out with her and catching up with each other.
- The Dream took the stage just as night fell and caressed the audience with his sweet voice. This is the point in the festival where I started making new girlfriends and we all shamelessly shook what our mommas gave us. His live performance is just as tender and sensual as you would expect and perfect to experience with your lover or girlfriends.
- R. Kelly closed out the festival and it was nothing less than a freakin’ party. He had an entourage of 20+ people on stage with him, drinking out of red solo cups and getting down with R. Kelly “mascots”. His set was a mashup of most songs from throughout his career, each lasting about a minute. It was a cool concept and just enough for those of us who aren’t necessarily the most avid R. Kelly fans.
Things to do
This festival has generic offerings, the most enticing being the beer garden. It was the most inviting beer garden I had ever been in, though, with tons of big plush chairs and couches for guests.
VIP or nah
Those in VIP got to escape much of the craziness that the GA crowd had to endure. Separate lounging areas, a separate beer garden, and better viewing areas were the most obvious perks and enough for me to tell you to pull the trigger on the upgrade. Be advised that VIP was still extremely crowded, just less so.
There were different price tiers of VIP, with one coming with a special merchandise package only available for VIP guests. The merchandise in that package was unique and featured all of the awesome Soulquarius artwork, so also worth the splurge if you are up to it.
The festival brought out so many fabulous festival fashionistas. One of my favorite traits of Southern California is the style, and Soulquarius was a melting pot of trends and creativity.
While The Obsevatory has much to improve on to insure that guests will return for Soulquarius next year, the lineup was a one filled of nostalgia and the fashion was fierce. California festivals often bring an audience with a laid-back vibe, and the collectivism of attendees made the day bearable.
** Small: Under 10k, Medium: Under 50k, Large: Over 50k, XL: 100k+**
Examples: EDC, Coachella, Bonnaroo = XL, Hangout Music Festival = Large, Spring Awakening = Medium, Desert Hearts = Small