Published on June 22nd, 2019 | by Nina Pulley
Stone Soul Music & Food Festival Celebrated 15 Years
The Stone Soul Music & Food Festival, covered by iPowerRichmond under the trademark “Stone Soul Picnic,” celebrated its fifteenth year on Saturday, June 8th. The premier R&B-and-gospel-centered festival has taken place all over the country, this time in Richmond, Virginia, but with past events in other cities across the East Coast as well as Memphis. The event stages gospel music, R&B and hip-hop all in one night, and was attended by an intergenerational audience. The event took place at Virginia Credit Union Live. The amalgamation of African-American musical genres made it a family-friendly event. Gospel great and one-time meme Evangelist Shirley Caesar took the crowd to church and was accompanied by gospel singers Jekalyn Carr and Darlene McCoy on the lineup. Caesar gained Internet fame for her performance of the song “Hold My Mule” that became a Thanksgiving song listing various dishes.
The Stone Soul Music & Food Festival began in 2004 in Richmond, most likely in response to the rapidly changing music industry, marked by increasing popularity around large concerts and what would become the digital music streaming empire. The debut of the festival was catalyzed in part by the optimism that characterized the late nineties and early 2000s, as well as developments in Richmond’s Black community. According to the Henrico Citizen, an “award-winning, hometown community newspaper” named for the county bordering Richmond, “The family-friendly event features local food and retail vendors and two stages for inspirational, R&B and hip hop music from national and local recording artists. It may be that the popular event takes its name from the 1968 hit “Stoned Soul Picnic,” by Laura Nyro and performed by groovy soul group The 5th Dimension, but no reference in publications or advertising around the festival is directly cited.
Past performers include Ledisi, and The Whispers who performed in 2005 at the second annual festival, to 50 Cent and Keyshia Cole who performed in 2014 at the tenth annual occasion, with Ludacris headlining two years ago in 2017. In 2013, the event was kicked off by the Children’s March in Memphis, both events hosted by Memphis-rooted gospel music station 1340 WLOK. The event has attracted both gospel and secular music alike, and has proved to be a family-friendly event pulling residents from all over the city for what will next year be over fifteen years. Time will only tell what the future holds, and what new developments the festival may see.
The event was made possible by the bustling Black community in Richmond, comprising nearly half the city’s population. Where the festival pops up next, or whether it will merge with pre-existing programming is yet to be seen. The longevity of the festival may be a positive indicator of its quality, and we like to think the best is yet to come.