Artscape opens to sounds of the 1970s

Promise of music by Isaac Hayes lures devoted fans

July 17, 2004|By Rashod D. Ollison | Rashod D. Ollison,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

The ribs aren't as good as they looked - a little too tough - but they will do.

It's a breezy Friday night, the first evening of Artscape, the city's 23rd annual celebration of arts, music and culture.

And food. Beer, loaded gyros, fried chicken, fried fish, fried dough - there's no resisting the temptation. The sweet and greasy aroma of kettle popcorn wafts through the warm air.

One of the really nice things about Artscape - besides the waist-expanding food choices - is the strong communal vibe as you walk through the Mount Royal cultural area. It feels like a big family reunion, watching the greetings: hugging, slapping fives, waving wildly at a familiar face yards away.

Another thing you notice as the crowd thickens around 6 o'clock is the predominance of older people - mostly middle-aged black folks dotting the sloping hill in front of the main stage. It makes sense. Tonight's headliner is none other than Black Moses, Isaac Hayes, the legendary soul star best known for 1971's "Theme from Shaft."

"You think he'll come on at exactly 7?" asks Helena Lademo, a short woman with a buzz cut, a warm, toothy grin and a scheduling conflict. She's standing under a tree at the top of the hill.

"I wish I could stay and see him, but I got to go to work," says the Lutherville resident, who teaches parenting classes for the city's Department of Social Services. "I love coming here. ... The music, the art, the jewelry is all beautiful. It's good for the family, too, you know."

Lademo's 11-year-old son and 8-year-old nephew stand behind her, looking slightly bored.

Did she know the Commodores were on right after Hayes?

"I saw them back in high school," Lademo says. "That was back in the '70s sometime. Lionel [Richie] was still with 'em. That's when I was really in love with me some Commodores. I'm gonna miss that show, too."

Of course, not everybody reclining on the hill is a die-hard soul fan. Some are just curious, like the two Samanthas, born long after Hayes peaked.

"We just got here," says Samantha Scott, a blond 16-year-old Lauraville resident, rocking a pink Von Dutch cap. "We read about it in the newspaper. We've never been here."

Her friend, Samantha Cooper, also 16 and a chestnut-haired Mount Washington resident, chimes in. "I've never heard of Isaac Hayes. I'm sure it's good music - not what I would, like, buy it in the store. But it's a learning experience, I guess."

But this is a night for grown folks, anyway - those who know about "real music."

"See, I'm old-school," declares Doresa Taylor, a dreadlocked registered nurse from Baltimore. We're standing side by side at the crowded foot of the hill, 10 minutes before Isaac is due on stage. "They entertained back then, you know, back in the '60s and the '70s when I was coming along, you know."

Had she seen Hayes in concert before?

"I saw him years ago when he was still wearing the gold chains," Taylor says.

The crowd rises to greet Hayes, decked out casually (but still regal) in a seaweed-green pant suit, sneakers and dark shades. His full band launches into "Don't Let Go," his last big hit from 1979.

"I remember this," Taylor says, her dreads sweeping her shoulders as she rocks her head to the beat. "This is real music. This is what it's all about."

Fall Arts Preview

The Sun is planning its annual Fall Arts Preview for the LIVE section.

To submit an event for consideration, visit www.baltimoresun.com/falleventform and fill out the information there. You may also fax it to 410-783-2519 or mail it to 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278, attention LIVE Fall Arts Preview. Deadline to submit information is Aug. 11.

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