A crash course in crusty festival going and gobbling on glutei maximi like groceries, 2022’s Sol Blume Festival ushered in a euphoric, eclectic escape April 30 to May 1 in Sacramento’s Discovery Park. With a little faith, trust and “Pu$$y Fairy” dust, the festival seamlessly celebrated the multi-hued brilliance of contemporary R&B and rap’s best acts.
Interacting with the crowd and distracting them from the sweaty motions of the day, the festival’s strongest acts were its lively seasoned performers. The dust covering the festival grounds may have made the air as dry as a pH-imbalanced vagina, but rapper Smino was clearly unbothered. Despite the culminating heat and most people feeling faint and flatulent, Smino ran back and forth on stage, bouncing around in refusal to let his excitement dwindle for even a second.
Especially during the explosive performance of “Z4L,” the audience was emblazoned enough to start scream-singing every lyric. Even then, they couldn’t compare to his sun-kissed charisma; braver than any marine, the self-proclaimed “clit commander” ad-libbed the line “I’m too f—ing grown to teach you how to find a clit!” to raucous cheers.
With similar gusto, Tinashe’s maddeningly magnificent performance cemented her status as the best act of the festival’s second day. She came barrelling onto the stage with national anthem replacement candidate “2 On,” fluidly moving through complex choreography and flawless vocal execution without as much as breaking a sweat.
For an otherworldly being like Tinashe, sweating is but a plebeian pastime. The artist was far too occupied translating her tight set to crisply run through her discography, all while making sure to spotlight her adept backup dancers. Toward the end of Tinashe’s performance was when she reached transcendent levels, as she demanded everyone to put their middle fingers to the sky. Forget an ex, forget a man indiscernible from a gremlin — if they’re not going to “act right for this coochie,” pay them no mind. Tinashe commanded everyone to live their best, bad b— lives.
As the night progressed, the audience’s energy waned, perhaps by design considering the inherent nature of a more relaxed R&B festival. However, the energy especially disappointed the festival’s headliners later in the night, notably during Thundercat’s set. “Y’all feeling crusty?” he asked, only getting a few murmured laughs as he began his frantic riffs. Despite this, with his glittering Gucci clips and iridescent nail polish, Thundercat seemed unstoppable. His set served fingerpicking finesse, and he refused to dim his shine.
Toward the end of his performance, butterflies, likely finding freedom from the Sol Blume Butterfly House, fluttered through the air as Thundercat strummed through his commanding track “Them Changes.” Following a collective gasp, the withdrawn crowd began to sway along, mesmerized.
Undoubtedly, Summer Walker was by far the most anticipated act of the night. Despite her reputation for stilted stage presence and her questionable grasp of reality, the careless crowd seemed to burst at the seams waiting for their queen. The best shows are nothing if not an unabashed celebration of the artist; some fans chanted her name, while others reminded them to leave her alone. “My b— got anxiety!” a fan exclaimed.
Expectedly late, Summer Walker came out and delivered one of her best performances to date — which, for her, was mainly sitting down and giving the crowd absolutely nothing. In the middle of her set, she randomly disappeared, and from the shadows emerged Jeremih, a guest no one asked for. He offered an enthusiastic performance of his 2009 hit “Birthday Sex” for the decrepit in the audience.
Summer Walker is an artist in love with the idea of falling in love, no matter how brutal or breathtaking it can be. This ethos was evident in her vulnerable performance of fan favorite “Session 32.” Her somber, languid show fittingly captured the essence of her music, as festival-goers bittersweetly sang along and surrendered to feeling.
As the closing act of the festival’s final night, Jhené Aiko proved to be the perfect encapsulation of a sonic escape. Fans tripped over one another rushing to the stage as Aiko emerged like a glorious “Pu$$y Fairy,” surrounded by hundreds of bubbles. Aiko’s whimsical performance tapped into the mystical moments that can’t always be put into words. Immersed in the sparkly synths of “Sativa” and flourishing beats of “Triggered” is her transcendent ability to connect people, translate emotions and nimbly draw people into a space of comfort. Somewhere on the border of chaotic and tranquil, Aiko flitted between her feature on Sacramento-raised Saweetie’s ebullient “My Type” and her quietly furious “None of Your Concern.”
In between her songs’ emotional grandeur, Aiko would pause for a few minutes to meditate with her audience, asking her harpist to continue plucking along as Aiko initiated an impromptu smoke break. She brought out her signature singing bowls and crystals as her band, donning rodent onesies, swayed along. Even during these disjointed parts of the show, an unspoken intimacy bewitched the crowd. When watching Aiko perform, one hardly has to say or think a thing. Whimsical notes encased the brain, smoothing it out until all that’s left to feel is peace.
In 2022, Sol Blume continued its tradition of allowing diverse voices to be heard and blossom. While it had its turbulent moments, the festival created a space for music and culture to unabashedly bloom.