Courtesy of Stephen Reid Photography

Courtesy of Stephen Reid Photography

*One of the few days of sweltering heat we’ve faced this summer and a potential thunderstorm were no match for Luke James as he kicked off the 9th Annual Lincoln Park Music Fest from the beautiful 58 Park Place in Newark, New Jersey two weeks ago.

The after-work crowd changed into their head-turning best, held cocktails powered by event sponsor D’usse  in one hand and fanned themselves with the other, as conversation held the space between arrival and Luke James’ stage time.

“R&B Divas” star Monifah was in attendance, accompanied by wife Terez, as was former “Love & Hip-Hop” star Nancy Jones, who won the envy of many women by dancing with James on stage. Once the lights dimmed and the Island Records performer hit the stage, the rain that had begun raging outside the doors didn’t matter, because the true storm had begun inside.

There’s something in James’ voice that captivates audiences; his cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” paid homage to its originator, but contained a flavor known only to Luke James. By the time he reached current single “Options”, those in attendance had experienced the roller coaster of emotions his set list elicited. Yet, they still wanted more. That more was the anticipation of Grammy nominated “I Want You”, which was met by an enthusiastic response and an even more enthusiastic performance. The heat emanating from the stage undoubtedly drained those who witnessed the performance and as people mingled or made their way back out into the now-drizzling rain, they had to think to themselves, this is only the first night.

The Lincoln Park Music Festival aims to provide the city of Newark and its surrounding areas with a weekend filled with the sounds that have provided the soundtrack to that roller coaster of emotions life tends to take us through. Friday evening featured a tribute to the late Amiri Baraka, enveloped by the 10th Annual Newark Idol competition, as well as soothing jazz and powerful jazz. It was ideal the Festival honored one of Newark’s favorite sons a few months after his passing and weeks after his son Ras was sworn in as Newark’s mayor.

Not many people understand the relationship between House Music and the indigenous people of North Jersey; there’s something sacred about the rhythms, call and response choruses and the unsung voices of the songs that have kept dance floors packed for years. Saturday’s calendar called for the area’s finest House Music DJ’s to keep feet tapping, heads nodding and body parts moving in angles they haven’t moved in years. My father was one of those in attendance and he danced throughout the day and carried on to a party that night and I’m not sure if he’s stopped dancing yet. Aside from the DJ sets, another Newark product, Melba Moore performed a surprise set that really stirred the crowd.

There was only one way to properly close the weekend’s festivities and that’s was the hip-hop day produced by 211 Media Group, who provided emerging local talent a chance to rock the stage, before revered group Capone-N-Noreaga closed the festivities. DJ Wallah handled the beats for the day and’s Chuck Creekmur and Skyy Hook hosted “The Breeding Ground”. Away from the music, vendors and volunteers provided fun for all ages; there was skateboarding clinic that provided lessons for interested attendees, storytelling for kids, health and wellness information sessions and ultimately a feeling of community that Newark, like many other cities, needs more than ever.

Keep your calendar open for next year and visit to learn how you can become involved in what’s going to be a great 10th year of celebration.

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