Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Austin Urban Music Festival to feature Morris Day, Kool and the Gang

Deborah Sengupta

Editor’s note: This article was originally published March 25, 2014

The Austin Urban Music Festival is set to return to town on Friday for a two-day extravaganza of R&B, gospel and soul. Due to construction at Auditorium Shores the festival has temporarily relocated to adjacent Butler Park, but event organizer Homer Hill doesn’t think the move will have much impact on the festival. “You take a left turn off Riverside instead of a right,” Hill said earlier this week.

This year will mark the festival’s ninth Austin incarnation and it boasts a solid lineup. On Friday, 90s R&B group SWV (Sisters With Voices) opens and dance-funk legend Morris Day headlines. Saturday features Kool & the Gang’s fiftieth anniversary tour, dance craze originator Cupid and singer Larry Braggs.

For Braggs, best known for his 13-year role as the lead singer of Tower of Power, this gig will be something of a homecoming. From roughly 1987-1997 Hill operated the restaurant and nightclub Catfish Station in Downtown Austin. The venue served as a nightlife hotspot for black people on Sixth Street and for several years the house band was The Bizness, a band Hill describes as the hottest funk and R&B band in Texas at the time. Braggs served as the frontman, playing to packed houses 5 nights a week.

Also on Saturday, the festival presents an afternoon gospel music and comedy showcase hosted by Deric J. Lewis and and the Church Choir from Mount Sinai Baptist Church. Soulectiv Phunk, a group of young R&B artists mentored by non-profit Soultree Collective will also perform. The gospel showcase and the youth performance gel with the event’s overall mission to provide a positive family-friendly, afro-centric entertainment experience during Texas Relays Weekend.

“We ban profanity,” Hill says. “We don’t censor. We just don’t book people who use profanity. It’s in all the contracts.”

But Hill says the festival’s strong focus on R&B music precludes most issues that they might run into with obscenities or negative content. “It’s hard to be negative with R&B,” he said, “it just don’t work with the music.”

___

Austin Urban Music Festival

When: Gates at 3 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. Saturday.

Where: Butler Park, 1000 Barton Springs Road.

Tickets: $30 daily for adults, a two-day pass is $50. Children over 5 $5-$13.

Information:austinurbanmusicfestival.com