From left to right, James Funk, Chuck Brown and Darryll Brooks. Funk will perform during the tribute to the late Chuck Brown on August 4 at the Summer Spirit Festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md. /Photo courtesy of Darryll Brooks
If you ask Darryll Brooks about the 2012 Summer Spirit Festival, he'll likely say it's a culmination of nearly 40 years of musical entrepreneurship, artistry and innovation that at one time included producing the "Mothership" of all acts, George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic.
This year's Spirit Festival on August 4 at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md., will feature a special tribute to the late Chuck Brown with headliners who include Erykah Badu, Common, Estelle, and Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, the band that catapulted Amy Winehouse into the musical stratosphere with her Back to Black recording. The upcoming neo-soul extravaganza, however, promises to be an affair to remember.
"This is our seventh annual Spirit Festival. We expect 10,000 to 15,000 based on past ticket sales," Brooks said. "We attract music listeners from Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York to the festival – which is the place to be," he said.
For the past several years, Brooks has organized and promoted the annual Spirit Festivals with his business partner Carol Kirkendall through their Virginia-based management group, CD Enterprises, Inc. (CDE), a full service business and personal management firm that focuses on production and event promotion. CDE was founded two decades ago, Brooks said.
The double minority owned firm – Brooks, a black man and Kirkendall, a white woman – has a history of creative and dynamic leadership. A large number of CDE's acts have been showcased at DAR Constitution Hall, The Howard Theatre, 9:30 Club, the Warner Theatre, The Fillmore, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the Strathmore in Bethesda, Md.
During D.C.'s 'Chocolate City' era in the 1980s and 1990s, when hip hop reigned supreme and the Wizards were still called the Bullets, CDE was the first company to routinely promote sold out shows for local go-go and hip-hop artists at the former Capital Centre in Landover, Md. Likewise, CDE also promoted national tours with artists who included Outkast, Badu, Queen Latifah and Run DMC – bringing the finest in R&B, hip-hop, jazz and children's orientated shows and events to the D.C. Metropolitan Area.
"We have brought diverse acts to the area through CDE. ... We recently brought Jill Scott performing with the Atlanta Symphony, and we're currently promoting the Mindless Behavior show."
CDE was the byproduct of non-profit work started by Brooks and Kirkendall in the early 1970s, through an organization called Compared to What, Inc. With financing from the District of Columbia government, the National Park Service, and the National Endowment for the Arts, the organization merged the visual arts with the performing arts to promote education, the arts, and black heritage, and to train minority youth to work in the areas of production and promotion.
"Along with developing a marketplace for black talent, graduates of the program have gone on to become members of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees, Local 22, that consists of technicians and craft persons in entertainment, to win art and essay contests, and to become successful artists and writers," Brooks said.
Brooks also prides himself on promoting Civil Rights along with entertainment, through his work with performers like Stevie Wonder, who championed the Martin Luther King holiday. However, Brooks said he's especially proud to be a part of showcasing a musical tribute to Brown, "The Godfather of Go-Go" and one of his musical idols, through this year's Spirit Festival.
"I also produced Chuck Brown's 'Going Away Service' at the [Walter E. Washington] Convention Center. We helped coordinate with Chuck Brown's family, management, and with Freeman Funeral Services for his viewing," said Brooks.
"I think Chuck will be sorely missed. He was the Duke Ellington and Marvin Gaye of our era – musical royalty," said Brooks. "Chuck Brown was the soul of Washington D.C., just as Ellington and Gaye were for their time."
As part of the tribute, Brown's former band will perform, along with KK and D. Floyd, with special guests James Funk, Sugar Bear, "Big" Tony and Andre, and White Boy Johnson. Soul singer Eric Roberson, Huggy Lowdown, Chris Paul, and comedian Red Grant will also entertain the crowd during the afternoon show.
When asked what makes the Summer Spirit Festival so popular, Brooks took a moment to reflect: "Our concert is a neo-soul, musical event and presentation. The arts and crafts – along with the musical and comedy performances – [has an] appeal that gives the festival spirit. We basically have a unique flavor."
On Saturday, August 4, the gates open at 3:00 p.m. at Merriweather Post Pavilion, and the concert is set to begin at 4:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the Merriweather box office, 9:30 Club box office, online at ticketfly.com, merriweathermusic.com, and 9:30.com. Get them before they sell out!