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Baltimore Stars Shine Through The Storm! | BxB July Highlights

by Laurence Bass

Baltimoreans showed off their spirit through food, wares, music, and lots of dance on July 4th weekend at the second Baltimore by Baltimore (BxB). The show packed seats in the Inner Harbor Amphitheater and people can't wait to see what happens next month!

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Meteorologists called for a rainy afternoon to wash away all the planned festivities of July’s Baltimore By Baltimore event. Thankfully, their forecasts were incorrect. The performers, vendors, organizations, food trucks, and those who came out to show their love for the city’s brightest stars and entrepreneurs brought the energy that chased the clouds away. Hosted by the one–the only–Comedian Big Fred Watkins, July’s harborside bash of music, makers, and munchies in the middle of Harborplace turned out to be the perfect laughter-filled outing we needed to kickoff America’s holiday weekend. 

See Photos from BxB July 2022

Dextre Tripp opened this month’s celebration of Baltimore with his immense bag of tricks. This talented street performer wowed the audience watching on bated breath under a bright noon sun as he opened up his impressive routine that had them on the edges of their seats. He balanced a glass of water on his head with no drops spilled and performed funny, interactive routines with members from the audience of all ages that had everyone laughing. Then came the ‘Do Not Try This At Home’ portion of the show. Long before any fireworks burst to fill our night’s sky, Dextre juggled flaming torches before moving on to sharp knives–while riding on a ten-foot-high unicycle. (Yeah. He did that.) The applause came as he bowed and kept the vibe upbeat as Big Fred Watkins introduced the act bringing a major piece of Baltimore’s legacy in music to the big stage.         

BMore Than Dance (BTD), an organization founded by its CEO Errigh ‘Uneek’ LaBoo Jr. that educates students and audiences on the complex dance moves of Baltimore Club Music over looped-and-chopped drum breaks at 130 beats-per-minute and the history behind them, hyped up the crowd filling the Amphitheater with a live cipher to open Baltimore By Baltimore. The genre created in the late-1980s, early-1990s is finally being recognized internationally after Isse Rae’s eye-opening Netflix documentary ‘Dark City: Beneath The Beat’ and the traces of its influence heard on Drake’s latest album ‘Honestly, Nevermind’ that sonically dips its big toe in the shallow end of Baltimore Club Music’s olympic size pool of classic tracks. The wave is inspiring many producers and artists outside of Baltimore to sample dimensions of what the city’s DJs and producers rhythmically created by producers, vocalists, and DJs going back to Scottie B., to when Miss Tony asked everyone ‘What’s Up-What’s Up’ and the late queen of the scene–K-Swift. Ty DaGeneral, BTD Dance Instructor with over two decades of dancing experience and local sensation Uncle Grandpa, spoke  about the beautiful aspects of Baltimore Club music and the dances created since its booming genesis.      

“The adrenaline rush. There’s no other style like it,” he says fresh after his organization’s performance at Baltimore By Baltimore about the best aspect of the dances Baltimore Club created. “All respect to Krumpin’, to Breakin’, to Poppin’--to all of those styles–but it’s something about Shakin’ Off that is so invigorating–exciting–and electric. Every party and social event I’ve ever been to where they’re playing Hip-Hop and R&B music goes up more when Baltimore Club music is played and when you have a dancer on site to show the moves. It turns it into a whole different atmosphere. We feed off of the crowd’s energy. The hyper they get, the hyper we get.” 

Big Fred Watkins then brought the laughs we were all waiting for with the Lil’ Laughs Talent Show. Lil’ Laughs is an organization founded by Big Fred Watkins that uses scripted and improvisational methods of comedy as a way to negate bullying by choosing to deliver punchlines over throwing fists–or worse. The mission of this organization is to also train localyouth how to be quick on their feet in situations where the answers need to come fast to best navigate the ways of the streets awaiting them after school. Big Fred and co-hosting comedian Khairy Creek led a fun improvisational comedy exercise with guests with some youth who volunteered to show their skills to the applauding crowd. 

This rapport carried over to the next set of performers lining up to take the Baltimore By Baltimore. With the assistance of DJ Ashmo, Young Elder, a talented area rapper, performed her inspirational anthem–‘A Long Way’. Her words mirror the community-driven outreach of HeartSmiles, an organization founded by Joni Holifield to provide exceptional enrichment and leadership development opportunities to youth in Baltimore's most under-served communities’. The theme of hope and the promise of better days heard and felt during this portion of Baltimore By Baltimore is what the Waterfront Partnership envisioned with the creation  of this wonderful monthly series that highlights the purpose and creativity present in our city. 

Acclaimed spoken word artist Kondwani Fidel followed and then preceded the laughs as he exhibited the skilled, original prose that’s making him an international star featured in The Washington Post, The Atlantic, CNN, and on the Tamor Hall Show to the audience listening closely. The Baltimore Comedy Festival showed those in attendance the next generation of up-and-coming talent as Big Fred and Khairy Creek introduced these new voices of stand-up to the city. More people continued to fill the amphitheater as the worry of rainfall decreased under a shining sun. iconthaGod and Latik Illestrate led a “crowd cypher” with the audience and had them singing along with the classic renditions of hits like Jodeci’s ‘Come And Talk To Me’ all the way to Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’--all acapella–before performing one of his own bangers “Galaxy” & “Cookin’ Up” that got the audience up even more.

Mike Evenn grabbed the mic to a packed house to perform his track ‘Kiwi’ that had everyone wanting some by song’s end. His performance gave way to the five brilliant comediennes of SheMore Funny, who had the audience laughing throughout the set that kept the laughter up for BIG Laughs! who closed out the funny. The singing, producing, and songwriting powerhouse that is King Midas gave the crowd what they needed with its full band of musicians and vocalists setting a new high for the bar once set for Baltimore. Along with the performers who showed the current, elevated state of talent in Baltimore were the tastemaking vendors presenting everything from ‘one-of-one’ wearables to the region’s best eats.   

“We created the brand to encourage a positive outlook on the City of Baltimore and its residents,” Brian Dawkins of From Baltimore With Love. Brain, widely known among the city’s Hip-Hop scene’s best lyricists Greenspan, continued about the widespread interest in the local brand and the attention its receiving nationally. “It’s been great. We’ve been shipping shirts and other apparel to people across the country who aren’t from Baltimore originally, but they still want to represent and we really appreciate the love.”    

Showing the true platforms being made here in Baltimore is what this monthly festival has been  all about from the start. Reimaging our individual drive to learn new skills in fields that once appeared unattainable within reach even if outsiders say otherwise. Vendors such as Isolation Wear, Serene Adornments, (list other vendors)...displayed the makers while 3 Jay’s Seafood and Chicken, (list of other food vendors) feed the foodies. Bar Movement refreshed those old enough to drink with the beers and their signature ice cold mixed drinks. This blended into the new spaces that many of us have yet to walk into digitally.  

“Baltimore is on the cusp of a renaissance,” Ursula Spencer, Founder of Dope Nerds and VR Bar, says outside of her company’s virtual reality gaming tent setup on The Promenade section of Baltimore By Baltimore. Ursula is a computer-savvy native New Yorker who created and established her company here in Charm City is one of the many gifted minds visualing the overall potential in a city maligned in the press. “I wanted to be a part of this ecosystem here and a part of the journey of those who didn’t even think about a career in tech. But through gamification and people directly interacting with VR, maybe they’ll be inspired to launch a career in this field now.”  

Rethinking the potential of Charm City is at the heart of Baltimore By Baltimore and reminding ourselves that harmony is a collective effort. There were plenty of hilarious and fun moments that those who came out to party, shop and dine at Baltimore By Baltimore will take away with them forever. The sound of a crowd laughing and applauding from The Amp, along with excitement of being able to support local businesses, is showing the importance of this monthly festival for the Waterfront and–more importantly–for Baltimore