keyshia-cole_web.jpgSUNRISE — The first annual Summer Fest concert had all the elements to be a fantastic show: a large venue, megastar headliners and a bustling audience.

But while everything seemed to line up for Summer Fest organizers and creators Vision Entertainment, this reviewer walked away from the June 28 show a little underwhelmed.

Have you ever seen science happening? I have. At Summer Fest, I saw that light travels faster than sound. I was so far away from the stage that there was an actual delay between when Keyshia Cole sang “Sent from Heaven” and when I heard the echoes in the mezzanine section of the BankAtlantic Center.

From the looks of things, Keyshia Cole gave an outstanding performance, complete with choreography and a band. As I watched on the big screen, I could see the effort she was putting forth. My only problem was the sound. Everything echoed. I could only vibe with Keyshia because I knew her songs. Even so, the echo was a major distraction.

After Keyshia’s set, it took the crew maybe 15 minutes to break down her stage. This was mostly dead time.
The hosts tried to fill it with witty banter and exhortation, but to no avail.

Akon was the next of the three major headliners. His set was energetic, and the crowd below me was enraptured. At one point, Akon jumped off the stage and ran maybe 100 rows deep into the floor seats. I’d never seen a performer do that before. His foray into the floor seats sent a charge of excitement through the building, and capped an overall good performance.

Lil Wayne hit the stage last. Keyshia Cole might be the hottest rhythm-and-blues act out right now, and Akon is a major star. But the star of the night was undoubtedly Lil Wayne, aka Weezy F. Baby. The entire arena had been waiting for his performance. Vision Entertainment either has great luck or excellent foresight. Before coming to Summer Fest, Wayne had just dropped a new album that went platinum in its first week.

Weezy hit the stage with the momentum of a platinum album, more than several feature spots on top-selling singles by other artists, and the self proclamation of being the best rapper alive.

During his set is where the sound really became a problem for me. I looked around the arena and there was no doubt that the audience was feeling him. But in my section, we all kind of just sat there trying to decipher through the echoes. I left my seat.

I moved down to the ground level using my wit and charm and was able to hear about two songs as the people in the floor seats heard them. Those two songs were from Wayne’s Hot Boys days, and he performed them well. But after those two ever-so-brief medleys, my charm wore off and it was back to the science lab that is the mezzanine section.

Wayne closed the show with his two biggest singles right now, “Lollipop” and “A Milli…” His performance was reminiscent of hip hop greats like Jay-Z, a man on stage with a mic and not much else. Once again, I just wished I could hear him clearly.

This first annual Summer Fest was like most firsts, imperfect. But the organizers put together a great roster of major, local and up-and-coming talent. Local rap heroes Ace Hood, Ball Greezy and DJ Khaled held their own on the big stage. Tallahassee Hero T-Pain was as ubiquitous as ever. He was on the stage almost the entire night, and, as usual, his mix of vocoder (an electronic device that synthesizes speech) and top hats played extremely well.

Next year, with a bigger and better sound system, the show should be bigger and better.

Photo by Khary Bruyning. Keyshia Cole