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Growing up in Tulsa, Okla., I have attended Tulsa Mayfest more times than I can count. The most notable thing was the lack of Black performers, specifically, Hip-Hop and R&B artists. Friday, May 6, 2022 was different. The Tea Party, headlined by a trio of singers, Tea Rush, “That one guy K,” and Amber O. were a few of many Black artists to perform at this year’s Festival.
Tulsa Mayfest is the number one arts festival in Tulsa, according to their website.
I heard the first baseline drop while waiting for a corndog before nervously rushing to the Living Arts stage because the show started at 8 p.m. I breathed a sigh of relief when I noticed the band was warming up. The instrumentation reminded me of the first 1:30 seconds of Franky Beverly and Maze’s “Joy and Pain.” Anxiously, yet patiently, I waited for the song to begin.
The next 45 minutes, Tea Party ushered the crowd into the sunset with their harmonious voices and melodic sounds. “That one guy K” opened the show covering Musiq Soulchild’s “Love,” which seemed to be the theme of the evening.
Most of the songs were about love and the different emotions that it brings. The trio took turns performing a solo; Rush performed her own song “Before I Fall.”
“We got any lovers in the house tonight?” Tea Rush asked the crowd.
A distinct voice yelled out, “We love you,” to which she responded, “I Love you too.”
Black artists bring down the house at Tulsa Mayfest
Amber O. covered Tom Misch’s “I wish.” The jazzy sound of the guitar blended effortlessly with the background singers as they sang “When you go, you go, you go, I’m a sunless sky”
The band was jammin’, yall.
Members of the crowd nodded their heads to the medley of Neo-Soul songs from the 90’s. In the front, a mother swayed back-and-forth while holding her baby. People were painting a body artist on the left side of the stage. The strokes of the paint brushes seemed to flow to the rhythm of the beat.
Robert Austin yelled out in excitement. “I loved the show,” he said. “Mayfest is something that’s been going on a long time in Tulsa, and I was just telling the group performing that the last time I had been to a Mayfest was when the late Wayman Tisdale performed.”
I felt similarly to Austin, but managed to withhold my excitement through the band’s riveting performance.
“To come back downtown and see all the changes and all of the improvements, and then to get to bring it in with an artist like Tea Rush, it was very important, to me and to the town that somebody represent, for Greenwood and Tulsa, period, Austin added.
Like many other Black artists, Tea Rush has performed in Tulsa for many years. She has also performed at SXSW, and boasts features on Fire in Little Africa (FILA), an album representing the resurgence of Black Wall Street.
She received high praises from her drummer, Marcus James, who referred to her as Tulsa’s Erykah Badu.