Celebrating Juneteenth with Norfolk’s Finest at the Smartmouth Juneteenth Solstice Festival

Join the city of Norfolk’s finest for a day full of music, art, food, good people, and most importantly…good beer.

It’s safe to say that after the past year, people are yearning to get back together and celebrate life and all of the beautiful things that come along with it. Luckily, the good folks at Smartmouth Brewery have got us covered with this Saturday’s Juneteenth Solstice Festival.

In honor and celebration of Juneteenth, Smartmouth has teamed up with local NFK brands and organizations to throw a good-ole fashioned block party. The day’s festivities will consist of a black-owned art & vendor market, food market featuring black and POC-owned restaurants, chefs, and food trucks, and a diverse range of musical acts throughout the 757. The festival will be held at the Smartmouth NFK HQ from 12 PM – 10 PM, is free, and welcome to all ages.

Get up to speed with the day’s details below.

Utopia Feni Art Market | 12 – 6 PM

Nomarama Food Market | 3 – 9 PM

Music Lineup

Listen to our specially curated Popscure playlist while you get familiar with the stacked lineup below:

Well seasoned producer Gabe Niles is a household name in the city of Norfolk. When he’s not producing earworm tracks like Shelley FKA DRAM’s “Cha Cha”–or working with his partner-in-crime for experimental outfit, Sunny & Gabe–the producer is delivering larger-than-life mixes that are bound to whisk you away. 

Hot off her latest EP release, “All My Friends,” Koren Grace is more than ready to take on the masses and introduce them to her world. There’s no plane of emotion and existence the singer/songwriter can’t take you with a discography rich in colorful sounds.

Dariel Clark has a powerful, magnetic presence about him that amplifies when he cranks the amp up. Sparing no niceties, the Virginia Beach musician delivers a one-two combo through his weapons of choice—his guitar and voice.

Headed by the musical virtuoso Big Torrin himself, Big Torrin’s Fusion Groove is the sonic definition of the phrase “good vibes.” With tasteful flecks of jazz, r&b, house, hip-hop, and soul, Big Torrin’s Fusion Groove is sure to satisfy every groove nerve in your body.

Rapper/lyricist Cam Murdoch is known for his pensive, neo-soul inspired raps that focus on the ‘self’ as much as they do fictional characters. His latest single, “The Wave,” carries on this wave of introspection through an unlikely combo of soothing ukelele riffs and strong trap beats.

While fairly new, Kyere Laflare is not to be underestimated. Debut single, “How Does It Feel,” brings in a throwback r&b vibe that’s sure to remind you of simpler times.

If you go by 1pump and wear Scott Summers-esque visors, you better come with the heat and charisma. 1pump certainly doesn’t disappoint with a strong, bombastic release in Scott Summers II: The Light Within.

Known for her hypnotic but real delivery, Lex Lucent is ready to put you under a spell with a laidback flow and unique instrumentals. Her debut project, “Incase You Forgot,” solidifies the rapper as one to look out for.


“Nothin’ But Love” Coming to Norfolk Brewery

Together with Smartmouth, we’re making sure no one spends their night alone this Friday.  

Another year, another Valentine’s Day…but what if this year was different? Instead of self-loathing or ruminating on your relationship (or lack thereof), why not be surrounded by a bunch of strangers for an evening? Sure, that sounds like the exact opposite of what you might do on a day dedicated to romantic love, but the lovers of beer and live music are gathering at Smartmouth Brewery this Friday to try and change your mind. 

Located in the Chelsea business district of Norfolk, VA (aka West Ghent), Smartmouth Brewery Headquarters will be holding their first ever Valentine’s Day themed party, affectionally titled, “Nothin’ But Love” from 6PM – 11PM. With the help of their friends in Citrus City Records and Popscure, they aim to manifest a night filled with “nothin’ but love”—love for beer, love for company, love for music, love for love.

The culture of dedication and love is nothing new for the craft brewery. Since its inception in 2012, the brewery has become known for their unique craft brews that exude passion and a certain level of bravado—qualities that describe its founder, Porter Hardy. After having a successful career as a lawyer, Hardy decided that it was time for him to pursue his passion in life—beer. From that fateful moment, Smartmouth Brewery has established itself as one of the first original craft breweries in Hampton Roads with two locations (Norfolk and Virginia Beach), and a reputation with the community for its dedication to giving back. 

“At Smartmouth, we love to have fun and to put our own twist on things. We’ve sort of left Valentine’s Day alone most years, but when the team came up with this idea, I thought it fit us perfectly. It’s a great mix of opening our arms to the whole community and having fun on Valentine’s Day,” says Hardy.

Of course every lovin’ heart needs a rhythm, and to keep the night moving along in a steady beat, there will be music performances happening in Smartmouth’s newly developed warehouse space. Dedicated to hosting what has become known as the Warehouse Live, this new venture has already established itself as a serious contender for holding live, intimate entertainment. We already know the crowd is in for a real sweet treat at the Warehouse this Friday, but if you need more convincing then follow along with us as we introduce you to the night’s artists below.

Local spinner, WIVVE, is sure to start things off right with his ability to feel the crowd’s energy and amplify it tenfold. Perhaps one of our favorite things is the diversity of musicality in his sets. It’s like he has a sixth sense and can tap into whatever the crowd is feeling with whatever sonic weapon in his armory.

Singer/songwriter, Koren Grace, is such a force to be reckoned with. Her dynamic vocals have a sense of vulnerability that enrapt any listener—like a siren call ready to take their prisoner. Combine that with her overflowing charisma and soulful spirit, and you just may develop Stockholm Syndrome—and we think you may be alright with that.

Artists like Cam Murdoch further our belief that genres are just limiting barriers leftover from an archaic state of mind. As an artist, there is nothing better than just being known for you and only you. There’s no way to pinpoint the sound of Cam Murdoch…he’s just Cam Murdoch—and that’s what makes him unique.

Intricacy immediately comes to mind when listening to this Richmond trio. Each note serves a purpose, ultimately creating a phenomenon of translation between the human and the instrument. The synergy is strong within Manatree.

If you’re looking for grooves, look no further. Shormey creates music is like a time portal with fuzzy compressed synths, playful guitar licks, and a riding bass-line reminiscent of that classic 70s funk and disco of the past, but with a modern twist. Her music is sure to lift you higher from all of the noise of reality.  

Prepare to get beamed up with this Virginia Beach band. With plenty of funky riffs, rhythms, and “out of this world” vocals (sorry… I had to), the musicians in Paper Aliens are here to take over with their energetic, feel-good music.

Last but not least, if you’d like to hear more straight from the artists’ and organizers’ smart mouths about Friday’s festivities, then stay locked to these videos below that were just shot over the weekend at the Warehouse:

WIVVE, Cam Murdoch, & Koren Grace sat down with Cole and Jordan from Smartmouth to talk Valentine’s Day and “nothin’ but love”
Paper Aliens sat down with Cole and Jordan from Smartmouth to talk Valentine’s Day and “nothin’ but love”

Uhauled: Love as Performance

by Darryan Miller

“Uhauled: Love as a Performance” will be a one-night pop up gallery at the Norfolk NEON Festival, that centers around queer love. The gallery will showcase multiple queer artists as each will have their own U-Haul truck to display their work in. The event aims to provide a safe space for queer women specifically, as the general social climate seems to lack them. This is the second year that curator Cat Baker, has worked with the NEON Festival to organize such an inclusive, interactive, and unique experience for all walks of life.

“Originally, this idea formed because in Norfolk, especially, there aren’t really any big celebratory spaces for queer women. And if there are, those spaces are quickly overrun by people who are straight identifying and also a lot of gay men take over those spaces.” Baker said.

Often times when we think of gay culture as how it’s portrayed in the media, we see the acceptable “party gay man” but there’s more to it than that. Queer women deserve a space too, that doesn’t oversexualize them or place them in a stereotypical box; one that’s free of pitting different identifying queer women against each other, instead highlighting the positivity and cultural awareness within a marginalized community.

 Three woman hug in the last days of Hershee Bar, one of the oldest lesbian bars on the East Coast. It closed in 2018 after 35+ years of operation in Norfolk.
Three woman hug in the last days of Hershee Bar, one of the oldest lesbian bars on the East Coast. It closed in 2018 after 35+ years of operation in Norfolk.

“Hershee Bar was the only queer woman designated space in Norfolk and it was shut down. And everywhere else in Norfolk and Virginia Beach, [spaces] are centered around gay men. It’s the same in DC and Richmond, so I feel like a lot of the gay culture is like ‘party gay men,’ and that is like the young culture of the gay community. I [felt like] this is a time and space where we [queer women] make this, we have complete control, this is about queer women, and we control who takes over that space. This just celebrates, highlights, and also very much normalizes, queer women.” Baker said.

This year, the event will house a whole new slew of artists from DC and Virginia as Baker wants to incorporate new ones every year. They include Faye Stein, Deep Pool, Aurele Gould, Koren Grace, Alexandria Jones, Nava Levenson, Marra Sherrier and Cat Baker herself.

“This year has quite an array, [of art experiences] with different types of art, such as three-dimensional works, writing, video installations and a lot of photography.” Said Baker, “There will be three-dimensional, large scale replications of a bathroom but everything is hand sewn. There’s an artist performing vocally, Koren Grace, a Norfolk artist/singer-songwriter that will have a set-up in her truck as kind of a makeshift stage.” Baker said.

When talking about her experience curating a show like Uhauled, Baker says event planning comes very easy for her. “Everything within the event is paid for, nothing comes out of the artists’ pockets, and MJ’s Tavern and The NEON District are sponsors. MJ’s Tavern made a donation to us so that we could actually afford the U-Hauls.” said Baker.

“On the day of [the event] its very hectic and crazy but we’re all very organized people. Setting up is very hands on and enjoyable for me and because I did it last year, I know what I need to do this year so it’s not as nerve-racking,” Baker said. “It’s really fun to have a prompt and to make art around the prompt and it’s also very interesting to see the [other artists, their process, and how they make art.]”

Housing the works of art in U-Hauls stems from a running joke in the queer community about moving in after the first date. “[The joke is that there’s a U-Haul Lesbian,] which means you bring your U-Haul truck on the first date, you move in immediately. So, [I thought] this is kind of like a funny idea to have it in U-Haul trucks, to be about queer women, but also this gallery can go anywhere that there’s a parking space. It’s very accessible, it can be done in cities, in more rural places, it can be done indoors, outdoors, anywhere that can hold a truck,” Baker said.

   Interactive excerpts from last year’s Uhauled
Interactive excerpts from last year’s Uhauled

Not only is Baker a curator but she’s also a mixed media artist and photographer. When asked how she promotes herself and others, Baker contributes a lot of it to networking. “Every single city has its own pocket of artists and I think I was lucky enough to stumble into that. I was invited to shows and to be in shows and a lot [of it is] in person, marketing yourself. It’s social media heavy – I have an art page and I’ll post my art with a lot of hashtags and that’s kind of how you get followers, and how you get strangers to talk to, to engage with you.” she said.

“There are a couple of people in Norfolk who are doing more gorilla canvassing with physical posters. A lot of it is Facebook Events, asking all my artists to share, being on Instagram and tagging [the city of] Norfolk, our sponsors, tagging other artists. Everyone is so involved with social media, people really do see it.” Baker said.

When asked what people should take away from the event, Baker said she hopes they recognize “the objectification that queer women do feel from other people and that just because we’re women, or just because we’re nonbinary, etc, doesn’t mean that it’s okay to sexualize us and it’s not okay to glorify [our] relationships, or ourselves as people.”

“UHauled Love as a Performance” will be held in the Slone Chiropractic Clinic parking lot, Friday October 18th. The event will start at 6 p.m. and will run until 11 p.m. This unique gallery provides inclusion through exclusion and there’s everything queer about that.