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Backstage at the 8th Annual Jazz in the Gardens

Backstage at the 8th Annual Jazz in the Gardens

Backstage at the 8th Annual Jazz in the Gardens

Backstage at the 8th Annual Jazz in the Gardens

A HUGE success! That’s how most EVERYONE in the City of Miami Gardens and beyond is describing Jazz in the Gardens, 2013. From Mayor Oliver Gilbert, to the city council members, to an incredible line-up of performers and top-notch food and beverage vendors taking part and perhaps most importantly, the thousands of fans who flocked to Sun Life stadium for two full days of amazing entertainment, food and fun in the sun!

Hosting over 63,000 people during the two day music extravaganza, Jazz in the Gardens once again allowed Miami Gardens to showcase the talent, creativity and community pride evident throughout the City. This is an event that’s all about fun – evident in a rousing report from the Miami Gardens Police Department reporting a weekend without any incidents.

With visitors from all over the country attending this year’s Jazz in the Gardens, tourists from major cities such as New York, Atlanta, Washington D.C. and even Los Angeles, Jazz in the Gardens continues to set the standard of what the City of Miami Gardens has to offer to not only fans in Florida, but the entire nation!

Backstage at the 8th Annual Jazz in the GardensA few days before the 8th Annual Jazz in the Gardens, we walked the grounds with the event’s production team. The stage construction crew scurried to make final touches to the massive stage. Long haired, tattooed workers communicated in code on their walky talkies, they spoke about digital consoles, in-ear systems and such. It was obvious this wasn’t their first gig; they were seasoned concert pros. The lights that would shine brightly against Charlie Wilson’s sequin suit were secured; the eight-foot tall speakers that would belt Fantasia’s soulful voice and Najee’s soothing saxophone sound were being tested.

Like the calm before a storm, it was quiet and the tens of thousands of white audience chairs were empty. In less than 24 hours, this place was going to be packed to the brim. Ne- Yo, Earth Wind & Fire, Charlie Wilson, New Edition, Monica, Fantasia, Kenny ‘Babyface’ Edmonds, Najee, Nicole Henry and Mary Mary were en route to the City of Miami Gardens – a party was about to go down! From the first note of local emerging artists Unselfish, who sang the National Anthem, to the last lyric from Earth Wind & Fire, the show was chock full of world class professional talent.

If you want to see what a professional looks like – watch Kenny ‘Babyface’ Edmonds come out of his trailer and stroll on stage in a black suit and black aviators. This wasn’t his first rodeo. A highlight of his show is where he performs songs he wrote and produced for others such as Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road” and “I’ll Make Love to You.” The crowd went absolutely wild when Johnny Gill joined Babyface on stage, impromptu, to perform the1990 Babyface-written smash, “My My My.”

If you want to see what cool looks like – watch Ne-Yo come off stage and do a pumped up secret handshake with one of his backup dancers, celebrating their crowd thrilling performance. Fresh off his UK tour, Ne-Yo arrived in a pristine white Rolls Royce with his eight backup dancers. Ne-Yo and crew performed in London two days before landing in Miami Gardens, yet the jetlag didn’t show. Their high energy performance included, “Let Me Love You” and “Miss Independent.”

For Charlie Wilson, his brilliant 60- minute “song and dance” with three colorcoordinated wardrobe changes was the culmination of 50 years in the biz. Uncle Charlie blasted several of his hits including, “There Goes My Baby,” “My Love Is All I Have,” and for the grand finale… he blew the roof off the place with, “You Dropped A Bomb On Me.” 30,000 Jazz in the Gardens-goers were fist-pumping in the aisles, cutting a rug and breaking it down.

One of the most amazing backstage moments from the show was not how Fantasia took the stage, but how she left the stage. As the band finished up the last few notes of, “Lose To Win,” a hysterical Fantasia was rushed to a waiting black Suburban in tears. Comedian and co-host on the Michael Baisden Show, George Wilborn walked with her and told her goodbye.

I had to ask George, “Is she okay? Why was she crying so hard?” He replied, “You never know where art comes from. It could have come from a sad time in her life, reminded her of a bad relationship or bad moment and when an artist performs from their heart that can happen, the tears can flow.”

If you want to know what nice looks like – scan the internet for “Jazz in the Gardens fan photos with Monica.” There must be hundreds. Most of the artists took photos with admiring fans, but the runaway fan photo leader is Monica… and there isn’t a close second. Apparently she’s always been friendly with her fans – her road manager, her road manager’s boyfriend and her body-guard were all accustomed to her actions. Everyone but me knew that,“one more photo” actually meant 50 more photos.

Intensity was a common trait all the headliners shared; they were serious about their business. Their commitment to delivering a memorable performance for the audience was apparent. Ne-Yo was serious and all business when he arrived backstage and went straight to his trailer – he had a show to get ready for. You could see the difference in attitude in the artists’ walks to the stage then back to their trailers. You’ll notice a more relaxed version of Kenny ‘Babyface’ Edmonds in the photo with Mayor Oliver Gilbert and the Miami Gardens City Council after his performance – Babyface’s work was done. You’ll notice a content Monica as four young girls got the chance of a lifetime to chat with her – Monica’s show was a success.

Was the entire Jazz in the Gardens 2013 a success? City of Miami Gardens leaders say yes!

“Being backstage is the other side of the coin. The crowd on the outside gets to see performances in all their grandeur. But backstage you get to see how it all comes together. Everybody is working on assembling a show like no other. We get to see the artists on their way to and from stage. It’s a very interesting perspective. The whole 2013 festival from front to back, was just amazing” said Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert.

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