Video: The Soul Beach Music Festival in Aruba

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By// Miki Turner

It was a banner year for the 12th Annual Soul Beach Music Festival in Aruba over the holiday weekend. More than 10,000 people — a record number — attended the four-day event, which included beach parties, a comedy show and concerts featuring R. Kelly, LL Cool J., Melanie Fiona and Ledisi.

This year Kelly, who headlined the Sunday night show, was the man everyone came to see. And, while he gave most fans what they wanted musically, the diva in Kelly reared its head early on. Kelly had agreed to let photographers shoot the first four songs of his set but after performing two or three bars of one of his songs he told the audience that he wanted ladies to replace the photographers in the pit.

Kelly’s request resulted in a near stampede in which several members of the press were sandwiched between security personnel and overzealous fans. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt.

The Chicago native, who performed without a band, went on to sing mostly medleys of his hits.

Festivalgoers did voice complaints about the concert venue being on the beach. It was pretty much standing room only, which of course resulted in some minor altercations. Tickets not bought in advance were $75 and it cost an extra $25 to secure a chair. If you weren’t willing to pay it basically meant four hours of standing in the sand.

The other acts, however, eased the pain. Ledisi and LL Cool J both turned it out on Saturday night and Fiona sufficiently entertained a crowd that was basically there to see Kelly.

Overall, Aruba is a great location for this festival. And, considering the number of people attending, things went pretty smoothly. Nikky Beach, a popular nightclub on the beach, hosted post-concert parties; and the lobby lounge at the Renaissance Resort was also hopping with Americans lamenting that their holiday weekend was just about over.

“It’s so hard to leave paradise,” said Leon Kyle from Chicago. “But the good thing about paradise is that it gives you something to look forward to next year!”//