Wrapping up the Black Lily Film & Music Festival Sunday night, more than a dozen women artists played to a sold-out crowd at World Cafe Live. Evolved from the female-centric live music series that went on every Tuesday night in Philly from 2000 to 2005, the inaugural festival was steeped in nostalgia.
When statuesque Imani Uzuri took the stage and launched into "Her Holy Water," she immediately channeled Grace Jones. Backed by a full band that included the Roots' Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson on drums and James Poyser on keys, Uzuri mesmerized with an ethereal, soulful rock. For most of the night ?uestlove provided the beat for women who march to the sound of a different drum.
As hometown poet Ursula Rucker took the mike, she discoursed on politics and revolution with a pro-women's stance. Digging in the crates, she performed what she deemed her "first foray into potty-mouthedness," a haunting rendition of "The Unlocking," from the Roots' 1995 album, Do You Want More?!!!??!
R&B songstress Jean Baylor (formerly one-half of the duo Zhané) proved that her voice could stand alone. Next up were two genre-hopping Alices - soulful U.K. chanteuse Alice Russell and Washington, D.C., songbird Alice Smith. Russell lit up the room to the tune of the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army," while Smith showed why Rolling Stone named her one of "Ten Artists to Watch" last year.
With rapper Jean Grae a no-show, Brit It-girl Amy Winehouse waltzed onstage instead. Super-skinny, coy, and maybe a little shy, Winehouse (who reigned over the Electric Factory on Saturday night) performed "Rehab" and "Me & Mr. Jones" sans any liquor-induced drama.
Toshi Reagon, daughter of Sweet Honey in the Rock's Bernice Reagon, strolled up with guitar in hand. Within seconds, the audience was as wild for the bluesy folk-rock of Toshi as they had been for Amy. By the witching hour, when show-closer Jill Scott finally took the stage, the crowd was at a frenzied pitch. Scott, who comes across as one of the happiest women in show biz, belted out "The Way," "A Long Walk" and "Golden."
Coiffed and curled, bald or beehive, in flowing frocks or straight-up menswear, the vocal powerhouses of the Lily put on a once-in-a-lifetime show. The only thing missing Sunday night was Philadelphia's own and former Lily regular Jaguar Wright.