Beyoncé isn't playing this year's Soul'd Out Music Festival, but her spirit does seem to be presiding over it somehow. It is perhaps the multi-venue festival's best top-to-bottom lineup ever—bringing together soul and funk, hip-hop and jazz, new and old, the quintessential and the WTF—and it is no coincidence that many artists have connections to R&B's reigning monarch, some more directly than others. Below, you'll find our music staff's festival highlights, ranked by their connections to Queen Bey.
Solange, Jamire Williams (Friday, April 21)
Beyoncé Connection: Literally her DNA.
[FUTURIST R&B] Satisfying every stereotype about younger sisters and older sisters, Solange and Beyoncé Knowles can best be defined as artists in relationship to each other. For the first decade or so of her career, Solange trod exclusively on Beyonce-paved roads, beginning with a few stints in Destiny's Child and a tepidly received solo album of ooh-baby-baby, early aughts bubblegum pumped out by daddy Mathew Knowles' Music World Entertainment label. Soon, though, something shifted. As Beyonce's pop sound got sturdier and more classic, Solange became the cooler, more alt-leaning little sis, propelled into pseudo-cultish stardom by a clappy, quirky dance hall cover of the Dirty Projectors' "Stillness Is the Move." Flash forward to now, where Solange's A Seat at the Table stands, beside and in complement to, Beyoncé's Lemonade as one of 2016's most affecting albums, both musically and culturally. It's a wildly inventive monument to the experience of black womanhood, and one of the more subtle and vulnerable big-label pop releases the contemporary R&B fan has been afforded in years. ISABEL ZACHARIAS. Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. 8 pm. $50-$99. All ages.
Big Freedia, Tribe Mars (Friday, April 21)
Beyoncé Connection: Big Freedia recorded voiceovers for the "Formation" video, in which she introduced "slay" to the national lexicon.
[NEW ORLEANS BOUNCE] A longtime New Orleans hip-hop scenester, Big Freedia was pioneering the sound of bounce—the city's trademark call-and-response party music—long before she announced her intentions to "slay" in Beyonce's "Formation." And just as Freedia shaped the sound and culture of bounce music, she spread it like glittery butter all across America. Born with the decidedly less spectacular name Freddie Ross, Big Freedia's also had a huge influence on popular ideas of what "queer music" can sound like. Known from the start for her outrageous live performances, the best way to experience Freedia, by far, is to see her live. ISABEL ZACHARIAS. Dante's. 10 pm. $20. 21+.
Bilal, Shy Girls, Laura Ivancie (Thursday, April 20)
Beyoncé Connection: Bilal duetted with Beyoncé on her song "Everything I Do," from the soundtrack to the 2003 movie The Fighting Temptations.
[PSYCHEDELIC SOUL] Philadelphia singer-songwriter Bilal Sayeed Oliver often gets lumped in with the neo-soul movement, but in retrospect the guy was much more futurist than historical reenactor. In a way, he's the predecessor to R&B genre-busters like Anderson Paak and Miguel, and he was tripping out purists a good decade and a half before them. He's never been the most prolific artist—he's only released five albums since 2001, with 10 years separating his first two efforts—but it could just be because he's never found an ideal collaborator. If 2015's In Another Life is any indication, Bilal's newfound partnership with producer Adrian Younge could prove fruitful: His Princely voice and unique delivery pairs exceptionally well with Younge's trademark dusty-soul production. To a degree, it's the most "retro" he's ever sounded, but it still sounds like little else. MATTHEW SINGER. Revolution Hall. 7 pm. $20. Under 21 permitted with guardian.
Travi$ Scott, Flying Lotus (Wednesday, April 19)
Beyoncé Connection: The Flying Lotus short film, Until the Quiet Comes, was directed by Kahlil Joseph, who also worked on Beyoncé's Lemonade.
[CHILLWAVE] Travi$ Scott and Flying Lotus are, respectively, masterminds of hip-hop and electronic music who don't fit rigid definitions of either genre. They take a carefree approach to producing moods, and for proof, you don't have to look further than what they accomplished on their recent albums—Scott with the moody, R&B fusion Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight and FlyLo's all-encompassing You're Dead! For Scott, who once toured the country with the eccentric Young Thug, he's reaching Kanye West levels of influence, with a melodic sound that's rubbing off on the likes of Quavo of Migos and Post Malone. Recently, he collaborated with Drake on an infectious, flute-sampling track named after the City of Roses, keeping Portland weird and awesome for those in the know. ERIC DIEP. Veterans Memorial Coliseum. 8 pm. $42.50. All ages.
Giorgio Moroder, Dam-Funk (Friday, April 21)
Beyoncé Connection: Moroder has a writing credit on Beyoncé's 2003 single "Naughty Girl," which samples from Donna Summer's "Love to Love You Baby," which Moroder produced.
[EDM GRANDFATHER] Giorgio Moroder's robotic pulse throbs through the history of the late 20th century popular music. He brought Donna Summer to ecstasy—figuratively, but also sort of literally—on 1975's electro-disco groundbreaker "Love to Love You Baby" and somehow made Britney Spears covering "Tom's Diner" make sense on his daffy 2015 comeback album, Deja Vu. In between, he worked with everyone from Bowie to Blondie to Berlin, for whom he produced the gauzy Top Gun ballad "Take My Breath Away." From big-tent EDM to chart-topping pop, the world would sound a lot different today were it not for Moroder popularizing synthesized production and showing how far you could take it. At the very least, we wouldn't have Daft Punk, who owe the dude their career and whose 2013 album, Random Access Memories, is both directly and indirectly an extended tribute to him. MATTHEW SINGER. Roseland Theater. 8 pm. $25. 21+.
Antibalas, Cherimoya (Saturday, April 22)
Beyoncé Connection: Antibalas arranged the music for Fela!, the Broadway music about Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, whose Broadway run was co-produced by Jay Z, who is married to…Beyoncé.
[AFROBEAT ORCHESTRA] Where many Afrobeat bands play flat-out funk 100 percent of the time they're on stage, New York City-based collective Antibalas uses dynamics to its advantage, ebbing and flowing between vocal lines, multi-part horn arrangements and simple bass-and-percussion segments. It's an elegant style of performance the 11-piece touring band has developed over nearly two decades together, one that helps them showcase the full danceable range of their Fela Kuti-inspired sounds. With so many compelling shifts in energy, even hour-long sets seem to last mere minutes, so be warned: You'll feel Antibalas in your legs the next morning. PARKER HALL. Wonder Ballroom. 9:30 pm. $22. 21+.
Cory Henry & the Funk Apostles, Moorea Masa & the Mood, Blind Bartimaeus (Wednesday, April 19)
Beyoncé Connection: Henry's fellow Snarky Puppy alum Mark Lettieri is also a member of Team SKP, a production collective led by Symbolyc One, who produced "Best Thing I Never Had," the third single from Beyoncé's 2011 album, 4.
[FUNK KEYS] The intense focus with which keyboardist Cory Henry approaches a groove won him and large ensemble wunderkinds Snarky Puppy a Grammy in 2015, and has led the musician to collaborations with everyone from Bruce Springsteen to P. Diddy over the past decade. But while he mostly spends his time building striking layers of keyboards over beats rather than shredding solos, when Henry does let loose inside of the massive two-drummer, two-keyboard, two-guitar outfit he calls the Funk Apostles—basically an audio tour of post-Dilla beat music—hold onto your hats. His lines are so quick and shocking, you'll catch his own band shaking their heads in disbelief. PARKER HALL. Wonder Ballroom. 9:30 pm $22. 21+.
Dead Prez, Mic Crenshaw, Libretto, Maze Koroma, Mat Randol (Saturday, April 22)
Beyoncé Connection: Kanye West produced Dead Prez's biggest hit, "It's Bigger Than Hip-Hop," then went on to famously defend Beyoncé's honor against the tyranny of Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMAs.
[POLITICAL RAP] In 2013, Kanye West explained to The New York Times how Dead Prez influenced his writing style: "It wasn't until I hung out with Dead prez and understood how to make, you know, raps with a message sound cool that I was able to just write 'All Falls Down' in 15 minutes." Ye's anecdote speaks to the effort M-1 and Stic Man have put into educating the masses over the decades with their idiosyncratic, politically radical worldview. Dead Prez's debut album, 2000's Let's Get Free, featured the anti-mainstream mainstream hit "It's Bigger Than Hip Hop," and they continue to create meaningful protest music today. While the group's experimental 2012 LP, Information Age, wasn't the biggest hit critically, it showed they're not afraid to innovate and challenge minds. As long as the mics are on, they'll stay enlightening. ERIC DIEP. Dante's. 10 pm. $17. 21+.
Toots and the Maytals, Lee Fields and the Expressions, Tezeta Band (Wednesday, April 19)
Beyoncé Connection: Beyoncé featured Jamaican dancehall star Mr. Vegas on her song "Standing on the Sun," who recorded a cover of Toots and the Maytals' classic "Sweet and Dandy" and supported the band on tour in Europe.
[ROCKSTEADY SOUL] As significant figures in the history of black music, Frederick "Toots" Hibbert and Lee Fields have nearly a lifetime's worth of cultural contributions under their respective belts. In terms of the former, what started as a trio back in 1962 eventually progressed into the game-changing group, Toots and the Maytals, who are responsible for popularizing what the world knows now as reggae, ska and rocksteady. They even gave reggae its name with 1968's "Do the Reggay." Part of what catapulted the Maytals into becoming forefathers of the genre was Hibberts' soulful croon, leading him to be named one of Rolling Stone's greatest vocalists of all time. James Brown also made that list, and though he has passed on, part of him lives on through Lee Fields. His career started by mildly mimicking the Godfather of Soul, but Fields is godfathering soul in his own right. He's one of the only old-school soul musicians still commanding stages with his incredible energy and penchant for heartfelt, sultry love songs. No matter who his style imitated early on, his original creations over nearly five decades is what defines him. CERVANTE POPE. Roseland Theater. 9 pm, $26.50 general admission, $40 balcony. 21+.
Ohio Players, Shock featuring Marlon McClain, Andy Stokes (Saturday, April 22)
Beyoncé Connection: "Junie," from Solange's A Seat at the Table, was inspired by the late Ohio Players member Junie Morrison.
[TRUE SOUL] Double Tee did an incredible job curating Soul'd Out this year, but there's no booking that represents the true, well, soul of the festival more than the legendary funk ensemble the Ohio Players. It's unclear who's exactly in the band these days, but with the death of onetime singer-keyboardist Junie Morrison in January, expect tonight's performance to be as heavy on emotion as the grooves. Get there early for a rare gig from Portland's own icons of funk Shock, whose 1981 deep cut "Let's Get Crackin'" is considered the first rap song to come out of Portland—at least, that's what frontman Marlon McClain insists. Roseland Theater. 8 pm. $35 general admission, $49.50 balcony. 21+.
RJD2 + Tortoise, 1939 Ensemble (Thursday, April 20)
Beyoncé Connection: RJD2 created the theme for the show Mad Men, which starred Jon Hamm, who took part in a 2012 ad campaign for gun control, which also included Amy Poehler, Chris Rock, Will Ferrell…and Beyoncé.
[POST-HIP-HOP] Among the most eagerly awaited of this week's music festival, Soul'd Out assembles legendary Chicago indie musos Tortoise with instrumental hip-hop maestro and turntablist extraordinaire RJD2 for…well, we're not quite clear on that point. Formed over a quarter-century ago by Midwest percussive virtuosos determined to explore hyper-intricate rhythmic textures and incorporate different spheres—jazz, classical, dub, electronica, minimalism—than their punk gigs would allow, Tortoise effectively created the post-rock genre from whole cloth, and forever engorged the worst pretensions of music snobs the world over. But, however irritating their superfans, members of the Chicago quintet are at heart still experimentalists open to working with a vast range of artists. Wonder of wonders, their seventh and most recent album, The Catastrophist, even features a pair of vocal tracks sung by Yo La Tengo's frontwoman and U.S. Maple's guitarist. RJD2, aka Ramble John Krohn, the Eugene-born, Columbus-bred superstar DJ behind the theme to Mad Men, enlisted six different guests—including Phone, Blueprint, and X Factor contestant Josh Krajcik—for 2016 album Dame Fortune's typically dizzying sonic collage. With both acts combining their estimable powers for the first time on stage, this evening's performance holds potential for just about any sort of performance—though maybe not a capella. JAY HORTON. Crystal Ballroom. 9 pm. $27.50. 21+.
Shura, Women's Beat League DJs (Thursday, April 20)
Beyoncé Connection: Shura remixed "Say You Love Me" by Jessie Ware, who contributed vocals to Nicki Minaj's "The Crying Game," which appeared on 2014 album The Prinkprint, which also featured "Feeling Myself," Minaj's collaboration with…Beyoncé.
[MORE COWBELLE] A footie prodigy who taught herself production, every inch the 21st century girl drenched in awesomely '80s synth-pop trappings, the former Aleksandra Lilah Denton had already launched herself onto every teen-tastemaker playlist through 2015's steady drip of endlessly-remixable singles. So the full flood of ubiquity on each side of the Atlantic following last year's debut LP, Nothing's Real, would've felt predestined even without the impeccably chosen tour slots opening for M83 and Tegan and Sara. Shura's hardly the first artist to divert precisely project-managed bids for stardom with a startling intimacy of reflection or daft weakness for over-the-top goofball excess, but she combines the divergent traits thrillingly. Though not quite blessed with perfect pipes, as she likely knows all too well, each warm, strong, undeniably personalized tone arrives steeped in richly nuanced layers far more stirring than any idealized disco diva-nation, which she surely understands. JAY HORTON. Holocene. 9 pm. $20. 21+.
Honoring Jimmy Mak (Sunday, April 23)
Beyoncé Connection: Jimmy Mak's owner Jim Makarounis once got pulled onstage by Martha Reeves while performing her Motown classic "Jimmy Mack." In the '60s, Reeves was labelmates with the Supremes. In 2006, Beyoncé starred in the film adaptation of the musical Dreamgirls, playing the role of Deena Jones, which is based, in large part, on the Supremes' Diana Ross.
[JAZZ TRIBUTE] When Jim Makarounis succumbed to larynx cancer the day after his iconic Northwest Portland jazz club, Jimmy Mak's, closed its doors for good at the beginning of 2017, it was sad and shocking, but not surprising—he was Jimmy Mak's and Jimmy Mak's was him, and one couldn't exist without the other. Tonight, club regulars—including drummer Mel Brown, singer Andy Stokes, guitarist Dan Balmer and more— pay tribute to the man who gave them a regular stage for 20 years. Roseland Theater. 7 pm. $25 general admission, $35 balcony seating, $65 VIP. 21+.
SEE IT: See the complete Soul'd Out Music Festival schedule at souldoutfestival.com.