Last night the Famously Hot New Year (FHNY) event in downtown Columbia, South Carolina was perfectly organized with skillfully selected local bands and the security operation was immaculate. Collectively, the synergistic effect of the aforesaid participants amassed, entertained, and managed a crowd of at least 40,000 or more who attended the FHNY event. You could feel the lingering excitement which awaited the performance of R&B Hip Hop diva Lauryn Hill. None of the presidential candidates have come close to drawing crowds as massive as Lauryn Hill at the FHNY event. Tina and Mary, residents of Columbia, South Carolina, explained that they had come to see Lauryn Hill and were hoping for “a better year.”
In 2015, it had been quite a year in the great State of South Carolina where Governor Nikki Haley signed a bill into law which called for the removal of the Confederate Flag from the grounds of the State House. Lauryn Hill performed on a platform where that Confederate Flag had flown for quite some time until just a few months ago. According to Ms. Rackes, Lauryn Hill would not have been interested if the Confederate Flag had not been removed. Several streets in Columbia, South Carolina had been blocked off to facilitate the gathering of an amazingly large crowd. The crowd was diversified and mostly cordial. As you made your way through the crowd couples were seen dancing and feeding one another the food purchased from the local vendors.
Bill Jordan (guitar), Thom Harman (bass guitar), and David Kelly (drums) formed a local band called “The Items” and they entertained inside at the FHNY Palmetto Sponsor Lounge. As previously mentioned, the local bands were skillfully selected and there was just as much talent and fun happening inside the Capitol Center as there was happening outside the Capitol Center. People were joyfully moving about dancing, eating, and drinking with clusters of spirited conversations throughout the room.
A local group called the “Dead 27s” was onstage at 7:00 p.m. This wasn’t an event where the talent was strategically placed from the rank of less skilled to a more skilled band. In fact, every band was evenly matched in the type of music they performed. “Dead 27s” was definitely a talent that needed to be showcased to the citizens of the State of South Carolina before their rise to fame. The year the Confederate Flag was put to rest would be the year the “Dead 27s” rose!
In the media room, this contributor had the opportunity to sit-in on an interview with Project Manager Barbara Rackes of Recreational Tourism. Ms. Rackes is responsible for putting the FHNY event together. Historically, Ms. Rackes explained that Charles and Sandy went to Charleston, South Carolina to watch an event and they left with the belief that they could have done the event better. The first year of FHNY began with George Clinton of the Funkadelics who performed in Columbia, South Carolina. Unfortunately, the event lacked structural organization and lots of money had been wasted.
The second year, Mayor Stephen Benjamin asked Ms. Rackes if they could do the FHNY event again. Each year things had gotten progressively better with the FHNY event. In her fourth year now, Ms. Rackes said the planning for the next event will begin on February 1, 2016. She’s learned that on occasion drifting bands are in the area of Columbia, South Carolina during the scheduled date of the FHNY event and it’s not unusual for them to participate in the event. According to Ms. Rackes, over period of time you actually learn what makes them (entertainers) tick. Looking in retrospect to the many contractual issues she’s found herself confronted with, Ms. Rackes said she normally receives contracts from entertainers that are thirty (30) pages long which sometimes ask for the moon. When confronted with these issues, she uses AEG Live to resolve the contractual issues. Quite frequently the contracts are reduced from thirty (30) pages to a bearable eighteen (18) pages. When it comes to decision making, Ms. Rackes makes clear, that “The buck stops here!” A famous phrase used by former President Harry Truman. When Mayor Benjamin asked Ms. Rackes if it would rain, she said Jim Gandy, Chief Meteorologist of WLTX, had given her a commitment that it would not rain. Ms. Rackes is a pleasant person to speak with who understands all phases of putting together an event to entertain massive crowds of people.
Columbia Police Department, State House Police, Private Security, and the City Center Partnership are engaged in a form of politeness policing. Last year, there were two (2) arrests for drinking which is statistically insignificant considering the large field of individuals attending the FHNY events each year. Ms. Rackes said the FHNY has applied for 501(c)(3) status which would formally identify the FHNY event as a not-for-profit organization. The budget for the FHNY event is $500,000 dollars annually.
A local group called “ColorBlind” was onstage at 8:00 p.m. They performed an amazing song that was perceived to be a hybrid of rap and rock which told a story of feeling helpless in stopping a friend’s suicide. The lyrics were artistically put together and it made you empathize with the helpless persons who were actually the storytellers behind the microphone. This is a group that has shared a lot of cultural experiences and it can be heard in their lyrics as they perform.
A local group called “SUSTO” was onstage at 9:00 p.m. Their music had a contemporary country rock sound where the guitar player and singer command the full attention of the listener. As the story is being told the guitar provides a seemingly emotional strum with the drummer keeping the beat. Posted below are three videos of the music “SUSTO” played at the FHNY event on December 31, 2015. At the end of their sets, “SUSTO,” “ColorBlind,” “Dead 27s,” and “The Items,” will surely find a spike in new fans on their Twitter, Facebook, and CD sales after an absolutely amazing performance yesterday.
Lauryn Hill’s D.J. was on stage at 10:30 p.m. However, he entertained the crowd by himself until approximately 11:05 p.m. He engaged the crowd by turning down the volume at certain segments of a song and let the crowd fill-in by shouting the lyrics to the song. This kept the crowd entertained until Lauryn Hill arrived.
When Lauryn Hill walked onto the stage there were loud cheers coming from the crowd. Lauryn Hill takes her seat and says, “Bless your heart! Bless your heart! Bless your heart! God bless you South Carolina. How are you doing?” Lauryn Hill looked absolutely beautiful in her outfit and accessories. Her eyes panned the massive crowd and she seemingly took a minute to sense the enormity of love for her out there in the crowd. She’s a professional and wasted no time initiating her songs! It’s been quite some time since America has heard the complex poetry that smoothly flows from the lips of Lauryn Hill. The listener can readily absorb the intelligence and inherent artistic prowess that is required to transform mere words into conceptual ideas that make sense and rhyme. But that’s what you get from a Lauryn Hill song and she didn’t hesitate to bring it to South Carolina yesterday. Rumors are swirling about a Miseducation of Lauryn Hill Part 2 CD. Lauryn Hill is one of the most influential African-American performers in the United States and her fans feel as though there’s more they’d like to hear from her. Just to reiterate, Lauryn Hill attracts bigger crowds than presidential candidates. The crowd in South Carolina was proof that no love had been lost for the iconic R&B Hip Hop legend, Lauryn Hill. Everything was everything on New Year’s Eve!
Columbia, South Carolina has established that the annual FHNY event is a destination for tourists and residents to be at for fun and entertainment on New Year’s Eve. Thanks to Mayor Stephen Benjamin of Columbia for holding the event, Project Manager Barbara Rackes for initiating the event, and Chloe Rodgers for inviting the press to cover the event. Happy New Year! To view the video recordings of the FHNY event, click on the links below.
Lauryn Hill: video 1, video 2, video 3, video 4. SUSTO: video 1, video 2, video 3. ColorBlind: video 1. The Items: video 1, video 2. Panning the crowd at the FHNY event: video 1.