After a three year absence due to COVID-19, VCU's annual Ramfest came back in full force on Thursday with Smino, Kaash Paige, and Kidz at Play taking the stage at Bon Secours Training Center in Richmond.
Since this was a college event, advertising was mostly centered on students, so I was completely unaware of the show until seeing this tweet from Smino the morning of the concert.
Luckily, tickets were still available and just a few hours after finding out about the show, I found myself in line at the gates. I was immediately curious about the venue, since I had never seen the training facility converted into a concert venue, and it worked very naturally. With a stage built on the grass, there was plenty of open space to keep the crowd from being overly packed.
First up on the stage was Kidz At Play, a local group with boundless energy and a careful eye for branding. The group made sure that everyone in the crowd left knowing their name and "Weird Kidz" mantra by throwing dozens of stickers into the crowd, stamping the hands of fans in the front few rows, leading the crowd in chants, playing a carefully made promo video on the screen behind them, and wearing custom "Weird Kidz" clothing.
While there were only 3 members singing and rapping, Kidz At Play included several other people working as hype men and photographers to make the group feel like a full-on movement.
The music was energetic throughout their set, with standout track 4 Da Kidz acting as a mission statement for the emerging group. They frequently mentioned how grateful they were to have all of these fans present for their show and after their performance they stayed around to meet with fans and sell their event-specific merchandise.
As their set wrapped up, the skies threatened to rain but the crowd barely seemed to notice. Everyone was having such a good time that the threat of a bit of rain seemed inconsequential.
Next up was rising star Kaash Paige, who you may know through her collaborations with superstars like Travis Scott, 42 Dugg, and Alicia Keys. While I came to the show already a fan of her music, I left as a fan of Kaash Paige the person.
She had a magnetic charisma that made her superstar potential immediately apparent. She was focused on connecting with everyone in the crowd, whether day one fans or skeptics, and bringing them all together through her melodic performances.
She performed maybe two songs from on stage, instead opting to spend most of her set standing on the barricade in front of the stage where she was in direct contact with fans - taking selfies, having brief conversations, and sharing her microphone for sing-alongs.
As the show progressed, she decided to take it a step further. To my surprise, she climbed on top of the barricade right in front of me, grabbed onto my arm for stability, and after a few seconds of standing above the crowd, she announced she was going to crowd surf and dove into the sea of fans. After moving around the crowd for a while, she eventually landed on the ground in the center of the crowd, performing briefly there before making her way back towards the stage.
Throughout her set the crowd hung onto her every word and she seemed to be just as enamored by the crowd, mentioning several times how special the energy was at this event. Near the end of her set, the clouds finally opened up, providing a light rain for a few minutes and heightening the shared catharsis of her set. By the time she left the stage, it was clear she was more of a co-headliner than an opener, regardless of what the flyer said. Kaash Paige is a star.
After the rain cleared, we were met with our headliner for the evening: St. Louis' own Smino. Returning to Richmond for the first time since opening for SZA in 2017, Smino seemed right at home through his entire set.
In a carefully curated set spanning recent singles, older classics, and Soundcloud deep cuts, Smino had the crowd in the palm of his hand from start to finish.
His signature blend of beautiful melodies, slurred syllables, and frenetic flows was complemented perfectly by his live background singer, drummer, and DJ.
The energy of Smino's set reached new heights for his performance of NOIR standout "Klink," to the point that he decided he wanted to go a bit over his scheduled time and perform an unreleased song for the crowd. After enlisting the help of several women in the crowd to join him on stage as dancers, he somehow found a way to turn the energy up even more and close with everyone already anticipating his next Richmond show.
He seemed to have similar love for Richmond, hanging out and meeting fans for a while after the show and tweeting afterwards that he wanted to come back to the city for all of his tours moving forward. If you're in the area for his next one, I recommend you clear your schedule and make it out.
Written by: Tyler Blankinship, @__solodolo__ on Twitter.
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Below is a gallery of a few other photos from the concert.