Midnight Star to headline Black Heritage Festival’s Music Fest

The event, held Saturday, Jan. 19 at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, will be the band’s first concert stop of 2019.
Festival goers are seen as the sun sets during the 2014 Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival at Curtis Hixon Park. Midnight Star will headline this year’s Music Fest, on Saturday, Jan. 19   [KENT NISHIMURA   |   Times ]
Festival goers are seen as the sun sets during the 2014 Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival at Curtis Hixon Park. Midnight Star will headline this year’s Music Fest, on Saturday, Jan. 19 [KENT NISHIMURA | Times ]
Published January 9
Updated January 11

Revivals can occur outside the church.

Just ask the R&B band Midnight Star. Tampa will be the band’s first stop of 2019, when it headlines the 19th Annual Black Heritage Festival’s Music Fest Saturday, Jan. 19 at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.

The group is reaching a new audience, thanks to Lil Duval’s Smile B—-h (Living My Best Life) featuring Snoop Dogg and Miami’s Ball Greezy.

The song — which samples Curious, the band’s smooth groove from 1985 — hit No. 1 on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart last year. The funny part? The original song was never a hit for the band when it was listed on their 1985 Planetary Invasion album, said drummer and vocalist Melvin “McArthur” Gentry.

“That song was never actually a single from that album,” he said. “But people just took to it like it was a single.”

These days, when the band sings Curious, response from fans old and new has been amazing, said Gentry.

“It’s just an honor for us to have the young fellas take an interest in our music,” he said. “It certainly keeps us out.”

Not that the six-piece outfit has been hiding. Formed in 1976 at Kentucky State University, the band continuously performed until the early 90s. After a brief break, the members regrouped and have been on the road nonstop appearing at festivals, football classics, and homecoming shows.

Midnight Star joins a roster of legendary R&B acts that have performed at the festival, including Raydio, The Dazz Band, and The Ohio Players. Thanks to festival fans, the planning committee never lacks for ideas on which acts to invite, said co-organizer Williams Sanders.

“Many people, they suggest who we should have,” Sanders said.

In fact, the suggestions for acts at next year’s festival already have begun, he said.

Next Saturday, fans will be able to relive their high school or young adult years while singing along to Freak-A-Zoid, Wet My Whistle, Operator, and No Parking (On the Dance Floor).

The latter is also the title of the group’s biggest hit album, which is certified double platinum. It featured Freak-A-Zoid and Wet My Whistle penned by brothers Reggie and Vincent Calloway. They later would leave the band to score their own hit, 1990’s I Wanna Be Rich and write for other R&B acts like Levert and Natalie Cole.

McArthur said keeping egos under control has been one key to the band’s longevity.

“We’ve always had an incredible passion to do music,” he said. “Why throw all that away? If you still have your health and love, do it.”

While Smile has the band toying with the idea of returning to the studio to record new tunes, Black Heritage Festival fans can expect to hear all their favorites, said McArthur.

“It should be a fun show,” he said. “We’ll perform all the songs.”

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