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Van Hunt Rocks Out with Durham

Van Hunt Rocks Out with Durham for the Playlist Series

By Shumara Thomas

Every year summer in Durham NC means thePlaylist Series which brings a variety of artists, across multiple genres for free to the locals.  Last year, Americana artist Valerie June was the highlight of the series but this summer all I kept hearing about was Ohio-native singer Van Hunt.


First appearing on the scene during the early 2000s “neo-soul” period where artists were pushing the R&B boundaries of music. The singer was the mastermind behind Dionne Farris’ breakout track on the Love Jones movie soundtrack, “Hopeless.” He’s a Grammy-Award Winning Artist, who’s solo work is often critically- acclaimed. His most recent album, The Fun Rises, The Fun Sets, departed from the mostly R&B tones, sampling funk and rock to produce a sound uniquely Van Hunt.  


Friday night, the park was already packed mostly groups of friends it appeared, looking to hang out and vibe. 


Van Hunt gave us two acoustic guitar sets, playing the entire concert session with no opener. 

He performed some awesome covers like a funkadelic mixed version of Chuck Berry’s “Riding Along In My Automobile.” There was just the dopest mashup of the Isley Brothers and Tupac’s “How Do You Want It” hook performed by K-Ci and Jo-Jo of Jodeci. I would’ve never thought to mesh the two but it worked amazingly well together.


He eventually brought his drummer and tour mate, Ruthie to the stage and yes y’all Ruthie is not to be played with on those sticks. He performed a few tracks off his debut album like “Anything,” with its funky Prince-like vibes and lyrics that will still put you in your feelings: ” You don’t come when I call/Act as if I don’t exist at all.”  I think “Down Here In Hell” is a solo track he’s best known for. It definitely got a big reaction. It’s hard not to relate to him waxing poetic on a dysfunctional relationship where you can’t escape yet love the hell you bring upon each other.


Drummer Ruthie took over and slayed on “Hold My Hand,” like she had something to prove. By then the crowd was finally getting into it, because sometimes the crowds tend to be reserved at Durham events like this but now people were clapping and grooving.


The best thing was hearing him perform the hit song he wrote, “Hopeless.” I haven’t heard the song in forever and it immediately transports you to those days of your youth. Plus Van Hunt is just a gifted lyricist and songwriter, hands down. You can’t get super caught up in his instrumentation because you’ll miss all those gems he’s singing to you!


Durham Playlist Series got it right again with their headliner this year. They continue to provide great family events for the locals while exposing music lovers to artists they need to know.

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