• Frederick Hicks

Aaron Cole Reps VA with first headlining Tour TWO UP TWO DOWN

As we continue to go back to concerts, tours, and festivals, one of the biggest obstacles of readjusting to in person performances is the atmosphere of it all. Though some of us have been back at school, work, and other social areas, it’s something about enjoying music surrounded by other fans that brings another level of engagement out of you. I found this to be the case with myself at the shows that I went to in 2021. I was back in person and seeing some of my favorite artists do their thing on stage. Yet and still, I felt a little awkward and somewhat indifferent to the atmosphere. I figured this couldn’t be an isolated incident, so I made sure to observe the artists at Aaron Cole’s “TWO UP TWO DOWN” tour with their behavior at a show. Regardless of their circumstances, all the performing artists made sure to put their best foot forward and reintroduce the crowd to concert sphere.

By the time I walked in, the crowd was in intermission and getting ready for Not Klyde’s set. The setting was a familiar one, it was the same location that the huge Siervos fest was held in the summertime. This is the third time I’ve seen Not Klyde perform, and he made sure to keep the crowd energized and engaged. Speaking of engaged, NK performed his single ‘Ants in my Pants’ and changed the lyric “my girl really a beauty queen” to “my fiancé really a beauty queen” and let the crowd know that he had proposed to his girlfriend Ricci. NK then went on to do ‘Bible in my Hand’ a single which for sure garnered him some new fans when it released. NK then went to speak about how we are all apart of God’s flock and that he is a big God. A seamless transition into longtime favorite ‘Big God.’ After performing ‘Thot Thoughts’, Total Drama, and a seemingly unreleased song, someone in the audience wished NK a happy birthday, in which Not Klyde confirmed that it was his birthday, and that he would appreciate if we celebrated by purchasing his merch.

The next artist to take the stage was seemingly the most unknown artist on the lineup, Greg Cox. Honestly speaking, I didn’t know who this individual as did many in the audience. However, Cox made sure to the mysterious nature about to his advantage. Taking the stage with a positive rush of energy that could be felt a mile away, Cox had the crowd waving their hands and arms in no time. Using the monologues from his tracks ‘END’, ‘MIDDLE’, and ‘BEGINNING’ from his project “MILESTONE”, Greg Cox encouraged the audience to trust in God and what God has put in them to overcome any milestone in their lives.

I got the chance to ask Greg Cox about his experience so far on the tour, and he had a few words to say. When asked if this was his first tour post covid, he replied that it was. “I’ve done some spot dates, shows here and there, I did a lot of recording also. While describing what it was like being back out touring again, Cox remarked that things were different now. “It’s different, people are still learning how to engage. You can tell people are still trying to figure out oh we are supposed to be excited right now. It’s a good different though. I think we are all going to be a lot better from this and more in tune with the moment. It’s a good different.”

Grammy winning vocalist has also gone on tour with Kirk Franklin before, so knowing how different artists mesh while being on the road isn’t a strange concept to him. After I asked him what different elements the artists bring to the tour, Cox paused for a moment, and responded. “I think I am the joyful relief to the tour. I think Not Klyde brings a fun, fresh, funky vibe. I think like Parris brings an edgy, wavy vibe you know what I’m saying. Of course, Aaron brings that fresh, like current but edgy, vibey, west coast and east coast, and singing and rapping! While I bring that good joyful relief.”

This explanation defended itself throughout the course of the concert. When Parris hit the Stage, he began with the outro to his latest solo project, “2045.” When his hit single ‘Smooth Operator’ began, the crowd immediately felt the hype and got to jumping as Parris ensured the crowd that he makes plays because he is a Smooth Operator. This summer, Chariz got with collective mate Jarry Manna and released joint project, “Super Splash Bros. 2.” He took the tour as an opportunity to perform his single ‘Murci Mercy’ off the project. After inviting Not Klyde back on the stage, Chariz transitioned into ‘Cap on the Children’ in which they both appear on along with 1K Phew and Jarry Manna.

An interesting thing about Parris’ sets that I’ve seen is that he manages to incorporate the hype and chill songs within his time on stage. Parris is an artist with a diverse sound, and he make sure to make that clear in his stage presence. His song ‘lil 20 vert’ with Aha Gazelle ushered in a different mood to his set. The lyric “It’s a million of them only one of me” puts an existential feel over the listener as they realize they just need to focus on pleasing God and maintaining their mental health.

After Chariz performed his single ‘Angels’, he referenced Matthew 4:1-11 which is the temptation of Christ. After Jesus left the wilderness, the angels came upon him and gave him rest. Meaning that the hook to Angels reassures the listener that Parris isn’t going back to where he came from, because now the angles are laying upon him. After jokingly recanting his initial encounter with Lecrae, Chariz eased into their Joint Single off the Summer 19 playlist, Big Wave. Finally, Parris ended his set with a throwback Ice Water and Lately.

I got the chance to catch up with the charismatic owner of World 45 after the show. I figured that this was the first tour he also has been on post covid, to which he agreed. “Yes. It’s alright, I feel like we are fighting against it a little bit because we only had a month and a half to promote. We didn’t have the whole six-month. But for that, it’s doing really wel. Better than expected between post covid and short promo. I also had to promote my short film and this. Knowing I had an obligation to promote that, it was difficult to post sometimes. But it was good though, I am grateful.“

Aaron Cole’s set was introduced by his DJ AC who has enough notable credits to highlight his own show. Aaron came out energetically to FRONT ROW a single off his newest album 2 up 2 down. The next track was Back In My Bag released in 2019. After thanking his tour mates, he transitioned into his single Miracle which is a joyous triumphant song that can be an anthem for those who lived through 2020. Off my Back from the album, was next to be played.

Aaron Cole let us know this is his first Headlining tour and that through everything he’s faced, God was there for him. Taking advantage of the transition he provided for himself, his song was ‘There for Me’. Continuing to perform songs that he released last year, Cole kind of brought the mood down with ‘Only U’. Aaron Cole then began a worship session with Nobody Greater and had the audience in full worship mode. Cole then began to maintain the mood with his song with J Moss called ‘LEAVE ME’. “BRISTOL LIGHTS’, an ode to his hometown, was the next song in the set. After splitting the crowd and giving them ad libs to chant, then he started his joint track with Kaleb Mitchell World Series.

Next, Aaron Cole performed his song ABOVE ME featuring Parris Chariz. After asking Parris what his relationship goals were, Parris replied that he needed someone who was hood but as smart as a doctor. A perfect intro to WATER featuring Chariz and NK in which Chariz says that same lyric in his verse. After insinuating that he was going to play one of his favorite songs on his playlist,

Cole began to play Glory by WHATUPRG. Out of nowhere WHATUPRG came out of nowhere and rocked out with A Cole on stage to ‘Glory’. After that song was over, RG introduced himself to the crowd and performed his song ‘Drip Lee’ off his double single “Two Birds One Stone” with reach labelmate, 1K Phew.

Cole ended his set with a few more songs off of his album, but I was overly impressed with the engagement level he maintained with the crowd. I didn’t know this was his first headlining tour, due to the way that he handled things and carried himself. There were moments in which he stopped the music and people in the crowd finished the lyric energetically in front of Aaron. I’m appreciative to Mr. Kelly Cole and Aaron’s whole team for allowing me to come to the concert and cover the event. If you haven’t checked out “TWO UP TWO DOWN” it’s out on all streaming platforms.