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The Soul Rebels and Big Freedia kickoff the Carolina Performing Arts season

Big Freedia performing at Memorial Hall on Sept. 23, 2022.

An eight-piece brass ensemble, The Soul Rebels performed at Memorial Hall last Friday with special guest Big Freedia to open up the Fall 2022 Carolina Performing Arts season. 

Playing “Greatness” from their most recent album, "Poetry in Motion," the act captivated the audience with powerful horns and inspiring lyrics.

“We’re destined for greatness / Nobody ever thought we would make it,” The Soul Rebels sang. 

Attendees sang and danced throughout the concert as the band played their renditions of hits like Ms. Lauryn Hill's “Doo-Wop (That Thing),” Beyoncé's “Party” featuring André 3000 and Chance the Rapper's “No Problem”  featuring Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz alongside their original pieces. 

Like a jazz jam session, band members would split off and present their individual talents, then reunite with the group without missing a beat. 

Pausing their set, the band prepared the crowd before welcoming a New Orleans-born, bounce music legend to the stage.  

Big Freedia, also known as Big Freedia Queen Diva, joined The Soul Rebels to perform a selection of songs. Accompanied by two backup dancers, she strutted across the stage while delivering an energetic performance. 

“I got that gin in my system,” she sang, prompting the crowd response, “Somebody gon’ be my victim!” 

Big Freedia and her dancers twerked, a dance move synonymous with bounce music, and earned resounding applause before their departure. 

Winding down their setlist, The Soul Rebels closed out the performance with a call-and-response number. 

“Ain't no party like a Soul Rebels party,” the band shouted in unison. 

“Cause a Soul Rebels party don't stop,” responded the audience. 

Big Freedia and The Soul Rebels brought New Orleans culture and talent to UNC’s campus with their collaboration. 

“It's our season opener,” Jane O’Hara, associate director of marketing and communications at CPA, said. “What better way than a New Orleans-style party?” 

For CPA's first full performance season in two years, O’Hara said the goal was for attendees to have fun at the commencing act.

"It is all about just honestly having a really good time," she said. "So we are excited to just have students and the community join us in what will be a wild, big, fun celebration, all about happiness and acceptance and reconnecting."

Besides their energetic performance with Big Freedia, The Soul Rebels played alongside the UNC Marching Tar Heels at last weekend's halftime show during the football game against Notre Dame. 

Jacob Horner, a member of the Marching Tar Heels, was unfamiliar with The Soul Rebels’ work prior to the concert, but he looked forward to playing with the band at Kenan Stadium the next day. 

"This was the first exposure to Big Freedia and The Soul Rebels for me, and I feel like a changed man, I have to say," he said.

Other attendees echoed their appreciation for the musical performers and their appearance at the University. 

Germane James, an executive director of a nonprofit and a former DJ who attended the concert, said she was grateful for the display of bounce music. Seeing Big Freedia perform songs she once spun on her turntable was a special moment for her. 

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“She's bringing it to the campus in the way the campus needs it” she said.