Fallen for Greenville (South Carolina) and Kelly Jo Connect

With beef brisket and basil lemonade in hand, I stood in a small crowd at one of five stages at Fall For Greenville waiting for the next act. Every October, Greenville, SC shuts down its streets, rolls out food stands, and gives musicians, mostly local, one hour performance slots. I’d missed the festival for the past few years (okay six years), and over that time, Fall for Greenville has gone from a block party (hot dogs and sweet potato fries) to a fully fledged festival.

Pure serendipity led me to Kelly Jo Connect’s 4pm set Sunday, October 16th. In a neon t-shirt, black vest, and soft guitar-backpack, lead vocalist Kelly Jo Ramirez hopped on stage with braided pigtails and an enormous smile. I’ve heard Ramirez sing solo, but hearing her with a full band was incredible.

The Kelly Jo Connect consists of five members: Ramirez herself, Jaze Uries (drummer) and Curtis Baker (bassist), who add a fullness I hadn’t heard in previous performances, Karyn Smith (lead guitarist), and Doug Knight (saxophonist), who added polish and whimsy to Ramirez’s standard R&B-leaning guitar.

The group opened with “Nervous Kisser,” a song about one lover addressing the other’s timidness and coaxing them to “do what feels right.” These relatable songs are what makes KJC a current local success, but when I heard “For You I Will,” I wanted to pile the five of them in my car and take them back to DC. Doug Knight’s unusual voice echos Ramirez’s throughout the chorus and has a unique appeal. “For You I Will” has an uncompromisingly catchy riff. It reminded me of “So So Good,” Kelly’s first solo “hit.”

They transitioned to a few newer songs and then into a lively instrumental medley of Outkast’s “So Fresh and So Clean” and Lady Gaga’s “LoveGame.” Ramirez possesses a wide range of influences, worshipping Janis Joplin while simultaneously adoring Hector Lavoe and Erykah Badu. She gives a nod to her Colombian background singing “Tu Coma’e Para Tu Compa’e,” moving directly into a sassy cover of Cee-Lo’s “F**k You” that she edited to “Forget You,” for the kids.

I would be shocked if you did not see KJC in a town near you very soon; they’ve had success in NYC/Brooklyn and are currently working on Mid-Atlantic dates.

Above all else, the girl’s got a voice, and the band has spunk, and most of the time, that is all I need.

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  • District Derrick

    I have def heard a lot about her. It would be great to have her in DC to hear her live. Any time you do a rendition of “So fresh, So clean” you know you are going to get attention.


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