As the sun went down and the lights came on, The Big Sho’ transformed a warehouse into a grand spectacle of sight and sound.
From 3 p.m. on April 15 to 2 a.m. the following morning, around 600 people gathered at the Celebrations Catering Warehouse, located at 317 NE 35 Ave., for Gainesville’s first hip-hop music festival. The lineup featured Localhotboy, Madwoman, Ladyboy, Raphdidit, Chuck Strangers, Kaelin Ellis and Zack Fox.
The event was a change from the indie music scene of Gainesville’s present and punk scene of the past, featuring musical artists that ranged from heartfelt ballads to punchy rock to bouncy techno and explosive rap.
Regardless of genre, at The Big Sho’, one thing was clear: You belong. Inclusivity was why Laila Fakhoury, Jahi Khalfani and Khary Khalfani chose a circus theme for the festival, Fakourhy said.
“It's a cool opportunity to really put people into a new world that they may have never felt like they would experience in Gainesville,” she said, “and create something new for people that they can remember forever.”
In addition to music, the Sho’ featured a fashion show, circus performances, a bounce house, food vendors, a car show and clothing shops.
Fakhoury, a co-owner of the How Bazar and Dion Dia record label, has always been inspired by the circus, she said. To her, the true meaning of the circus was that once a year, wherever you were, the circus would come to town. And if you felt alone or like you didn’t belong, you now had a group to celebrate yourself and your uniqueness.
She also wanted to tie in street culture, something the How Bazar and Dion Dia community is very familiar with.
The event was saturated with acrobatic performers donned in circus costumes of red polka dots and black and white stripes, along with colorful makeup. The performances consisted of stilts, lyra, silks, dancing, ribbon twirling and puppeteering.
When attendees got hungry, they could grab a bite from Germain’s, Eddy’s Patty, Radha’s Kitchen, Soul Spice and Magdelina’s Kouzina. Chandeliers hung from the trees above tables and chairs on the lawn where people could eat, rest and watch performances.
For Khary Khalfani, a 22-year-old Alachua county native and creative director of the How Bazar and Dion Dia, it’s important to make Gainesville feel like a place where students can come and build a life.
The How Bazar began hinting at the circus theme in their downtown Bazar A La Carte markets around 2021, where they began working with the circus performers who would be at the Sho’.
“One major aspect of making that a possibility is developing a culture here so that people can have a livelihood and be around like minded people and have fun, interesting experiences,” Khalfani said.
The event was a culmination of all of the smaller events How Bazar has done over the years, including its night markets, block parties, fashion shows and skate competitions. While it has always hosted performances by local artists, this time organizers felt it was important to bring outside artists as well.
“We were focused on bringing bigger names and acts to Gainesville,” Khalfani said. “People who, along with having extremely great musical talent, also have a background and social activism and actually have purpose behind their artwork.”
Around 10 p.m., the group hosted a fashion show, which featured designers such as Liv Vitale, Crochizzy Designs and Last Call.
Jose Ramirez, the designer of Last Call, has created unique pieces that include clothing and furniture since 2017. He’s inspired by color, texture and quality of fabrics. The models of his clothes have told him his pieces are unique enough to make them feel special, he said.
“Everybody’s special,” he said. “It's just the pieces that give it that all around vibe, and I love when people tell me that.”
He designed 27 outfits for the fashion show, and finished the last piece just the day before.
The informal fashion show consisted of the attendee’s outfits. The audience ranged from families with babies and toddlers to college students to adults. Some kept it cute and comfortable with jean shorts and T-shirts, while others layered edgy streetwear. Accessories consisted of face gems, fishnet tights, butterfly wings and bucket hats.
The Big Sho’ was one way for Gainesville residents to come together to celebrate culture in creativity.
“It’s a really well rounded representation of what we have to offer here like in Florida creatively,” Khalfani said.
Contact Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LAURENWHID.
Lauren Whiddon is a UF journalism senior and the multimedia editor. When she's not writing she is updating her Letterboxd account or reading classic literature.