Collective love and passionate unity at One Love PHX

According to popular artistry, love is a religion and a battle. Love is a drug, but love is endless. “Fear is the heart of love,” but “love is all you need.” People wait for love, strive for love and sacrifice for love … but what is love? 

Humanity’s perception of love is dynamic, diverse and malleable. The question of love’s essence may not have a definite answer, but Sunday’s One Love PHX embraced and celebrated the question itself. 

“We live in a time where love is very complex, very hard to understand and hard to grasp,” said ASU senior and One Love host Malcolm Brinkley. “One Love is the idea of self and the relationship you have with the most high; with the universe, with God, with Buddha, with Allah, with whatever you believe in. It’s finding the love in yourself before you can love the rest of the world.”

Brinkley said the idea for One Love came to him through an assessment of the spiritual needs of the community as well as a bout of personal insecurities and observation of the state of the world as a whole. 

“It tears my heart when I see discrimination and unrest and when I see children having to fight, children having to die,” Brinkley added. “It seems very dramatic ... it seems cliché, and it seems so simple, but it’s not: The world needs love.”

A positive energy and an affectionate atmosphere radiated unceasingly throughout the Icehouse, where the festival was hosted. The presence of authentic community in such a rugged, industrial space created an interesting juxtaposition that seemed to magnify the rawness of love. 

Brinkley (under the stage name PshLove) was one of many diverse local DJs that performed, including DJ Sol and Shindgz. 

"Each DJ spins with soul and every artist performs with soul," Brinkley said. "When you see them, you're gonna feel them in your soul, and that's what One Love is: it's soul food."

The DJs brought fresh, eccentric energy between main acts, the first of which was Bad Cactus Brass Band, a funky jazz sextet that draws its roots from a New Orleans tradition. 

Brinkley praised the way the band remains conscious of the cultural and traditional background of the music they pay homage to, a quality that was very apparent in the group's crisp sound and collective harmony. 

Later in the evening, Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra blessed the festival with a stellar vibe, showcasing its ability to use a large number of people to create a balanced, positive energy. 

"We are one family, one conglomerate, one collective," said vocalist Camille Sledge to an audience mesmerized by her and the other fifteen band members. "That's what PAO embodies."

Brinkley expressed admiration at the way PAO "preaches a world without discrimination, without hate and without war." PAO's music truly does embody a universal cry for peace and acceptance that leaves an impact on people of all backgrounds, and its use of myriad instruments and sounds reflects this diversity in a way more people should become familiar with.

The audible artistry in the courtyard echoed throughout the neighborhood, but the visual art inside the Icehouse was no less powerful. An exhibition of paintings from several unique artists reflected various cultural and personal perceptions that added an introspective new angle to the search for love as experienced in the festival as a whole. 

Closing out the night was iAm Jones, a man who embodied the boldness of love with boundless passion and an eclectic style that reflected several musical elements, from hip hop to spoken word.

"He has always stood strongly on his word to foster and spread love and change in the world as a poet and singer first," Brinkley said of Jones.

Jones confirmed Brinkley's opinion through not only his invigorating live performance and strong vocals, but through the way he brought his signature energy to the entire event with his joyful, spontaneous dancing and interactions with his loved ones. 

Brinkley's belief that "love shouldn't hit anyone the same way" was apparent at One Love PHX, and the people at this festival were clearly affected by their experience. Even when they weren't dancing, singing along or mingling, everybody was chill. They all seemed peaceful and content — content to listen and observe other interactions; content to absorb the energy of others; content to simply be and feel. 

No one appeared bored in a place where a melting pot of individuals came together to collectively rejuvenate their spirits and celebrate a feeling so divine and beautiful. It was a gentle awareness that felt like love. 

Prior to the event, Brinkley said that he feels "love has myriad meanings and manifestations beyond the heart." Each individual, each sound and each sight at One Love was a spirited manifestation, proving that an undefinable love transcends all human boundaries to create a collective oneness.

Tell the reporter what love means to you at or on Twitter @lina_lauren.

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Correction: Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that DJ Fresh 85 performed at this event. It has since been updated.

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