Sunfest 2016: The Roots

Questlove
Drummer for and Co-Founder of The Roots,  Questlove

[Typist’s Notes:

The 2017 edition of this five-day West Palm waterfront music/art festival will take place May 3rd -7th; tickets are currently for sale at discount prices through April 29th. In the meantime, this site will be posting previously unpublished stories from the previous year’s edition.

This story was written in conjunction with Gianna Mascaro of Knight News.com]

This Philadelphia hip-hop/neo soul group is probably best known for its partnership with television host Jimmy Fallon, having been the house band for his previous talk show, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, and now The Tonight Show.  But the recording career of The Roots, considered one of the most progressive acts in contemporary music, is just as notable as its late-night tenure. Not only has the group been awarded a handful of Grammys in the Rap and R&B categories, it has also amassed gold and platinum records with their studio releases, some of which have included collaboration with artists such as John Legend and Elvis Costello.

For its Sunfest performance, drummer/co-founder Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson took his place behind his kit, signature Afro pick sticking out of his hair.

Captain Kirk Douglas with Questlove
Guitarist “Captain” Kirk Douglas pictured here with Questlove

Questlove (also spelled “?estlove”)  was joined by the rest of the ten-man band in what would prove to be a high-energy performance.  The horn section in particular was showcased, with trumpet solos by David Guy of the Dap-Kings band.

Ian Hendrickson-Smith and David Guy
Saxophonist Ian Hendrickson-Smith & Trumpeter David Guy, formerly of the Dap-Kings Band

Also featured was Damon “Tuba Gooding Junior” Bryson, who wandered the stage as he played tuba and sousaphone, even venturing out on to the catwalk several times.

Tuba Gooding Jr
Tuba Gooding Jr.

All along, the proceedings were presided over by vocalist/co-founder Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, clad in all white as he rapped over the music and introduced his band-mates to the audience before solos.

Black Thought
Co-founder/vocalist Black Thought

Any late-night show band needs to have a number of covers in its arsenal, and The Roots took the opportunity to show off how much of other artists’ music they know. Sprinkled throughout the set was an eclectic set of covers that included hits by the recently-deceased Prince (“Kiss”, “Let’s Go Crazy”), George Thoroughgood (“Bad to the Bone/Who Do You Love”), Damian Marley (“Welcome To Jamrock”), even Led Zeppelin (“The Immigrant Song”). Most songs turned into extended instrumental jams that tended to flow together. The set concluded with a medley that included “The Seed (2.0)”, the band’s hit featuring fellow eclectic musician Cody Chestnutt.

Captain Kirk & Questlove

Interview: Friction Farm [Part I]

friction-farm
(l-r) Bassist Christine Stay and guitarist Aidan Quinn performing live at Echo Beach Studios in Jupiter, FL, February 18th, 2016

[Typist’s Notes: Acoustic duo Friction Farm moved away from Palm Beach a number of years ago but still manage to get back to Florida once or twice a year. Tonight, February 11, 2017 at 7:30 marks the final performance of this year’s winter tour, a bill shared with Jennings and Keller at the Labyrinth Cafe in Fort Lauderdale.

The following interview, a discussion of the group’s most recent release, “I Read Your Book”, was conducted on February 2, 2014 in Boca Raton, FL]

 

I. Album Cover

Type Writer: When I first saw this CD, the first thing I thought of was “Why are these people laughing”?

Christine Stay, Friction Farm bassist: I don’t know why we’re laughing, I don’t remember. Aidan’s brother took the picture, and we don’t have a lot of pictures of us laughing and smiling. But I think it’s who we are, so I thought we should use that.

TW: Okay.

Aidan Quinn, Friction Farm guitarist: I’m sure you said something ridiculous.

TW: [laughs]

 

i-read-your-book
I Saw Your CD

Aidan: We were out at some train yard in New York.

Christine: It was cold.

Aidan: We’d been there for an hour or so, wandering around different stuff around the train yard, we’d taken some funky shots…

TW: Yeah, you guys have used pictures from that shoot before, right?

Christine: Yes.

TW: Okay, I think I saw a picture that was a lot more formal, and not really, you know…

Christine: Exactly.

TW: [laughs]

Aidan: Yeah, there’s variety of shots that came from that session

Christine: It’s affordable that way [laughs]

[Sound of loud jet flying overhead]

Aidan: Incoming!

TW: [laughs]

II. “Normal”

TW: I was listening to the first track [of the album], “Normal”, and I had a question about the chords in the intro; I was wondering if they were almost meant to be a musical pun. The song’s called “Normal” and most of the chords in the main part of the song are major, whereas only in the beginning you have some minor chords that are almost dissonant.

Aidan: Well, that’s intentional.Christine being the main lyric-driving person, she talked to me about what the song was about, and I got this sort of dissonant, not kind of whimsical, somewhat awkward sound. And that one note, which is A-flat, I guess, that shows up a few times in the song — right at the end, right at the beginning,  and one other time — it was just enough to twist you a little sideways.

Christine [to Aidan] : I think it’s funny that when you talk about [the music], you’re performing the chord with your hands.

TW: Next time we’re gonna do a video interview. [laughs]

III. “Let It Rain”

TW: Also in terms of musical puns, in “Let It Rain”, with some lyrics about the faithful praying for rain, I noticed it had some gospel piano and some organ as well, two church instruments —

Christine: Yes, that was definitely intentional, also. One of the thoughts I had when we were writing this song, was that we had lived in Georgia during a  drought, and our Governor declared a state Day of Prayer, to pray for rain. Which is just so anti-religious for me, and ill-advised. [laughs]

IV. Books Into Songs

TW: In terms of the overall project, did you start off thinking you were gonna do an album of book-inspired songs?

Christine: Yes.

Aidan: Well, yes and no. We had talked about this as a concept, and actually we had talked to someone who had — they had done a painting, and they had an exercise where another group of people wrote poetry about it, then another group painted based on the poetry.

Christine: Then they did an exhibit.

Aidan: The translation of creativity, and imagery, and sensation and all that kind of stuff, we thought that was kind of interesting, sort of a neat thing to do. I wouldn’t say it was by accident, but it really became sort of by accident.

Christine: It was an intentional exercise. I don’t know that we thought it would turn into a CD, but we thought, we’re going to do this as a way to spark our creativity.

christine-stay
Christine Stay of Friction Farm

 

V. “Somewhere in the Nowhere”

TW: Wasn’t [this] song actually commissioned by an environmental group?

Christine: Yeah, it was.

Aidan: Go Outdoors USA.

TW: So when you wrote that song, that was before you knew you were going to do an album of book-inspired songs?

Christine: Yeah. [The head of the group] called up and told us this story and he had this whole thing that he wanted us to write. And I sat down and we wrote a couple iterations, and we just weren’t getting it. I mean, it was horrible, trite crap. [laughs] So we started actually doing research: we read “The Grizzly Maze” and “A Walk In The Woods.”  I thought “The Grizzly Maze” would be where we’d get inspiration, but we didn’t. Then we went to “A Walk In The Woods” and it was like, “There it is.” So it sparked a conversation which led to the song.

Stay tuned for Part II of this interview, with more discussion of this song and other tracks from “I Read Your Book”…

Sunfest 2016: Salt N Pepa

salt-n-pepa-dancers
Hip-Hop duo Salt N Pepa flanked by male dancers

 

This group from Queens, NY, first hit the charts a few years after the birth of hip-hop. So it was only fitting that early in their Sunfest performance, Cheryl “Salt” James and Sandra “Pepa” Denton would lead the crowd in “ol’ school” chants from rap classics such as “Rappers’ Delight.”

salt-n-pepa

Backing the two vocalists was their longtime DJ Spinderella, and contributing to the upbeat atmosphere was the presence of two muscular and energetic male dancers, doing routines by themselves and also with Salt ‘n’ Pepa. Some of these dance routines took place on the catwalk jutting out into the audience, enabling the fans to get a good look at the group’s dance moves.

spinderella

salt-n-pepa-pointing

Overall, the vibe was very fun, with all three women smiling a lot, and Salt ’n’ Pepa chatting extensively with the audience.

salt-n-pepa-ii

Overlapping sets dragged us away from this show, but those who stayed were treated to such hits as “Whatta Man”, “Shoop” and their signature tune “Push It.” Of  all the shows in what was a very good year for Sunfest, this was the performance I wish I could have watched till the end.

Shrimp Aid

haitian-relief-concert-poster

Those mighty crustaceans are at it again. The Palm Beach School of Rock and Jumbo Shrimp Inc. will be part of a twelve-hour music marathon on Sat. October 22nd at CJ’s Island Grill in downtown Lake Worth  (606 Lake Ave, Lake Worth, FL 33460). The School of Rock takes the stage at 2:00 p.m., and its offshoot band fronted by Benny Rothschild will do so immediately afterwards at 3:00. Also check out the jazzy sounds of Sunnyside Swing starting at 5:00. All proceeds from this concert will go to Direct Relief to provide relief of the Haitian victims of Hurricane Matthew. So if you’re in the area today, stop on by (the Type Writer will)…

 

Sunfest 2016: Thick Paint, Hot Fashion

vivre-model-natalie-gardner
“No Tan Lines”, huh? Natalie Gardner modelling VIVRE Couture

[Typist’s Notes: In the months since her Sunfest residency, second-generation painter Sarah LaPierre has taken her thick-paint dresses and accessories up to New York for her Fashion Week debut in September, and is putting on a hometown launch party for her hand-painted fashion line at the Wine Scene in West Palm Beach on the evening of Friday, October 21, 2016]

It wasn’t enough for Sarah LaPierre to follow in the footsteps of her well-known father, the late Joseph LaPierre, emulating his “thick paint” style and equalling his selection as the official Sunfest poster artist. Now Sarah has ventured in a new direction, creating a unique hand-painted fashion line with designer Krysten Alyce. The duo founded VIVRE Couture in April of this year, so Sarah’s Sunfest debut of her line was pretty much hot off the presses. The Type Writer was lucky enough to tag along with a photo shoot on one of the Intracoastal pier just outside of the festival and got to take a few shots of Sarah’s lovely model Natalie Gardner.

vivre-model-i

Sarah’s distinctive painting style comes to life in the form of dresses, sunglasses, even shoes.

Back in April 2015, Sarah’s mom was quoted in the Palm Beach Post as saying “Sarah will always be doing something creative. Whether that will be painting or something else, I don’t know.” Now we know that that statement should have been “painting and something else.” Vive la VIVRE Couture!

island-stage-cover-shot
This was the lead photo for the Island Stage article on Sunfest 2016

hair-down-natalie-gardner

 

Sunfest 2016: Rick Springfield

Rick Springfield I

This veteran Australian rocker prefaced his performance with a video retrospective of his acting and musical career, mostly focusing on the first half of the ‘80s when he was both starring on the hit soap opera General Hospital and hitting the top of the charts as a recording artist.

Rick then moved from the past to the present, kicking off his show with the song “Party Up” from his new album Rocket Science.

Rick Springfield II

Even though he compared playing mid-afternoon to “f _ _ king under fluorescent light”, Rick’s performance in the hot South Florida sun delivered.

Rick Springfield III

Familiar smashes like “I’ve Done Everything For You” and “Affair of the Heart” were featured on a set-list that also included a massive medley of  songs such as “Bop Till You Drop”, ”Celebrate Youth”, ”Don’t Walk Away”, ”State of the Heart”, ”What Kind of Fool Am I”, ”Love Is All Right Tonight”,  even a bit of  his signature hit “Jessie’s Girl.”

Still Jessie's Girl

 

In addition to his well-known hits, Rick also highlighted some other songs from the new album. After playing “Miss Mayhem”, a track with a swampy feel and slide guitar, he pointed out appropriately enough a sky banner being pulled over the festival advertising a blues concert featuring Buddy Guy. Other songs from the new album included the tracks “That One” and “Down.”

RS Guitar

Rick also played a couple of surprising covers. After saying he was going to play a “girl’s song” but he was going to make it more rockish, Rick launched into a cover of Katy Perry’s “Roar.” Some of the concertgoers I talked to afterwards wondered why he would cover such a song but I thought he probably did so as a way to be relevant to younger music fans. I later heard from my friend Gail, a prominent member of the local contingent of Rick’s Chicks, that he also covered Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.”

RS Guitar & Vox

Last but certainly not least, Rick’s biggest smash,  “Jessie’s Girl”,  a song that had been teased earlier in the medley he played,  was played in full as the final song of his show, as has been his tradition for thirty-five years. It’s nice to see that some things never change.

 


RS Wave

Gonna Rock at the Bonnarock

Bonnarock
Hey kids, let’s put the show on right in the streets!

Didn’t get to Bonnaroo this summer? How about Bonnarock instead? After all, if you’re a Palm Beach music fan, Downtown Abacoa is a lot closer than rural Tennessee. This weekend the Jupiter community will host a 2-day outdoor music festival put on by the Palm Beach School of Rock, the local franchise of the national after-school music program. Since its Palm Beach kick-off in 2008,  this performance-oriented school has put on shows at venues all around the county, including multiple appearances at the area’s premier music festival, West Palm Beach’s Sunfest.

Fresh from a summer tour that took School of Rock “house bands” to the Northern locales of Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Woodstock and Toronto, this weekend’s art and music festival will feature 150 performers from the school’s two Palm Beach locations in Palm Beach Gardens and Lake Worth. Included amongst this number are three musicians who qualified for the national School of Rook AllStars program: 18-year-old bassist Angel Leiser, 16-year-old guitarist J.C. Hannon, and 17-year-old guitarist/vocalist/trumpeter Ben Rothschild. Angel and Ben are also bandmates in the group Jumbo Shrimp.The three local AllStars just returned from performances at the MoPop festival in Detroit and at Chicago’s Lollapalooza.

Proceeds from the festival will benefit the Rock School Scholarship fund. Total playing time will be 16 hours over the course of two days (Saturday, August 20th from 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m., Sunday the 21st from 10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.).  So this weekend there’ll be plenty of time to rock…