This Tampa-Bay reggae/rock/Afro-pop band made its way back to Palm Beach for its third area gig in a month, but needless to say, its Sunfest performance was to a much larger crowd than the previous two. As a female announcer gave a spoken-word intro in a polished British accent, the group took the stage, kicking their set off with “Brother Charlie” and following it up with the song “Live It Right” from its 2013 self-titled CD. Other tracks from The Hip Abduction album included “Holiday” and “Children of the Sun.”
Lead vocals for the band are mostly shared between guitarist David New and multi-instrumentalist Pat Klemawesch, who plays guitar, Latin-style percussion and a home-made 21-string West African lute-bridge harp known as a kora.
The other musicians in the group are Dave Johnson, who plays both baritone and tenor sax, keyboardist Paul Chlapowski, Matt Poynter on drums, and Chris Powers on bass. For the Sunfest performance, the band’s lineup also included a conga player.
The Hip Abduction’s Sunfest set seemed more reggae-oriented than its performance at the recent Peace, Love and Wellness festival, even including a cover of Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved”. With any luck, Palm Beach County will continue to be a frequent stop on the band’s itinerary.
This four-piece outfit from Gainesville found a visual way to endear itself to a Palm Beach County crowd. When the band took to the FPL stage late Friday afternoon, most of its members were clad in t-shirts made by a South Florida start-up, Local Brand Only. The t-shirts were in different colours but all had the same design: the word “Local” emblazoned in large letters across the front, with the first ‘L’ being an upside-down silhouette of the state of Florida. For an area just finishing up its busiest snowbird season in years, this had to be subconsciously appealing to the Sunfest audience.The group can be best described as a jam band with reggae roots and a retro sound ; its Sunfest set-list used mini-jam transitions to flow from one song to the next. Most of the performance revolved around originals such as “Dreams” and “All Hail The Holy Funk”, but the few covers played were used in creative ways. Steppenwolf’s classic “Magic Carpet Ride” melted into the Allman Brother’s “Jessica” then resumed for its conclusion. The Beatles also got their due with a cover of “Hey Jude.”
Bassist and co-founder John Pop proved to be the visual focal point of the performance, with his white cowboy hat and boundless energy. All in all, a great start to a reggae/rock evening.
Overlapping with Wilco’s set was the other headliner of the evening, retro-rocker Lenny Kravitz. A large crowd came out for the singer-guitarist, clad in his typical outfit of denim jacket and aviator glasses.
Initially, it seemed that Lenny’s band would be a modest four-person affair, but each new song seemed to bring another musician or two onstage. So the trio of female vocalists who remained offstage for the stomping opener “Are You Gonna Go My Way” were soon swinging their hips to the danceable “Stop Dragging Around”.
As might be expected, Lenny performed “American Woman”, the hit version of the Guess Who classic, he recorded for the Austin Powers 2 soundtrack. But the song could easily double as the theme for his band, given its strong female component. In addition to the backing vocalists, Lenny was also accompanied by his longtime bassist Gail Ann Dorsey, and returning drummer Cindy Blackman-Santana, who first played in his band in 1993.
The band also included a horn section consisting of a trumpet and two sax players. All three got a good workout during the lengthy jam for “Always on The Run”, which also featured an electric-piano solo performed by frizzy-haired guitarist Craig Ross.
The set-list was a mix of old and new. Hits such as “It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over” and “I Belong To You” got their due. But so did the acoustic-guitar ballad “She’s a Beast” and the rocker “Dirty White Boots”, both from his latest release, 2014’s Strut. The set ended with the psychedelic ballad “Let Love Rule” that was the title track for his first album. During its instrumental, Lenny talked about how relevant the song is to what has been going on in the world lately, without mentioning any specific situation. For the encore, he performed another big hit, “Fly Away”, which ended the first day of Sunfest on a funky note.
These pioneers of alt-country have garnered a loyal following over the years thanks to the songwriting of frontman Jeff Tweedy. A sizable crowd turned out to see one of the two headliners for the festival’s opening night. The group is currently touring in support of a greatest-hits double album released in 2014 to mark the band’s twentieth anniversary.
Sporting a cowboy hat and playing acoustic guitar, Tweedy led the six-piece band through material such as “Handshake Drugs”, “Kamera”, “Walken”, “Secrets of the Sea” and “Impossible Germany”.
[Photos by Empress K of Reggae Reflection]
Melissa Jefferson, better known by her stage name Lizzo, was the opening act for one of the night’s headliners, Lenny Kravitz. The 27-year-old Minneapolis-based female hip-hop artist, accompanied by MC Sophia Eris and drummer Ryan McMahon, easily won over the early evening crowd that gathered before the main stage.
The sassy Lizzo entertained the audience with a fun style of hip-hop, including selections from her 2013 debut album, Lizzobangers. Throughout the set she mixed in some light humor, even joking early on that she was Lenny Kravitz’s niece.
But in no way did the heat and exhaustion diminish the fun of my second time covering Sunfest as a credential media person.In my twenty years of living in Palm Beach, I’ve only missed Sunfest once, when I left town to work in Orlando for a while. And I’ve done write-ups on Sunfest before, for both this blog and its parent publication, Type M For Music (remember Type M? The raison d’etre for this blog? Returning soon to a browser near you…) But it’s something special to have the access to shoot bands from the photo pit in front of the stage, though I’m sure some of the younger music fans at the front of the various audience sections were pretty relieved we were only there potentially blocking their view for the first three songs…
So this year, West Palm’s annual overdose of music, art, food, drink, sunshine, rain and yes, fun was a little more special for me thanks to the special assignment Empress K of Reggae Reflection procured for us to cover Sunfest on behalf of Island Stage, a reggae/world-beat Web magazine based in Texas. Empress K estimates we shot about 2000 photos on her cameras, and I did about 200 on mine, so we’ll have lots to show you in the next week or so, spread over all three web publications. And there’ll be lots of text accompanying those pictures, as we review the concerts at which we took pictures (and even a few where we didn’t). So keep checking this blog on a regular basis over the next few days, and stay tuned for the return of our mothership, the mythical Type M. In the meantime, here’s a quick taste of our first night, featuring a couple pictures of mine taken at the Lenny Kravitz show that Empress K was kind enough to edit (that’s photographer talk for “fix”):
I first partnered with Reggae Reflection to cover Sunfest in 2012, and one of the groups we shot photos of was reggae band SOJA. This Virginia-based band performed mid-afternoon on Saturday, Day 3 of the festival, just prior to Michael Franti and Spearhead. Fast forward three years and once again I’m covering Sunfest with Reggae Reflection (along with Island Stage web magazine), and once again SOJA is performing mid-afternoon on Saturday, this time prior to Damian Marley. The more things change…