Over the years, this blog has provided coverage of Sunfest, the five-day music and arts festival held on the waterfront of downtown West Palm Beach. Typically, the Type has done so unofficially, but in 2012 a very cool thing happened: Empress K of the Boston-based website Reggae Reflection was able to secure press passes for herself and me, giving us access to the photo pit in front of all three main stages of the festival. Needless to say, we had the opportunity to shoot some great photos during the 3 days for which we had passes, and this year promises even more of the same, when we have passes for four of the five days.
Of course, the strength of a festival lineup is heavily dependent on which groups happen to be touring at the time, but apparently 2015 is a banner year for concerts, as the 33rd edition of Sunset offers something for just about everyone. The festival opens Wednesday, April 29th, with overlapping headliners Lenny Kravitz and Wilco, then the Red Rocker Sammy Hager and alt-pop sensation Paramore top the following night’s lineup. On Friday, May 1st, Tampa-based reggae/world-music band Hip Abduction, fresh from its recent local performance at Midtown PGA’s Peace, Love and Wellness Festival, will be opening for veteran reggae-rock group 311, who played Sunfest previously in 2009.
On Saturday, May 2nd, get to the festival early to catch the School-of-Rock group Jumbo Shrimp; this teenage rock sensation takes the FPL stage at 1:00 p.m. Also featured that day are a number of repeat festival performers: reggae artistes SOJA and Damian Marley, and alt-pop hit group Edwin Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Other highlights of that day include classic rocker Eddie Money, John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, ’90s alt-rock group Stone Temple Pilots (fronted by Chester Bennington) and chart-topping artist Hozier.
Sunfest’s final installment on Sunday, May 3rd, features an mid-afternoon gig for the legendary alt-rock group The Pixies, as well as the festival return for Jewish reggae artist Matisyahu. For the closing performances, classic rock is pitted against alternative rock, as AOR favourite Boston’s gig overlaps with that of pop-punkers Fall Out Boy. Immediately after the final music shows, the festival puts on its usual million-dollar fireworks display over the water.
So join Empress K and me at West Palm’s music/art extravaganza, and feel free to say hi to us as we run from one main stage to the other to bring you as much coverage as we can. Stay tuned for concert reviews and lots of photos…
I first met Belle Forino, Midtown PGA event organizer, when she originated the Norton Museum’s Art After Dark after-hours event in its monthly incarnation. (Well, technically, I first met Belle on a very chatty flight from West Palm to New York, but that’s a story for another time.) Belle has had a long and impressive career booking various music acts at all levels, so she essentially established a high standard for the kind of music acts that would appear at the Norton event. Some of those impressive acts will once again be showcased by Belle during Midtown PGA’s 2015 season of Music On The Plaza.
The Thursday-night concert series kicked off in January with a rare local appearance by the Jacob Jeffries Band, a piano-driven rock outfit that started in Miami but now tours all over the country. Since Music on the Plaza is an outdoor event, sometimes weather gets in the way, as it did for popular local reggae band The People Upstairs on Feb. 5th (conditions were too wet), and for tonight’s act, the popular violin-based Blue Fire Band (too cold) . But the weather gods were kinder to Beatle tribute band Across The Universe on the 12th, and hopefully the same wil be true on the 26th, when J.P. Soars, the bluesman from Boca Raton (let that notion sink in for a moment), takes a break from his nationwide touring to play a show at home for a change.
All MOTP concerts take place on Thursday evenings from 6:00-9:00 p.m. at the Midtown PGA Plaza. Admission to this outdoor bring-your-own-chair event is free, the nicest price of all. For more information, consult the Midtown PGA events calendar. See you on the plaza…
Acoustic guitarist Sean Hanley has been playing around Palm Beach County since 2005, mostly in Lake Worth and his current hometown of Boynton Beach. Until recently, his repertoire had been heavy on covers from groups such as The Beatles. But since the release in late 2013 of his first CD, “Fall of this Town”, Sean has managed to slip in more than a few of its superb original tracks into his set-lists.
The debt Sean’s music owes to the Fab Four is probably easiest to hear on the track “Shine”, which seems to marry the backing tracks of Revolver to the shimmering harmonies of Abbey Road. But the more obvious influence on this album is that of another Beatlesque artist: Crowded House. The Finn brothers’ stamp is apparent on the very first song, the standout track “Don’t Blame Me”. The New Zealand group’s influence can also be heard on tracks such as “Lost In A Moment” , but none more so than “Promise You Nothing”, with its jangly acoustic guitars and chiming harmonies.
Sean’s recording efforts were aided by a stellar cast of local musicians. Mike Vullo of the Funkabilly Playboys plays guitar and drums on the track “One More Hour of Daylight”, a rockabilly track reminiscent of the “Midnight Special” tv theme. Former Dillingers’ frontman Rick Rossano not only adds guitar arpeggios to the title track but also does bass, drums and harmonies for the track. The standout guitarist is also listed as co-producer for this album. And contributing to the outstanding vocals are some standout singer/songwriters in their own right: Shauna Sweeney and Summer Blanket frontman Keith Michaud. Marc Ward, owner of Elegbaland Studio where this album was recorded, works both sides of the console here. In addition to recording, mixing, mastering and producing, Marc also plays a number of instruments for the album, particularly keyboards such as the mellotron that lend such a Beatlesque feel to so many of the tracks.
In addition to his Beatle and Crowded House homages, Sean dabbles in some interesting genre combinations. “Long Lonesome Life” is essentially a folk ballad with a considerable amount of country overtones. “Asleep at the Wheel” is also a folk ballad, but it cleverly switches from a Dylanesque waltz to an introspective rock ballad feel for its bridge.
Sean’s songwriting holds up throughout the album and all of its genres. “Lying Little Man” is a nice moderately-uptempo country groove, whereas “When My Bottle Runs Dry” sounds like an early rock’n’roll waltz. The acoustic-guitar ballad “To Be You” features vocal interplay between Sean and singer-songwriter Catlin Reed reminiscent of that between John Mayer and Taylor Swift in “Half of My Heart”. And though the hidden-track idea has probably been done to death, the uncredited ukelele ditty that follows “From Yesterday” is a better emulation of “Her Majesty” than most artists pull off.
Any quibbles with this album fall on the recording side. The overall EQ could have used more tweaking during the mastering process, and the drums sound a bit muddy throughout. But this does not detract from the strength of the songwriting or the adept instrumental performances. And the sheer amount of vocal work done for this album makes it a standout amongst local recordings. Sean Hanley has a lot to be proud of in his debut effort.
How about a little wellness with your music? On Saturday March 22nd, Palm Beach Garden’s Mainstreet at Midtown plays host to the 2nd annual Peace Love & Wellness Festival, an outdoor combination of healthy-lifestyle offerings and music. This free block party features yoga classes, food trucks and the music of multicultural outfit Xperimento, and the Sacramento-based reggae-fusion band Arden Park Roots.
As befitting their Miami roots, Xperimento’s music has a heavy Latin influence, including bilingual lyrics and styles such as cumbia, salsa and merengue, all powered by the happiest horn section this side of Havana. But the melange also includes healthy doses of reggae, rock and ska, justifying the band’s description of its sound as “Latin Reggae Urban Soul”, or “Tremendo Party!” for short.
Arden Park Roots, on the other hand, is very heavy on a reggae/rock sound reminiscent of 311 or SOJA. In true reggae spirit, the band’s output includes some interesting covers of diverse material, such as Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” and a very rockish version of The Police’s “Walking On The Moon”.
So take advantage of our mild spring weather to practise your downward-dog pose all while taking in cool bands and eating nutritious food. The Peace Love & Wellness Festival promises to be a healthy experience with a beat you can dance to.
The Peace Love & Wellness Festival takes place Sat. March 22nd, 2014, 1-5 p.m. at Mainstreet at Midtown, 4801 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418. Phone: (561) 832-1986.
Where does the time go? The Lake Worth ReggaeFest, Bryant Park’s Little Reggae Festival That Could, is now in its fifteenth year. And in a move fitting for its longevity, the festival has now added an extra day. That’s right; if you’ve attended previous year’s editions and are accustomed to the Saturday afternoon kickoff, this year you could be attending the ReggaeFest right now instead of just reading about it. But since you’re here anyway, here are some of the highlights:
An Earlier Start: As mentioned above, this year’s festival has already begun, with a DJ (probably not the “toasting” type) at 5:00 p.m, followed by local band Ras Kokay & Rythmadix, who should be onstage now if the schedule holds. Later this evening (at 8:30), Miami artist Bradley Brown, who has opened for such acts as Dennis Brown, Culture and Gregory Isaacs, will take the stage.
California Fusion: SoCal reggae/rock outfit Dirty Heads is the headliner for Saturday night (at 8:30). The Orange County band has toured with artists such as 311 and Matisyahu; their 2008 independent debut, Any Port In A Storm, spawned a single “Lay Me Down” which spent eleven weeks at No. 1 in Billboard’s Alternative Chart, garnering them a shout-out from Rolling Stone as one of the best new bands of that year.
Ernie Smith’s Offspring: The Marley family isn’t the only reggae clan with multiple generations. Self-described “Big Band Reggae” outfit The Resolvers is fronted by Ojay and Sahara Smith, whose songwriting father Ernie Smith was a reggae pioneer. The band also features a horn section, and has toured with other 2nd-generation reggae artists such as Stephen and Julian Marley.
Third World: From a musicianship point-of-view, it doesn’t get better than this in reggae music. Right from their start in the mid-70s, this legendary band was considered to have some of the best musicians in reggae, as evidenced by their selection to back Bob Marley on the recording of “Keep On Moving”. Hits such as “Now That We’ve Found Love” (later covered by rapper Heavy D) and “Try Jah Love” have endeared them to music fans in Jamaica and around the world, so don’t miss a golden opportunity to see one of the greatest bands that reggae has ever produced.
… and don’t forget the after-parties: Even after the festival is over, some of Palm Beach’s best reggae band can be heard at the after-parties being held at Lake-Worth hipster venue Propaganda . Check out Spred The Dub this evening and the horn-driven ska of The Hard Richards Saturday night.
For more information on ReggaeFest, go to the festival’s website
Longtime readers of this blog will have read a previous post on Art After Dark in West Palm Beach. At the time, the after-hours event at the Norton Museum of Art was only held once a month; now AAD occurs every Thursday at 5:00 p.m., which is normally the museum’s closing hour. This weekly incarnation has been going on for well over a year now, but its profile was recently raised by an extended version of the event staged to mark the summer solstice. The regular AAD session ends at 9:00 p.m., but the Summer Soulstice edition ran until midnight, with live music in four different areas throughout the museum.
And that was just the beginning of a long hot summer for AAD. The following week’s event featured a performance by award-winning blues guitarist Albert Castiglia, fresh off the release of his latest CD. For Fourth of July week, AAD focused on music films such as Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical movie Almost Famous, and The Last Waltz, Martin Scorsese’s documentary of The Band’s final concert. The July 12th event honoured Bastille Day with a French-themed evening, headlined by French cabaret singer Annie Royer.
For the July 19th event, the wheel has come full circle as far as this blog’s coverage of AAD is concerned. Once again reggae/rock band B-Liminal will be featured, in a performance from 7-9. But the moment will be somewhat bittersweet, since it will be one of the band’s final shows. Also performing is indie-rock band Franscene.
This blog will continue to publicize the highlights of upcoming sessions, but for a full listing of the AAD summer schedule, please visit the event’s page on the Norton’s website
The final day of Sunfest was hot both onstage and off, as a massive crowd sweated through a sweltering afternoon while Miami’s hottest rapper Pitbull rocked it out onstage. Later that day, a touring lineup of classic-rock outfit Foreigner put on a high-energy show on the Tire Kingdom stage, whilst Hebrew-reggae artist Matisyahu brought a peaceful vibe to the FPL Stage at the southernmost end of the festival. Read the full report of these sets at the Reggae Reflection website.