Gonna Rock at the Bonnarock

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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…

Sunfest 2016: Watch The Duck, Bastille

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With a duck that large, it’s hard not to watch

[Typist’s Notes: While the Type Writer was taking advantage of the easygoing photo policy for the Joy Formidable show, his press partner Empress K of Reggae Reflection was busy taking pictures of dance group Watch The Duck. Later, while the Type Writer was watching Death Cab for Cutie, Empress K was shooting pictures of the indie-pop band Bastille. So all of the pictures in this post and most of the words are hers, along with a paragraph on Bastille by Yours Truly.]

 

 

Watch The Duck

As the band name suggests, there is indeed a duck figure in the band and on guitar at that.  Based in Atlanta, GA, Watch the Duck (WTD) features lead vocalist Jesse Rankins, Dj Eddie Smith III, and guitarist Oscar White aka The Duck.

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Guitarist Oscar White (The Duck) with lead vocalist Jesse Rankins

While the WTD trio has only been around since 2012, they have already made a big impact in the EDM / Trapstep world with powerful collaborations featuring the likes of  TI, Dj E Feezy, Pharrell and Steve Aoki.

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DJ Eddie Smith III

WTD brought a party like atmosphere to Sunfest and had the EDM crowd groovin to their Soul / Funk meets Dubstep unique style of sound.

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  Jesse Rankins and The Duck took full advantage of the main stage catwalk or should I say duckwalk to keep the party vibes ‘Poppin Off’ as they performed numerous selections from their two EP releases:  2012 debut  “Anatiadaephobia“ (the title referring to a fictional phobia made up by Gary Larson of Farside fame that describes the irrational yet humorous  fear that somehow, somewhere you are being watched by a duck), and 2015 “Trojan Horse” ( Epic  & Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak Records Release.)

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There’s much more to come from WTD including their recent song “Stretch 2-3-4” in a current Propel Electrolyte drink commercial, as they gear up to release their first full length album.  There’s no word on the name yet, however I am sure it will be another fun and clever title.

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“Everyone sees the Duck traveling smoothly on top of the water, but no one sees how hard he’s kicking under it to stay afloat.” — Watch the Duck,  describing how the band was named.

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Bastille

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Bastille front-man Dan Smith in mid-jump

This British band was playing at the same time as alt-rock group Death Cab For Cutie, in what seems like a classic Sunfest “split the vote” move, since there was surely an overlap of fans between the two acts. The quartet, best known for the hit single “Pompeii” from its 2013 album Bad Blood, played tracks from its upcoming release Wild World, due in September.

 

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Dan Smith doing double-duty on vocals and percussion
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T-Shirt commemorating the group’s “Hangin'” single

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Sunfest 2016: Death Cab for Cutie

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Guitarist-frontman Ben Gibbard

Ben Gibbard, guitarist-vocalist for this veteran alt-rock band, felt compelled to identify his group at both the beginning and the end of Death Cab’s Sunfest set, a good strategy for bar bands starting out but not one usually employed by festival headliners. Perhaps Gibbard had his own transformation in mind, though. Music fans familiar with the early years of the group’s existence might wonder what happened to its slightly pudgy, bespectacled frontman. But thanks to taking up running and losing the glasses, Gibbard now looks more like a matinee idol than the introspective songwriter that he still is.

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Ben’s makeover might be for the best, though, given how energetic the band’s stage show is.

When not singing, Gibbard would run around the stage playing guitar with his band-mates. Death Cab Guitar Trio

Songs like “Crooked Teeth” and “The New Year” are filled with guitars, so both touring members Dave Depper and Zac Rae play guitar in addition to keyboards.

The set featured several tracks from the group’s latest album, 2015’s Kintsugi:  the low-key “Black Sun”, the energetic “Ghosts of Beverly Drive”, and “Little Wanderer”, an introspective ballad with atmospheric guitar arpeggios. Older material performed included “No Sunlight” and “I Will Possess You” (from 2008’s Narrow Stairs ),  and “President of What? ” (from the group’s  1997 debut You Can Play These Songs With Chords ). The band closed the regular set with one of its best-known songs, the breezy acoustic-guitar rocker “Soul Meets Body”, but thankfully omitted its biggest hit, the hopelessly morbid “I Will Follow You Into The Dark.”

The two-song encore consisted of  “Marching Band from Manhattan” from its popular 2005 release Plans, and “Transatlanticism” ,  the title track of the group’s 2003 release. This was played solo by Gibbard, who abandoned his guitars to sit behind the piano to perform this ballad.

Gibbard on Piano

Death Cab Stage Shot

Drummer Jason McGerr

Ben Gibbard III

Sunfest 2016: LunchMoney Lewis, Jason Derulo

[Typist’s Notes: While the Type Writer was off selling an extra ticket, Empress K was taking in LunchMoney Lewis. Later that same evening, when Jason Derulo was slow to take the stage, Empress K stuck around for his set while TW went off to shoot photos of Train. So all of the text below and most of the photos were done by her.]

On Thursday night, the Tire Kingdom Stage belonged to South Florida Natives Lunch Money Lewis and Jason Derulo.   While their styles are quite different, their backgrounds are similar in that both started out their careers writing hit songs for other top artists before embarking on their own successful solo careers.  And they have one more thing in common: both have a Caribbean family connection.   LunchMoney Lewis is the son of Ian Lewis and nephew of Roger Lewis, founding members of the popular Jamaican reggae band Inner Circle,  and Jason’s family is of Haitian descent.

LunchMoney Lewis

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While LunchMoney Lewis is not yet a household name in the US, he has quickly made his mark on the hip-hop scene writing songs for Nicki Minaj and Fifth Harmony before topping the charts in the UK with his own number one hit “Bills.” Lewis has also had chart success in several other countries including New Zealand, UK, and Austria.

There was no mistaking LunchMoney Lewis as he confidently walked on stage sporting  a comfy robe in a humorous reference to what he wears in his video “Bills.”

Accompanied by a two-piece band of drums and keys, he thoroughly entertained the all-ages audience with catchy sing-along songs including  “Mama”, “Love You Back”, “Real Thing” and his Australian mega hit “Bills” from his 2015 Debut EP of the same name.

LunchMoney also had the crowd dancing along to “Whip It” which samples the popular song “Let it Whip” by the Dazz Band, all the while proving to the  audience  that he “Ain’t To Cool To Dance” –  not that anyone could look very cool wearing a large Hawaiian style floral print shirt paired with long shorts, Birkenstock style sandals and white tube socks.  But if  anyone can pull off this unique style, LunchMoney can.

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Gimmicks aside, LunchMoney Lewis is a talented artist to look out for and last year earned a top spot on the Rolling Stones Artists You Need To Know list.

You can also hear LunchMoney Lewis on the recent self-empowering collaboration “ I Love Me” with Meghan Trainor on her just released album Thank You.  Unfortunately for us,  Meghan Trainor’s Sunfest performance was on the previous night, so we did not get to witness an on-stage collaboration.

Jason Derulo

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By nightfall, a large crowd packed the Tire Kingdom Stage in anticipation of Pop / R&B sensation Jason Derulo’s explosive set.  Derulo’s DJ Jae Murphy warmed up the young audience that waited very patiently for Derulo to take the stage.

Then in  dramatic fashion, Derulo appeared on stage at the top of a staircase under a center spotlight to open the set with his world-wide hit “Trumpets” from his 2013 album Tattoos.

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Derulo showing absolutely no sign that he fractured his vertebrae only a few years ago while touring in support of his  fourth studio album, Everything is 4 released in 2015.  Backed by his full band, Derulo accompanied by four talented dancers executed non-stop high energy dance moves throughout his tightly choreographed  and entertaining production.

Derulo performed numerous radio hits from his four studio albums including “Wiggle”,  “Get Ugly”, “Whatcha Say”, “Ridin Solo”, “Marry Me”, “It Girl,” “Go Home”,  “If It Ain’t Love”, “Other Side”, “Cheyenne” and “Talk Dirty to Me” before closing out his powerful Sunfest performance with fan-favorite song, “Want to Want Me”, the lead single from Everything is 4.

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Sunfest 2016: The Joy Formidable

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Guitarist/vocalist Rhiannon “Ritzy” Bryan

This alt-rock power trio kicked off its set with the “The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade” from the band’s debut album, 2011’s “The Big Roar.”  This upbeat catchy rocker seemed like the perfect soundtrack for what guitarist/vocalist Rhiannon “Ritzy” Bryan described as a lovely evening, one she admitted was not a common occurrence in the band’s birthplace of Northern Wales.

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For that matter, the petite blonde’s accent is so lilting, just her talking could have been musical enough. But the other songs Ritzy sang into her microphone adorned with a mass of light-bulb strings were just as appealing.

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Standouts include the percussive rocker “The Last Thing on My Mind” and the introspective ballad “Liana”, both from the group’s latest release, the 2016 album “Hitch.”  The short set also featured material from older albums, such as “Little Blimp” from 2013’s “Wolf’s Law.”

Drummer Matt Thomas was set up in an unusual position: on the right side of stage, so that he faced his band-mates instead of the audience while he bashed away at a drum kit that included a very large gong.

Also going against the norm was bassist Rhydian Dafydd, who seemed considerably more animated than the typical player of that instrument, occasionally running over to one or the other of his band-mates during the show.

Despite getting noisier as it went along, this power trio’s set was surprisingly melodic overall, and definitely worth seeing.

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Matt In Action

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Sunfest 2016: Train

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Train Frontman Pat Monahan

This San Francisco band’s headlining gig was a week after the passing of funk/rock/pop/r&b superstar Prince, so it wasn’t surprising to hear “Let’s Go Crazy” being played as the group took to the stage. But what was surprising was that as the bandmembers picked up their instruments, they started singing and playing along with the recording, somehow managing to make that sound good instead of chaotic.

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Bassist Hector Maldonado with Prince-Logoed Instrument

After the Prince opening, Train moved into its own material, kicking things off with a pair of its bigger radio hits: the mariachi-powered “50 Ways To Say Goodbye” and “If It’s Love” with its mid-tempo groove and stream-of consciousness lyrics.

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Monahan & lead guitarist Jimmy Stafford

The band followed those up with a pair of older hits: the easygoing “Get To Me” and the song that first put the group on the map, the 1999 single “Meet Virginia.” Lead singer Pat Monahan then announced that the group was in the studio recording songs for their upcoming album, after which the band played a new song called “The News” for the first time in public.

Monahan also remarked on how nice it was to have good weather for the show, and for good reason. For Train’s previous Sunfest appearance in 2013, the band had to deal with a soggy evening, complete with muddy grounds and a steady drizzle. But the group held the crowd’s attention then with a lot of audience participation, something which was repeated for this performance. As was the case in 2013, the song “Mermaid” was an invitation for the “little mermaids” to go onstage, and as he sang the songs “Marry Me” and “Bruises”, Monahan walked through crowd, shaking hands with the fans.

The band continued its set with more of its monster radio hits: “Calling All Angels”, “Save Me, San Francisco”, “Hey Soul Sister”  and “Drive By.” The encore consisted of the piano ballad “Drops of Jupiter” and a faithful rendition of Prince’s signature anthem “Purple Rain.”

 

Guitarist Jimmy Stafford
Lead Guitarist Jimmy Stafford

Pat Monahan

Sunfest 2016, Day 1: Duran Duran

 

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Duran Duran front-man Simon Le Bon exhorting the crowd

If fellow Sunfest headliner Meghan Trainor could be considered the typical pop phenomenon, this ‘80s New Wave band from Birmingham, England is the rare case of former teen idols being able to maintain their career long after the aging of their original fans past adolescence. Few witnessing the initial chart ascent of this MTV favourite could have predicted that thirty-five years later the group would still be going strong.

But going strong it is, despite the absence of original guitarist Andy Taylor. September 2015 saw the release of the band’s fourteenth studio album, Paper Gods, the title track for which kicked off its Sunfest performance.

Clad in a white jumpsuit, front-man Simon Le Bon roamed around the stage, belting out classic Duran hits such as “Wild Boys”, “Hungry Like The Wolf” and the theme song for the 1985 James Bond film A View to A Kill. But the new album was also represented by tracks such as “Pressure Off” and “Last Night In The City.”

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Simon and keyboardist Nick Rhodes

 

Bassist (and fan favourite) John Taylor seemed to have more energy than anyone else on stage, spending his time either running around, slapping his bass, singing backup or playing alongside tour guitarist Dominic Brown.

 

 

 

But even when stationary, he still had a presence, as if he were some sort of rock-star superhero.

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As a contrast, keyboardist Nick Rhodes remained true to his introspective self, spending much of the performance in his typical pose, looking down at his synthesizers.

And drummer Roger Taylor laid down the beat whilst being hidden by his cymbals.

 

Throughout the show, the band honoured its influences, both living and dead. One of the songs performed was the title track for the 1986 album Notorious, produced by legendary funk guitarist Nile Rodgers, who was also involved in the group’s current album. Also played was the band’s version of the rap classic “White Lines (Don’t Do It)” by Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mal.

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Backing Vocalists Jessie Wagner & Anna Ross

But perhaps the cleverest tribute was to one of the group’s biggest influences, the late David Bowie. In the middle of performing one of its earliest hits “Planet Earth”, the band segued into Bowie’s first hit, the extra-terrestial rock classic “Space Oddity.”

Also, at the beginning of the encore, Simon talked about how influenced they were by the late great funk/pop/rock superstar Prince, who had just passed away the previous week. Simon then dedicated the introspective ballad “Save A Prayer” to the Minnesota music legend, exhorting the crowd to hold up their cellphones to light up the night. The band then ended their career-spanning performance with one of their earliest smashes, the title track to 1982’s Rio. This up-tempo Duran classic featured saxophonist Andy Hamilton, who did the solo for the song’s recording.

Certainly a great ending to a great festival beginning.


Simon In Red           John In Red

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Roger Taylor & Nick Rhodes leave the stage (Photo by Erin McMahon)