Sunfest 2017: Rear-View

Rear-View Beads
Sunfest 2017 beads (photo by Empress K of Reggae Reflection)

When does a Fitbit give you too much information? As a longtime Sunfest attendee, I realize that a lot of walking is involved, especially on the weekend days when the third stage and the Art District is open, but I was not prepared for my step-counter to inform me that I’d covered 10 miles for each of the last two days. Then again, I was at the festival for eight hours each of those days, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that I more than doubled the 10,000 step daily target on Sunfest Saturday and Sunday. Even heeding the advice of Leslie Grey Streeter of the Palm Beach Post to wear comfortable shoes to the festival didn’t save me from aching feet Saturday night.

But was this year’s Sunfest worth the soreness? I would say, more than I initially expected. Most of the performers I’d seen before were even better the second time around, and two recommendations for groups I hadn’t seen, made by fellow music journalists Bill Meredith of the Palm Beach Arts Paper and the aforementioned Leslie Grey Streeter, were right on the money.

SIR Sunfest Crate
Spotted this equipment crate with my initials by the Tire Kingdom stage

So Empress K of Reggae Reflection and I have lots of good stuff to report on, both for our blogs and the online magazine for which we were shooting, Island Stage. (Not to mention this blog’s parent publication Type M for Music, which should be going again by month’s end.) Between the two of us, we photographed and listened to almost half of the 50 bands. So there’ll be lots of pictures and reviews on all of our sites in the coming days and weeks, but for now, here’s a summary of the highlights of this year’s edition of Sunfest:

Snoop Dogg
Snoop Dogg

Day 1: Award-winning Canadian folk-rock The Strumbellas got things off to a pleasant start, and later it was time for a pair of returning headliners, as Snoop Dogg rapped to an overflowing crowd at the Tire Kingdom stage while Weezer pleased the Ford stage patrons with its upbeat style of alt-rock.

Weezer Logo & Drummer
Weezer logo fully lit during the group’s performance

Day 2: Both of this night’s headliners were delayed by concerns of inclement weather, but after half an hour of scary skies, eclectic musician Ben Harper took to the Tire Kingdom stage with his longtime backing band The Innocent Criminals, reunited two years ago after an eight-year separation. And thirty minutes later on the Ford Stage, the weather delay was also over for rap duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, so Sunfest patrons there were graced with that group’s mix of pop, hip-hop, social consciousness and fun.

Ziggy Marley with Rhythm Section.jpg
Ziggy Marley flanked by his rhythm section

 

Day 3: Like the headliners of the first night, reggae’s crown prince Ziggy Marley was a repeat Sunfest performer.  Fresh off a win in the Reggae category of the Grammys, Ziggy performed an excellent mix of hits, new material and his legendary father’s classics, while over on the Ford stage, local rap star Flo Rida electrified his audience with a high-energy hip-hop show.

Ziggy Marley Drums & Screen
Drum kit and screen for Ziggy’s Sunfest performance

 

Day 4:  The first of the long days proved to have a diverse mix of music. The afternoon’s sets on Tire Kingdom stage were performed by a pair of ‘80s classic-rock groups: power-rocking hit-maker Night Ranger proved that “(You Can Still) Rock In America” while Canadian group Loverboy was “Working For The Weekend.”

Gail W. In The Stand
My friend Gail W. in The Stand (i.e. the reserved SRO section) for Night Ranger and Loverboy

Over on the Ford Stage, rock-reggae ruled the day, with up-tempo performances by Stick Figure and Dirty Heads. By evening, the Tire Kingdom schedule had moved on to alt-rock, with shows by Filter and the stars of this year’s Inauguration, 3 Doors Down. Meanwhile, the trek down south to the JetBlue stage yielded pleasant results, with the laid-back R & B of YouTube sensation Tori Kelly.

sheldon-torikelly-sunfest-261
Tori Kelly

 

Day 5: Another long day filled with diverse music. L.A. group Ambrosia made it big in the late ‘70s with its version of the California Sound, but actually started as a progressive-rock band years before. Similarly, Christopher Cross might have been firmly in the soft-rock genre in the early ’80s, but the jazz touches exhibited on some of his tracks recorded back then have now achieved full blossom in concert. Georgian jam-band Widespread Panic is a genre-bending mix of influences, while Alabama group St. Paul and the Broken Bones is a horn-driven homage to the soul music of the ‘60s.

Steve Winwood
Steve Winwood

Both of the final acts we saw at Sunfest 2017 were veteran performers, but the longevity of ‘90s alt-rock outfit blink-182 doesn’t even come close to the career of legendary British soul artist Steve Winwood, who debuted in the early ‘60s.

 So, as you can see, we have lots to do to justify the wear and tear on our rubber soles. Stay tuned…

Sunfest Volunteer

Sunfest 2017 Preview: Day 5

Dane Beachler of Island Noodles
Dane Beachler of Island Noodles, pictured here on Day 5 of the 2016 festival

Like Day 4, the schedule for the final day of the 2017 festival is all over the map, musically speaking. The afternoon kicks off with some big names from the soft-rock era of the late ’70s and early ’80s: L.A-based Ambrosia, popular purveyors of what became known as the California Sound, and the Oscar- and Grammy-winning singer-songwriter/guitarist Christopher Cross.

PhilFung-Day5-6941
Chinese-Jamaican artist Phil Fung, pictured here in 2016

Veteran music journalist Bill Meredith of the Palm Beach Arts Paper tells me good things about the blues-based band Widespread Panic from Athens, GA, especially about the group’s new guitarist Jimmy Herring, previously in the band Aquarium Rescue Unit. Also, Sunfest expert Leslie Grey Streeter of the Palm Beach Post did extensive write-ups on the neo-soul group St. Paul and the Broken Bones and pop sensation Rachel Platten from Newton, MA, best known for her hit single “Fight Song.” Another popular act performing today is X Ambassadors, a band from upstate New York best known for the single “Renegade”, featured prominently in a marketing campaign for Jeep.

VIVRE Couture Fashion by Sarah LaPierre
Sunfest artist Sarah LaPierre debuted her fashion line VIVRE Couture at the 2016 festival

The musical diversity of the final day continues through to the pre-fireworks headliners. Satellite-radio darlings Kaleo, the Icelandic group best known for the single “Way Down We Go” will close out the JetBlue stage, while Rock’n’Roll Hall-of-Famer Steve Winwood, the legendary English keyboardist and blue-eyed-soul singer, will do the same for the Tire Kingdom stage. Alt-rock veterans Blink-182 will be the final act of the night on the Ford Stage.

Dane Beachler II

 

 

 

 

Sunfest 2017 Preview: Days 3 and 4

Meyer Before Sunfest
The Meyer Amphitheater just prior to Sunfest, soon to be relabelled the Tire Kingdom stage for the duration of the festival

[Typist’s Notes: The 35th edition of Florida’s largest music-and-art waterfront festival has gotten off to a good start, despite the weather alert last night that delayed the start of both headlining sets, by Ben Harper, and Macklemore & Lewis. So look out for concert reviews and photographic coverage soon…]

Here are some of the likely highlights of the weekend portion of Sunfest, already in progress:

Day 3: Empress K is already at the festival, covering Yvad, former lead singer of The Wailer (post-Bob-Marley, of course). I will be heading up to take in the two headliners, Ziggy Marley, Bob’s oldest son and the winner of the 2017 Reggae Grammy, and Flo Rida, local rapper made very good indeed. But I might also try to get there in time to take in Tinashe, a young R&B singer from California with Zimbabwe roots.

Day 4: The last two days of the festival have the longest schedules, so in addition to a lot more acts, they also feature a lot more diversity in terms of genres. Eclectic Miami band Magic City Hippies is one of the earliest bands on the schedule, then in the mid-afternoon Sunfesters have their choice between classic rock (Night Ranger, Loverboy) or reggae-rock (Stick Figure, Dirty Heads). Night Ranger boasts a string of hits easily recognizable to anyone within earshot of an American radio in the ’80s, including the monster power-ballad hit “Sister Christian.” Canadian rockers Loverboy can say the same, with its big hit “Working for the Weekend” still a staple of Friday-afternoon radio. Cult figure Stick Figure will pass the baton to popular California band Dirty Heads, best known for its hit “Lay Me Down.”

The best known of Saturday’s headliners is alt-rockers 3 Doors Down, recently in the news as one of the few rock acts to play January’s inauguration.

 

Avocado Grill Sign
Datura Street restaurant Avocado Grill wanted its patrons to know it was open despite all the pre-festival construction

 

Sunfest 2017 Preview: Days 1 & 2

Welcome to Sunfest.jpg
The main Sunfest entrance at the end of Clematis Street two days prior to the start of the festival, hence the fountain still in operation

2017 is the thirty-fifth year for which a mile-long stretch of Flagler Drive in downtown West Palm has been shut down in order to host Florida’s biggest waterfront music & arts festival. This is also the third year that my press partner, Empress K of the Reggae Reflection music blog, will be covering this festival on behalf of the online magazine Island Stage. Also, while this is our fourth year covering  Sunfest in an official press capacity, this is only the second year we asked for press passes for all five days of the festival. So between our three websites, there should be lots of coverage of Sunfest 2017.

The festival will be opening its gates at 5:00 p.m. this afternoon, with two of its three main stages operational on this first night. Notable performers this evening include a newcomer to the festival, along with a couple of Sunfest veterans. Canadian folk-rock group The Strumbellas, best known for its hit single “Spirits”,  will make their Sunfest debut this evening. But tonight’s headliners are both repeat Sunfest performers: alt-rock veteran group Weezer, and the Crown Prince of West Coast rap, Snoop Dogg.

For tomorrow, Day 2 of the festival, the two headliners consist of the eclectic songwriter Ben Harper reunited with his backup band The Innocent Criminals, and the Grammy-winning rap duo Macklemore & Lewis.

Stay tuned for another preview of the weekend portion of the festival…

Sunfest 2016: Fitz and the Tantrums

Michael Fitzpatrick
Singer-songwriter Michael Fitzpatrick

[Typist’s Notes:

The 2017 edition of this five-day West Palm waterfront music/art festival will take place May 3rd -7th. The following is a previously unpublished concert review from the 2016 edition.]

About a month after this neo-soul group’s appearance at Sunfest, its third album, a epynomous release, came out. So in addition to upbeat hits such as “She’s Out Of My League” and “The Walker” , the group’s Sunfest appearance also featured new material such as “Complicated” and the immediately ubiquitous “Handclap.”

James King
Saxophonist James King

While Fitzpatrick tended to stay fairly solitary and low-key, his co-vocalist Noelle Scaggs was a bundle of energy, dancing around the stage, leading the audience in clapping, and shaking a tambourine.

Noelle Scaggs II
Co-lead vocalist Noelle Scaggs

But the two were on the same romantic wavelength for the slinky funk of “6AM.” Fitz and the Tantrums put on a performance worthy of their Sunfest-Saturday headliner status.

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”…