Sunfest 33: Jumbo Shrimp

Jumbo Shrimp frontman Benny Rothschild
Jumbo Shrimp frontman Benny Rothschild

Students from the Palm Beach School of Rock have been performing at Sunfest since shortly after the Palm Beach franchise was established in 2008. But until this teenage quintet took the stage on Sunfest Saturday, no member of the after-school music program had ever played on one of the festival’s big stages. So it says something about Jumbo Shrimp Inc. that this Sunfest appearance was actually its second large-stage set for the week, having played the House of Blues Orlando that Monday.

Austin Klewan on percussion and Dylan Thomas on guitar
Austin Klewan on percussion and Dylan Thomas on guitar

And big gigs were not the only highlights for the band’s week, as it also released its second album, Nostalgia Calls, the day before its Sunfest show. Half of the songs on its festival set-list were from that new release, whose title seems to be an allusion to the psychedelic and retro-rock styles captured within.

Bassist Angel Leiser
Bassist Angel Leiser

Guitarist/frontman Benny Rothschild led the young band through a set that was mostly originals. The few covers performed were an eclectic selection: the Abbey Road medley by The Beatles, “Shout!” by The Isley Brothers, and “My Body” by alt-rockers Young The Giant, who Benny noted had played Sunfest the year before.

Drummer John Cardillo III
John Cardillo III

Bassist Angel Leiser bounced around the stage in between backing vocals, while the other half of the rhythm section, John Cardillo III, banged away happily on his drums. Joining in on a drum of his own was newcomer Austin Klewan, who also played saxophone.

Austin Klewan, percussion & sax
Austin Klewan

But the band member wearing the most hats musically was Dylan Thomas, who also played sax in addition to guitar, keyboards and backing vocals.

Dylan on keyboards
Dylan on keyboards

Unlike the other Sunfest bands this year, Jumbo Shrimp is still a local act, so catch one of the group’s bar gigs around town while you still can.

[Island Stage photos shot by Empress K of Reggae Reflection]

JumboShrimp-Sunfest-Day4-3445Benny and The John

Sunfest 33: 311

311 frontman and bassist
311 frontman Nick Hexum and bassist Aaron “P-Nut” Wills

This mainstay of the ‘90s alternative scene is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary, but it showed no signs of slowing down during its encore Sunfest performance. The show started with “HomeBrew”, followed by the reggae/rock classic “Beautiful Disaster.” More hits followed: “All Mixed Up”, and the band’s hit reggae version of The Cure’s “Lovesong.”

Frontman Nick Hexum is also one of the band’s two guitarists, so for his time singing he was usually parked in front of a mike stand. But his being stationary was made up for by rapper/vocalist Doug “S.A.” Martinez, who bounced around the stage while singing, sometimes shaking a tambourine.

311 Rapper/Vocalist Doug "S.A." Martinez
Rapper/Vocalist Doug “S.A.” Martinez

Occasionally, S.A. did stand still himself, though, to deliver some tight harmonies. Bassist Aaron “P-Nut” Wills also provided some visual flair, with the LED inlays of his instrument.

311 Bassist Aaron "P-Nut" Wills
Bassist Aaron “P-Nut” Wills. Photo by Empress K of Reggae Reflection

The band played its alt-rock material loudly, but it would shift gears to suit the softer songs. From the opening guitar riff for “Amber”, all drenched in effects and reverb, the mellow dub was truly hypnotic. And “Come Original” was a nice marriage of the band’s rock and reggae sides.

311 guitarists Tim Mahoney and Nick Hexum
Nick Hexum (right) jamming with guitarist Tim Mahoney

One dramatic band tradition is the group drum solo for “Applied Science”, where mini drum-kits and even a gong are pulled onstage so that every member has something to bang on. But the result is far from ragged, as 311 proved to be a tightly coordinated drum corps.

311 group drum solo
Group drum solo for “Applied Science.”  Photo by Empress K of Reggae Reflection

The set concluded with a three-song encore. “Omaha Stylee”, a rap/rock homage to its Nebraska roots, began with a sample of Big Youth’s classic line “Wake the town, tell the people!”

S.A. Martinez

During the ballad “Beyond The Gray Sky”, the band encouraged the concertgoers to hold up lighters or cellphones “or anything that lights up.” Final song of the night was “Down”, apparently another group tradition.

311 and audience
Photo by Empress K of Reggae Reflection

Overall, this performance seemed better than the group’s 2009 Sunfest debut, and not nearly as noisy. Perhaps this is a melodic mellowing with age.

311 group shot
Photo by Empress K of Reggae Reflection

311 drummer Chad Sexton
Drummer Chad Sexton. Photo by Empress K of Reggae Reflection

 Hexum II

Sunfest 33: The Hip Abduction

Pat Klemawesch of The Hip Abduction
Multi-instrumentalist Pat Klemawesch, pictured here during The Hip Abduction’s Sunfest set

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.

Guitarist David New, with drummer Matt Poynter
Guitarist David New, with drummer Matt Poynter in the background

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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.

Hip Abduction Sax player Dave Johnson
Sax player Dave Johnson
Keyboardist Paul Chlapowski
Keyboardist Paul Chlapowski
Hip Abduction Drummer Matt Poynter
Drummer Matt Poynter
Hip Abduction Bassist Chris Powers
Bassist Chris Powers [Photo by Empress K of Reggae Reflection]
Conga player with Hip Abduction
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.

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Sunfest 33: Morning Fatty

Morning Fatty Rhythm Section
Morning Fatty Rhythm Section

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.

Morning Fatty Frontman Andrew White
Keyboardist/guitarist/lead-vocalist Andrew White [Photo by Empress K of Reggae Reflection]
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.”

Morning Fatty Guitarist Miller Joyner
Guitarist Miller Joyner

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.

Morning Fatty Bassist
[Photo by Empress K of Reggae Reflection]
Morning Fatty drummer Jared McEachran
Drummer Jared McEachran

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[Photo by Empress K of Reggae Reflection
[Photo by Empress K of Reggae Reflection]
Photo by Empress K of Reggae Reflection
Photo by Empress K of Reggae Reflection

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Sunfest 33: Lenny Kravitz

Lenny Kravitz
Lenny Kravitz at Sunfest, Day 1

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.

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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”.

Lenny's backing singers
Lenny’s backing singers

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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.

Bassist Gail Ann Dorsey
Gail Ann Dorsey

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.

Craig Ross with Lenny
Craig Ross with Lenny

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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.

Sunfest-Day1-2999Sunfest-Day1-2941[All photographs by Empress K of Reggae Reflection]

Sunfest 33: Wilco

Jeff Tweedy
 Jeff Tweedy of Wilco performing at Sunfest

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.

Bassist John Stirratt of Wilco
Bassist John Stirratt
Drummer Glenn Kotche of Wilco
Drummer Glenn Kotche
Keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen of Wilco
Keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen
Guitarist Nels Cline of Wilco
Guitarist Nels Cline
Multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone of Wilco
Multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone

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”.

John Stirratt B&WJeff Tweedy at Sunfest II

[Photos by Empress K of Reggae Reflection]

Sunfest 33, Day 1: Lizzo

Lizzo
Rapper Lizzo playing on Sunfest’s main stage

[Typist Notes: Empress K of Reggae Reflection arrived at Sunfest a few hours earlier than me, so she was able to take in Lizzo’s set. Here is her report (and pictures.)]

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.

MC Sophia Eris
Lizzo’s DJ, MC Sophia Eris
Lizzo's drummer Ryan McMahon
Drummer Ryan McMahon

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.

Lizzo laughing

All The World’s A(n Island) Stage

Sunfest beads & passes
Sunfest beads and photo passes [photo by Empress K of Reggae Reflection]
As Bob Dylan might ask, “How does it feel” to cover over twenty bands playing on three stages over the course of a five-day festival? The answer, as you might expect, is “tiring”. Also hot; even though West Palm Beach cooled down at night relatively for the last two days of Sunfest, it was still pretty toasty during the day. So more than twenty-four hours after the festival came to a close, I still feel a certain amount of warmth radiating from my skin, like I’m some sort of human space heater.

But in no way did the heat and exhaustion diminish the fun of my second time covering Sunfest as a credential media person.

Type Writer at Sunfest
The Type Writer is the Sunfest type [photo by Empress K of Reggae Reflection]
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”):

Lenny Kravitz Pointing
Lenny Kravitz dramatically ending a song
Lenny's bassist Gail Ann Dorsey
A silhouette of Lenny’s bassist Gail Ann Dorsey

Saturday at Sunfest with SOJA

SOJA at Sunfest 2012
SOJA performing at Sunfest 30 on Saturday, May 5, 2012

 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…

SOJA trumpet
SOJA trumpeter Rafael Rodriguez
Sax player Hellman Escorcia
Sax player Hellman Escorcia
Frontman Jacob Hemphill
Frontman Jacob Hemphill

Get Hip to this Abduction

The Hip Abduction
Tampa Bay reggae/world-beat band The Hip Abduction

Reggae/world-beat band The Hip Abduction has been crossing the state a lot in the last month. On April 11th, the group performed at Midtown PGA’s Peace, Love and Wellness festival, then on April 20th at the Funky Biscuit club in Boca. Now the band takes on Sunfest, opening for reggae/alt-rock band 311 on Friday, May 1st at 7:45 p.m. on the FPL stage.

This eclectic band is hard to pigeonhole, as they layer Latin percussion and West African harp music over a bed of reggae. But the crowd at the Midtown PGA was certainly into their mid-afternoon set, dancing to the music on what was a surprisingly hot South Florida spring afternoon. And the band has played a few festivals in their hometown, including the infamous Gasparilla.

Opening for The Hip Abduction will be Morning Fatty, a reggae/rock/funk outfit from Gainesville, who take the FPL stage at 6:15.