Is this thing still on? After nearly three years of radio silence from me, I wouldn’t blame anyone for assuming this blog was defunct. But so much of the activity for this blog was driven by Sunfest, the West Palm music festival for which I would partner with Empress K of Reggae Reflection to cover, and, for one reason or another, that has either been difficult or impossible in the last couple of years. For one thing, 2017 was the last year for which we had photo passes, which enabled us to take so many great pictures to accompany the concert reviews. In 2018, I tried to go back to my old blogger-in-the-crowd style of covering the festival, but I couldn’t help but miss the press access I had in the years prior. 2019 was another pass-less year, and though there were certain aspects of that year I wanted to cover, it just never happened.
2020 was another story, of course. Like pretty much every large-scale event that pandemic year, Sunfest was cancelled. And since the lockdown of Palm Beach County was in full swing at that point, downtown West Palm was a ghost town, anyway. I remember walking by the Meyer Amphiteatre on what would have been Sunfest weekend, and marvelling at how deserted it was given that the festival normally pulls in 100,000 people over the course of four or five days.
And now here we are in 2021, and even though the end appears to be in sight for the global pandemic that has wreaked so much havoc on every aspect of our lives, Sunfest is once again a no-show. But even as large concerts and music festivals continue their Great Pause, the musicians that would normally be gigging have been working on recording projects, so I actually have a backlog of albums to review. And I even have a book to review (a what?)
So if there’s anybody actually reading this, please bear with me as I bring this blog back from the dead. And in the meantime, I offer you one of my favourite Genesis songs for your listening pleasure:
You would be forgiven for not noticing the publication of a new issue of Type M for Music, given the ten-month time lapse since the previous issue. But as you’ve seen on this blog, it’s Sunfest time of year, which means it’s time to get our parent publication back up and running (again).
[Typist’s Notes: My previous preview post on Sunfest 2018 was my first blog entry in a while, so it was nice to see how well-received it was. Thanks! Also, the festival got off to a great start with sterling performances by Living Colour and Billy Idol; more on them in a later concert-review post. Last but not least, WordPress just notified me that this is the 100th post published on this blog.]
I just had a few more acts in this year’s edition of Sunfest I wanted to highlight, so here goes:
Son of a Bitch!
If you only know one song by Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, it’s “SOB.” After all, who wouldn’t want to walk into a bar and yell out the line “Son of a bitch! Give me a drink!” But if you know two songs by this Colorado group, the second one is probably “You Worry Me”, which might be the song Nathaniel would rather you know him for, given its sober lyrics and compelling groove.
That’s My Number
Celebrated Jamaican reggae artists often play second fiddle to reggae-rock bands with considerably less esteem at American music festivals, and such will be the case this Sunfest Saturday. Toots and the Maytals, a band so essential to reggae it literally named the genre with a 1968 single, will be appearing ahead of SOJA (AKA Soldiers of Jah Army). This reggae outfit from D.C. is decent enough, but its songs lack the household recognition of “Pressure Drop”, “Bam Bam” or “Sweet and Dandy”, to name just a few of Toots Hibbert’s classic compositions.
And certainly no SOJA song comes anywhere close to matching the fame of “54-46 (That’s My Number).” Toots lets you know this is his signature tune by selling caps with his former prisoner number emblazoned on the front as part of his concert merchandise. Catch this world-famous reggae/rock-steady/ska band early Saturday afternoon.
A Good Day for Gangsta Rap
Late Saturday afternoon will see the Sunfest debut of legendary rapper Ice Cube. Interestingly enough, Cube only got the gig because legendary Miami group KC And The Sunshine Band bowed out after the festival schedule was announced. Hopefully, all of KC’s fans got the memo, otherwise there will be some confused disco fans on Saturday. Catch the former NWA member on the Ford Stage late afternoon.
One More Thing
… or several, actually:
If you’re an EDM fan, Friday is your night, with DJ Adam Lipson opening the Ford stage, and Zedd closing it.
If you’re an alt-rock fan, you have your choice of decades, with Incubus from the 2000s playing on Friday, or ’90s eclectic rocker Cake closing out the music schedule on Sunday prior to the fireworks
If you long for a reunion of the Jonas Brothers, you could simulate a mini-version by watching Nick Jonas on Saturday, then DNCE (fronted by Nick’s brother Joe) the following afternoon.
As Bubba from Forrest Gump would say, “That’s about it, really.” Enjoy your Sunfest…
[Typist’s Notes: The reason for the quotation marks in the title will soon become apparent]
This will be the first year in a while that I won’t have press passes for Sunfest, but my press partner Empress K of Reggae Reflection tells me that she will re-post any of my blog posts on the music & art festival, so here’s a quick preview of what to expect this year from West Palm’s biggest event:
Four is Less Than Five
What does basic arithmetic have to do with Sunfest? This year’s edition will be four days instead of five, for the first time in at least twenty-five years. But the number of bands (fifty) will still be the same, because all three stages will be up and running all four days. So no harm, no foul, right? Depends on how diverse your musical tastes are. Every year I run into what I call the Sunfest Dilemma: what to do when two bands I like are playing at the same time. For the first two days of the five-day version of the festival, this problem was always less pronounced, because the two stages in operation those days (i.e. the northern and middle stages, currently sponsored by Ford and Tire Kingdom) were not that far apart. But the southernmost stage (sponsored by JetBlue) is a good mile from the northernmost stage. Trust me, I’ve done this walk, usually at an almost jogging pace. This year, I imagine I’ll be doing it more often.
Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before
Given the longevity of Sunfest (this is its 36th year) and certain groups’ affinity for the festival circuit, it should come as no surprise that this year’s line-up includes a healthy dose of repeat performers. Artistes like Third Eye Blind and Pitbull are appearing for the second time; 311 and SOJA, for the third time. If you love these performers, or missed their previous appearances, this is good news. But if you don’t care for these particular groups, or are tired of seeing them, then at least you won’t be faced with the Sunfest Dilemma.
“With A Rebel Yell, More, More, More!”
One of the performers that I’m happy is returning is punk/New-Wave legend Billy Idol, one of the headliners for the festival’s new opening night on Thursday. I was living in Orlando when the Sneering One last played Sunfest in 2005, but I remember reading a funny story in the Palm Beach Post about his time here. Apparently Billy happened to meet former Lake Worth mayor Tom Ramiccio, who offered him the Key to the City. Billy was happy to receive the honour, but his manager was less than impressed that Ramiccio was technically no longer in the position to give one out. So as Ramiccio bestowed the honour upon Billy at the front of a ballroom in the now-shuttered Gulfstream Hotel, his manager stood in the back of the room muttering loudly, “He isn’t even the bloody Mayor!” Perhaps Mayor Jeri Muio of West Palm Beach can come up with a more official Key for the former Generation X frontman; his manager would probably like that a lot.
Still Fierce After All These Years
Anyone hearing Living Colour’s first and biggest single “Cult of Personality” on the radio in 1989 could be forgiven for assuming the head-banging hit was recorded by a white hard-rock outfit. But these black rockers were exemplified by the lyric from “Glamour Boys”, another one of their hits: “I’m fierce!” Come rock out to guitarist Vernon Reid’s power chords early Thursday evening.
Let’s face it: the local-music component of Sunfest is less than it used to be. The years of plentiful opening spots filled with top local bands have given way to an era of much fewer slots, one of which is filled by the winner of a Battle of the Bands contest. But against all odds, a few worthy outfits have managed to get on to the schedule, including a couple offshoots of previous Sunfest performer Jumbo Shrimp, Inc. The two principal songwriters for that band, front-man Benny Rothschild and bassist Angel Leiser, have joined forces with drummer Roman Conde to form a new band called Thoughts, which was the name of Jumbo Shrimp’s second album. Benny and Angel’s new band are the first act on the JetBlue stage Saturday afternoon; ironically, the other ex-members of Jumbo Shrimp play later that day on the Tire Kingdom under their new band name Night Box.
I have more thoughts on Sunfest, but this is enough to get you started. Stay tuned…
[Typist’s Notes: The calendar may have turned over to 2018, but I still want to get out the remaining reviews of concerts from Sunfest 2017, given that it is likely to be the last five-day version of this festival, since the organizing committee has already announced that the 2018 edition will start on a Thursday instead of Wednesday.]
The oldest son of reggae legend Bob Marley has played Sunfest before (in 2011) but this time his appearance comes just months after winning his seventh Reggae Grammy, for his 2016 self-titled album.
An artist with fewer releases would probably have built his performance around the award-winning album. But Ziggy’s set-list drew from all phases of his career, including the song “Justice” which appeared on the album “One Bright Day”, made when Ziggy still recorded with his siblings in their group The Melody Makers.
This rendition of “Justice” included snippets of the Bob Marley & The Wailers songs “Get Up, Stand Up” and “War”, no doubt to complement the lyrical theme of Ziggy’s composition. Indeed, the anti-racist sentiment of “War” was greeted by loud cheers. Ziggy’s dad was also represented by covers of “Stir It Up” and “Positive Vibrations”, and also referenced in a call-and-response chant in “Reggae In My Head” (“What you say you got?” “Reggae in my head!)
Ziggy’s backup singers
Tracks from Ziggy’s latest Grammy-winning album didn’t appear till late in the set, the first being “Butterflies.” Also, the final song of the set was “We Are The People”, and the vacation-themed “Weekend’s Long” was one of two songs in the encore, the other being “True To Myself” from 2003’s Dragonfly.
Guitarist Takeshi Akemoto
Other highlights of an excellent set were “Beach In Hawaii” and “Love Is My Religion”, with a slow acoustic ending. Another well-received Sunfest performance by the oldest of the Marley brothers.
In the same way that Florida’s nickname “The Sunshine State” belies its six-month rainy season, so does Sunfest’s name paper over the fact that usually one of the festival’s five days is marred somewhat by bad weather. For the 2017 edition, that seemed to be Day 2. Right as these headliners were scheduled to take the stage, an angry thunderstorm marched northward, looking as if a torrential downpour was imminent. So the festival management decided to push the start time back by 30 minutes to see if that would save everyone from a soaking.
But the weather of the Florida coast has a habit of being unpredictable, and what seemed destined to be a waterlogged evening turned out to have only a few sprinkles, as all the dark clouds had blown over by time the Californian sextet took to the stage.
The definition of the word “eclectic” could be illustrated by a picture of singer/songwriter Harper, as evidenced by the set-list for this show. The performance began with a reggae tune “Finding Our Way”, followed by “How Dark Is Gone”, a song driven by a conga rhythm played by percussionist Leon Mobley with drummer Oliver Charles joining in.
(l-r) Keyboardist/guitarist Jason Yates, drummer Oliver Charles, percussionist Leon Mobley (partially hidden) and lead guitarist Jason Mozersky
(l-r) Leon Mobley, Ben Harper, Juan Nelson
This was followed by “Welcome to the Cruel World”, a blues ballad that Ben performed on a lap-steel guitar, and “Fight for Your Mind”, a funky tune where Ben played his lap-steel through a wah-wah pedal.
Ben’s best-known material was well represented in this set, including “Diamonds on the Inside”, a ballad from the 2003 album of the same name. The gently up-tempo “Steal My Kisses”, from 1999’s Burn To Shine, featured an a capella sing-along and a bass vocal, appropriately enough, from bass player Juan Nelson. Not surprisingly, “Burn One Down”, an ode to ganja smoking, got a big cheer from the audience.
The best showcase of the band’s instrumental abilities was an extended rendition of “Keep It Together (So I Can Fall Apart)”, featuring a series of solos by lead guitarist Jason Mozersky, keyboardist Jason Yates on a Hammond B3 organ, and finally by Ben on his lap-steel/wah-wah combo.
After concluding the set with the reggae tune “With My Own Two Hands”, Ben made a point of thanking by name everyone who worked in support of his show — engineers, roadies, even caterers. In all my years of going to concerts, it was easily the classiest thing I’ve ever witnessed, and a suitable post-script to a great performance.
This issue also includes my thoughts on why interviews are a boon to the social life of a journalist, the importance of having an outlet for your writing voice, and what local venue doesn’t have its act together when it comes to selling tickets on the day of the show. Not to mention a brief article about the two North American independence days that includes an explanation of the phrase “2-4 weekend.” So don’t delay, read the latest issue of Type M today…
“There’s always something… that happens that makes me feel like we’re doing the right thing here; spreading the joy” — Ginny Meredith
The Thursday edition of The Palm Beach Post always includes a supplement called the Neighbourhood Post, containing stories and features for a given part of the county. One regular feature is Meet Your Neighbour, a column which highlights some remarkable individual living in the area. Today, I was pleasantly surprised to see this week’s Neighbour is my friend and fellow musician, Ginny Meredith. In 2000, Ginny founded the non-profit organization Inspirit, a charity devoted to bringing live music to venues where it normally would not be. For the last seventeen years, Inspirit has paid musicians to play in places such as hospitals, nursing homes and rehab centers all over Palm Beach County.
Inspirit’s slogan is “We believe in the healing power of music”, something which stems from Ginny’s personal experience. In 1998, while Ginny was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, she found that the only thing that helped her get through the situation was listening to music on her Walkman.
Two years later, Ginny went on a ski trip to Utah, where she used to live with a roommate named Janna Jenson. Janna had founded a non-profit in Salt Lake City called Heart and Soul, to provide live music free of charge to institutions such as senior centers and rehab units. Thinking back to how helpful music had been to get her through chemo, Ginny “put two and two together.” Upon her return to Palm Beach, she did some research to see if any such organizations existed in this county. “We researched 50 facilities; we just sent out a mass fax questionaire to… different type[s], like rehab centers and shelters, and asked them, would they find a service like this valuable, and we got an overwhelming response… Just about everybody either faxed us or called us and said, ‘Yes, we would love that! Call us next week!’ ”
Read the Palm Beach Post profile on Ginny here, and for more information on Ginny’s organization, please visit the Inspirit website
p.s. I joined the Inspirit board earlier this year and I am currently planning a concert to benefit Ginny’s organization as a way to commemorate a milestone birthday in September. Stay tuned for further details, but for the time being, remember the name Five For Fifty…
A little less than two months after playing to thousands at Sunfest 2017, California group Ambrosia will playing in a few hours in a more intimate venue: Boston’s on the Beach in Delray, starting at 8:00 p.m. This band first started in 1970 as a progressive-rock outfit but achieved its biggest commercial success later that decade with a string of soft-rock singles such as “Biggest Part of Me”, “You’re The Only Woman” and “How Much I Feel.”
Opening for Ambrosia this evening is another soft-rock staple, John Ford Coley, best known for his hit ballad “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight.”
Standing-room tickets are still available at the club tonight, but all other seats have been sold out.
“That right there makes the whole album worth it.”
[Typist’s Notes: This is the third and final segment of an interview conducted with acoustic duo Friction Farm, and it’s being published not a moment too soon. The interview, conducted Feb. 2014, centered on the album I Read Your Book, but as of July 1st, this will no longer be the group’s latest, since its newest release, So Many Stars, will be coming out then.
If you need to catch up on the previous segments, here are links to Part I and Part II ]
I. Library Gigs
“I think it’s nice to take music into a different place than it normally is”
Type Writer: I know you’re about to play the Boca library, and didn’t you play a library up in Orlando as well?
TW: Are there going to be any more book-oriented gigs after this?
Friction Farm Bassist Christine Stay: We played our local library in Spartanburg; it was a nice gig. And we’re doing one in Lake City [, Florida]. I felt like [playing in libraries] was a good fit, obviously, because people who like books are in there. I just think it’s nice to take music into a different place than it normally is.
“It’s not just about occupying your time while you don’t have any tv to watch.”
Aidan: I think [playing gigs in libraries] reinforces the idea of the… CD because what it’s about is, reading isn’t just about reading. It’s not just about information. It’s not just about occupying your time while you don’t have any tv to watch. It takes you places. And each of us will be inspired differently, or be influenced… differently by what we read. Particularly when it comes to stories, or things that are folk-related.
When you think about it, music is the same thing. The way you hear a song, the way I hear a song, it makes us think two different things. Sometimes two different strange stories.
Christine: I feel like that’s more true of a book than a movie or tv show because you have to create the imagery in your head, so that works a different electric channel in your brain.
Aidan: We know that music makes people feel different ways. You know, the same song, somebody’s gonna get up and dance, and somebody else is gonna start crying. It’s different [ways to] interpret that story.
We [were playing] in a public library, and this young girl, maybe 12, 15, came up to me and said, “I’m gonna read that book; what is it called, the one about ‘Normal’ ?” So I explain it to her, and she goes, “I’m gonna check it out right now.” I said, “I’m sure they have it here.” So she’s like, “I need to read that; I need to know what that’s about.” So hopefully we’ll inspire folks to read.
Christine: And that right there [makes the] whole album worth it.
III. The Laundry Cycle
“I never knew that till anybody pointed it out.”
TW: I just remembered one more question I had, to do with “I’ve Got A Secret.” That song’s supposedly about the Higgs-Boson particle, and physics and all that stuff, but there’s a good deal of laundry-related content in that song…
Christine and Aidan: [laughing heartily]
TW: … and it makes me think of “The Ballad of The Lone Sock.”
Christine: Oh, man…
TW: Is it safe to say that we know what you’re doing when you do housework? [laughs]
Christine: This is so funny, ’cause a friend of ours from North Carolina said, “Oh, I was so glad to find the laundry reference in the new CD too.” I didn’t know what she meant, but all four of our CDs mention laundry in one of our songs. And I had no idea that was true.
Aidan: So now every once in a while, we’ll do The Laundry Cycle, which is the four songs [of ours] which reference laundry.
Christine: “Washing Machine”, “The Lone Sock”, “A Good Apartment” and “I’ve Got A Secret.” They all mention laundry, or something to do with laundry. I never knew that, till anybody pointed it out.
TW: I’m getting rusty with my Friction Farm knowledge: I forgot that you had a song called “Washing Machine.” I think I thought that, but then I thought, “No, that can’t be right” because Kate Bush has a song called “Washing Machine” as well.
TW: She went years without recording anything, then the first album she put out after fourteen years had a song called “Washing Machine.” It’s like, “What have you been doing, Kate?” [laughs]
Christine: [upbeat] I like laundry; it’s a good [time] to think.
TW: [laughs] So any future laundry songs?
Aidan: … Now that the pressure’s on?
Christine: Not intentionally, but I have a feeling they will just crop up, because I didn’t know they had already happened.
TW: How about a laundry concept album, now that you’ve done books? “How To Wash Your Clothes” ?
Christine: [laughs] Well, I feel like we need a sponsorship.
Christine: Yes: Maytag, Tide…
Aidan: GE makes good appliances. [Maybe] we can get them to sponsor us for a nice apartment-sized washing machine.
TW: There ya go. I think that’s gonna be it; thanks, guys…