Billing itself as "Florida's largest music, art, and waterfront festival," the five-day SunFest comes to West Palm Beach next week, featuring 40 musical acts playing on three different stages. From Wednesday, April 29, through Sunday, May 3, SunFest will take over a one-block stretch of Flagler Drive between Banyan Boulevard and Lakeview Avenue.
Like the art that will be on display, the bands won't appeal to everybody. But there are more than a few treasures to be found.
On Wednesday, both Jackson Browne and Ani DiFranco will perform on separate stages at 8:30 p.m. Browne worked with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Nico in the mid-'60s but then became the quintessential sensitive guy of the '70s. His biggest hit came in 1983, with "Somebody's Baby." The singer-songwriter genre has changed since then, partly due to DiFranco. Her self-empowering lyrics and punk-edged approach (she wears taped-on fingernails so she can play her guitar harder) set the standard for acts such as Jewel, Tracy Bonham, and Joan Osborne.
Sister Hazel plays Thursday at 6:45 p.m. This Gainesville band earned a strong regional following with its slick brand of jangly guitar-pop and last year released Somewhere More Familiar on Universal Records. Following at 8:45 p.m. will be Paula Cole, whose pop ballad "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" became a hit single last year and helped earn her a Grammy Award for Best New Artist.
Fort Lauderdale's Passion Seeds will play to their biggest audience yet at 4 p.m. on Friday. Their self-produced CD, Release, features eleven sweet, melodic songs sure to please anyone who liked the Smiths and Aztec Camera. At 7:30 p.m., Bela Fleck and the Flecktones do their cajun-country-jazz-rock thang. At 9:30 p.m. Letters to Cleo, the Boston band whose chirpy lead singer, Kay Hanley, has set many an indie-rocker's heart a-fluttering, performs.
Little Richard, the flamboyant rocker who once warned that "homosexuality is contagious," performs Saturday at 9 p.m. At 9:15, on a separate stage, the saxophonist David Sanborn will perform. He's best known for his work with rockers (such as David Bowie, Steely Dan, and Chaka Khan), but he's also a respected jazzman. He lent his signature sound to Michael Brecker's Grammy-winning Tales From the Hudson in 1996.
All this is mere buildup, of course, to the appearance of Hall and Oates at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday. Thanks to massive hits such as "Kiss on My List," "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)," and "Family Man," Daryl Hall and John Oates remain the second biggest-selling duo in musical history, right behind Simon and Garfunkel. Probably only diehard fans will remember their last Top 10 hit, "Everything Your Heart Desires," from 1988. Oates recently shaved off his signature facial hair, and by sheer coincidence the duo's 1997 album Marigold Sky failed to dent the charts.
Five-day advance tickets are available for $20 through TicketMaster, the SunFest Website (www.sunfest.org), and Publix supermarkets in Palm Beach County. One-day tickets at the gate cost $12. Food will be available from various nonprofit organizations. Outside food, coolers, bottles, pets, and cameras are prohibited. Call 561-659-5992 or 800-SUNFEST for information.
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