Live: SunFest Day 5 With Jeff Beck, O.A.R. & More, May 1

Live: SunFest Day 5 With Jeff Beck, O.A.R. & More, May 1
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SunFest Day 5:
West Palm Beach Waterfront
Sunday, May 1, 2011

Better Than: Watching the Celtics lose to the Heat. OK, not entirely, but you catch my drift.

Sure, there was dank in the air, but Sunday was all about the dancing room as SunFest came to a blissful close.

As we all melted under Sunday's blue sky, New Orleans' Preservation Hall Jazz Band

brought the classic NoLa jazz sensation front and center. Clad in

three-piece suits underneath the devilish sun, the half-dozen band

members were more interested in the flawless delivery of Dixeland to

West Palm Beach, than they were about their air supply.

From "Bourbon Street Parade" to "Basin Street Blues," if you closed your eyes (and downed a few imaginary hand grenades), you might've convinced yourself you were out in the French Quarter chowing down on gumbo and splurging on beignets. The music was a well-rounded treat for yearning ears, and an exercise for sleepy feet. There's just something about Sunday jazz that can help anyone find the true "Who Dat" inside his or her hungry soul. Special compliments to the bass trombone, which got its own personal shout out during "Tailgate Ramble."

Over at the Bank of America Stage, Maryland jam quintet O.A.R swooned men, women and children alike as the hellish afternoon SunFest hours dragged onward. The irony of "Fool in the Rain" trickled down, a musical mist in the ardent bakery surrounding. It was no gamble that a "Crazy Game of Poker" was a happy ending that amped up the crowd, all scatting, singing and swaying to a hit that's more than a decade old to proclaimed followers. The reggae-jam fusion was laced with added depth of melodies and beats, thanks to Jeremy DePizzo's dazzling contributions on sax and percussion that added big sound.

As a few clouds passed overhead and the barges sank into the water with many a frat boy and his beloved spiked juice, Elements of Jazz laid down a light-hearted ambient jazz that called for spreading out tapestries, grubbin' on fried foods and nursing extra-tall brews at the Tire Kingdom Stage. It was the admission of Twitter use that drew humor from the lackadaisical field. It seemed like the field frolickers were in for a united nap time.

The music kicked into higher gear during Jeff Beck's set at the Tire Kingdom Stage. As the sun set, the British guitar vet strummed confectionary riffs, thick and syrupy on the awed admirers. It was not boredom, rather the most stunned reaction seen all weekend, as the 66-year-old legend lured heavy jaws all around, his gleaming white instrument towering above.

At first, all that could be deciphered was Beck himself. Slowly, he allowed his band to ease its way into the set and our ears. Eventually, Beck's divalicious bass player, Prince alum Rhonda Smith, grabbed the microphone stand and cocked it, allowing her rough, raw auditory sex appeal to shine through. Following suit was a dashing Jimi Hendrix tribute to "Little Wing," in which Beck's drummer Narada Michael Walden guested on vocals. The performance sewed together multiple decades and generations into one nation, under Beck.

Across the way at the Bank of America Stage, Earth, Wind & Fire was in full swing. At that point, there was no shoving through the front of the crowd to catch a live glimpse of neon spandex getups and super-suave blowouts, it was just about the attendance factor. Although the dance-funk outfit did not position "Shining Star" along with concluding illuminated sky art, it was the set's early favorite.

Everyone and their moms (literally) seemed to have caught a case of the sexy hips, holding one hand on each side of their lovely handles and dipping back and forth like tipsy teacups. But spilling over the top was the only option when EW&F shocked the masses with a disco-clad combo that brought yours truly right back to the Bar Mitzvah bash days. Snip-its of "September" and "Let's Groove" smashed together, causing a frenzy of couples to convulse in the hippest of movements.

As the band concluded the musical nostalgia plan at hand, it was time to head on out of the SunFest finale. What seemed like 20 minutes of fireworks followed up above, coloring the sky and blasting over buildings at the downtown venue. Until next year. 

Critic's Notebook

Personal bias: Next year maybe SunFest will spend a few less hundreds of thousands on pyrotechnics and add a bit more to the artist budget.

The crowd: This is the land of Lily Pullitzer and Polo folks, where beer-soaked

boat shoes are the ultimate curse and pink straw cowboy hats illustrate a

proper midlife crisis.


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