Downtown West Palm Beach
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Better Than: Witnessing a scantily clad Tinker Bell getting spanked by Beaker the Muppet.
With an estimated attendance of over 40,000, Moonfest has become one of South Florida's largest and rowdiest street parties, second only to Key West's Fantasy Fest in sheer unabashed exhibition and overall bacchanalian revelry. One might think that the costumes (or lack thereof) are the main draw, but event organizers Rodney Mayo and Maurice Costigan go out of their way every year to cull an outstanding array of local musical talent as entertainment.
This year, there were showcases by road-tested bands like Miami's Nothing Rhymes With Orange and funk-rocking West Palm Beach quintet Big Bang Radio on the bill. But audiences were also treated with the return of West Palm Beach's local boys made good, Surfer Blood, who in a matter of six months have gone from scrounging gigs in Lake Worth dive bars to becoming indie rock blog darlings.
First we took in a set from Boynton Beach electro-punk trio Kill Miss Pretty. When we last saw them at Respectable Street's anniversary party, they suffered through a myriad of technical difficulties. But their glam-tastic industrial crunk was perfectly dished out at Moonfest. Lead vocalist Alicia Olink, dressed as a sexy, trashy zebra, wiggling her bikini-bottomed derriere to the beat of kittenish tune "El Gato," was quite the eye candy. Her vocals came across as a Courtney Love, but friskier on this one. Guitarist/programmer Russell Rogers and bassist Martin Davis did a great job backing her up with menacing production work on "Music is Nothing." It reminded us of something off a Rob Zombie soundtrack, perfect full-moon-on-Halloween fare.
Nothing Rhymes With Orange played next. Fresh from a stint of U.K. dates, the four-piece demonstrated more than just a little Anglophilia with its arena-size melodies, sung by lead vocalist Carl Coccaro with rousing, Ian McCulloch-esque pipes. They performed instant new anthems like "Headlines and Deadlines," which we could have sworn was a Verve cover, and ended it with mid-tempo ballad "Classic" with Coccaro crooning over his brother Rich's perfect guitar jangle.
After the evening's best costume contest winner, Mr. Dick in the Box, was announced, the much anticipated set by West Palm Beach's Surfer Blood commenced. The first noticeable thing is that group has expanded to a five-piece, with the addition of percussionist Marcos Marchesani. Although he injected a lot of zest the rest of the troupe's scuzz, when he was bouncing around like a mad man striking the cowbell on "Twin Peaks," we really wondered if perhaps Marchesani was not a member of LMFAO making a cameo. "Swim (To Reach the End)" showcased lead vocalist J.P. Pitts' range, as he reached for a deep Frank Black-style cathartic howl. During vulnerable set ender "Catholic Pagans," Pitts ran past the tambourine-playing centaur and did a full-on stage dive towards the crowd. It was an entertaining end to a fantastic performance. Now, onward to bona fide rock superstardom for the boys.
Personal Bias: Surfer Blood's album Astro Coast was one of the only locally released albums that I repeatedly listened to in my car this year.
Random Detail: This was Moonfest's 18th annual edition.
By The Way: Mark your calendars for the next wild night on Clematis, as Mayo and company prepare for "Clematis Countdown" on New Year's Eve.