When it rains, it pours, and in South Florida, that kind of idiom applies to sporadic climate patterns, live music, and community events alike. Sometimes the region even plays host to all three at once, which manifested into something like what Delray Beach's Old School Beer Fest and the Open Grass Earth Day Music & Arts Festival looked like this past weekend.
Sharing a city space separated by only a couple of blocks, the Earth Day slash "holiday" weekend brought out locals hell-bent on escaping the onslaught of rain, imbibing craft beers, eating tasty food-truck cuisine, and boogeying down on everything from big-band reggae to acoustic folk.
Off the beaten path of city's main vein that is Atlantic Avenue, a converted art bar named simply Kevro's provided an indoor/outdoor setting ideal for hosting a multiday music festival.
With ample room for arts and crafts vendors, mostly covered patio seating, and a stand-alone garage turned stage, the welcoming staff have a good, choice location for a grassroots event to take over for a few days. Unfortunately, approaching the coast all afternoon was an intimidating band of rain clouds that were moving in on Delray Beach just as the first band, Taller Cotton, was set to kick things off. Half a dozen vendors took shelter and battled leaky tents while patrons sipped cold beers and wished the downpour away.
Separated by what appeared to be a tied-down sail covering the pathway, the brave few music fans migrated from the main bar to the exterior garage for an intimate set with local singer/songwriter Mike Mineo and company. Unable to make it for more than a few tunes before giving in to my Floridian tendencies, I reluctantly bailed on the undesirable weather with hopes that it would improve the next day.
Call it wishful thinking. The dark cloud cover was resilient and lasted well into the next afternoon. Although only in its first year, the folks organizing the Old School Beerfest had made sure to cover the logistics of Mother Nature, and an oversized tent served as a libation shelter for moe than 18 distinct microbreweries serving more than 50 different craft beers. Beyond the national heavyweights like Blue Point Brewery and Magic Hat was a strong in-state presence represented by the Florida Beer Co., the Funky Buddha, and Cigar City Brewing. Despite that, the Thomas Creek Brewery took the cake with an intense, 12.5 percent "Extreme IPA" that seemed to be getting a lot of attention all afternoon.
At the north end of the city square, the pavilion stage was damp, but local veteran rockers the Dillengers were not dissuaded from putting on two sets of covers ranging from the New Orleans funk anthem "Cissy Strut" to Billy Preston's "Will It Go Round in Circles." As the beer connoisseurs (or so most thought of themselves) trickled into the grounds, a noticeable buzz was building among the collective group. Charismatic brewery reps encouraged jovial conversation and kept the taps flowing with brews loaded with alcohol.
The tent eventually filled in comfortably. The dark clouds were traded for blips of less-intimidating cover, and reggae ensemble the Resolvers came out swinging with tropical-infused sonic vibes. Tipsy moms and dads quickly set inhibitions aside, and some contagiously peculiar dance moves surfaced in front of the stage.
If you weren't having a good time at this point, it was your own fault, and the entire horn section made sure to encourage the wallflowers by kick-starting an impromptu conga line in the crowd while the band held a thumping groove. Although it was never really in question, the ensemble showed its range by executing a stunning dub cover of Pink Floyd's "Breathe."
Feeling better than good, it was time to make the short trek to Open Grass' Earth Day Festival for round two. The showing was a bit better, but not much, when the Merry Franksterz powered through Zappa and Hendrix cuts. During a brief performance intermission, I dodged into the tent colony outside that housed homemade soaps and unique artwork. There was also time to put down some stellar potato pancakes being served by a family food-truck operation out of New Hampshire.
Jazz-fusion trio Stankfoot stepped up to the plate next and made waves with groovy funk instrumentals. Festival promoter Sammy Zuniga even grabbed a bass guitar and jammed out with the crew to Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon." All in all, the music was worth seeing, but the depressing turnout lacked the vibe-enhancing qualities that make community-centered events tick.
The next day, the weather had cleared and showed the potential this setting really had to enhance the sonic highlights. A trio called the Education of Melody worked through composed acoustic sections that featured an interesting combination of violin, acoustic guitar, and a drum. After that, the crowd outdoors got to witness a belly-dancing show from the talented women of Elvisa Rockabelly Hippies. As the evening set in, the festival promoter joined up with some pals, and they put on an old-fashioned jam session to close out a weekend that was anything but uninteresting in Delray Beach.
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