Cage The Elephant, Kevin Gates, and Scarypoolparty are just a few of the mad hatters that will be pouring beats in your ear for four days starting Thursday, April 30, while you get trashed under the West Palm Beach sun. SunFest has just about anything you need to bring on the summer. Here’s a list of the eight best acts scheduled to take the stage at SunFest 2020.
Cage the Elephant
Cage the Elephant won a Grammy for best rock album this year with their 2019 release Social Cues and they are bringing that energy to a city near you. No novice to the limelight, Cage the Elephant has been creating albums that touch our hearts since 2009’s self titled album Cage the Elephant. Don’t ask me about their name though, I have no idea why they are so hell bent on caging up elephants, but whatever the reason is, it’s working because Cage the Elephant is still making devastating albums that move my soul. A song like "House of Glass" is a forceful track where frontman Matt Shaw doesn’t get out of your face. Or on the single "Ready To Let Go," they reach to their indie-rock roots and create a memorable chorus that sneaks into your mind and moves your body from within. Cage recently released a new version of their single "Broken Boy" off Social Cues, featuring Iggy Pop. From the original version of the track off the album, the tempo screams Stooges the whole way through. It will be interesting to see if Cage plays any of the hits from past albums, like "Cigarette Daydreams" off Melophobia or "Trouble" off Tell Me I’m Pretty, a dreamy track that pulls away from their early punk influences. Cage the Elephant headlines on Sunday.
There will be several artists/bands from the great state of Louisiana gracing the stage of SunFest 2020, the Revivalists are the down-and-dirty rock band from New Orleans that ain’t serving up no fucking French Quarter beignets, just some greasy, down-home kick-in-the-ass rock 'n’ roll. They bring the past into the future with their latest album, Made in Muscle Shoals. The opening track, "Oh No," has a blistering blues feeling that reminds me of early Black Keys. From the steel guitar that opens songs like "To Love Somebody" that makes your soul cry when lead singer David Shaw comes into the frame to a record like "Bitter End" that brings shades of Leon Bridges in the approach of the record as well as calling back to old Motown styles on the record. It’s beautiful to see this overall coalescing of different genres within a single musical act. The Revivalists will be performing on Friday.
I’ve never been one to have even a modicum of respect for American Idol contestants, but Scarypoolparty is the exception. Scarypoolparty released a fantastic genre-bending project Exit Form that makes the listener rethink what pop music can be. He breaks the mold like so many artists have managed to do as of late. I feel like we heard early rumblings of this unique brand of R&B from artists like Spooky Black and that entire wave of sad gang music that came out of nowhere several years back. Besides his ability to sing his ass off, Scarypoolparty is also an outstanding pianist and can get down on the guitar as well. He is proof that artists are no longer afraid of not belonging to the popular lexicon of modern music. Just like with everything else in our society, the framework of the past is breaking down and revealing the beauty that can be found flourishing behind those walls. It wasn’t American Idol that got Scarypoolparty where he is today — it is in spite of his appearance on the long-running reality TV show. Scarypoolparty takes the stage on Saturday.
Soundscapes are one of the many strengths of Illenium, the DJ and producer from Chicago who brings an interesting perspective to creating. Illenium’s 2019 Ascend is a pop album that doesn’t worry about what is acceptable from a pop DJ. "Good Things Fall Apart," featuring Jon Bellion, is a pop hit that has encompassed the globe. The record floats between Katy Perry-level pop choruses with acoustic-based verses that bring the record down before blasting it back to the sky on the hook. There is a mighty long list of features on this most recent album that lend their voices to the Chicago DJ’s most recent album. Illenium is not shy about collaboration since his 2016 album Ashes, and why stop doing something that works so well? Illenium has been scooping up awards and acclaim from the dance/electronic scene since his debut, and his brand of sound creation mixed with indie pop vocalists lends to the idea that genres are breaking down and falling away. Illenium will be performing on Friday.
A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie
Out of all the artists that have been mentioned on this list and as part of SunFest 2020's lineup, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie is the one for the children. Records like "Mood Swings" off his new album, Artist 2.0, and "King of My City" are polished examples of the smoothness that Boogie exudes from his style to his lyrics and delivery. The Bronx rapper has taken that polished turn after several albums that gave way for him to approach his music from a more hard-knock bars that scream the BX. This album’s glamorous production gives listeners a chance to hear A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie with the full weight of his team and ideas on an album. He’s got a serious list of features on the album such as Dababy, Young Thug, Roddy Ricch, Gunna, London on Da Track, and Khalid. A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie will be performing on Saturday.
Every so often a rapper comes along that can enlighten you and scare the hell out of you on the same record. Enter Kevin Gates.
Gates is an example of the conflicting nature of humans. He was molded in the trenches of Baton Rouge and from that difficult environment was able to grow into a formidable individual that’s expressed clearly through his lyrics. Gates isn’t an artist that fears growth and it’s clearly evident in his output as an artist that he fears no such thing. With track "Walls Talking" off his most recent album, I’m Him, he tells the story of his mistakes growing up and how he’s a prisoner in his own mind. Gates is an extremely introspective artist that doesn’t hold back when he writes. On the record "Push It," he talks about the fight that must be had within before he can tackle the outside world. Much of Gates’ music is fueled from pain and shows how deep this rap shit goes these days. I’m Him capitalizes on the power that he built from his double-platinum album Islah from 2015. Kevin Gates will be performing on Sunday.
The Main Squeeze
When it comes to “feeling the funk,” there is a long line in history from George Clinton to the Main Squeeze. However, to call them a funk act would be a complete disservice. The Main Squeeze doesn’t shy away from moving from funk to rock to pop to elements of rap — they encompass it all. Their single "Sweet Divine" was released in February and shows the band moving into a more pop sound. Lead vocalist Corey Frye has the ability to summon the dead gospel legends from within to project the passion and soul that humanity can’t help but be drawn to. Their 2017 album Without a Sound shows off the more funk on a single like "Sweat," produced to get you off your fat ass and join the party. Still, on "Nobody Better," featuring singer Zel, they hit that R&B chord perfectly. Hopefully, we get another record soon from the Main Squeeze. From the sounds of the singles "Piranha," "Fancy Clothes," and their latest, "Sweet Divine," seems as if they plan on pulling even more tricks from their bag for this next album. The Main Squeeze will be performing on Saturday.
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JJ Grey & Mofro
Well, that swampy soul that the South has long been the elites of is coming to South Florida once again. JJ Grey & Mofro's 2015 album Ol’ Glory screams honesty as a result of the experience-based songwriting of JJ Grey. Records like "Every Minute" speaks on how every minute matters in life and to live in those minutes. There is something about the bluesy-soul JJ Grey & Mofro create that doesn’t pander or play pretend with the listener. It’s full of big soul sounds wrapped around Grey’s life as an artist. Records like "Brave Lil’ Fighter" and "Hold On Tight," with that guitar shredding up your ears, compel you to listen to the wisdom being spoken. This is the perfect band for a South Florida music festival, playing upbeat mega soul that will fuse with your heart and move your body uncontrollably as they summon James Brown. JJ Grey & Mofro will be performing on Saturday.
SunFest 2020. Thursday, April 30, through Sunday, May 3, on Flagler Drive between Banyan Boulevard and Lakeview Drive, West Palm Beach. Tickets cost $40 to $1,775 via sunfest.com.