There’s an old adage about trying to please everyone and pleasing no one. It’s a maxim that for the most part holds true. Of course, there are always exceptions to that rule, and year after year, SunFest is one of them.
Each spring, organizers behind Palm Beach's family-friendly music festival try their best to assemble a lineup that appeals to every demographic, and especially over the last few years, they've succeeded. Typically one of the more eclectic and quirky festival rosters in the region, SunFest covers every spectrum of the musical rainbow, and 2016 is no different.
Here are our picks for the 10 best acts at SunFest, kicking off tomorrow along the Intracoastal Waterway in downtown West Palm Beach.
Friday, April 29, 6:15pm - 7:00pm
Often borrowing the melodic, but mournful stylings of emo bands such as Sunny Day Real Estate and Straylight Run as well as their contemporaries, SunFest headliners Death Cab for Cutie, Orlando’s Casaveda make thoughtful, piano-driven pop rock. The Central Florida four-piece released their debut LP, Labyrinths and Limousines, in spring of last year. The nine song collection is an accomplished record for the young outfit, featuring an engrossing and gentle appeal that’s sure to draw in both the intellectuals and the more emotionally moved.
9. Coleman Hell
Sunday, May 1, 6:15pm - 7:00pm
For those who were fans of Avicii's foray into folktronica, they'll love what Coleman Hell is doing. The Canadian one-man-band broke through last year with his single, “2 Heads,” which featured a jangly banjo rhythm…that wasn’t really there. It was a actually a sample and like Chet Faker or Robert DeLonge, Hell, produces all his own music from the comfort of his keyboard, adding in gentle, smoky vocals later on. The 26 year-old musician has found success on the charts and on YouTube, but still hasn’t peaked yet, making his appearance at SunFest the perfect opportunity to catch this up and comer just before he truly takes off.
8. Devon Baldwin
Saturday, April 30, 8:10pm - 8:30pm
Recently, Bay Area singer-songwriter Devon Baldwin fell into a “Ring of Fire” and it’s hard to not fall in love with her rendition of the Johnny Cash classic. Baldwin, frequent collaborator with one of SunFest’s rising stars, G-Eazy, and a former American Idol hopeful, crafts the same sort of ethereal and sensual electro-R&B as BANKS, Jamie Woon, and her friend, JMSN. Her six-track Lungs EP, named so because of the collapsed lung she suffered that momentarily put her career on pause, is an intimate and affecting affair and a good indication of what West Palm Beach can expect during Saturday evening set.
7. Duran Duran
Wednesday, April 27, 8:30pm - 10:00pm
These British new wave rockers are the one headliner you might be waffling on, but really shouldn’t. Seen as a largely '80s band, Duran Duran sometimes fall into the category of bands that people don’t realize the extent of their influence on modern music. And guess what? Not only do you know way more Duran Duran songs than you think, but if anything, the veteran, synth-happy four-piece have only gotten better with age as evidenced by their bombastic performance in Miami earlier this month.
6. Dylan LeBlanc
Sunday, May 1, 4:45pm - 5:25pm
Vocally, Dylan LeBlanc falls somewhere between Chris Isaak and Ryan Adams. Musically, he embodies the spirit of a vast history of folk singer / songwriters. The Shreveport native was raised on a steady diet of the area’s finest music with his father working as a session player at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. By fifteen LeBlanc began performing himself and a few years later, after the release of his debut album, Paupers Field, he was touring in the company of such Americana and country luminaries as Calexico, The Civil Wars, and Lucinda Williams. His new record, Cautionary Tale, represents a further maturing of his sound, that incorporates the wistfulness of Damien Rice with the poignant songcraft of a pensive old crooner.
5. The Joy Formidable
Friday, April 29, 7:30pm - 8:30pm
Like a closed fist, The Joy Formidable are small but powerful. The Welsh alt-rock trio pack such a punch thanks to their tightly orchestrated wall of sound that hits like a meteor shower. They are led by their diminutive but powerful guitarist and lead vocalist, Ritzy Bryan and count the Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl as one of their biggest fans. On tour supporting their third studio LP, Hitch, The Joy Formidable are one of the few pure rock and roll options at SunFest this year offering a lovely assault on the senses.
4. Lunchmoney Lewis
Thursday, April 28, 6:45pm - 7:30pm
Tire Kingdom Stage
When his hit single “Bills” dropped last year, Lunchmoney Lewis might have seemed to come out of nowhere, but there’s a reason the overnight sensation was so successful so soon; he’s been practicing and studying for a long time, since birth really. Born Gamal Lewis, the Miami native is the son of Ian Lewis, one of the founding members of Inner Circle, the reggae stars that gave us “Bad Boys” and "Sweat (A La La La La Long).” He grew up watching dancehall, hip-hop, and reggae artists write and record in his father’s studio, Circle House, before stepping up to the mic. So far, it’s been the right choice. All Lewis does is pen breezy, super fun, tracks like the catchy “Bills,” “Whip It!,” and his latest, “I Love Me.”
3. The Roots
Saturday, April 30, 4:30pm - 6:00pm
Long before they were Jimmy Fallon’s house band, The Roots cemented themselves as an institution within the hip-hop community. In fact, it’s a shame that an entire generation of music fans might just dismiss them as those guys from that talk show because the truth couldn’t be more entertaining. Led by their most prominent member, Questlove, The Roots are a collective of phenomenally talented musicians and MCs. The Grammy award winning Philly natives have released ten full length records that bring alive the entire breadth and history of blues, jazz, soul, and rap. They are, by a longshot, the one band that anyone with a true appreciation for music needs to see this year.
2. Watch the Duck
Friday, April 29, 8:00pm - 9:00pm
Combining two of the most popular genres in not just South Florida but the across the world, hip-hop and EDM, Watch the Duck is a project born out of the current crop of artists on the charts. The Alabama threesome of Eddie Smith III, Jesse Rankins, and Jonathan Wells focus specifically on trap and dubstep, taking their cues from hard-hitting festival DJs and producers as well as some of their collaborators which include the likes of Iggy Azalea, Pharrell, and T.I. For a mindless good time, make sure to Watch the Duck.
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1. Walk The Moon
Sunday, May 1, 7:30pm - 8:50pm
It’s simple: Walk The Moon are never not fun. Their NBA All-Star Weekend performance this past February drew mixed reactions, but the setting was completely wrong. Walk The Moon are a band meant to perform directly in front of an audience. They need eye contact and audience participation. They feed off of the energy their face-painted fans provide. Expect that same boundless liveliness Sunday night as they help to close out the weekend with their bouncy hits, “Shut Up and Dance” and “Anna Begins.”
Wednesday, April 27 through Sunday, May 1, along the Intracoastal Waterway in downtown West Palm Beach. The festival grounds are on Flagler Drive. Banyan Boulevard to Lakeview Drive lie at the north and south boundaries, respectively. Single-day tickets start at $40; two- and five-day GA tickets range from $60 to $80. Visit sunfest.com for more information.