Summer Jam offered a pleasant surprise this past Saturday. In in a world of "maybe," they came through with a yes.
The West Palm Beach festival successfully brought local acts of varying genres out into the open air. What made the lineup so intriguing, and even somewhat unfamiliar to the Palm Beach County scene, was the fact that event organizer Patrick Maraist of Music Jam Productions has a wider definition of "local music." "We use the term 'local' on a broad scale," he said, "to include the encouragement and promotion of original music from throughout the state, not only from South Florida."
Though the crowd was slow to get moving, the same can't be said for the bands. Opening up day one of this two-day fest was Orange Juice, a Naples band with a sunny disposition who seemed to embody the Floridian lifestyle. The Florida pride continued with metal band Ornimental out of Fort Lauderdale. Not the biggest genre at the fest, Ornimental manged to make a few reggaeheads say "Damn, they're good."
By the time Alana Davis hit the stage, the crowd was still small but growing steadily. She played a solo acoustic set, highlighting her strong voice and songwriting abilities. But more than just a solid set of pipes and a cool groove, Davis was also funny. She made up for the patchy crowd with some introspective banter like "I just re-released an old record [Surrender Dorothy] and am working on a new one. If you like it and buy something, that's awesome. If not, don't tell me because that's just rude."
Her five-year-old daughter rocked a matching hairstyle and was bouncing in the front row rooting on her mom. Now living in Hollywood, Florida, Davis doesn't play many shows and considers motherhood her full-time job. But it's obvious she still likes to have a good time, especially when music is involved. "When dance songs from the '80s come on, everyone gets extra happy. Mostly me. So I decided I would play an '80s dance song in my set," she said, before ripping into "Let The Music Play" and Bananarama's "Cruel Summer." At the end, her daughter had her turn on the stage, blowing everyone kisses and even busting out a curtsy.
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Next to the stage was the 2013 reunion of beloved late '90s, early '00s West Palm band Doorway 27. Lead singer Bryan Wohlust paid homage, opening the set with "We're happy to be back in West Palm beach; happy to be back anywhere." The jams were dripping with that specific era's Incubus feel and the old WPB vibe was alive and well with the crowd singing along to every word. There were even a couple fans proudly showing off their Doorway 27 tattoos. The set got everyone fired up for another band from that time, Boxelder, but it wasn't quite that time yet.
The next band to take the stage was Inner Circle. Their name might not ring a bell, but their tunes sure do. Or at least ring a siren. That's right, Inner Circle also go by the "Bad Boys of Reggae" because these Jamaicans wrote the classic Cops theme "Bad Boys." The lead singer busting out a slight grind on a female cop on stage during the song might be the concert highlight of the year. This legendary group also sings the classic "Sweat (A La La Long)" which meant a necessary sing along. They peppered in a number of current covers, including tunes by Bruno Mars and Wiz Khalifa, to entertain the crowd for more than just two songs.
Then it was finally time for headliner Boxelder to grace the stage for the first time in almost a decade, a crowd full of fans were bouncing around like they hadn't missed a beat. Lead singer Bryce Rutkowski opened up by proclaiming: "Let's see how this feels..." And it felt good. Noticeably missing were Rutkowski's signature dreadlocks. A fan from the front row announced, "we got you a present!" It was a wig with dreads that gave everyone a chuckle.
The vibe from the audience and on stage were the same blend of excitement and nostalgia. "Like riding a bike," Rutkowski said. The entire day was a music blowout, but this special reunion set meant a lot to our music scene. Boxelder gave us their special blend of reggae-rock late into the night, leaving the crowd with just one question on their minds: When can we do this again?
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