SunFest Day One: Wilco Shines Brightly, and Lenny Kravitz Is Still Cooler Than You

It was almost as if by calling it SunFest, the West Palm Beach extravaganza was able to will away the rain and dark clouds that occupied South Florida for much of the day. Because when the gates opened and the music started, it was nothing but clear skies and balmy breezes along the waterfront.

The opening-night lineup consisted of pop rocker Yardij, the funky Atlanta band the Shadowboxers, and female rapper Lizzo. The two headliners were Wilco and Lenny Kravitz, who were playing at the same time on opposing stages. You would think having to choose between the two biggest draws would be a problem, but it was more like going to the movie theater and learning Fast & Furious 7 and the new Noah Baumbach movie are playing at the same time. You can like and appreciate both for what they are, but you’re only going to be drawn toward one of them.  With all due respect to Mr. Kravitz — and as a child of the ‘80s, I must respect a man who made a baby with Denise Huxtable — when I heard the quiet poetry of “Handshake Drugs,” I planted my flag firmly in the Wilco camp. Wilco is a Chicago alt-country rock six-piece that I have already seen live twice.

As a journalist covering the event, I probably should have sneaked a peek at Lenny and his glistening chest (still somehow just as glorious as it was a decade ago), but it was hard to walk away from Wilco’s 26-song set. It was a career retrospective that went on for two hours (they were only supposed to do an hour and a half). I found myself glued on one patch of grass, marveling at Wilco's many varieties of alternate tunings, unable to turn toward the distant sounds of Lenny's electric guitar.  Wilco singer/songwriter Jeff Tweedy is a hell of a lyricist and also a bit of a smartass. Some might have interpreted Tweedy's tone as a little snide when he took a moment in between songs to talk about the stage setup. "We're Wilco, and we know you have many entertainment options tonight," Tweedy said. "We appreciate you flying with us." Tweedy paused then added, "One might say you're going our way."

The inebriated crowd slowly caught the Lenny Kravitz reference and snickered. Tweedy suggested that maybe if the wind blew a little stronger, they could hear Kravitz's songs and create some type of weird mash up.  Between songs, as Wilco switched guitars, you could hear Lenny in the distance, but when Wilco was playing, it was mesmerizing, and your attention was focused only on the band. As they finished their jazzy Steely Dan-esque masterpiece “Impossible Germany,” a man standing next to me said aloud to no one and everyone, “Beautiful!”

At 10 p.m. Wilco left the stage, telling everyone they played straight through the time where they were supposed to walk off and come back on for an encore. Lenny Kravitz was still playing, so I walked two blocks to the Ford stage, where a much, much thicker crowd had gathered.
Lenny now had short hair and was wearing a semibuttoned shirt. Toward the end of his set, he took a moment to talk about God. "There is a god," Kravitz said while the band kept a beat going. "I can't believe we live in a day where it is politically incorrect to say 'god.'"

The throngs of people watching him seemed to be having a good time. I only got to hear him play “Let Love Rule” and “Fly Away,” but I felt like I didn’t miss a thing. Some would say I did. But those people might already be mad at me for having never seen a Fast and Furious movie either.
  • Handshake Drugs
  • Kamera
  • Walken
  • I’m The Man Who Loves You
  • Secret of the Sea
  • Heavy Metal Drummer
  • Hummingbird
  • Panthers
  • Poor Places
  • Art of Almost
  • Shouldn’t Be Ashamed
  • Jesus, Etc.
  • Born Alone
  • Not for the Season
  • Box Full of Letters
  • New Madrid 
  • Passenger Side
  • California Stars
  • I Got You (At the End of the Century)
  • Impossible Germany
  • Dawned on Me
  • Late Greats
  • Hate It Here
  • Monday
  • Outasite (Outta Mind)
  • I’m a Wheel

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David Rolland is a freelance writer for New Times Broward-Palm Beach and Miami New Times. His novel, The End of the Century, published by Jitney Books, is available at many fine booksellers.
Contact: David Rolland