Strolling along the Intracoastal, eating a giant turkey leg and looking at art is a pretty ideal Friday night. Especially on a beautiful day in South Florida. At least, it was relaxing until the sun went down, and the sprinting back and forth between stages began.
Apparently, there was a 5k early in the day. A few random people with numbers still pinned to their chests strolled through SunFest in the afternoon. Why anybody would want to run a marathon and then spend five more hours afterward walking up and down the same area is beyond me. There ain't enough turkey legs in the world to keep me going for that long. Because SunFest itself feels like a marathon.
The McNaughstys kicked off Friday night, bringing punk rock to people who had no clue it was humanely possible to play that fast. Big ups to the organizers for getting these guys out there first. Anybody already at SunFest by 5:45 p.m. was woken up by galloping hardcore beats that stood in brilliant contrast to pretty much everything else all night.
"You've probably never seen this particular black dude in skinny jeans," said hip hop artist Zeale to a deep crowd of people who, from the looks of their big smiles and glowing, lit-up colored gloves, we're ready for Kaskade to come out. Long before that happened, Zeale made the case for why we should know who he is by taking a list of random words from the crowd and freestyling about love, life, and a whole lot of partying.
Zeale lost part of the crowd in front of him to violin-playing YouTube sensation Lindsey Stirling, which, to be fair, was the right choice for anybody who made it. There's something really great about watching Stirling leap around the stage, acting like the Angus Young of violin. Most people don't get excited about a violin, so watching a crowd of people flip their collective shit over a fiddle was an oddly wonderful sight.
Murmurs could be heard, even close to the stage, that her playing was less than perfect. But even Angus Young misses notes while stutter-stepping through his guitar solos for AC/DC (just like every other guitarist alive who likes to move), so Stirling is excused for missing a few notes or having imperfect tone. She's fun to watch, so nothing else matters.
At the end of the night, the nightly dilemma of SunFest struck again, and a decision had to be made: Kaskade or 311? There were plenty of people excited to see Kaskade, especially a group of four 15-year-olds near a phone charging station who kept discussing when he was supposed to come out.
I opted to take my tired feet all the way over to the exact opposite side of SunFest to watch 311. From the moment I walked through the gates of SunFest I had been inundated with 311 tattoos, hats, and shirts. Maybe it was a case of subliminal messaging or a more sinister reggae brain-washing conspiracy, but my mind was made up.
Hitting the stage promptly at 9:15 p.m., the Omaha rap-rock-reggae veterans told the crowd they were celebrating 25 years as a band this year and then launched into a career-spanning, 17-song set that had the densely-packed crowd jumping, dancing, and singing along with every note they could (or couldn't) hit.
Friday at SunFest was live. It was a night of perfect weather, a crowd happy to be out on Friday night, and good bands that gave fans exactly what they wanted to see. Saturday at SunFest will bring a deeper bill of artists spread out over a much longer day, and should triple down on what anybody expects of a good time at a festival.
There's no reason for anybody in South Florida not to be there.