The last weekend in April means the same thing each year for a dedicated South Floridian: live music and long nights in downtown West Palm Beach at SunFest. And while the Robin Thickes and Kid Rocks of the world will no doubt bring the dancing queens and country kings to town, this is a key time to absorb those acts that make our local live music scene special too. Bands that play in your backyard all year will also grace the SunFest stages.
Take Surfer Blood, for instance. The band paid its dues as a local favorite before making it big on the indie scene, taking a piece of West Palm pride with it around the world. This year, Surfer Blood is back at SunFest with a legit slot.
So, we wonder, who will be the next local band to come full circle? We can't quite crown the next victor, but we can decide on our top picks for Florida bands playing SunFest 2014.
5. The Edge Effect
This six-piece vocal powerhouse might bring some serious suaveness to the stage, but the guys are careful to note that they are not a boy band. The Edge Effect is taking a cappella to the extreme, showcasing a polished sound.
"This is our first major festival," the group informed us by email. "Needless to say, we lost our minds when we got the news!"
Chances are good that you'll recognize the Orlando group from winning MTV's Top Pop Group and Boyz II Men's Next Great A Cappella Group, or maybe even as America's Got Talent finalists. "We pride ourselves on being an engaging, energetic live act," the guys told us. "Even if you've never heard our music or seen us before, we put on a show!"
4. Luxury of Company
The Luxury of Company fellas are no strangers to the local spotlight. As Doorway 27 in the early 2000s, lead singer Bryan Wohlust and his crew entertained Florida with their Incubus-inspired rock. The lineup got a shakeup, but those same creative juices never stopped flowing, and they simply transformed, evolved even, into Luxury of Company.
And all the years they dedicated to the music were worth it. Says Wohlust: "There's definitely a validation to the hard work you've put in when you get chosen to do something like SunFest." The bigger stage Luxury of Company was assigned offers the band a chance to elevate its sound, so it's adding the Lahinch Mob's violinist extraordinaire Robert Norvell to the mix. As Wohlust puts it, "We've got a big stage to fill."
Considering our current swampy local music climate, it's only appropriate that a rootsy bluegrass band made the stage. We're pretty impressed to see SOSOS on the bill. The Fort Lauderdale-based band cut its teeth touring with Donavon Frankenreiter and G. Love and Special Sauce, but now it's ready to bring its talents back to the home front. Guitarist Mitch Herrick knows that even with all the time on the road, "The fact that we are going to be a part of what is considered one of the biggest local music events on our home turf makes us very proud."
2. Spred the Dub
To know Spred the Dub is to love them. The "good-time reggae" South Florida staple goes into every show with the intent of permanently plastering smiles on faces. Clutching a primo spot opening for Dirty Heads and Rebelution, the guys couldn't be more stoked. Lead singer Mick Swigert told us about when he got the news: "I can only imagine we looked like a bunch of beauty pageant winners jumping up and down and tearing up, waving our hands in front of our faces."
While Spred the Dub is planning on pulling out all the stops and making this show extra -special, that doesn't mean it'll be deviating from its proven formula. "The show is past noon, so we'll be drinking," says Swigert, "and making sure everyone that's there is having fun. Birds fly, fish swim, Spred the Dub drinks whiskey."
1. Speaking Volumes
Hip-hop groove machine Speaking Volumes is no stranger to the SunFest stage. It had the pleasure of rocking the crowd back in 2010. However, the band has changed drastically since then. The genre-twisting crew will open for Aer and Sublime With Rome. "We'll start the vibe, and they'll finish it," frontman Chad Slade says. "Being selected to be a part of SunFest just reinforces your beliefs that you are doing a good thing."
The group is more than ready to rap its way into the hearts of new fans. There is no lack of confidence either. "You need to see us," says Slade, "simply because you will feel better after it's all said and done."