Each year, West Palm Beach is granted its fill of national acts thanks to the waterfront concert SunFest. This year, there's a buttload of big names, like Smashing Pumpkins and Slightly Stoopid, Kendrick Lamar and Black Crowes. But the folks behind the scenes are no dummies; they know that South Florida has plenty of great musicians and artists, and thus offer them an equal chance at the SunFest spotlight.
Nearly 20 Florida-based bands are hitting the festival's stages this year, and their sounds range as wide as the mind can imagine. But each group has one thing in common: being juiced to perform on Clematis. Here are my personal picks for the top local acts prepped to strut through this year's SunFest.
5. The Crazy Carls
Making the trek from Orlando are beach dudes the Crazy Carls. I first caught these guys at World of Beer, arguably my favorite place to shove beer in my face and least favorite place to see live music. So when a band stole my attention by bringing some serious jams to the table, I knew it had the goods. Lead singer Alex Baugh has always wanted to play SunFest and promises a blazing show. On top of that, he has amazing hair. According to the guy with the dreads, "We are the perfect band to see, if you want to get your night started; we've got an outrageous, high-energy show!"
4. Future Prezidents
I get a nice dose of West Palm reggae boys Future Prezidents as a benefit of my "slight" O'Shea's Irish Pub habit. The bar is known for bringing solid local bands to the table, and Future Prezidents are no different. The irie crew always rocks the small stage, but now that the stage is at SunFest, they couldn't be more stoked.
Singer/songwriter Boe Simeonov told me how he felt when he got the news: "I literally jumped out of my bed and then caught myself dancing in the mirror. I kept dancing! I knew I would get a chance to reach out and share our message with a large crowd, the way the songs were meant to be played." Preach it, brother.
UNRB's sound resides somewhere between ska and everything else. A music-savvy friend of mine recommended these guys' unique brand of quirk (I see you, electric ukulele) to me a while back, and I was happy to see they would be making the drive from St. Petersburg to invade West Palm with their essence.
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The band has seven members, including a four-piece horn section, the perfect choice to warm up the stage before Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish on Sunday night. Noel Rochford on vocals and ukulele told us how much SunFest means to the men of UNRB: "We've played some big shows with big names to big crowds, but SunFest definitely takes the cake. If we play our cards right, it could be the beginning of something big."
2. Making Faces
Proving there is no lack of talent here at home, locals Making Faces is another great act getting a spin on the big stage. The crew is bringing its mix of reggae, funk, and rock to open up for Barenaked Ladies on Sunday, and drummer Matt Gaulin told us he has been dreaming of playing SunFest ever since his first experience as an audience member.
Now that he finally has the chance, he promises, "This gig will bring out a whole new layer of Making Faces; we will be bigger and tighter than ever." Capitalizing on the opportunity for fresh new fans, Making Faces is keeping the SunFest vibes going by playing afterparties around Clematis Street from Thursday through Sunday.
1. Raggy Monster
Raggy Monster sure knows how to put on a show. Its special blend of catchy alternative rock with female and male vocals bouncing off of each other is an original sound that has garnered the band lots of attention in the past year.
It's only appropriate the band tops it off with a turn on the Ford stage opening for Train on Thursday night. Frontman Billy Schmidt is superpumped for the show, regardless of the fact that his first time attending the fest will be from the stage. How did he feel when he found out his band scored the gig? "To be honest, I thought it was a spam email. I emailed them back and found out it was real. It didn't really hit us until we were signing the contract they sent over."
This is just a small sampling of the type of local talent that will be putting their all into sets and stacking up new fans at this year's SunFest. So why should you get your ass in the gates early to see bands you probably never heard of? How about 'cause you need some new mp3s and you love this city you live in? Show SoFla some support! Go early and stay late -- it's SunFest, goddamn it!
For more SunFest and West Palm Beach tips, follow Dana on Twitter @DowntownDana
SunFest is May 1 to 5 at the West Palm Beach Waterfront. Visit SunFest.com for more information. The Crazy Carls play Thursday on the Tire Kingdom Stage at 5:15 p.m. Future Presidentz open the show Sunday at noon on the Tire Kingsom Stage. UNRB play Sunday at 1 p.m. on the FPL Stage. Making Faces will be playing SunFest on Sunday at 1 p.m. and SunFest afterparties all week: Thursday at Dr Feelgood's, Friday at World of Beer, Saturday at Bar Louie, and Sunday at Tin Fish. Raggy Monster is playing SunFest Thursday at 5:30 p.m.
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