Monday, May 16, 2011

SunFest '11

Almost impossible to remember how small SunFest, the annual music, arts, crafts, and foodie extravaganza along the Intracoastal Waterway in West Palm Beach, FL once was. It began in 1982 as just a low key jazz gathering with mainly local acts. It expanded a bit each year. I remember going a few times in those days as a teen. It was always pleasant but the music didn't excite me. Fatburger and Yellowjackets were the prototypical smooth jazz offerings. I always felt that that music was best to sip Bloody Marys to. I still feel that way, more or less, favoring the jazz of yesteryear, especially the early 40s to the late 60s, though you cannot discount the ensembles of earlier times, back in the late 1910s when "jass" was gaining steam. Right, Duke? Right, Dizzy?

Anyway, by the late 80s SunFest was becoming more than just a traffic annoyance. I remember seeing Harry Connick Jr. there in '90 or '91. There were several "main" stages and bigger acts were gracing them over time: Sheryl Crow, Journey, Weezer, Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Flaming Lips, etc. etc. Vendors from all over South Florida would offer trinkets and edible temptations. The infamous Captain Morgan tent on a dock threatened to sink in the water under the weight of more and more revelers. A spectacular fireworks display over the Intracoastal would cap it off.

SunFest has always been memorable mainly for the encounters. Yes, even as you're being swayed along Flagler Drive amongst thousands of sweaty, often inebrieated Fest goers, you may just run into someone from the past. Let me amend my pronoun usage there: I always seemed to. After all, I grew up in WPB. The law of averages was in my favor. The reunions I had were mostly smooth, a few awkward. It often depended upon who I was with, as well. SunFest and the departed T.G.I. Friday's on the corner of Village Blvd. and Brandywine (now Renegades, a C & W nightclub) were always guaranteed to be way stations for the ghosts of my past. Is that washed out looking dude really the guy I rode the bus with? Wait, that's ____, wearing Billabong? I remember he sported boots (probably from Griff's Western) and one of those green caps with the colored lines that rednecks wore. At times my thoughts echoed those of Joe Walsh in "Life's Been Good": Everybody's so different, I haven't changed...

SunFest 2011 was unattended by me until the last day, Sun, 5/1. I went with a childhood friend that day as Jeff Beck, one of my all-time favorite guitarists ("Because We Ended as Lovers" is one of the most beautiful pieces of Stratocaster I've ever heard), would be playing. He put on a fine show. The audience were mainly Baby Boomers, with a smattering of teens who looked bored - their parents probably dragged them. Beck is nearly 70 but he still can pluck some strings (sans pick). He did several of his great originals (including "Freeway Jam"), "People Get Ready" (without the vocals of his friend and local resident, Rod Stewart), and Beatles ("A Day in the Life") and Hendrix ("The Wind Cries Mary") covers. Beck's female bass player at times took the simple instrument to heights rarely achieved, except by people like Jaco Pastorious. A brief waft of what was lilkely to be reefer (does anyone still call it that?) occured somewhere in there, as did a lengthy make-out session of two teens right near us. I can't think of better music for that kind of activity.....

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