Last Night: Lake Worth-It at Bryant Park, Lake Worth, August 7

Categories: Concert Review
Lake Worth It (8_7_2010)_by Ian Witlen_-169.jpg
Photo by Ian Witlen
Black Weather Shaman's Cecil Lunsford (center) is triumphant in a tutu.
Lake Worth-It 2010
With John Ralston & Invisible Music, Black Weather Shaman, Black Finger, the Jameses, Guy Harvey, Jesse Baumann, the Dewars, Everymen, Kill Now?!, Sweet Bronco, Yellow #6, Bladesong, the People Upstairs, Angry Pudding, Grey and Orange, Leading the Heroes, the Ridicules, Blond Fuzz, the Hard Richards, and Wayside Flyer

Bryant Park, Lake Worth
Saturday, August 7, 2010


View a slideshow from the festival here.

Saturday's inaugural Lake Worth-It festival will be remembered as a living, breathing organism. Fortunately, all of the fence construction, coordination with law enforcement, and a lot of loading in and out ran smoothly enough that attendees could experience a rare day in the park featuring the highest caliber talent (sans Surfer Blood) the area has to offer. Punk, funk, reggae, alt-country, folk, indie rock, Appalachian blues, and Medieval metal (courtesy of Bladesong) all figured into the mix. With only 30 minutes allotted to each band up until John Ralston & Invisible Music's thrilling conclusion under the stars, attention spans could rest easy.

Numbers were pretty scant for the initial acts like Grey & Orange (featuring Invisible Music's Dan Bonebrake), fierce punks the Ridicules and Fort Lauderdale post-punk trio Sweet Bronco -- many of the day's later attendees were still in bed. What was established early on, though, was that Bryant Park's enormous pavillion stage would be a welcome chance for all of the artists to experiment sonically and have some extra room to strut around (in some coveted shade).

To keep things moving along, bands played on alternating sides of the stage. Aside from the people-mixing that occurred at the merch area under one side wing of the pavillion, along the stone wall overlooking the inter-coastal waterway next to the park, under shade trees, and at the BX Beer Depot stand, there were umpteen moments of interaction onstage as many of the bands in sequence experienced each other up close. For example, while the Jameses were setting up to give one of the day's peak performances -- closed by the triumphant "The Haunted Rider" -- bassist/keyboardist Jesse Bryan broke out his tambourine to enthusiastically accompany the Dewars.

Midday, a cop gave an estimate that there were a couple hundred people there -- many of whom were in the 21 bands, or knew them intimately. Eventual headliner John Ralston was just as much a fan as a performer, and was easy to spot in his green "It's Better in the Bahamas" tee as he mixed with the ever-evolving crowd. Folk-leaning attendees moved forward and sat in the benches to experience the quiet folk of South Florida's answer to Will Oldham, Jesse Baumann, as well as Meryl Joan's songbird voice during Wayside Flyer's set -- and then a skankin', tattooed assemblage emerged for the punk punch of Kill Now?!, Angry Pudding, and the Hard Richards. When rain hit in the mid-afternoon, many attendees scattered for cover. But  Delray Beach's Bladesong, bedecked with frilly shirts, viking helmets and an arsenal of over-the-top metal, was compelling enough to keep a committed clump of followers ignoring the weather. Boca rockers Blond Fuzz, exhibiting new songs like "Hey Jurassic," proved as magnetic to another set of diehards ignoring the cloudburst above and opting to witness the one unfolding onstage.

As the sun began to lose its intensity, the backwoods rabble-rousers Everymen ensured that mirth, balls of fire, and silly string were everywhere. Banjo player/vocalist Serg Witis, who was just as shirtless and inked up as the rest of his band, posed the question: "Is there a no dancing ordinance?" And his followers decided they'd break it. With many of the similarly raucous members of Black Weather Shaman crashing the stage -- and then Everymen returning the favor during BWS's set -- it added a looseness to the songs and the performance.

It was dark by the time Ralston & Invisible Music emerged. Somewhere between the orchestral majesty of Arcade Fire, and the hard-edged easy listening of Wilco's Sky Blue Sky-era work, the eight-deep ensemble was a unifying act that for the first time took over the entire stage. Obviously elated, Lake Worth native Ralston thanked the crowd and spoke of the goodness and kindness that went into creating the festival. Pointing out the two pregnant members of the group, percussionist Tiffany Jezek and violinist Susan Sherouse, he added that when they give birth "the band's getting a lot uglier." Ralston poured his elation into crisp vocals on the intricate "Let Me Be" and "Oh My God," which justified having such an enormous grouping. Occasionally during the lengthy set, the park lights went out, which left the only light onstage (note for next year: this is ideal). Coupled with the exuberance via bassist Dan Bonebrake and keyboardist Greg Lovell, who looked like they had toys in their hands more than instruments, it was a night that ended sooner than necessary (unless you count the after-parties that followed in downtown Lake Worth). 

In sum, the experience should be seen as an effective first draft and a promise of what can be with more long-term planning in the future. Sure, removing Of Montreal frontman Kevin Barnes from the bill proved to alter the day's feel, but just as many happy surprises came too -- beholding festival organizer/Black Weather Shaman principle Cecil Lunsford performing in a neon pink tutu, for example. Through the rain, the retirement of @ThePhoneyComb, and all, it was a beautiful day.

Critic's Notebook
Better Than: The sound in any of the area clubs. With local sound engineer John Harris and Propaganda's Justin Thompson manning the boards, and the excellent acoustics of the Bryant Park pavillion structure, all of the musicians reached highs in terms of vocal clarity, and the coherence of each instrument. This was especially important for the eight members of John Ralston & Invisible Music.

Personal Bias:  The area needs this festival, but scheduling it the weekend after the free Respectable Street 23rd Anniversary in downtown West Palm Beach (probably also tied to Kevin Barnes' availability) was likely a detriment to attendance. It would be best to keep these two similar events showcasing local music more spaced apart.

Random Detail:
Photographer Monica McGivern unveiled the results of her Lake Worth Photo Project at 1 p.m. Keep checking back here to see the intimate portraits of many of the Lake Worth-It performers.

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