SunFest 2014: Surfer Blood, Dick Dale, Cake, Kid Rock - West Palm Beach - Day 1
Ian Witlen Kid Rock wants you to tap that.
Wednesday was the first night of SunFest, a five-day, beer soaked music festival at the West Palm Beach downtown waterfront. Fans of old school white-folk rock and roll reveled in the day one lineup, which consisted of five acts: the Vagabonds, Surfer Blood, Dick Dale, Kid Rock, and Cake.
It was around 6:45 when we arrived, and most of the patrons were just trickling in. West Palm Beach's Surfer Blood was onstage with some surfy power-pop. The audience was mostly sitting on the lawn waiting for Dick Dale to start at 7, at which point many of them left.
Sadly, Surfer Blood's performance was mostly flaccid (especially when compared to Dick Dale's upcoming erect guitar onslaught) and singer John Paul Pitts sounded like his voice was a tad weary. He wasn't completely hitting the high notes on "Swim." I've seen them perform more than a few times, and this definitely wasn't their most impressive outing. They played with little energy, and the world was mostly passing them by.
Dick Dale was a different story. Always a consummate showman, 76-year-old Dale brought the guitar thunder to the main stage. The mostly older crowd (the younger kids were drinking beer and waiting for Kid Rock to come on) ate up Dale's old man ramblings and young man guitar work.
Bikers bros, ex-hippies, and mamas and papas were all lightly dancing to Dale's expert guitar-picking. He played some of his classics, like "Misirlou" and "Let's go Tripping," along with a steady stream of covers. Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues" was especially distortio-heavy, he soaked "House of the Rising Sun" in crunchy reverb and even did his best Johnny Cash impersonation.
When there are peaks, however, there must be valleys.
Cake played the other stage. Full disclosure: Cake has never been a favorite of mine. I've never quite "gotten" them, and have always found their ironic, faux-ska reggae thing to be tedious. I know that the lead singer doesn't really "sing," but rather does a deadpan chatter over the band's chilled-out rock and blaring trumpets. I know that's his "thing," but it doesn't make for much of a show, especially following Dick Dale.
These young whippersnappers could sure learn a thing or two about performance from Dale. The volume on their set was quite low. I couldn't remember a single moment of their set once it finished. However, the crowd absolutely loved them. People were dancing. Even the younger kids who didn't really know who they were. Upon interviewing, I couldn't find a bad thought about the band or performance from anyone. Even when I really started leading the the interviewee with questions like, "Wait... You really like this?"