We're posting our review of SunFest a month after the fact and only because it was likely our last time attending and we're feeling rather nostalgic.
There's a whole jumble of reasons as to why we're pretty tired of SunFest, but most of them can fall into three main categories:
1. We're old. Not old, old, but the ever increasing number of frat and sorority and teenage kids showing up at SunFest was fine when we were all in college and used to dealing with them, now we're not and just that quickly they make us feel sad - for them.
2. Which leads to our next point, it's not as good as it once was - and not like a 'fun' Toby Keith song where it's still got its draw - but really just devolving into a money fueled beer festival, which is awesome if you're going to a beer festival or want to spend extra money to 'get close to your favorite artists', but American beer festivals are sad and paying to meet people who won't remember you is sadder.
3. Most importantly, while we've all completely loved growing up in Florida and wouldn't trade it for any place else, we're all ready to move from the safe, crazy, wonderful haven that is Florida for the rest of the better connected states. If we're an hour from Red Rocks either way or that close to The Fillmore, we're not going to drive/fly down to Florida for a music festival that's been steadily less impressive over the past few years.
So, why post a SunFest review for the first time ever? Because it was probably our last (as a group because one of us still has two more years of school and she'll for sure be back) SunFest and we feel a need to 'officially' close that chapter; nostalgia and all that shit.
Drive-by review, let's go.
Lukas Graham - we got there late but just in time for "Criminal", "Mama Said", "Funeral" and, of course, the much beloved "7 years", among a few others. As expected, he came back out to do "7 Years" for his encore - humble and endearingly thankful the whole time - but then followed it up with "Funeral" which we loved (because it's sweet sentimentality and a gentle sway to dance lazily to on scratched wooden floors) but which wasn't so great for everyone that left the moment "7 Years" was finished and made "Funeral" unfortunately accurate in a metaphorical sense. That's not to say Lukas Graham is a one hit wonder type - they're far too diverse but succinct for a Jonathon Edwards-esque career - but we suspect they'll have a Kings of Leon/Mike Posner run of things where people are aware of them but they're consistently right under the radar and nearly forgotten until they come back with something else breathtaking.
Meghan Trainor - debuted 6 or 7 new songs from her album and it was a bright, sparkley, positive, beautiful show. Seriously, think glitter and happiness and feminine power (but the Lucille Ball kind where you can rock cute dresses and heels and still be a badass) and you've got her show. We loved it. "No" was too fun and "Close Your Eyes" on ukulele was way cute and we one hundred percent fell in love with "Champagne Problems"; we went from passive listeners who bought a few from the first album to fans who want the second played on repeat for awhile. Also, she had these moments where you could just hear her pulling her voice from her gut and hitting it with such gorgeous power, goodness she was great.
Duran Duran - was Duran Duran. There's nothing else to say about them. Every time these older guys get on stage they prove, without a doubt, why their music is still in our minds and hearts and making us dance and sing along decades after the fact, and if they can do this show on a temporary stage, next to a windy lake, we would love to see - because we can't even imagine how impressive it would be - them in an indoor arena. Duran Duran was Duran Duran, and they were awesome.
Mike Mineo - was sweet with a definite festival feel and we'd love to see him again just for the stories that went hand in hand with each piece.
LunchMoney Lewis - we love Floridian performers and he was so very great and totally lovable. "Whip It!" was a fun kick-off, the stories that fell in line with "Ain't Too Cool" and "Bills" were cute segues, "Mama" was as sweet as you'd expect, and he was sure to remind us often that he was from Florida and that's why he was rocking the floral shirt - we loved it.
Jason Derulo - at one point I leaned over and asked, "so, is Jason Derulo here or just his DJ?" at which point I was shushed and told "that's mean"/"that's not funny" - I'd beg that it's far less funny to make people wait over 30 minutes to see a lackluster performance that highlights why you get the most views when your shirt's off. "Trumpets" was off-key and out of breath with out of sync dancing like a milquetoast cover of a song by an artist he shouldn't have tried to tackle and entirely underwhelming. Honestly, the most impressive part of the performance was his abs, and we've seen better. He's Jason Derulo though so, I guess, see him if you've got the chance and don't mind a lead-in as enthralling as the delivery...
Train - as always, delivered an absolutely flawless performance. Pat Monahan was born to be on the stage. They premiered "The News" to mass applause, threw in some throwbacks including "Meet Virginia" which was not performed during their last SunFest run, and closed it all out with fan favorite "Drops Of Jupiter" (obvs) and a beautiful rendition of "Purple Rain" which was done in the way all tributes should be, solemnly and to the exact style as the original out of respect for its art and with the entire crowd hushed, knowing it was special. It was the best Prince tribute we saw that week, and they were plenty. Every time we've seen Train they've owned their crowd and made it feel intimate even when there's 6,000+ people - they are just so very consistently good at what they do.
Bastille - their narrative and cover of "No Scrubs" had us loving TLC even more (if possible) and kind of falling for them too and they fearlessly, energetically, opened with "Flaws" and had the crowd transfixed in seconds. Of course they closed with "Pompeii" (what else?), performed radio favorites like "Things We Lost In The Fire" and "Bad Blood", only one or two of the darker songs from their last album, along with a handful of new songs from the forthcoming album, guaranteed to be so very great. Lead singer, Smith, told the crowd to "just make up your own words and sing-along" with the new songs, instantly having us in love and, just like Trainor, we were pleasantly surprised to hear those moments where his voice was just as breathtakingly gorgeous and powerful as anything we would have sworn was cleaned up in studio before and we're stoked to hear the next album in full.
Death Cab For Cutie - did big hits but surprised with a few fan favorites and not-so radio friendly tracks like "Cath". They finished early and didn't encore, though Gibbard was dripping (and almost horrifyingly flinging mass amounts into the crowd with each hand movement) sweat, so it may have been for the best.
Rick Springfield - we really liked Rick Springfield and his rip-the-bandaid-off intro ("playing at 3 in the afternoon is like fucking under fluorescent lights with marching band music playing"), but then he kept talking. He would've been so good if our parents hadn't been new age people who thought gender equality was essential/a strong woman who wanted us to take on anything/opposers to traditional gender roles. He was a great and expected early '80s act geared towards men and the 'good 'ol days'. We only took some pleasure in hearing that his covers of other songs were atrocious: guts spewing, blood dripping, ripped to shreds and deconstructed beyond repair versions of once listenable pieces - because "girl songs need drums" really means "we're gonna fuck this hit up". He also knew that 80% of the crowd was there for "Jessie's Girl" so he drew that out, which was understandable, whatever, but it began to get real sad the longer he went and when he started drawing out the song itself we left so we could still catch a bit of The Roots and safe our ears from whatever hardship they had just endured. Every harsh word is called for and beer was necessary.
We're going to be honest and say we only listened to Flogging Molly and Capital Cities from the lake front because we've seen both groups perform before and you really only need to see them just so often in your life. Flogging Molly is more fun drunk; Capital Cities is more fun if you're so lost in being a hipster you've forgotten that you used to do it ironically. Jokes aside though, Capital Cities is crazy good live and you should make time to see them at least once, we're just not fans of their fans.
O.A.R. - ZZ Top would have been awesome, it's terribly sad they had to miss SunFest, but Of A Revolution was fantastic and not just because my inner fourteen year old was having the time of her goddamn life. And, they didn't wait until the end of the show to do radio/fan favorites like "Shattered" and "Heaven" and even opened with "Love and Memories" because they weren't dicks about it and knew that fans would stick for the music they wanted to hear and that music festivals are made for moving around and dancing wherever the music's good; so, so fantastic. So good.
Fitz and the Tantrums - it was only our second time seeing FATT so we can't guarantee they're always this good, but past experiences make a pretty strong argument (we were passive non-believers until they danced their way into our hearts three years ago). Adorable as usual, energetic without losing a breath, and so charming it's impossible not to fall for them, Fitz and the Tantrums performed new songs like "Roll Up", "Complicated" and "HandClap", fan favorites like "Fools Gold" and "The Walker", and of course, included a sweet throwback to "Moneygrabber" that had everyone in the back of the crowd swing-dancing - we love FATT, for real.
Judah and The Lion - a goddamn beautiful wall of sound. Amazing and completely underrated, we're sure. I'd say more but nothing would do their show justice. Musically it was top notch, performance wise you didn't want to miss a thing, but they were just so damn fun.
Andy Grammer - moms and 'fun' aunts haven't been this excited at SunFest since Pitbull kicked off the final day. Seriously though, he puts on a fun, fun show and he can handle the heat, which is a big plus for any artist, especially those who weren't raised in the hell pits that are Florida Summers on asphalt - takes a strong artist to be cool in that. He was fine with getting sweaty without mentioning it every five minutes, dropped self-deprecating yet funny jokes without coming across as sad, and kept the whole thing light, adorable, family-friendly (a plus for his 2 PM time slot and the number of children present), and just fun enough that we'd love to take our moms. Really guys, moms love Andy Grammer. Moms: Andy Grammer :: preteens : Harry Styles.
Coleman Hell - crazy good and fun to watch. He hit those high, high, high notes and was so great, and the whole thing was just a step back from adorable only because we just couldn't shake the feeling that he reminded us of that guy that sits down next to you at the bar and you think it's fine but after he's talked for a few minutes you realize how uncomfortable and creepy he actually is and start hoping your friends get there soon. Regardless, he gave a very sweet and modest performance and we've no doubt that once he starts training for longer shows in that type of heat he'll be so very fantastic (and not so out of breath) and we'd love to see what he can do in an air conditioned venue.
Walk The Moon - anyone would tell you that they put on a great show and they really, really did and it was cute and fun and energetic and the only thing that was disappointing was the super weird intro that called attention to ''90s kids' (we're all '90s kids you're not unique because your parents had sex before 1995) in a nearly plaintive sense and the fact that the once chill group from Ohio looked fairly, super made up. Of course, you can't say someone's not great just because they have fame and (weirdly) devoted fans so "Jenny" was different but we still loved it, "Anna Sun" was amazing and beautiful and the accidental early firework that went off perfectly on that first lyric line had us cheering like the rest; "Shut Up and Dance" is self-explanatory; "I Can Lift A Car" was pretty damn inspirational and all around great. In the end, it was a performance from a band who knows their cues; performances are great, but we would've loved to have seen them a few years ago.
SunFest has been an awesome tradition and we used to be so in love with it but - barring they bring in Billy Joel or MCR regroups for one night only at SunFest - we're cool with being done. ALL THAT BEING SAID, if you've never been, it's much better than a rushed two day festival, leaps and bounds ahead of whatever that Coastline Festival mess was a few years ago, and far less teenage-y than Warped Tour and if you prefer a festival atmosphere over individual shows, head to SunFest, because it still is fun, they do still pull in amazing out of this world performers, and you are still on vacation for five days.