Photo: Chad Tyson

Written By Cassie Morien for SunFest

SunFest 2014 is in full swing. Yesterday at 5 p.m., under a blissfully cloudy sky, West Palm Beach’s fantastic festival welcomed thousands of excited fans. As far as opening days go, yesterday was one of the best I can recall.

First of all, a formal shout out to Mother Nature, who blessed the fest with a refreshing salty breeze and overcast skies. The weather was cool and I didn’t spot any sunburnt shoulders when winding down the day. Paradise was at it’s best and I can only hope the next four days feel the same.

The Vegabonds, a troupe bearded boys from Nashville, served up some wholesome, Southern sounds as people poured in the gates. The band’s use of keys gives them a different feel from the older acts they are often compared to. I also loved their pronounced kick drum, which seemed to constantly challenge the beat in my own chest.

West Palm natives Surfer Blood also put on a terrific performance under a massive glittering disco ball. I’ve been following the band coast-to-coast after seeing them just a few days ago at California’s Coachella. You’ve made it big, guys, and you’ve made your hometown proud.

I jotted in my notes that Surfer Blood crafted “a recipe for greatness.” Each one of their tracks has a slightly different flavor, if you will, but the consistency is always the same. They always play great indie rock. The perfect beach soundtrack. A taste of home.

Dick Dale could be heard over Flagler making his guitar sing with his signature surf sound. The man is impressive, folks! He is 76 years old and still owns a stage by playing his own hits and a slew of popular covers.

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And then, it was time for Kid Rock.

Photo: Chad Tyson

The lights went down. Journey began to play. The crowd, one of the most loyal I’ve seen, quietly waited for the storm that was about to begin. The Journey record screeched to a halt, and South Florida was blasted with blinding lights, guitar wails, drums and sirens. In a silhouette behind a curtain, Kid Rock approached the front of the stage and began with “Devil Without A Cause.”

The sheer screen dropped. Against a backdrop of red, white and smoke, Detroit’s wild child sent the crowd of cowboy hats and fringe tops into a frenzy. Beers were raised, girls were hoisted on bronzed shoulders over the crowd, and couples did their own variations of shimmy and slow dancing.

I’m sure the crowd was singing along to every word that Kid Rock sang, with his popular hits “Cowboy,” “All Summer Long,” and “Wasting Time,” but you couldn’t hear anyone other than the star. The sound was unbelievable, both overwhelming and clear. I wish all concerts were so expertly mixed to highlight the talent on stage.

I had to break away to get some Cake over by the Tire Kingdom stage.

Photo: Paul Sachse

Cake has always been a quirky band to follow. Lead singer John McCrea is well-known for his deadpan delivery and sarcasm, both of which he brought to our South Florida stage. With a photo of snow-covered mountains behind them, the alternative rock group strummed their instruments while McCrea talked to the crowd.

As I walked into the enthusiastic Cake mix, McCrea dryly joked, “If there’s anyone deeply religious [in the crowd], raise your hand. Anyone at all. It’s okay to sing this chorus. It’s for entertainment. It’s a metaphor.”

I was fascinated by the passion the crowd felt for the trumpet-touting band, but that love is what’s kept this Sacramento group alive since 1991. The band was appreciative.

“Thanks for remembering we exist,” McCrea said.

I caught the band just in time to hear my favorites, “Never There,” “The Distance,” and “Short Skirt/Long Jacket.” I also loved their cover of “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath during the encore.

I skipped back over to Kid Rock in time hear him close with a much-anticipated “Bawitdaba.” It was the insanely perfect way to end day one of my favorite fest in the sun.

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