Sunfest takes over West Palm Beach waterfront for the biggest music & arts festival

Photo: Chris Ramos Photo: Chris Ramos

As summer begins to roll in, before the year’s concert season finds itself into full swing and the perennial tourists flood the beaches of Florida, us locals flocked to downtown West Palm Beach for our own party, SunFest. The five-day festival boasted 50+ performers spanning genres and even decades for a festival that invited tens of thousands down Clematis to enjoy beer, food and a rather eclectic line-up.

Kicking off the event in grandiose fashion, the fog rolled in for Wednesday’s headliner Snoop Dogg. Teasing the audience with an extended trailer for the upcoming Tupac biopic, Snoop threw WPB sensibility to the wind and blazed up on stage for a whopping hour and a half. The audience, comprised of every age group just lost it and partied away the evening. The gin & juice was flowing, not to mention the wafting sent of Snoop and the boys-n-the-hood. He bumped the hits, getting SunFest into full swing for sure.

Just across the festival, shortly after Snoop dived into the night, 90s oddball-turned-mainstream indie rockers Weezer eased into a more relaxed sort of set. Something funny happens when a group passes the 20-year mark, all their songs become classics, even the newer material. Seemingly playing a by-the-book catalogue that touched on newer as well as deeper cuts, though the pinnacle of their set may have been the medley of “Dope Nose/Back to the Shack/ Keep Fishin’/The Good Life/Surf Wax America,” though I happen to be partial to some of their new songs “Thank God for Girls,” and Hurley’s “(If you’re wondering if I want you to) I want you to.” The mainstay of their set will always be their giant W logo which is always cool to see and no performance would be complete without “Buddy Holly,” which had just about every person up on their feet.

Fast forward to Saturday, where the blistering heat was a little less present and the throng of SunFest was the pulsating heartbeat of downtown WPB, beer flowed even more freely and the crowds multiplied even more since Wednesday’s kickoff. A slow start, Throwback artist Night Ranger took the first big crowd of the day, entertaining with a mix of their own catalogue and some 80s covers. The peak of their set was “Sister Christian,” which was the crowd pleaser. Little more than a stone’s throw away though was must-see alternative rock group Breaking Benjamin, who in spite of the warming afternoon, managed to be even hotter than the Florida sun as they blared through their set, throwing in notable songs “Diary of Jane,” “So Cold,” as well as a great mash-up of “The Imperial March / Schism / Smells Like Teen Spirit / Walk / Bulls On Parade / Sad But True,” before closing out their set with their hugest hit “I Will Not Bow.” Even though they played mid-day, they put on a headlining set, not pulling any punches for the 4PM crowd.

Now, you can’t have a party without the Dirty Heads, it just isn’t possible and opposite the hard rock show that BB put on, the masters of partying turned up the volume and built on the fog fueled dance fest that Snoop set into motion just a few short days before. Giant beach balls, dreadlocked co-eds and a sea of tank tops washed over the bay for the entirety of DH, who pumped out the beats, drops and rocking summer time anthems without pause.

Late night headliners 3 Doors Down drew in a massive crowd as the sun set over Clematis. Even though the day was winding down, the energy was still at an all-time high through “Not My Time,” and their breakout single “Kryptonite.” A few short minutes though and a proper three song encore that had “Here Without You,” “Loser,” & “When I’m Gone,” sent WPB off into the waning night, to prepare for day 5 of WPB’s 30+ year festival.

Photo: Chris Ramos Photo: Chris Ramos

Sunburnt, tired and keeping the party going, the final day of SunFest was one of the most anticipated as forever young punk rockers Blink 182 (w/ Matt Skiba) stood as the final headliners. Putting on an introductory course to Pop-Punk, Blink upped the energy with each passing song. Hoppus, Skiba and Barker are pros for a reason as they managed to keep every soul on Clematis at a full 10/10 for the entirety of their extensive set. It may as well have been a Blink show through and through since the guys didn’t treat it as anything other than that. Sing-a-longs, jokes, Barker solos and an air of excitement, the California punk rockers laid SunFest to rest after a 5-day extravaganza that serves as the bar to be beaten next year.

As the moon rose over WPB and the good folks filed out of downtown heading where, it is almost sad that week’s like this can’t last forever, but it makes you hopeful toward next year and who may grace the three stages set up against floating bar the exists only briefly off Clematis, before the summer begins next year. Till next time SunFest!

Breaking Benjamin

Dirty Heads


John Billion

The Strumbellas

Snoop Dogg


Blink 182

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