SunFest 2013: Which way to go when acts overlap

There’s lots to like about SunFest, the five-day gathering that gets going for real this weekend along the delightful downtown West Palm Beach waterfront. But the best thing may be its unapologetic anti-hipster attitude, illustrated by a diverse 2013 lineup that again seems to have as its only ambition to simply entertain. And, we’ve come to decide, what’s wrong with that?

A typical SunFest epiphany happens when the music on the stages overlaps, crowds mingle and, suddenly, the Jason Mraz fan finds she’s having a great time (maybe better) down the way watching the soulful scat of Cee Lo Green. SunFest 2013 offers a few such situations, in which the band you start watching is not the one you’re with at the end.

The Black Crowes vs. Ed Sheeran: The smoky, righteous blues of the Crowes (Friday, 8:30-10 p.m., Tire Kingdom Stage) and the yearning romance of British singer-songwriter Sheeran (pictured above; Friday, 9-10:15 p.m., FPL Stage) is an easy call. Unless I’m with my wife, who just “looooves” Sheeran’s “The A Team” and is out to convince me before I make her go Crowes.

Slightly Stoopid vs. Foghat: The former (Saturday, 3:45-5:15 p.m., Ford Stage) is just pure, dumb-ass SoCal jumpin’-around fun, but would have been no competition for Dickey Betts, the revered guitarist who founded the Allman Brothers. Alas, Betts canceled (doctor’s orders) and was replaced by classic rockers Foghat (Saturday, 3:45-5 p.m., Tire Kingdom Stage). I tolerate head-swinging arena anthems such as “Slow Ride” as well as the next guy, but … call me stoopid.

Cheap Trick vs. Phillip Phillips: The prospect of a bunch of parents singing “Mommy's all right, Daddy's all right/They just seem a little weird” with Cheap Trick (Saturday, 9-10:30 p.m., Tire Kingdom Stage) must trump anything “American Idol” winner Phillips (Saturday, 9:30-11 p.m., FPL Stage) can muster, though we may wander over to hear what he does with a live version of the inescapable “Home.” Here was the scene (please sit before reading the rest of the sentence) when Cheap Trick played the space that housed CBGB before it became a John Varvatos boutique: 

Barenaked Ladies vs. Jimmy Cliff vs. Less Than Jake: The Ladies (Sunday, 2:30-4 p.m., Ford Stage) and Jake (Sunday, 3-4 p.m., FPL Stage) just ain’t in the same league as Cliff (Sunday, 3-4:30 p.m., Tire Kingdom Stage), who really doesn’t have to do anything other than “The Harder They Come” in its entirety. Still one of the top 50 albums of all time.

Boz Scaggs vs. Kendrick Lamar vs. Gavin DeGraw: The bluesy soul of DeGraw (Sunday, 7:30-8:45 p.m., FPL Stage) wormed its way into my head way back with “Chariot,” and more-recent songs such as “Not Over You” and “Sweeter” will translate well live. The boozy, hip-hop antics of Lamar (Sunday, 7:45-9 p.m., Ford Stage) will energize an outdoor crowd in a different way. But Skaggs (Sunday, 7-8:30 p.m., Tire Kingdom Stage) has earned such glowing reviews for “Memphis,” his first album in five years (“Sublime,” wrote David Fricke in Rolling Stone), that I can’t help but be intrigued by the old master. And the beauty of SunFest is that I can give him a listen and move on, right?

More info: SunFest.com

Photo: Getty Images

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