For those unfamiliar with Sunfest, it is a musical and art festival held annually on the first week of May in West Palm Beach, FL drawing roughly 150,000 people. This year marked the 33rd annual Sunfest, which typically includes a healthy representation of music from country, pop, rock (and in recent years) hip-hop/rap acts and EDM artists.
Last year, SunFest organizers say the event brought nearly $15 million to the local economy.
Upon my arrival to the Clematis St. area where Sunfest is held, I discovered parking for a mere $10, though the Sunfest website offered pre-sale parking from $6-$20+. There was no strenuous entry process since the event began at noon, and I walked through the entrance at 8:25 p.m., avoiding any possible lines.
The trip to the Ford Stage where Pretty Lights was to be performing took roughly 15 minutes to walk to. After passing three beer stands on the way, I finally succumbed to my inner-alcoholic and stopped to grab a quick 16 oz. Blue Moon draft beer.
The drink was moderately priced at $9 or you could purchase a 12 oz. for $6. I always splurge and get the larger beer which saves you from needing to go back when in the middle of the crowd. Ironically, a drunk guy walked by sloppily and knocked my beer out of my hand so could’ve saved the $3. There were also domestic beers like Miller Lite offered for $6/16 oz. or $4/12 oz.
I did not really know where I was walking but enjoyed the scenery of vendors, live-painting, and various artist exhibits. As the age of the crowd around me continued to get younger, I knew I was headed in the right direction. Arriving at the Ford stage with 10 minutes to spare before Pretty Lights was to begin his two-hour set, I stopped to ask fan Chad Carpenter his perspective on Pretty Lights and the future of EDM at Sunfest.
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I have attended large-scale festivals like Ultra and TomorrowWorld in the past, and the crowd for Pretty Lights at Sunfest easily compared in sheer size. During festivals this scale, I find it enjoyable to move to different areas of the crowd in order to get a complete perspective and unique experience of the event.
While roaming the stage crowd, I found the audience to literally be all ages. Kids no older than 12 were decked out in their best neon gear and standing right next to them were adult couples, perhaps experiencing an EDM show for the first time.
All age groups existed harmoniously while Pretty Lights orchestrated a live performance that seemed to please the greatest of P.L. fans, while keeping those of us not previously introduced to Smith’s self-described “combo of gritty, crate-digging hip-hop, speaker-shredding digital thump, and instrumentally-based psychedelia” captivated from start to finish.
“There’s a real community and emergence I see happening, man…I feel so much love from ya’ll,” shouted Smith to the crowd.
Funky, reworked tracks off Smith’s Grammy-nominated album, A Color Map of the Sun, filled the majority of the artist’s performance at Sunfest.
When asked in an interview how he felt about the Grammy recognition for his latest album, Smith replied:
“I never really expected anything, especially being an independent artist and paying for my whole album and all the marketing. I haven’t really acquired any stature. I guess that’s changed this year quite a bit, but I feel like I’ve existed in a more completely underground space even though that has gotten so big. I’m playing 5,000- to 10,000-person shows in most cities, but it still feels underground. I guess it’s like that until you get a Grammy nomination or a number one hit. But it’s nice. It feels good. I put my heart and soul into that record and it is really unique and was made in a unique way.”
Smith’s production style for A Color Map was interesting enough to warrant a VICE documentary, which you can find below.
Check out Pretty Light’s Grammy-nominated album, A Color Map of the Sun, at the link below. It will include a free download for the entire album if you provide some basic contact info.
Photo Cred: @Kengoallnight