SunFest Saturday: Local Roots-Rocker Rich Coccaro Was The Sleeper Hit Of The FPL Stage

richcoccarosunfestSaturday evening, the Life in Color paint party roared off to a pounding, four-four beat at SunFest’s Ford Stage. At the same time, though, the FPL Stage offered something at both the geographic and musical opposite end of the spectrum. There, Rich Coccaro‘s 6:30 p.m. set proved to be one of the sleeper hits of the festival. Coccaro’s local to South Florida, but his songwriting skills and live-playing polish have him poised for stages beyond.

Longtime local scene-watchers might recognize him from an earlier staple on the Broward and Palm Beach County live circuits, Nothing Rhymes With Orange. That project, which he helmed with his brother, was all about Britpop and unabashed Anglophilia — but now, Coccaro’s down a musical 180 and looked for influences closer to home. For fans of rootsy, often slightly tear-stained Americana who miss early Ryan Adams, Coccaro nicely fits the bill.

The scruffy, plaid-clad troubadour led a tight band bolstered by keyboard, a backing vocalist, and a lap steel player, all whose tight playing lent to the total professionalism of the show. Coccaro’s original songs wavered between acoustic-driven tales of love lost — “You are the sadness in my heart,” went one refrain — and bluesier, relatively harder-rocking numbers.

There were touches of folk, country, and ’70s-style heartland rock, with Coccaro positioning himself as a new potential entrant into the tradition of great American guitar troubadours. A cover of Tom Petty’s “Learning to Fly,” later in the set, said everything about his predilections.