SunFest’s Saturday in Review

I could not wait for the gates to open Saturday morning so I could grab a spot to see one of my favorite U.K. rock bands. I had previewed The Chevin prior to their SunFest debut as one of the acts not to miss during the week and I’m sorry if you did.

With a blue sky backdrop, the boys played a handful of songs from their album Borderland including “Dirty Little Secret,” “Blue Eyes,” “Colours,” and their powerful single “Champion.”

Borderland may be the band’s “first” album, but Coyle Girelli, Jon Langford, Mat Steel and Mal Taylor have been concocting delicious sound bites since 2008, when they played under the name Your Vegas.

Don’t worry about the name change, Girelli’s voice is the only thing you’ll want to remember. The lead singer is filled with music. It is constantly clear that melodies are breathlessly waiting to escape from his body. He makes singing look effortless.

I would have gladly cemented my feet to Flager Drive and listened to just The Chevin play all day. This band will eventually sell out stadiums so it was a treat to see them here.

On the Tire Kingdom stage, Molly Hatchet and Britain’s Foghat seemed like the perfect duo for the large, concert-seasoned crowd stretched out on lawn chairs and blankets.

Molly Hatchet, with their long hair and cowboy hats, fall under the unique genre “country metal,” much like Lynyrd Skynyrd. Originally from Florida, the southern rockers have been making music since the 1970s. Attendees wore some of their old memorabilia (dating back to the 80s) and lead singer Phil McCormack was quick to inquire about fans’ shirts from the stage.

“God bless you,” he said.

Foghat was a great last minute addition to SunFest and the crowd was thrilled they didn’t need to shuffle to another stage. Foghat played their boogie-rock hits while I sat in the cool shade in Club SunFest. (That raised hill is the perfect mid-afternoon retreat to enjoy a beer and meet some kind locals.)

The Airborne Toxic Event was the next act I caught on the FPL Stage. The crowd had grown significantly in the south end to see the indie band from California. Most music junkies are familiar with Airborne’s hit “Sometime Around Midnight” which received major play on VH1 a few years back. But moments into their set it was clear this band packs a big punch, and their popular somber single is no indication of their live performance.

Lead singer Mikel Jollett bounced around the stage in a seemingly carefree game of catch-me-if-you-can with his bandmates. He cued solos, including precious little highlights from the petite Anna Bulbrook on her sweet (and sassy) viola.

Jollett proved to be quite the climber too, quickly scaling the stage and jokingly calling out that he could see alligators from his lookout.

He also remarked that it was a “pleasure to be such a far way from home.” The band has been on the road for the majority of the past five years, and he said this was around their 850th show.

I was both impressed by their energy (and their perfectly indie Hawaiian shirts).

The Jonnie Morgan Band was next in line on the Tire Kingdom Stage.

I had previously interviewed Morgan, but I had not had the pleasure of hearing the band live with their seven member outfit. I was honored to cover their set.

They lucked out with their 7:30 p.m. time slot. Most of the crowd was settling in place to get ready for the night’s headliners and escape the setting sun. Morgan’s bluesy rock could be heard over by the neighboring Ford Stage, luring people to come cool down.

The band’s sound has evolved since my UCF days. Morgan described this group’s sound as “full” and that really is the perfect term. Their horn section, comprised of a saxophone, trumpet and trombone, is a great complement to Morgan’s soulful lyrics and deep voice.

The crowd loved the budding band from Orlando. Twice I was stopped by people intrigued about their sound. I told them, what I’ll tell you now: Keep an ear open. You’ll hear them again soon.

The finale to Saturday was “American Idol’s” Phillip Phillips who played the FPL Stage. I think Phillips is one of the most talented winners to walk away from the popular singing show and the crowd was packed to see him.

There was a different love for Phillips than the other acts of the weekend. I’d like to think it’s because we, the people, helped discover the remarkable 22 year old from Georgia. We have watched him blossom before our eyes. Our votes are why he was playing the stage before us, he is our Idol.

The handsome, gentle musician was humble and reserved.

“I’m Phillip Phillips and I hope you’re having a good time,” he said. “Thank you again for coming out. I can’t say it enough.”

As much as I love his original works and his new album, I first became smitten with his crafty covers, so I was giddy when he played a completely unique cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.”

Toward the end, when he played his hit single “Home,” the crowd lit up. A joyful current flowed from the stage and into our hearts, as we sang along with him.

* Photos by Chris Salata