Thursday Review: Ben Harper, Lillie Mae, and Chemradery

Thursday was another remarkable day along the South Florida waterfront. The threat of weather didn’t bring rain, but instead cooler weather and a refreshing breeze– perfect for our fabulous headliners.

Kicking off the day was South Florida’s own Chemradery. As we teased before, lead singer Gregory Scot Dyer previously sang professional opera for the Palm Beach Opera Company, so his range will take your breath away. It’s safe to say that Dyer, with his classically trained background, is probably going to be the next Lin Manuel Miranda. On top of being a remarkable artist, he is also warm and approachable. He effortlessly commands the stage and crowd.

The rest of the band is also bombastic. Ivan Alexander, Mark Jacobs, Joe Louis, and Xavier Vanegas provide the electric, heart-fluttering sound that is Chemradery. (Chemistry + camaraderie, if you’re just joining us.) They serenaded us with a handful of unique tracks, including the stellar “For You,” “One Last Time,” and “As Hard As You Can.”

00003_BH2017On the Tire Kingdom Stage, much-buzzed-about Lillie Mae woo’d the crowd. This singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist is a badass. She is just 26-years-old but has a long, long, long career in front of her– complete with grand stages and millions of ears. It was a pleasure to see her at SunFest.

“Don’t you all rush the stage now,” she said to the composed crowd, laughing to herself between songs. She carried us into her sweeping single, “Over the Hill and Through the Woods,” off her latest release Forever and Then Some.

Rolling Stone called her recent Conan performance “scorching,” and I think that is accurate. Although sweet and truly charming at the mic, Mae has the appearance –and fervor– of a fire. Look. Admire. But don’t touch. If I ever have a daughter, I hope she’s quite like this talented woman, who is going to set the music industry ablaze.

And then headlining Tire Kingdom for our second night of joy was Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals. Just walking into the little Tire Kingdom valley, you could feel your shoulders relax and your breath change. Harper and his veteran musicians create a calm, cool atmosphere that needs to be bottled and sold. (Yes, I realize this can be obtained by putting on his album.)

Under a few warm lights, Harper and the Innocent Criminals performed beautiful songs drenched in love. Their message, their stage presence, is one of peace and tranquility.

Harper was frequently standing and sitting to play his lap steel guitar. Behind him, a jungle of bass, guitar, drums, percussion, and keys. Crouched under red lights, the band leaned into “Call It What It Is.”

The band played beloved hits “Better Way,” “Forever,” “With My Own Two Hands,” and “Burn To Shine.”