In May, Cecil Lunsford, the frontman for psychedelic-bluegrass band Black Weather Shaman, visited Bryant Park in Lake Worth with some friends. “We were having a couple of beers and went for a jog and I said, ‘I think this would be a great place to have a festival,’ ” he recalls. Unlike many people who have grand ideas over beers, Lunsford followed through with his.
Lake Worth-It, the resulting 12-hour bash featuring 20 bands, 40 indie crafters and food from Swanky’s Bar-B-Que, will kick off 10 a.m. Saturday. If all goes according to Lunsford’s plan, people who’ve called the city “Lake Worthless” will be eating their words and washing them down with $5 beers.
“People called it Lake Worthless, and I’ve always felt that that is a wrong statement about the city,” says Lunsford, who’s lived in Lake Worth for five years. “I moved here from Delray, and this has all the charms of old Delray, plus this amazingly vibrant music scene. I was like, ‘You know, this place is worth it. It’s Lake Worth-It.’ That’s how we came up with the name.”
Three weeks after dreaming up the festival, Lunsford formed Shaman Stick Productions, got city approval and contacted 20 bands that live in, record or are managed in Lake Worth. He hoped 10 would play, but some bands contacted friends in other groups, and eventually, 45 bands responded. Lunsford solidified a lineup that now includes John Ralston and Invisible Music,Blond Fuzz (formerly Stonefox), punk act the Hard Richards, indie-folk duo the Dewars, and Black Weather Shaman. Lunsford also booked Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes but he didn’t raise enough money from sponsors to meet Barnes’ asking price. So on July 27, Barnes canceled and Lunsford got a quick introduction to the world of festival planning.
But he continued plugging away with a team that includes local promoter Steve Rullman andAmanda Linton, the indie-crafter and baker who founded annual festivals Stitch Rock and Art Rock and curates monthly art shows at West Palm Beach diner Howley’s.
Linton says she’s excited to hear the bands and work with new artists. “It’s not a juried application process, so pretty much anyone who is an artist in Lake Worth or is in the craft circuit was asked to participate,” she explains. The roster includes Ryan David, who will make handblown glass jewelry at his Kiss My Glass booth; Justin Vilonna, a.k.a. Invi, who uses spray paint and markers to create monsters, zombies and ghosts on vinyl records, canvas and wood; and Kate Morphew, a.k.a. Fancyguppy, who makes accessories and jewelry with charms that look like sushi, Cheez-Its, bacon and peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches.
“I hope this is a jumping-off point for the younger, artsy musicians and crafters to embrace Lake Worth and make things happen,” Linton says.
Festival organizers say Lake Worth is already happening. Their press release touts it as a city that boasts an anarchist city commissioner, more live music per city block than any other South Florida town and open mikes at which a person might see Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba or Jimmy Buffett performing alongside some kid who just wrote his first song.
“Yeah, Lake Worth is awesome,” says Rullman, who books bands at Propaganda. “It’s the last cool, little, weird downtown in South Florida. The fact that [Lake Worth-It] is happening there is pretty neat. … It’s $20 to spend the day and experience something that hasn’t been done before at this scale.”
Lunsford promises a diverse lineup. “We have an alt-country act, a more-traditional rock ’n’ roll act, indie pop, shoegaze, punk rock, a metal band, a garage rock band, a psychedelic band, a ska band, a dub band — it’s all over the place. And the great thing about this scene is that it’s not just a group of people getting together mimicking one style of music,” he says. “It’s a group of people being influenced and coming up with something original, which is pretty amazing. It’s the mark of a true scene in my mind. It’s what you see in Ann Arbor in the ’60s, New York in the late ’70s.”
While Lake Worth as the next New York may be a stretch, something certainly is brewing in the city. “I sense that the quality of bands in the Palm Beach County area has improved dramatically over the last few years,” Rullman says.
John Ralston, a Lake Worth-born musician who will play the fest with Invisible Music, the eight-piece Americana orchestra he formed last year, agrees. “There seems to be this creative spirit right now that I haven’t seen before,” the longtime resident declares. Ralston suspects it’s the relaxed vibe, cheap living and a small downtown packed with live-music venues that’s drawing musicians to the area.
“This is quite an impressive lineup Cecil has put together and I think he’s doing it with the right spirit,” Ralston says. “It seems like he recognized what was happening here, what we have all seen developing here, and thought this would be a great chance to show everybody what’s going on right now because literally every band around here is worth seeing. For the first time in a long time, there are tons of great bands.”
Organizing them, however, can be a challenge. Rullman, who held a free concert with five bands at Bryant Park 15 years ago, calls Lunsford’s fest “ridiculously ambitious,” but he says he was glad to offer advice and graphic design help. “You’re gonna make mistakes the first time you do things, and there are things I probably would have changed along the way. But at the end of the day, it’s a great learning experience for everybody involved,” Rullman says. “I give him a lot of credit for being willing to step up and assume the risk and try to make some cool things happen. … His heart is in the right place.”
Sergio Witis, a singer and multi-instrumentalist for Everymen, one of the bands performing Saturday, says he loves Lake Worth, the DIY nature of Lunsford’s fest and how bands are doing their part by selling tickets. “One person cannot do it,” he asserts. “It involves paying the city, paying for sound and the stage. From what I understand, Cecil is not made of money, so I think a lot of the bands are trying to help as much as possible. I think it’s awesome that we’re having a DIY fest that’s done by the bands, for the bands and for people who want to go see music.”
Witis says Lake Worth’s music scene and cheap rent prompted him to move there from Delray Beach five months ago. “Slowly but surely, a lot of bands are moving here,” he says. “Lake Worth has so much potential to have an awesome music scene.”
Jesse Baumann, a Boynton Beach indie-folk musician who is working on a solo album while playing as a singer-guitarist in Everymen, plans to move to Lake Worth in February. But he already spends much time hanging out there and rehearsing at Witis’ place, which is next door to punk-roots band Viva le Vox’s house and down the street from that of Black Weather Shaman. “Before Viva le Vox went on tour, we’d have our practice and some of them would come watch and then, they’d have their practice and we’d go over there,” Baumann says.
But not everyone’s happy about Lake Worth’s growing music scene, or the volume of it. Downtown Lake Worth remains the subject of an ongoing dispute between nearby residents and the clubs, pubs and restaurants that host bands. A task force of residents and business owners was formed earlier this year to draft a noise ordinance, but one that satisfies residents and business owners has yet to be reached. A recent update to Don’t Kill the Music in Lake Worth’s Facebook page notes that the issue likely will surface again at the Aug. 10 city commission meeting.
Lunsford, whose band will release the EP Concentric Circles of Badassery Vol. 1 on festival day, hopes the task force will offer a better proposal. “Eighty-five decibels at the curb is not very loud. It’s speaking volume,” he says. “I can see both sides of the argument, but one message we’re trying to send out is that music is not noise. Music is something else. It’s the type of thing that revitalizes a community.”
Lake Worth-It will feature 40 indie-crafters and artists and music by the Sweet Chariots, the Shakers, the Ridicules, Sweet Bronco, Wayside Flyer, Jesse Baumann, Yellow #6, Angry Pudding, Leading the Heroes, Bladesong, Blond Fuzz, Kill Now?!, the Hard Richards, Guy Harvey, the Dewars, the Jameses, the People Upstairs, Everymen, Black Finger, Black Weather Shaman and John Ralston and Invisible Music. The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday at Bryant Park, 30 S. Golfview Road, in Lake Worth. Tickets cost $10 in advance from bands, $15 in advance on the Web site and $20 the day of the show. That price includes free admission to after-parties featuring more local bands at six downtown Lake Worth venues. For tickets and details on which bands are playing at each bar, call 561-324-4971 or visit Lakeworthit.org.
Contact Colleen Dougher at email@example.com.
This story was originally published Aug. 3, 2010.