By Hali Neal
The first day of SunFest on Thursday saw some 1980s flair with an appearance by Living Colour (of “Cult of Personality” fame).
Guitarist Vernon Reid had what appeared to be a solid gold guitar and lead singer Corey Glover’s hair was purple, his leather pants had a gold tint, and he wore blindingly white shoes that he’d probably bought for this occasion. Their unique blend of funk and alternative rock was spellbinding, and the way Glover, Reid and bassist Doug Wimbish played off each was fun to watch.
There was an amusing moment in the set where Glover could be heard loudly saying “No,” to whatever Reid was suggesting. Then a recorded intro started playing and Glover’s face suggested exasperation. It was like that moment when you tell your friend not to make a bad pun and then they do it anyway.
But Reid’s command of guitar and Wimbish’s of his bass is something to witness.
Also playing Thursday was Sir Sly, which has been making waves in the alternative world, especially on SiriusXM, ever since the 2017 release of singles “High” and “& Run,” off Don’t You Worry, Honey. Despite the name, there are three members of Sir Sly: lead singer Landon Jacobs, keyboardist/guitarist/producer Jason Suwito, and drummer Hayden Coplen, a point Jacobs made sure to make during the set. They were the most entertaining to watch of the three acts I saw Thursday and a definite must-see-again band.
Upon approaching the JetBlue Stage, there was a steady stream of cartoons playing on the screen behind them. After finishing one song, Jacobs mentioned how Sir Sly had played Coachella this year and got told off for climbing the support beams that look like ladders. From that moment, he said climbing up more of those is “gonna be [his] job” and that he “can’t wait to climb more of them.”
Before they launched into “High,” Jacobs talked about the song meaning: “getting too stoned in an Oakland hotel room while on tour with The 1975.”
The song has a lyric that says, “feels good to be running from the Devil…” and, hilariously, they used a voice changer to make their voices sound demonic/devilish every time it came up, which is often because it’s part of the chorus.
For a band who almost doesn’t take itself too seriously, things did indeed get serious right before “&Run.”
“This is one of those serendipitous moments where I get to talk about running into the setting sun while the sun is setting,” Jacobs said. He also went on to talk more about how Sir Sly is a three-piece and how he “doesn’t really do anything except write about [his] life” and how the other members are the ones who are responsible for producing their albums. And he also noted that writing Don’t You Worry, Honey saved his life.
Before writing the album, he lost his mother to brain cancer and got divorced, as well as endured a spiritual crisis, he told the ticketing company AXS in an interview, and songwriting helped him “boil it down.”
Other interesting tidbits from the set include both Jacobs and Suwito getting up on Coplen’s drum platform and jamming during an extended break toward the end of “&Run.”
At first, there was a worry that there wouldn’t be much of a crowd for Sir Sly: 15 minutes before the set was to start, there was only a smattering of people at the JetBlue stage. But another 15 minutes after the set started, the street and the grassy area were packed with people.
The third act I saw Thursday was rapper Logic (born Sir Robert Bryson Hall II), who burst into mainstream success in 2017 with suicide prevention anthem “1-800- 273-8255” and has since released another new mixtape called Bobby Tarantino 2.
Just the appearance of the live DJ who tours with Logic was enough to induce ear-piercing shrieks from the crowd. Then the bass started thumping and the man himself came on stage. He knows how to hype a crowd, first telling one side to be louder than the other and then to just be medium loud and cut them off, like some odd orchestra conductor.
After it quieted down, he started making a speech, which could have been the start of a good show: “No f***boys allowed. If you’re too cool for school with your arms across your chest … not allowed.”
He then launched into his first song and, after it was over, asked the crowd another question: “What’s the one thing I always ask at my shows?”
At first, the answer was indistinguishable.
“What is it?” he asked again.
This time the crowd yelled loud enough for everyone in the immediate vicinity to hear: “Peace, love and positivity!”
He followed that up with an admirable sentiment about wanting everyone to be safe and wanting them to scream that back, which they did.
Outside of boy bands and some pop crossover stars, it’s unusual to see this type of fangirl/fanboy admiration for a rapper. From a girl sitting on someone’s shoulders yelling every word to a sign someone was holding that said “Bobby I see you and I appreciate you” to a mom who brought a sign mentioning that her son, Liam, was one of his biggest fans and to “make [her] the best mom ever” by bringing him up on stage.
Logic obliged and asked how old Liam was and what his favorite song was. The audience didn’t get to hear the answer, only Logic’s reply that they didn’t have that on the set. Then, convinced that there was no way Liam could know it, Logic suggested that they rap the entire first verse of one of his oldest singles. Liam knew every word and Logic was impressed, even saying at one point, “I love my fans!”
Then things got weird. He kept asking if fans wanted to go home. At first, it seemed like he was doing his crowd hype man thing. The more he kept saying it, though, the more it seemed like no amount of noise the fans could make was good enough.
It was the same thing with when he asked if he had any fans “out there [at the Ford main stage].” He asked this multiple times.
Speaking of fans, there was a moment in the set where he asked everyone to put their hands up and, again, made it weird and uncomfortable: “I need all my fans, all my real fans, to sing all the words.”
For someone all about positivity and having a good time, that was encouraging the type of music elitism that runs rampant on social media: “well I knew Logic FIRST and I know ALL his songs so I’m a REAL fan. A better fan.”
This continued during “Super Mario World,” an interesting song off the Bobby Tarantino mixtape, whose hook is “oh my goodness, oh my goodness, oh my God,” though it sounded like he changed it to “gosh” during the set. There was a nice nod to the actual video game that inspired the title, though, as he had scenes from it running on a screen in the background.
The one disappointment of the set was that he breezed right through his mega hit “1-800-273-8255.” There was minimal crowd involvement other than telling them to make a sea of cellphone lights if they were having a good time. The set ended with new song “Everyday” (featuring DJ/producer Marshmello), also off Bobby Tarantino 2.
The song was a great way to end the set, what with the fire beat that matched the electronic voice accents on the title lyric. The lyrics are your more standard mainstream rap fare about a woman having “daddy issues for days,” and how today is “his day.” But it is a great backdrop for a party, and SunFest is just one big party.
Logic has a great flow, and he does do a neat trick where he solves a Rubik’s Cube behind his back, but some of the negatives Thursday night almost overpowered it.