Wiz Khalifa might have drawn the biggest weeknight crowd in SunFest history – until Tha Doggfather barked an hour later.
West Palm Beach's otherwise underutilized waterfront came to life Thursday night in a huge way, with a hip hop show that turned downtown West Palm into an urban mecca.
If there's any question what draws a crowd to Palm Beach County's only music festival, SunFest promoters received a loud and rambunctious answer: Rap, old and new.
Early on, it looked like the hip-hop torch had been passed to Wiz Khalifa, last year's Best New Artist at the American Music Awards. Wiz, the 24-year-old prodigy with a stick-thin frame, all-American red, white and blue saggy pants and a radio-friendly lyrical style sure to keep him in the Top 40 for years to come, blazed his way into West Palm Beach like a superstar. He arrived just two days after being arrested for his second marijuana bust in three weeks, but in the world of hip hop, that's called street cred.
While Wiz is the new big thing on the rap circuit, Snoop Dogg – once an even younger and bigger new thing – reminded South Florida that he's still a force.
No, Snoop Dogg is no longer Dr. Dre's young protégé. He's appeared on Sesame Street and Ellen DeGeneres, and he's – gasp – 40 years old.
But he's also the perfect draw for SunFest and South Florida. His stage presence is legendary, pulling off a Kobe Bryant jersey, Bob Marley tour jacket and Rasta hat with grace. He's the Mick Jagger of, say, 20 years ago, drawing 40-year-old moms who have no shame chanting, "I got a pocket full of rubbers and my homeboys do too," while their 12-year-old daughters in glowstick bandanas snap cell phone photos.
Wiz Khalifa drew an enormous crowd before sundown and Snoop Dogg nearly doubled it after dark. SunFest officials don't release crowd sizes until weeks after the event, but they proclaimed that it was one of the busiest weeknights in the history of SunFest. And it was probably No. 1. If only Tupac or Biggie's hologram had emerged, and how fitting would that have been? Digital Domain, the digital animation company that stunned the world by resurrecting a virtual Tupac at Coachella, is building its one-of-a-kind digital arts college right in downtown West Palm Beach. But on Thursday, we had to stick reality.
Of course, Snoop and Wiz might not have even been the best performers Thursday night. That honor arguably goes to the legendary Herbie Hancock. A quality jazz show will usually outperform a high-octane rap concert because hip hop isn't best served live, although Snoop brought down the waterfront. Herbie, like Snoop and Wiz, was once a young phenom who jammed with Miles Davis. He has reemerged in recent years as a patriarch in the jazz community.
On Thursday, Herbie provided SunFest – long ago a purely jazz festival – with his unique blend of traditional jazz and funky psychedelic jam jazz. But the night still belonged to Snoop.
Snoop Dogg isn't quite the hip hop draw these days of a Kanye West, Jay-Z or Eminem, but he proved Thursday that he's still in the running. And for a festival that's affordable and draws entertainment to a city devoid of quality concerts, SunFest couldn't have hoped for a better Thursday night turnout. Its remaining headliners – Creed, Third Eye Blind and The Fray – will have decent turnouts because they'll perform on a weekend. But they won't pack the same punch as Thursday's hip hop showdown of young and still legit.
YouReporter David sent in the attached crowd photo at SunFest.
He said he Was pushed up against the front barricade by thousands of Snoop Dog and Wiz Khalifa fans.
He said he got to SunFest at 4 pm and was the 3rd one in and stood in the same spot from 5:00-10:10 after all 3 concerts.