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Sunday, Nov 23, 2014
Arts & Music

Big Guava fest pulls in big names and emerging stars


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The Big Guava Music Festival certainly is living up to its moniker.

The 2014 festival is huge and is bringing out the big musical guns.

The reunited OutKast will headline Friday. Vampire Weekend, which won the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album in January, will close out Saturday night. And platinum-plus pop-rockers Foster The People will finish off the festival Sunday.

“It sounds like a pretty impressive festival,” Cake vocalist John McCrea said in a phone call from West Palm Beach. “I have to admit that early on in our career I wasn’t that big on festivals. I didn’t like the big, dumb rock fest, but we’ve learned to navigate the bigness of it. I actually enjoy it when we play them.”

That’s good news since Cake will appear Friday prior to OutKast. Many of the bands are showcasing cuts from new albums, but not McCrea’s group, which did ironic geek-rock as well as anyone during the mid- to late ’90s. McCrea, who is adept at sing-speak, a la Stephen Malkmus, isn’t sure when the group will release another album.

“I’m not certain when that will happen,” McCrea said. “Do people even want albums anymore? It just costs so much money to make an album. Is it worth it? I don’t know. People will have to get ready for what we’ve already recorded.”

So expect melodic, amusing Velvet Underground-influenced songs, such as “Short Skirt/Long Jacket,” “The Distance” and “Rock ’n’ Roll Lifestyle.” The band that somehow balances funky and sardonic, has grown as a live act.

“We love it,” McCrea said. “I know a lot more than I once did.” McCrea tips his cap to the aforementioned Velvet Underground and it’s recently departed leader Lou Reed.

“Lou had a great dry sense of humor,” McCrea said. “He was an incredibly melodic writer. He influenced me, but so did all of the great songwriters of the 20th century, like Hank Williams Sr. and Cole Porter. That’s who had a huge effect on me and our band, which has been around for awhile.”

Prior to Cake, a band that has been around a short time will perform. Smallpools, an act out of New Jersey, has less than 100 gigs under its belt.

It hasn’t been overnight success for Smallpools, but it’s pretty close. The pop-rock upstarts, who formed less than three years ago, made their live debut in July. The reason the quartet had to hit the road was because of its ultra-catchy single “Dreaming,” which took off last summer.

XM’s Alt Nation had “Dreaming” in heavy rotation for much of the latter half of 2013. The single reached the 23rd spot on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart.

“It’s all happened so quickly,” vocalist-keyboardist Sean Scanlon said in a phone call from New York. “Who could have foreseen this? I can’t say how awesome XM has been for us.”

The success of the single prompted the EP, “Have a Great Summer,” which features an amusing vintage photo of Ralph Macchio.

Smallpools built the hook-laden “Dreaming” slowly. “I worked up the music,” Scanlon said. “I came up with the parts on the keyboard, and we all got together and (guitarist) Mike (Kamerman) was messing around on the guitar and we all just played around and it happened organically. Then the lyrics were added. We put a lot of effort into the song.”

Smallpools also includes bassist Joe Intile and drummer Beau Kuther. The band will render each of the four cuts from its EP as well as some new songs, which will be featured on its forthcoming debut album.

“We’re excited about getting these new songs out there,” Scanlan said.

Another emerging band is the dynamic duo of MS MR, which is more than Lizzy Plapinger’s hair. The stylish pop-rock act’s vocalist changes the color of her hair almost as much as Lady Gaga switches outlandish outfits.

“It’s just something I do for fun,” Plapinger said during a phone call from Boston with her keyboardist bandmate Max Hershenow.

Plapinger isn’t messing with her coif to please the masses or get noticed. What’s refreshing about MS MR, which will perform Sunday, is that they don’t care what anyone thinks.

If they were looking for acceptance they would make straightforward pop music and change their surnames to something less unwieldy.

MS MR is an artsy, adventurous tandem, touring behind its debut album, “Secondhand Rapture.” The album was preceded by the ominous but hook-laden single “Hurricane,” which is a staple on satellite radio.

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