Concert Review: Square One MusicFest in Downtown Delray, July 31

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Square One MusicFest
The Pavilion, downtown Delray Beach
With Elastic Bond, the Pretty Faces, and Ever So Klever
Friday, July 31, 2009

Better Than: Barbie's 50th Birthday exhibit at Old School Square's Cornell Museum

The Review:

When a state's revenue shrinks, it's usually funding for the arts that takes the biggest lance from the budget cut blade. That's why groups like Delray Beach's Square One are so critically important for the survival of places like Delray's Old School Square Cultural Arts Center.

The organization, comprised of young urban professionals (that's yuppies for short), is committed to rejuvenating the antiquated ways of theaters and museums. As part of this mission, Square One puts on upbeat activities like Friday night's inaugural MusicFest at the Pavilion's nifty amphitheatre in downtown Delray.

Miami Latin-jazz-fusion ensemble Elastic Bond was first on the bill, and singer Sofy Encanto's sultry vocals particularly delighted the crowd that was slowly amassing with lawn chairs. True to the meaning of her Spanish surname, Encanto's melodies were simply charming.

Keyboardist Andres Ponce, however, is the real helm ofthe group. He's got a knack for torching salsa and merengue rhythms, but he's  also not afraid to take risks, like throwing in some funk flourishes that sound straight out of '70s  blaxploitation flicks. Guitarist Buffalo Brown wasn't bashful either, whaling away like Santana on the interlude of "Me Gusta."

Coming in with snowballing media attention, Boca Raton by way of Waterloo, Canada quartet The Pretty Faces overcame some kinks with the stage monitor to get their set underway. (It took three false starts to commence gritty opener "Don't Let Me Down.") The quartet quickly recovered on "Pistolera," which had lead vocalist Jeph Thorslund reaching deep for his lower register as he played some hefty guitar licks over sharp drum pedal kicks provide by his brother, Thomas Thorslund.

"Elephant," meanwhile, gave the band's starlet rhythm guitarist Hannah Thorslund (Jeph's wife) a chance to showcase her fluffy vocals. Jittery ender "Sinking Ship" had Jeph, who confessed to having a cold which made him sound extra "bluesy," painfully pushing the limits of his gravelly vocal range. But that didn't deter him from doing a Van Halen-style jump kick from the elevated drum kit to close out the set.

The last act of the night, Miami sextet Ever So Klever, delivered a marathon set of Fonzie-cool swing revival. Acrunchy guitar nugget of an intro cued coquettish lead singer Michelle Leigh's pouty shoo-bee-doo-bee scats. Leigh's retro delivery and curvy figure squeezed into a skin-tight red dress made her resemble a swing version of Jessica Rabbit. "Sinning Again," a Chuck Berry meets Arturo Sandoval-style doozy, was perhaps the highlight of the evening, with warm chirpy trumpets and saxophones and a Les Claypool-esque bass solo to boot.

Event organizer Drew Tucker tells us that although they hoped for a little more than the two hundred or so in attendance, Square One was pleased with the way things unfolded Friday night. "We want to re-establish the presence of this place with the community and this was a great start."

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: Swing music really should be shelled out in moderation.

Random Detail: For those that want to take some revival home with them, both the Pretty Faces and Ever So Klever have new albums out -- Another Sound and Bang Twang Boom, respectively.

By the Way: If you can throw together $30 bucks, you too can become a member of Square One and help contribute to making downtown Delray hip again. Visit oldschool.org/membership.asp

-- Alex Rendon

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