A Taste of Bumblefest 2023
By David Rolland
Photos by danielnewcombphoto.com
Steev Rullman has great taste in music and the longtime Palm Beach County local has long tried to share his top notch palate. With his free monthly periodical PureHoney Magazine (which, full disclosure, I’m a regular contributor to) he tries to expose South Florida to the best acts playing locally in any given month. Bumblefest, the annual Labor Day weekend music festival, is an extension of that philosophy. It exposes locals to as many quality sounds as their eardrums will allow.
The 2023 Bumblefest was held this past Friday and Saturday night in West Palm. While previous editions had the 500 block of Clematis Street closed off, so there could even be an outdoor stage on Artist Alley, this year motor traffic was allowed on the street. The music was designated to four stages hosting 40 acts in various venues. On Saturday night from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., 21 different acts poured their sound into microphones. While I admittedly didn’t hear them all (many played simultaneously), of the dozen bands I did listen to there wasn’t a bad apple in the bunch.
My introduction to the evening was Rickolus, a four-piece band from Jacksonville whose Earthy music demanded you stay transfixed on the indoor stage at Respectable Street. Later, on the outside patio stage, local band Zippur, played a louder, and punk-ier set complete with absurd lyrics — including an ode to vegetables. A walk across the street to O’ Shea’s allowed you the pleasure of listening to Brett Staska. Backed by three other musicians, the Palm Beach singer/guitarist played countrified tunes that reminded me a little of Gram Parsons. It was the perfect soundtrack for closing out a Saturday night in a dive bar.
But the night wasn’t over. You still had headliner Death Valley Girls who drove all the way from Los Angeles for their first ever South Florida performance. Maybe this is too obscure a reference, but if you ever wondered what The Breeders would have sounded like if produced by Phil Spector then Death Valley Girls gives you a hint. The four-member band played a blistering set which had singer Bonnie Bloomgarden occasionally walking down into the crowd and sashaying into the dancefloor, allowing audience members to take selfies with her while in the middle of the song.
While attendance wasn’t as packed as previous years, I was glad to hear Steev already making plans for a 2024 Bumblefest. You can never have too much good music.