FORT WORTH -- The event was called the Solar Powered Music Festival because all the energy for this outdoor concert was powered by -- you guessed it -- the sun. That's something we have plenty of this time of year.
But you might say it was also powered by 1980s hits, with the British ska/reggae outfit the English Beat and Detroit power poppers The Romantics headlining.
The location, the Trinity River Project Property, near the Panther Island Pavilion, nestled between the river and the Tarrant County College/Radio Shack buildings, is mostly a dirt plot and for this event was populated with food trucks and booths (including one by Star-Telegram subsidiary DFW.com, which presented the event). The music started in the afternoon and represented a strong lineup of local acts. They included Southern rock/jam band Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights on the main stage and, on a smaller stage, folk singer Brenna Manzare and rocker Chris Johnson of the band Telegraph Canyon.
But the crowd didn't really start showing out until the end of the Romantics' set, when their big hit (their one hit, really), What I Like About You, got the audience bopping. If you missed their other songs, well, they all sound pretty much like that hit, only slower. That's not a criticism, just a fact. The Romantics' music sounds similar in the same way the great power pop band Smithereens doesn't have much sonic diversity. Lead singer Wally Palmar's voice seemed worn, though.
The crowd at the free event really revved up for the Beat, a band whose look and sound have aged remarkably well. Frontman Dave Wakeling still has charisma and kept the crowd engaged between such songs as I Confess and their cover of Smokey Robinson's Tears of a Clown.
Wielding a lute-shaped electric guitar, Wakeling proved that his voice is still in great shape, and though the band members may be a little old for all of the "skanking" they used to do in concert, there was some of that in the crowd, kicking up the dirt. He even nodded to the Romantics, with whom they're sharing a tour, shouting out, "They have such a great song."
That song is probably more played on Top 40 stations than anything the Beat put out, but whereas the Romantics seem to have fallen in that touring-behind-one-memorable-hit thing, the Beat has something more significant: a loyal following. The band followed the Solar headliners all the way through their energetic set.