''On days like this, you separate the music fans from the wimps," exclaimed Five for Fighting's John Ondrasik while surveying the drenched but cheerful crowd at the 12th Annual WBOS EarthFest at the DCR Hatch Shell Saturday afternoon.
The day's mood was dampened by the rain, which alternated between sprinkles and downpours. And the festival spirit was lessened somewhat by a more uniform lineup than usual. It was heavy on male-fronted adult-contemporary alternative-rock bands such as Carbon Leaf and Low Millions, and light on stars, which in past years have included Sheryl Crow and Bonnie Raitt. But the estimated 30,000 people who Ondrasik celebrated for braving the weather maintained their enthusiasm throughout, especially for headliners the Wallflowers.
The day began with a short set by New York City-based indie crooner Ari Hest, whose stripped down, acoustic guitar-driven songs from his debut, ''Someone to Tell," highlighted his sweetly delicate voice.
Another quick set was delivered by 20-year-old Anna Nalick, whose bluesy voice and easy banter belied her age. She joked that as a California native she feared she had frostbite. But her voice resonated with feeling over gentle acoustic guitar on songs from her debut, ''Wreck of the Day."
The rest of the performers delivered eclectic interpretations of light pop rock with varying emotional impact, but the audience greeted all warmly. The Los Angeles-based quintet Low Millions offered a straightforward set of midtempo rockers. Frontman Adam Cohen strutted around evoking the female ghosts on the band's 2004 debut ''Ex-Girlfriends," from the raw-riffed ''Eleanor" to the hypnotically throbbing ''Nikki Don't Stop."
Among the standouts was Virginia-based quintet Carbon Leaf. Its set was devoted mostly to bluegrass-flavored songs from the band's 2004 release, ''Indian Summer." A militaristic beat and epic, U2-like rock quality propelled ''Changeless," while ''Torn to Tatters" showed the warm resonance of the group's upright bass and rich harmonies.
Five for Fighting's Ondrasik displayed his Elton John-inspired vocals and piano melodies during the mournful ballad ''The Devil in the Wishing Well" and his bold cover of John's ''Rocket Man." He climbed onto a barricade during ''Angels and Girlfriends" and picked a yellow tulip for a fan.
While Jakob Dylan was less playful when his band the Wallflowers concluded the day with a standout set of bluesy rock 'n' roll, he seemed relaxed and engaged. A sneak preview of the band's fifth album ''Rebel, Sweetheart," due this month, included gentle rocker ''We're Already There," which effectively used Dylan's smoky voice with its echo of his famous father, and the lovely countrified ballad ''Nearly Beloved," which he dedicated to an audience member he recognized and was once rude to at a signing.