A Review of DeLuna Music Festival, which went down in Pensalcola, FL... - OurVinyl

DeLuna Music Festival @ Pensacola, FL

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Deluna Music Festival: I Love You, But We Need to Talk . . .

The conditions could not have been more perfect as the last weekend of the extended summer welcomed beach-goers to Pensacola beach to enjoy three days of food, good times, and an assortment of great music for this year’s DeLuna Music Festival In Pensacola Beach, Florida. This festival is situated directly on the white sands of the gulf coast and the weather was cooperating with the highly anticipated event, beaming eighty-five degree rays without a cloud to be seen. The pieces were in place and the day had finally arrived, however, something was missing. People.

The official reports for ticket sales and attendance have not been released yet, so the only statistical information that we have to extrapolate from is the toll booth that takes a buck from every car that drives over the Pensacola Bay Bridge.  That number was over 4,000 cars less than the year before when the concert was entering its sophomore year as “America’s Original Beach Party.” This is a surprising figure for a three-day festival with huge production, anticipating people flocking in the tens of thousands. So what happened?

Could it have been the lack of quality music? No way. Even though one of the headliners, Linkin Park, cancelled its show only a few short weeks before the event due to a band injury, DeLuna featured one of the most diverse and balanced lineups for a music festival in 2011. They had acts to draw in all sorts of crowds from indie bands such as The Shins and Givers to hard rock legends Jane’s Addiction to the more current electronic fad facilitated by Girl Talk and A Trak. There was Big Boi for the hip-hop enthusiasts and Trombone Shorty for those seeking soulful funky tunes. Not to mention that the location for any performance is elevated by the beach-side amenities. You cannot possibly over evaluate the feeling of having your toes curled in the sand while sipping on a tropical cocktail with the sun setting as bands deliver memorable sets of music. For most of the acts at DeLuna it was their first beach-side experience as well and lived up to the occasion.

Clearly, it surely was not the setting. DeLuna sat on the soft white beaches with five stages. There was no barrier between the ocean and the concert as some other beach parties have instituted as a safety precaution.  The entry to the ocean as part of the festival, although no swimming was allowed, created this natural and serene atmosphere that lead to a stress free weekend by those who attended. It is much more enjoyable looking out at the ocean hearing the waves continue to roll as your favorite band is right to the side, without having to look over a metal barrier to the horizon. Attendees could walk freely from their hotels or public beaches into the festival, beach-side, making it a fluid and complete day of both beach activities and festival experience. No, DeLuna offered one of the most (if not defining the superlative) relaxed and enjoyable settings for a concert, ever.

Diplo – Horsey by diplo

Maybe it was the security parameters and limits set by the city? Hardly. Getting into DeLuna was a simple process with staff that was more than willing to help with any situation while smiling. Security was not looking for trouble, but rather making sure everyone was safe. There were no needless checkpoints or overprotective and restrictive rules that took away from the beach party experience.  In fact, unlike its other beach party rivals, DeLuna had music going until nearly 1 am, on the sand!  That does not even include the multiple late night concerts that were featured walking distance from the venue. Shuttle service was convenient and affordable (only 5 bucks each way) for those who did not choose to stay on the main Pensacola Beach strip.

That leaves only one possibility: accommodation and marketability. DeLuna had an initially clever and enticing strategy when approaching how they were going to sort out accommodation for their beach situated festival. DeLuna was at the property of three different hotels that were all located adjacent to each other along the coast. Staying at any of these establishments would not only enhance the experience by providing the safest and most convenient way to enjoy the festival, but it also created a unique opportunity to be a part of the festival itself. One of the benefits of camping at a normal three-day music festival is that there is an adapted intimacy with the festival-goer and the grounds of the festival itself. Being able to call the places where stages are set your home for a few days is an experience that can only be created in this type of setting. By having a hotel, literally, in the middle of the festival, one can partake in all the normal activities with a comfortable and plush place to call home.

However, the accommodation logistics for this festival proved to be too much for the average person. In order to stay at one of these places in this ideal setting, you had to stay for four nights (Thursday through Monday) and pay nearly one hundred dollars per person, per night. This does not include the cost of the actual ticket to the festival nor the optional VIP upgrade. The majority of people who will attend these festivals work or go to school on Friday and Monday.  To assume that people would happily take off two days, and pay for them, is a bit much to ask of the average consumer. For one person to stay in a hotel at the festival it would cost around six hundred dollars and that is without even getting there or walking inside. If three of your friends wanted to join, that would be an additional 400 dollars per person! Had people had the option to stay only two nights, or had the room been one flat rate, no matter how many people, or if the festival ticket was included, maybe these hotels would have been filled instead of half vacant.

Yes, DeLuna was an enjoyable festival and had all the ingredients for a memorable weekend, but at many points you could not help but look around and wonder why this beach party is so empty. People going to see headliners and other big acts could sit with room in front of the soundboard where one is used to being crammed with people. Although it was nice to have the grounds to oneself to freely roam without a care in the world, having that extra hustle or 10,000 people would surely help to bring “America’s Original Beach Party” to the next level of monetary success and personal enjoyment.

THE REVIVALISTS – Soul’s Too Loud by Platon 2011

The heart of it all, the music, was action packed and held up to the quality appraised by the booked artists. OurVinyl got a chance to catch up with a group familiar with the festival and gulf coast region, The Revivalists. The young group of New Orleans’ newly adopted locals has been rocking out with soulful lyrics and funky grooves for a few years and has been gaining popularity in the Gulf Region, especially Pensacola. These guys have been playing at Bamboo Willie’s, a beach-side music club that hosted the band for two nights of late night action, once a month for the past year and have grown familiar to the beach surroundings and music scene of the area.

According to the band, “this whole region is mostly cover bands and it’s really good for this town to have a band of all original music. The crowd really wants it. We feel there is a real craving.” The Revivalists have been facilitating this craving and accumulating a small community of friends and fans who all share this same passion for original and tasty music, not just the typical beach-side cover set.

The Revivalists not only aid in the growth of quality music, but also have a personal understanding for how special it is to perform in such a setting like DeLuna fest. “We don’t want to say that we take it for granted because we come here so much, but I do remember when we went to Bamboo Willie’s and that drum riser, it opens up to the back and thinking how this is pretty sweet right here.” The band has supported the fact that the locale of such a festival is ideal for musicians and attendees alike.

The New Orleans band is coming out with a new album titled City of Sound, produced by Ben Ellman and his go-to mixer known as Count. These two have been tied with producing albums for groups such as trombone Shorty and Galactic, names that the Revivalists are now joining in the conversation for creating quality music with those funky vibes. Unlike their first release, which featured tracks in more of a live setting, this album will use skilled production and manicured precision to deliver a sound that will not only stand up on tape, but can be reproduced in a live setting. When seeing The Revivalists, be prepared to boogie for a while and be captivated by sultry lyrics.

Other than the abundance of New Orleans inspired music, there were other memorable acts from the weekend. Electronic producer and innovator Diplo delivered the most powerful set of the weekend, without a doubt. The Philadelphia based DJ delivered a set that from the very start was screaming with intensity. The crowd reciprocated this energy into a nonstop dance party that kept growing by the minute.  This set featured the only dubstep available at the festival and although it was refreshing to be amongst a modern day festival without the womping, it was exhilarating to see how crazy he got the crowd going with those heavy bass tones.

Matt and Kim delivered an exciting set on the first day to really kick off the beach party motif, engaging the crowd to dance wildly as they passed out hundreds of ballons to dance above the crowd during their most rocking jams. In addition, the Brooklyn based duo, played a ton of cover songs that everyone was familiar with from “The Final Countdown” to Alice DeeJay’s massive hit “Do You Think You’re Better Off Alone.” The band features a female drummer who played with extreme intensity and passion, pounding at the skins on every tune. Matt, the voice of the band, has an animated personality that is expressed through his tone of voice and motivating bravado.

Stars put on a stellar show, even if their performance did suffer a bit from bleeding sounds of Cake (not the food, the band playing on the main stage). It is always frustrating for a band to hear music that is not their own when trying to perform. However, aside from the band complaining, the crowd during Stars was loving every moment of their intimate set.

Weezer may have had the biggest performance, playing bigger than some had anticipated. Not only did they play their classic hits and rock out some other fan favorites, but also they played a selection of diverse cover songs included Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” and a Radiohead tune. Headliners rarely bring their shows to the next level due to the fact that most people who want to see these bands seek a nostalgic experience and do not expect risks. However, the Radiohead cover delivered both, and in professional fashion.

Although Linkin Park did not close out the festival on the beach, not too many people watching Cut Copy on Sunday night seemed to care as the Australian electro pop band delivered a set where everyone was singing along until the very end. The band, who had never played on the beach before, clearly was enjoying the environment of this gig and proceeded to play not just one, but two encores.

Cut Copy – Take Me Over by modularpeople

The shortcomings of the festival staff did not translate to the experience had by the fans at DeLuna fest, except for maybe the lack of people. Instead of clawing through crowds and waiting in long lines, one was able to walk freely and carelessly to whatever destination they were headed, chairs were available to sit and lounges available to lie. The facilities were clean and maintained. DeLuna provided a rare opportunity to see your favorite acts up close and personal in the already mentioned serene setting. Whether it was lying on the beach listening to tunes or looking out at the moonlit Gulf as shadows of manta rays glided along the shallow waters, it would be nearly impossible to find someone who was not or did not enjoy himself. Pensacola Beach is a perfectly able location for such an event as we have seen with other beach-side festivals in the region. The family friendly site did not see too many patrons outside the 15-30 year old range, but was perfectly fitting for all types of people to participate in the festivities.

So it is up to the organizers to take the positive elements from this year and adjust them to a more intimate, marketable, and accessible festival. People love going to music festivals because of the unique spirit enveloped in the setting of a surreal place where there is nothing but art, music, and other people sharing this feeling of freedom and ease. These same patrons seek places with an ideal setting to host such an event whether it is the mountains or a city park or in this case, the beach. The last and final stipulation is being able to manage time away from the real world to enjoy such an experience without compromising too much of one’s normal schedules. DeLuna must adhere to these conditions because they have the means to accomplish an amazing festival: draw stellar acts, hire vendors and employees to execute such a festival, and provide the picturesque background of the gulf shore beaches as its setting. All it needs is more people.

So everyone pay attention for DeLuna Festival 2012!

Written by Danny Goodman