Deluna Fest 2011: A Retrospective

When I first approached my friends about joining me for a weekend-long music festival on the beach I was surprised by their responses. “Don’t bother doing that. By the end of the first day you’ll be so tired of trudging around in the sand that you won’t even care to come back.” “Did you go to The Hangout? It was an absolute mess. The beach just isn’t a good spot to have thousands of people and live music.” I haven’t been to The Hangout, a larger-scale festival that takes place in May every year in Gulf Shores, Alabama, but I know that since it began some three or four years ago it has grown to an attendance of more than 40,000 this past year. Despite the incredible lineup of the most recent year (Paul Simon, Foo Fighters, Cee Lo Green), most reviews I read were choc full of complaints about overcrowding, confusion, and lacking adequate facilities.

I put all that in the back of my mind and decided I was going see what all the buzz surrounding Deluna Fest was about. The festival, set in Pensacola Beach, Florida, debuted last year with a lineup packed with a variety of talent. 30 Seconds to Mars, Willie Nelson, Stone Temple Pilots and 311 were among notable headliners while up-and-coming indie acts such as Neon Trees, The Submarines and Pico vs. Island Trees filled the day slots.

The most recent edition of the festival was extended to three days which allowed for even more great bands to play and while I felt the 2011 lineup headliners lacked some of the drawing potential of the previous year, the daytime slots were filled by some of the best underground acts in the country. Regardless of any of the warranted concerns my friends may have had about attending Deluna, I can confidently say that each and everyone of them missed out on what I would predict will be one of the most talked about festivals in the country when it returns next year. TheBlueIndian.com was on-site all weekend providing live blog and photo feed to fill you folks in on what you missed and to help you make your plans for next October!

Overall Best Of Show

This was honestly more difficult than I thought it would be. While indie-powerhouses like Manchester Orchestra, The Shins, Ra Ra Riot and Cut Copy rounding out some of the best daytime and evening acts, the best performance of the weekend came not from headliners Weezer and Jane’s Addiction but in the form of a clear tie between DJ/producer/one-half of Major Lazer DIPLO and the absolutely stunning show put on by Austin, Texas electro duo Ghostland Observatory. As I was reflecting on the weekend on the drive home, it was clear to me that DIPLO’s performance was almost a catalyst for the ninety minutes of sheer goodness that only a band from Texas could provide. DIPLO’s set was expansive and covered nearly all genre’s of electronic music. His talent as an intricate remix artist and unique producer was backed up by his lively and explosive stage presence. His set was timed perfectly so that as soon as he finished, the crowd could walk less than one hundred yards to the stage Ghostland was starting on. Great planning on Deluna’s part. While I couldn’t help but laugh at how much Ghostland singer/guitarist Aaron Behrens resembled Joe Dirt’s firework selling partner, his onstage antics were something Morrison-esque and he and multi-instrumentalist Thomas Ross won the crowd of around 2000 over with their well honed stage persona’s. The dozens of lasers and incredible lighting put on by the band’s Philadelphia based visuals team complimented the performance in a way that I can’t fully describe. Ethereal and galactic don’t really do justice. Crowd Favorites: “Sad, Sad City”, “Give Me The Beat” & “Mama”

Best Way To Nurse A Hangover

We realized that Pensacola Beach is open container throughout the city so we made a point to stock up on some of the local brewery’s finest (McGuire’s). After finishing a delicious breakfast at Bagelhead’s, we made our way to the beach for Day Two of Deluna. I was especially excited about seeing Kevin Devine, the Brooklyn based songwriter who has toured with everyone from Brand New to Okkervil River over the past few years. Kevin and his band ( The Goddamn Band – appropriately named, they were that good..) took the Main Stage at 1:00pm Saturday and worked their way through crowd pleasers such as “Cotton Crush”, “Brother’s Blood” and “Carnival”. While the attending crowd was sparse, especially for the largest stage at the festival, it’s safe to say that everyone that was their was familiar with his music and thoroughly enjoyed  themselves. Aside from a few early morning drinkers that disrupted the set a few times by shouting at the band, this was easily the most relaxing and fulfilling set I saw over the weekend. As an added bonus, Kevin took the stage only an hour later for Bad Books ( a collaboration of members of Manchester Orchestra & The Goddamn Band ) and played through a full set of Bad Books originals, his own material and Manchester Orchestra songs. Lastly, the fine people with Grooveshark provided free water the entire festival, a service I’ve never seen at any event I’ve ever been to. Kudos to those folks.

Best Band Your Parents Missed

Deluna was a complete blast, don’t get me wrong, but the headlining roster seemed a bit like something much more suited for 2001. Janes Addiction, Weezer and Linkin Park (before a cancellation due to injuries) rounded out the event but of all the acts that I was unsure about, Cake took first place in putting on one hell of a show. These guys pushed through a ninety minute set of new, old and REALLY old songs that had the entire crowd on their feet. Deluna marked a twenty year anniversary for the band but they showed no signs of fatigue as they powered through favorites such as “The Distance” and “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” and “Mexico”. The crowd was made up of children, hipsters, hippies, yuppies, parents, geriatrics and any other walk of life you want to imagine and everyone was getting down. As skeptical as I was about seeing these guys, they pulled their weight and more.

Best “If You Don’t Know, You Should” Band

Deluna’s afternoon lineup was full of up-and-comer’s like Still Corners, Givers, AWOLNATION and Quiet Company, but one of the most unexpected all around, good time getdowns that happened over the weekend was on Friday during Dinosaur Feathers‘ set at the Grooveshark Stage. The Brooklyn based four piece rightfully stunned the small crowd with their jangly, up-tempo, bare-all garage rock. There were easily a dozen bands that one could have listed as influences, but these guys had something that was clearly their own. Their energy onstage completely conveyed that they knew where they were, they knew what they were doing and they knew where they wanted to be. One of my biggest regrets of the weekend was cutting their set short to go see Ra Ra Riot, as impressive as they were. I won’t be the first to say it but keep your eyes and ears on Dinosaur Feathers.

TheBlueIndian.com’s Favorite Stage at Deluna Fest

Even given the somewhat close quarters of the entire festival, there was a great deal of trudging through the sand from stage to stage, so we did our best to devise a schedule that kept us relatively close to the same area to avoid winding up sun burnt and spread thin. When you go to a music festival with a group of people, there seems to usually be one of three typical outcomes: You end up arguing with your friends about what bands you want to see and eventually desert each other, you break off into groups and wander throughout the day, meeting back up at the end of the night to boast of your good time, or in rare cases everyone agrees on the same bands and ends up having a great time. Somehow, we manager the latter. Most of our time at the festival was spent at the Wind Creek Stage which hosted everyone from Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s, The Shins, The New Pornographers, Girl Talk, Cake, Ghostland Observatory, Colour Revolt and Cut Copy. We wound up closing each night at the stage before perusing by the Grooveshark stage to catch the final late night DJ set. We could have very easily posted up camp at Wind Creek all weekend and been happy.

In 2012..

Their was a very clear air of disorganization on the first day of the festival but that can be very common for such a new and large-scale event. No guidebooks or schedules were provided, aside from the Deluna Fest application which unfortunately displayed all incorrect times for the lineup but this was all manageable. It’s clear that Deluna is going to continue to grow into it’s skin and we’re confident that organizers were as aware of the few minor issues of the weekend as we were. By the afternoon of Day Two, security was situated, kinks had been worked out and the festivities really began. All in all, we can’t wait for next year. It’s going to be bigger, better, louder and with just as much sand. We’ll see you next year Florida!

– TheBlueIndian.com would like to thank Brett Cannon, Sheila Kenny, Todd & Missy Nicholson and the entire Deluna Fest Staff for one of the best festival experiences we’ve had this year.

– Sean Pritchard & Everett Verner (Guest Writer). Photos: William Robinson

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