TheBlueIndian.com at Deluna Fest 2012
TheBlueIndian.com recently returned from our second trip to Pensacola Beach, Florida to cover the 3rd annual Deluna Fest. If you’ve been a fan of the site since around this time last year, you know that we had a fantastic time and that the start-up festival is exactly what the Southeast needs more of. 2012 meant a bigger and better festival, so we assembled only the most “elite” group of writers to take on the beaches of Pensacola. Everett & David kept a log of their entire trip and now we’d like to share it with you. Thanks for the memories!
Already being checked into the hotel and sitting at the conveniently placed trolley stop across the street with an hour to go before Ben Folds Five took the stage, Scott and I are feeling pretty good about how this festival weekend is getting started. Once we determined David was going to be late we decided our only goal on Friday was to be early enough to see BFF, a man and his band, whom neither of us had gotten a chance to see over the years. Since we had seen 2 trolleys from our window 5 minutes prior to walking down, and missed a third one by mere moments waiting on a credit card purchase for the trolley pass to go through (the only way they would let you pay), we were feeling pretty confident that our weekend was set to be a good one. Well, 45 minutes go by before we see another trolley come to this stop and since we had only barely missed the previous one, we are at least relieved to know we were going to catch most of the set. That trolley was apparently broken however and we got stuck waiting another 20 minutes before more showed up. We were missing the start of BFF, but we were on the way!
The trip only takes about 15 minutes and downtown Pensacola and the water are fun to look at for the quick ride, so it goes by pretty smoothly. We show up and can hear the music and see the lights as they drop us off on the far right side of the festival grounds. I quickly consult the map and notice that apparently the trolley stops are on the complete opposite side of the festival from the entrance. This hardly matters as it is day 1 and most people, including ourselves, still have to retrieve passes from Will Call, and more importantly, I can hear the band playing just on the other side of the fence. After a stroll circumventing half the festival walls to get to the ticket booths we find some very friendly roaming volunteers to get directions to our check-in spot. Then we get yelled at by some “productive” religious people asserting their first amendment all over everyone with ears. I fail to take a picture because I was focused on getting in, but I was pretty excited to see DeLuna had ascended to the level where people will waste their time protesting music on a beach. After that we seamlessly get our passes, and like moths to a flame walk straight towards the stage. Sound is stellar, lighting is fun, crowd is filling in quickly, and Deluna Fest 2012 for us has begun!
Day 1 – Friday the 21st
With only 20 minutes left in the set for Ben Folds Five we decide to settle in with this set before scoping everything out. With 5 minutes left on their clock, BFF plays one of their most popular song, “Brick”, to raucous appreciation, and then something rare to music festivals, in my experience, happened; they kept playing. Someone off stage says something to Ben Folds about his set time and he looks left to the closest stage and says, “yeah, looks like someone is starting up over there, Guided By Voices I guess, they have banjos and shit, that’s awesome!” and then kept playing for another 15 minutes. Funny off-hand comment regardless, but Ben had actually looked to see Trampled by Turtles who always has a banjo.
With the final piano note still hanging in the air Scott and I walk over to see Trampled by Turtles at one of the smaller stages and they already have a large crowd gathered under the iconic beach ball water tower. It is a solid set and it is immediately obvious that being run over by turtles does not hinder musical talent. These guys have some serious energy and range as they pace themselves through some newer tunes like “Alone” and “Walt Whitman” and keep the crowd’s hold through their entire set. Scott and I decide that we’ve now been at a beach too long without actually being on sand or in water, so we take a quick jaunt down to the Gulf to see the two beach stages before it gets too late.
Dumpstaphunk is just getting funky on one end as the actual Guided by Voices are leaving the main stage on the other. We complete our mission of seeing music while standing in the Gulf of Mexico and plow through the white sandy beaches back to the stage BFF was on to see the beginning of Dwight Yoakam’s set, but before we get close to the stage we can see that he is not on stage on time (perhaps a holdover from BFF going over), but more importantly Dumpstaphunk is throwing down on the far end of the beach, and even after riding in a car for 6 hours I always have room for a little more funk in my life. I am a fan of a pretty wide range of music, which is why a diverse lineup like Deluna Fest easily appeals to me, but wrapping my head around hearing Ben Folds Five’s piano heavy nerdcore rock, flowing into a bluegrass set, hearing the tail ends of classic indie rockers Guided by Voices, and then getting funky with Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk is an eclectic whirlwind of sounds to hear in just a few hours, but we’re more pumped than ever as we dig our heels into the sand and “put it in the dumpsta.”
Out of respect we pull ourselves away to pop up and see Dwight Yoakam, who starts 20 minutes late, but the crowd is large and Mr. Yoakam does not disappoint. High energy and the whole band being decked out in rhinestones makes for a literally sparkling performance. I apologize as I’m not familiar enough with Dwight’s repertoire to even know what he played while we popped in, but it is impossible not to desire a nice denim outfit and cowboy boots after seeing this classy crooner curl his lip just once while singing “guitars, Cadillacs, Hillbilly music” (okay, so I know at least that one).
Pearl Jam at the main stage with our feet in the sand and the Gulf of Mexico 10 yards away is a good thing any day of the week, but this is Friday night and the weather is perfect, and Eddie Vedder and the rest of the band hold nothing back as they go through their catalog in a packed 2 hour set including Pink Floyd’s Interstellar Overdrive , and The Who’s Baba O’Riley. 20 plus years into the grunge rock scene and Pearl Jam is still a sight to see and a sound to hear.
Feeling exhausted but fantastic after a couple hours on the beach watching Pearl Jam, we casually walk over to see DJ Jazzy Jeff, who has someone acting as a front man as he plays relatively current songs. It does not grab our attention so we headed out the gate and back to the trolley spot jump in line and it feels like 4,000 others are in the same predicament. With fresh memories of waiting over an hour just to get a trolley down to the festival with a much smaller crowd I go out to the road to try and flag a taxi rather than risk waiting again, while Scott holds our place in line that keeps getting worse as festival goers start piling into lines wherever they can fit. Thankfully I get a taxi without too much trouble, and even better there is a nice couple who jumps in with us. We get back to the hotel for a cool $6 a head and still beat David.
We agree the appropriate course of action is to wait at least until David gets in so we can boast about how our day was awesome. Scott passes out after about 30 minutes and I admittedly also fall asleep watching TV briefly. I wake to a loud “thud, thud, thud” and open my eyes to see David kicking his luggage into the room and standing in the door way looking a little bewildered. David and I stay up as he tells me about drinking “Go Go Juice” the whole way here, and I talk about the sets we saw as we sip some caffeine free diet sodas while he comes down off his sugar buzz before we finally crash.
Day 2 – Saturday the 22nd
I wake up at 9 and both Scott and David are cozily snuggled up and snoring. I get ready and shower before they even move and then bother them both until they get up and start moving. We get some bagels and coffee from a local place called Bagelheads (great coffee and breakfast place). We then go back to the hotel, realign ourselves and cram into a trolley with a bunch of others and roll down to the festival.
No one is telling me I’m going to hell today, which is kind of a letdown, but I’m confident it will be a fun day regardless of this oversight. We’re all kind of shaky, but rested from our varying degrees of sleep and travel from the previous day, but Scott and I are pretty stoked to get a full day in at Deluna, and David is excited to finally be there after his ridiculous trip from New York City to Atlanta to Macon to Pensacola he made the day before.
We immediately pop down to the beach and roam around showing David where the stages are and plotting our schedule for the day. The Brass-A-Holics are playing some pretty funky beats on the smaller beach stage and the weather is perfect. We stick our feet in the Gulf, talk to some guy who gives us an explanation on why you don’t need shoes at this festival, which is ridiculous since it is in the 80s and 2 stages are in parking lots with black top asphalt. While it is much more enjoyable to truck through the sand without shoes, you are going to want some flip-flops or something to keep your feet from melting to the asphalt.
Our next stop is over under the beach ball water tower to see Saints of Valory at 2:45. The only odd thing I notice is that the band doesn’t look or sound much like the Saints of Valory I saw last year at Deluna. After a song or two the band announces their name, The Canvas Waiting, and everyone is confused. They should have finished before the Saints of Valory, but they are apparently both Austin, TX bands and they inform us the Saints of Valory are playing at the 2ndary stage instead after their set. We settle into this set, then bounce to check football scores in the NBC sports tent (awesome addition for sports fans). We head down to get some decent spots for the Saints of Valory and since Scott charged his battery for the day he jumps into the pit to get some photos up close style. It should be noted that at Deluna 2011, I saw the Saints of Valory with about 8 other people total. I thought they were pretty stellar and so did the other 7 people, but this year there was a huge early afternoon crowd and the band was feeding off the energy. They definitely pick up some fans with their live performance, with good reason, and really got the 3 of us in a GO mode moving forward.
While we loved the Saints of Valory, they were moved to a time slot without any real notice (I mean I had the app downloaded and it said nothing), and the set time they were in was supposed to be filled by Motopony, who I also wanted to see. There is nothing, that we hear, announcing it, but we find out later that Motopony broke up apparently, which is why the switch happened. I believe they are still playing, but that is what we were told, so just passing it along.
Next stop is the main stage on the beach to see the eclectic and enigmatic Mike Doughty seamlessly goes through some jams, and even playing an iPhone at one point. His resume is highlighted fronting the band Soul Coughing in the 90’s and a little beyond. It is a unique sound that vacillates between Jack Johnson smoothness and a G.Love crooning to make a really great sound with some solid versatility. David says he has some kind of fancy pants guitar that is “luxurious and expensive,” which I take him at his word for since he does seem to know these things (though he does say luxurious a lot) and my only observation is that it is green and has 6 strings. It is smooth and upbeat, and perfect to follow the arena rock sound we just left up in the parking lot.
It is now 4:15 and we’re gross and our phones are dying and we haven’t checked out the media room, so we head there for a recharge. The room is just a small meeting room in a hotel with circular tables and it is pretty full of media folks with the same idea as we have. We think this is all clever timing until we realize there is an open bar for an hour starting at 4:30 (lucky us!). We chat with our colleagues and swap stories and experiences and drink a couple caffeine-free-diet sodas to get the blood pumping and enjoy the A/C while we can. We learn about a Dumpstaphunk after party downtown and decide that is where we will end our night and coordinate as much with some of the other folks in the room. While we are gathering our things and leaving, the boys from Saints of Valory come in to meet up with someone else and David accosts them and we all tell them how awesome they are and really, really make them as uncomfortable as possible because we’re a bit excitable after our recharge and sodas. They are extremely nice and thankful for the praises as we bid them adieu and drag David away from them.
We decide to take the risk of missing part of Jimmy Cliff and OFF! and head across the street to a store called Waves and purchase some gear that will help us more seamlessly fit into the crowds down here on the Panhandle. It takes longer than we plan and end up chugging Gatorades at the local Circle K to rehydrate after all that soda from happy hour.
We make it back in in our panhandle camouflage and see a giant horde of people crowding in to see Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. We decide we aren’t in the mood for a big crowd, and Scott can’t take photos of this set from real close anyways, so we head down to the beach to hear the tail end of Jimmy Cliff and see Anders Osborne get started. Osborne is playing largely upbeat jams and keeping it light. We have had a day of lighter music already, so the mood fits. David and I dig our feet back into the sand and bob our heads like champion head bobbers while Scott goes to take photos up in the front.
After about half his set we truck back to Joan Jett. The crowd is huge, but there is space, so we barrel through the audience to a middle point so Scott can take some ranged shots at least, and are greeted by some of the rudest fans I’ve seen anywhere. We are astounded at how mean some people are, especially since we are all feeling very incognito after our wardrobe change. It is hard to care because there is a birthday girl on stage rocking to all her classics and looking as youthful as ever. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts fans are annoying and whiny (it’s rock’n’roll guys geesh) so we back away a bit and watch from farther back once Scott has the photos he wants. This is the first time in the afternoon that much larger crowds start pouring in as the evening starts to set in, so we decide it is important to be a bit more diligent with our timing.
Next up is The Joy Formidable on the main stage. This is an odd set time and location for The Joy Formidable as it would have made more sense to switch stages and time slots with Joan Jett to me, but in no time Scott has some sweet pictures of the band and the 3 of us are back standing with our feet in the Gulf of Mexico and falling in love with the lead singer of The Joy Formidable. The set is raucous and loud and the crowd is clearly into it and the band appropriately cranks it up with each loud cheer. Great set, great to be on the beach, but it’s time for Band of Horses up in the parking lot so we leave a bit early to get a good spot.
Band of Horses is a favorite of mine and has been for the past 5 years, give or take, but at least a half dozen people have told me their live shows are lackluster. Well, the short story we took from the first song forward is those people are just plain wrong. Go see Band of Horses if you’re a fan, they have lots of energy, they mix it up a bit from their albums and if you’re in the same situation we were, you get to hear UGA football updates from the stage. They play a solid mix of oldies and a handful of tracks from their 2012 album, Mirage Rock. It is truly a great set, and most people, other than Scott who had to get down to Foo Fighters for photos early, stay through the end.
Feeling really great and our heads spinning from all the music we’ve already seen we lock in and hurry down to the beach to get a good spot for the Foo Fighters! As soon as Dave get to the microphone it is on and the Foo Fighters, as always, bring some intensity and focus as they thrash through their sets with all the hits.
As they get about halfway through their set the impact of drinking sodas and Gatorade all day hit me pretty hard, and I have to make a mid-set pit stop, so I traverse up to the porta-potties, none of which are on the beach, and am distracted as I see Paper Diamond spinning and dropping some heavy bass next to the porta-potty cache. If it were just about anyone other than the Foo Fighters down on the other stage I would have stuck it out a bit longer with Paper Diamond, but it is the Foo Fighters and I am personally terrified of Foo, so I head back to our spot on the beach where the Foo dares not tread this night.
The Foo Fighters end their set with Best of You, take a brief break and come back out to drop Times Like These, Tom Petty’s Breakdown (best cover of the weekend) then bring Joan Jett on stage with a birthday cake, get everyone there to sing Happy Birthday to Joan, and cover Bad Reputation, a song she omitted in her set, with The Queen of Rock’n’Roll herself! They finish off with Everlong and bid farewell to the lively crowd.
Diplo, noteworthy solo DJ and half of Major Lazer, is dropping bass and being playful with the crowd at the parking lot stage. I had seen his late night set at Deluna 2011 and was pretty stoked to see him return to the lineup this year. He was even better than I remember. I was not as upset at missing most of Paper Diamond once Diplo got the crowd going. I needed some dance music and fewer guitars for a bit and this satisfied the fix. We three are pretty worn out, but pretty jazzed about heading to the after-party to see Dumpstaphunk, so we leave Diplo and his bass dropping for the younger crowd to soak in and head out to trolley stop world.
It is as insane as the night before and we decide to split up and start yelling at taxis. None stop. For over an hour and the trolley line has moved about 5 feet… By the time we get a taxi we had given up the ghost of getting to see Dumpstaphunk, and bought some late night sodas from the circle K to wind down in the hotel with. We again are fortunate that some people are willing to split the cab with us, as who knows how long it would have taken otherwise, and we get dropped off at Waffle House for what we view as our consolation for missing Dumpstaphunk. We crush some hash-browns and walk the last few blocks of our journey back to the hotel where we are so tired that no one finishes even their first sodas before all passing out at nearly 4 am again.
Day 3 – Sunday the 23rd
Waking up is not too shabby, but we all sleep until about 11, pack our bags, clean up and check out of the hotel. We decide the trolley is just not worth it since we are leaving tonight and David drives us around until we find a place that will serve us food and let us watch the beginnings of the first few NFL games of the day. We find some place called Hub Stacey’s where we settle in and eat some pretty fantastic Reuben sandwiches and watch some football.
Down to the beach we go with full stomachs, feeling well slept and hoping to find a good and reasonable place to park. We easily find a place within a 5 minute walk from the entrance for $20 and realize, yet again, that the trolley system is overpriced ($33 for 3 days or $15 for one day) and poorly run. Oh well, lesson learned and we are on day 3 and are having a ridiculously great time, so a few extra bucks and waiting around a couple times is hardly something to complain about. Plus, Ben Sollee is about to start and we don’t want to miss that.
Ben Sollee is a solo act that plays some really unique indie rock with conscious lyrics and a wicked complex sound. He is on stage with two guys who are also both ridiculously good musicians, including the best drummer we saw all weekend. There is some kind of syth pad attached to the drum kit that this guy plays everything from hand bells to extra drum beats, while playing some sweet drum riffs as if he has a third arm. Ben Sollee is another great start for the day as his peaceful voice and cello playing makes it feel like missing church was worth it today.
Following Ben Sollee we find ourselves drawn to a really close Saints and Chiefs game, surrounded by Saints fans, and watch as the scab refs make the game terrible and end up only hearing bits from Charmaine Neville down on the beach while we wait for the Wallflowers to start on the main stage.
The Wallflowers are a band I loved back in the hey-day of 90s alternative rock, as do my companions, and we are all pretty pumped to see them. They get into a couple songs and all 3 of us agree that this is probably the most boring set of the weekend. All the old classics from Bringing Down the Horse fill of the set, and each song sounds more and more like a coffee shop cover, except we can see Jakob Dylan, and our feet are in the Gulf of Mexico, so we’re pretty confident we are not in a coffee shop hearing “that guy who plays there every Wednesday.” It’s a lackluster performance that left a bad taste in our mouths, and would have been a complete toss out if it was not for an enthusiastically punctuating One Headlight to finish the set out.
We move back to the sports tent to check out how the Falcons are doing and to see Superchunk. Well, from the sports tent we can see Superchunk and I am just not feeling it so I listen with one ear and watch football while they perform in the parking lot. David gets closer to check it out, and while it is a rowdy set, I think the Wallflowers brought me down enough to keep me from getting jumpy and getting into their high-octane power punk sound. Scott dashes after a while to take some photos of Fitz and the Tantrums (he’s way too excited about this) while David goes to see the end of Bonerama (he was WAY too excited about that) and I head over early to see the Wood Brothers get started under the beach ball water tower.
The Wood Brothers are Oliver and Chris Wood. Oliver has been in a handful of projects and is an excellent guitarist and singer, while Chris Wood is most well-known as part of the avant-garde jazz trio Medeski, Martin, and Wood. They are incredibly tight and play through some great originals as the smaller crowd either knows all the words and notes and chimes along, or just enjoys seeing these stellar musicians play. David meets me there after a song and we stay through the first 3 songs before Scott shows up extremely excited after getting some great shots of Fitz & the Tantrums. After he does the same for the Wood Brothers we retreat to catch the last half of Fitz & the Tantrums on the main stage.
Fitz & The Tantrums have, as I mentioned in the warm-up article, two incredible front people in Fitz himself and Noelle. They do not disappoint, in the least, and even throw out a couple new songs to mix in with their hits from their hit debut LP Pickin` Up the Pieces. They control the crowd better than we’ve seen all weekend, and everyone is letting loose on the beach as the sun sets and people prepare for Deluna Fest to start winding down. Scott dashes up to get some shots of Florence and the Machine who are about to start and we tell him where we will meet him as David and I listen until the last note of Moneygrabber echoes across the Gulf. We aren’t staying for Zac Brown Band, so we absorb the immediate nostalgia of this beautiful beach setting and amazing music we’d seen on it as we walk up to see Florence and the Machine in the parking lot.
The crowd is bigger than the one for Joan Jett and while everyone significantly more polite in this crowd, we can’t get anywhere near the spot we told Scott to meet us. We are also drained of all energy at this point and can’t ignore the fact that there is a 6 hour drive ahead of us, so we settle in near where the photographers get dumped out to catch Scott when he is released from the pit. Florence is wearing some badass flowing dress suit thing and has fans blowing her outfit and hair around like it is an 80’s hair metal concert, only the music is way better. Her persona is huge and her voice fits in perfectly as her band, who is almost completely still other than their roles as cogs in her machine, earns their moniker. It is another lively crowd and she feeds off of it and gives it back, even running around a couple times through the vacant space in front of the stage and up to the sound booth. It’s lively and energetic and we are too tired to even bob our heads. As she mentions the start of her final song, we decide we’re ready to hit the road and listen to her final song as we walk out of the festival for a final time and head to the car.
Deluna Fest is only a 3 year old Festival and while I missed the first year, they really stepped up their game from 2011-2012. The staff was friendly, helpful and everywhere, the sound was exceptional except for a brief short during the Foo Fighters set, and all the bands were playing up to the setting and the crowds. The beach setting was flawless as they actually let you get to the water and enjoy the main reason to be on a white sandy beach with crystal clear water (look at you Hangout) We all had a blast and look forward to coming back in the future!
Thanks to Deluna Fest for putting on a stellar festival!
- Everett Verner with contributions from David Dorer