DeLuna Fest Day 1 Recap and Photos
Day one of DeLuna Fest in Pensacola Beach, Fla. is in the books, and Paste was there to capture all the action. Check out our recap and photos from the first day below, and stay tuned for more coverage in the coming days.
AWOLNATION exists in the bizarre cross-pollenation of indie pop and post-hardcore but unfortunately usually takes the more obnoxious parts of both and creates a sound that is definitely unique, but not always exactly great to listen to. While frontman Aaron Bruno got the crowd pumped up with his visceral screams, everyone (including us) was mostly just waiting for them to play just one song. Their hit single, “Sail,” which has received all sorts of media attention and TV spots, does with their genre mashups what few of their other songs could pull off. AWOLNATION may not like to admit that they’re something of a one-hit wonder (they didn’t even finish their set with “Sail”), but it seemed that neither did their fans, so I suppose that’s okay.
Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s
Though they played in the one of the earlier timeslots, Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s managed to gather a rather large crowd searching for hidden gems of the festival. Richard Edwards and his gang played a series of new songs off of last year’s Buzzard mixed with reworked versions of hits off of their earlier albums. They opened with the raw and honest “Claws Off” setting the stage for a ruckus set to a mixture of fans and people hearing the Midwestern band for the first time. Their slowed-down, country-swagger version of “Skeleton Key” showed how the band has changed their dynamics since their early days. The song was on par with the enthralling “Tiny Vampire Robots” that showed Edward’s prowess for melodic, surrealist storytelling.
Ra Ra Riot
Ra Ra Riot’s infectious dance-infused pop sent the mid-afternoon crowd into a frenzy. The first half of their set was chock-full of hits from Rhumb Line and The Orchard. On stage, the members danced at the same furious pace as their eager fans. Even when newer songs blasted throughout the beach air, the crowd didn’t miss a beat. String players Alaexandra Lawn and Rebecca Zeller add a special aspect that puts the Syracuse band over the edge for similar bands in their genre. Wes Miles’ hypnotic vocals never wavered throughout and were pitch perfect on every note.
Givers’ Canjun-infused sound provides a fresh dynamic to the indie-pop scene. Their frantic melodies resonate with their fans, who similarly express themselves with interesting dance moves and waving the flag of Givers’ home state Louisiana. Singer/guitarist Taylor Guarisco and singer/multi-instrumentalist Tiffany Lamson’s chemistry meshes extremely well onstage, and it shows. The twentysomethings’ energy builds and builds along with the crowd, and this show nearly exploded with intensity during their hit “Up Up Up.” Even members of Ra Ra Riot, whom Givers opened for on a previous tour, were dancing enthusiastically throughout the set.
One of the most pleasant surprises of the opening day was on the Grooveshark stage in the late afternoon. Garage-pop Kentucky youngsters Sleeper Agent provided an energetic synth-punk set to an astonishingly large crowd considering their time and location. The band features two main singers; guitarist Tony Smith’s vocals lend perfect harmonies to female singer Alex Kandel’s voice. Together they form a sound reminiscent of new Strokes material. Kandel’s stage presence is especially notable considering she is one of the youngest artists at the festival.
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
One of the most impressive shows of instrumental talent of the weekend, New Orleans native Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and his six-piece band, which included auxiliary percussion and two saxophonists, brought in the evening with a funky, exuberant show and had the entire beach dancing along to the beat — a nice contrast to most shows where the audience stands still. While the band was faithful to classic jazz and funk traditions, it held the crowd’s attention with its inventive, colorful improvisation and group interplay. Shorty allotted plenty of moments to demonstrate his soulful, multi-octave vocal power and his jaw-dropping agility on the trombone and trumpet (dude’s been not just playing but leading bands since he was six), but he also gave the rest of his ensemble room to shine, pushing the baritone and tenor sax players, guitarist and even the bassist to take solos. Highlight: an instrumental, funked-out cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom.”
Cake is one of those bands whose recent output doesn’t quite match the quality of their old stuff, but the five-piece still has a few things going for it, especially live, namely a style that spans multiple genres, a solid sense of groove, sparse yet effective guitar and bass riffs, tasteful horn parts, and (most importantly) lead singer John McCrea’s deadpan, spoken-word-style vocals. It’s McCrea’s persona that moved Cake’s performance along, with his sardonic quips and wry observations lightening the mood considerably between songs — and sometimes during them. During new song “Sick of You,” for example, he divided up the audience in a line drawn between him and the moon, dubbing the left side as the “escapists” and the right side as the “angry people” (I was, appropriately, standing just to the right side) and led the crowd through a singalong chorus. Of course, aside from a distinctive interpretation of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” the most exciting moments were Cake’s classics, such as “Never There,” “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” and “The Distance.”
Matt & Kim
These days, Matt & Kim seem more intent on getting their audience amped rather than focusing on technical achievement, but they do it well. For their hour-long set on DeLuna’s second stage, the duo enlisted the audience to clap along, blow up and throw two huge bags of balloons, take off their shirts and hold always-smiling drummer Kim
Schifino up over the crowd so she could “shake her ass.” It’s not fair to say their show suffered from all of the antics. Although there were plenty of slip-ups and sour notes, the audience didn’t seem to mind the duo focusing more on partying than proficiency. Songs
like ‘Yeah Yeah” worked well in the crowd setting, with the audience shouting along to every “Yeah,” but the songs that relied more on proficiency, such as “Daylight," didn’t have the flair to fit into their constant party attitude. But they more than made up for it, not only doing fan favorites, but also covering “The Final Countdown” and “Just A Friend.” Friday’s standout set showed that Matt & Kim knew what their audience wanted
and played up to those expectations.
After noting the fact that they were not on the “fancy, cool stage” and pointing out numerous times that Cake could clearly be heard from the beach stage, at one point frontman Torquil Campbell just said “fuck it, this is still awesome,” and that definitely felt like the theme of their show. As sound and mixing quality varied from song to song, Stars still knew how please fans and play a great show, opening with their four-on-the-floor dance pop single “How Much More” and emphasizing their more upbeat songs by playing “Take Me To The Riot” and “We Don’t Want Your Body.” The best inclusion (except perhaps the new song they played) was “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead,” the fantastic track from their 2005 album Set Yourself On Fire that had Campbell rockin’ his melodica. Despite the unfortunate shaft they were given, co-lead singers Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan still reminded us that they are indeed a supergroup and have the talent and charisma of multiple rock bands coming together.
Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo spent the first few songs of the band’s DeLuna Fest set hopping around in the crowd, roaming through the fenced sides of the headlining stage before he did the most un-rockstar-like thing I’ve ever seen at a live show. “I need a Band-Aid,” Cuomo said after finally reappearing on stage. Apparently in all the commotion, Cuomo cut his little pinkie on some shrubbery, and it appeared that the wound started taking priority over the music with Cuomo rambling on about it for one long minute. And in the middle of a song, he had a roadie apply a bandage to the wound. This was an omen for the band, who appeared to struggle through a (new) hit-heavy set for an audience that was casually interested in their music. Sure, the young crowd seemed interested enough in hits like “Troublemaker” and “Pork and Beans,” but the set left die-hards longing for any pre-2002 scrap they could latch onto. The group completely shunned the now-celebrated Pinkerton, opting to play surprise, but not exactly crowd-pleasing covers including Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” and Radiohead’s epic “Paranoid Android,” which had more than its fair share of flubs. Old Weezer classics (“Surf Wax America,” “My Name is Jonas,” “Only in Dreams”) were still great, nostalgic sing-alongs. But with former Nine Inch Nails/Devo/The Vandals drummer Josh Freese filling in on drums instead of original drummer Patrick Wilson, the classic Weezer vibe was never achieved until Wilson took to the drums for the band’s biggest crowd-pleaser, “Say It Ain’t So.”
Mashup artist Girl Talk, aka Gregg Gillis, took to his simple stage of a table with his laptop and by the end of the night transformed Pensacola Beach to a full-on party filled with balloons, confetti and toilet paper guns. The set started the same way he started 2010’s All Day, with Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” and from there, a cavalcade of fans and dancers joined Gillis as he performed for an hour, with unusual combinations like M.O.P.’s “Ante Up” and “Party in the U.S.A.” by Miley Cyrus. For fans of Girl Talk, many of Gillis’ choices were similar to his previous albums, yet a few new surprises, such as mashing up The Strokes with Ol Dirty Bastard and the excellent use of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” added to the already insane performance. Gillis wrapped up with “Shout!” from The Isley Brothers, a fitting end to a party that would have probably continued all night, had Gillis had the choice.