While we set out to find some lotion for our peeling sunburns, check out our recap of day two at DeLuna Fest in Pensacola, Fla.
This five-piece band out of Seattle was definitely one of the little surprises here this weekend. Despite having lost all their gear on tour, Motopony felt right at home here at DeLuna and confidently played their brand of energetic indie rock, winning over hosts of fans in the process. Standouts included their catchy single “King of Diamonds” off their recently-released debut LP, which sounded great in their energetic live setting. While frontman Daniel Blue was still working out the kinks of his onstage banter, his exuberant personality and untamed vocals remained the focus of the band to great effect.
While Manchester sometimes seems a bit undecided on what kind of band they are on recordings, they manage to throw the whole discussion out the window when you give the guys two drum kits, walls of electric guitars, and a beach full of people to play for. Manchester is one of those bands that does the things that both indie rock and post-hardcore acts are afraid or unwilling to do, and that’s what makes their performances so dynamic and exciting to watch. While its true that they drew more preteens and high-schoolers than any other band at DeLuna, Manchester Orchestra is still great at making “aggressive” and “emotive” go hand-in-hand with their hard-hitting renditions of rockers like “I’ve Got Friends” and the spiritual tug-of-war “The River.” Ultimately, just the fact that they have a song called “Pensacola” seemed too good to be true.
If one band deserved a prime time slot, it was Telekinesis. The Seattle-based trio played an early afternoon set to a scattered crowd, but they clearly loved every minute of it. Their fans and festival-goers felt their vibe, and by the end of the set the beach was grooving. Led by drummer/vocalist Michael Benjamin Lerner, the trio played good old- fashioned pop-rock with concise drumming, fuzzy bass riffs and shrieking guitar solos that so many bands today seem to be afraid to go near. Every song was hit on all cylinders, and even when Lerner stepped away from the drum set to play the slowed down “Rust” solo on acoustic guitar, he kept the audience hanging on every word. The band also knew how to play to a festival crowd. At one point Lerner said, “I’m pretty sure we can all hear each other. So, does anyone have any questions?” Fans asked when the band would be back in certain areas, and one girl named Emma asked them to play “Fever Chill.” The band obliged, even though they hadn’t played or even practiced the song in years.
“This is a Guns ‘N Roses song,” the Bad Books frontman called out before ripping through Built to Spill’s “The Plan.” In the mid-day heat, it was refreshing to see a serious band that wasn’t taking themselves too seriously by cracking jokes and playing faux-hip hop songs, and the crowd responded to that. The three-guitar Southern-rock and folk-leaning supergroup that included Kevin Devine and members of Manchester Orchestra tore through a dynamic mid-afternoon set that didn’t take itself too seriously. The band, who hadn’t played a show in nearly a year (Devine and Manchester Orchestra also played the event), took the loud-quiet-loud approach before building up to a rocking finish.
Decked out in suits and ties, Quiet Company provided the beach party with fun, piano-fueled rock. Led by Taylor Muse (formerly of Eisley), the Texans blared trombones, blasted driving drum beats and forced everyone, including people just trying to get beer and food nearby, to stop and tap their toes along with the catchy rhythms. Most of the songs were innocent pop songs, but others turned into songs with epic undertones and atmospheric guitars. When the band launched into “Preaching to the Choir Invisible, Part II” Quiet Company was anything but silent, and it sounded like they composed the song to be played during an intense battle sequence in a war film.
There was only one hip-hop artist on day two at DeLuna, but Big Boi was great enough to fill the void. Starting off with a few songs from OutKast, Big Boi performed what he called the “appetizer”, by playing “Rosa Parks”, “So Fresh, So Clean” and “Ms. Jackson” right out the gate. But the show never slowed down, as he played a variety of songs from his entire career, from songs from “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik” to last years’ “Sir Lucious Left Foot…The Son of Chico Dusty”. As a crowd of girls joined Big Boi and his band, he continued with a majority of OutKast songs, including “Ghetto Musick”, “B.O.B.” and “I Like the Way You Move” from “The Love Below”. Big Boi had one of the biggest afternoon crowds of the entire festival, and even came back for a rare encore, in which he did Ying Yang Twins’ “Salt Shaker”.
The New Pornographers
Canadian indie veterans The New Pornographers rocked the stage, but if you weren’t already a fan, no song stood out compared to anything at the festival. It’s not to say that Dan Bejar and Kathryn Calder’s vocals weren’t amazing and the instrumentation wasn’t spot on—because they were. Everything just seemed to blend together into one giant song. It obviously didn’t matter to the sun-soaked people screaming the lyrics back at the band. All that matters at a festival is if the vibe is fun, and New Pornographers didn’t fall short in that category.
Robbers on High Street
Not the most distinctive performance of the weekend, as their stylistically similar songs tended to run together a bit, but Brooklyn’s Robbers on High Street were by no means boring. The quintet was consistently tight and solid, demonstrating above all else a flair for sophisticated vocal arrangements. Singer Ben Trokan would belt impassioned lead lines, interspersed with lush backup harmonies from guitarist Steven Mercado, bassist Mikey Post and keyboardist David Sherman. Musically, the band’s skittish, tersely arranged songs recalled the likes of other indie-rock kin such as Franz Ferdinand, Spoon and The Strokes, and though their arrangements were somewhat more shapeless, an ear for refined pop was never far from the center — a sensibility affirmed by the group’s set-closing cover of ELO’s classic “Evil Woman.”
The War on Drugs
One of the great gems on the small stage was The War on Drugs, who—despite their modest crowd, which included members of Motopony and The New Pornographers—blew away the audience at the smaller Grooveshark stage. Even though the sound cut out near the beginning, the band didn’t seem to notice and the constant shredding from lead singer/guitarist Adam Granduciel stayed consistently overwhelming. A few songs in, keyboards were added to the mix, in a string of songs that sounded like a combination of My Morning Jacket and My Bloody Valentine. After playing plenty of tracks from this year’s Slave Ambient album, The War on Drugs proved that they have a sound deserving of the bigger stages and a much larger audience.
From a mostly dark and foggy stage, James Mercer and The Shins appeared and played one of their most instantly recognizable songs, “Caring Is Creepy.” The incredible set played heavily from Oh, Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow, with a few tracks from their last album Wincing The Night Away, while also scattering in a duo of new songs with a funkier sound for the group. In the final songs, they played arguably their most popular song, “New Slang” and threw in a pair of covers, “Breathe” from Pink Floyd and David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes,” doing great justice to both classics. But the highlight of the show was the finale, “Sleeping Lessons” with its slow build and incredible pay-off left the audience wanting so much more while giving them an epic conclusion.
It was the stage banter, not the music that made Jane’s Addiction’s DeLuna Fest set awesome. Sure, the band played a hyped-up collection of classic songs, but frontman Perry Farrell also went on hilarious rants about partying, having a penis big enough to touch the entire crowd and internet lurkers talking crap to him on Facebook. Jane’s Addiction arrived a full 30 minutes late, during which time the audience was treated to most of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here over the PA, but they made up for their tardiness by immediately delving into the all-too-appropriate mood-setting instrumental “Up the Beach” and never letting up from there. Though original bassist Eric Avery quit after the band’s 2009 reunion tour and his slap-funk precision is missed, longtime replacement Chris Chaney held down the parts with finesse. Still, the focus remained on the classic Nothing’s Shocking and Ritual de lo Habitual, including all their big hits (“Been Caught Stealing,” “Stop,” an encore of “Jane Says”) and deeper cuts like the multi-movement epic “Three Days” — “Just Because” and two cuts from this year’s album The Great Escape Artist were the only postmillennial songs present. As usual, guitarist Dave Navarro was in top form (and shirtless), fingers positively flying on the guitar. And all along, Farrell did what he does best, which is hosting one big party. Farrell was decked out in a glittery black vest and tight pants, and he made sure to keep the sexual innuendo and banter flowing all night.
The Austin-based Ghostland Observatory consists of singer/guitarist Aaron Behrens and drummer/synth and programming whiz Thomas Turner. The duo had probably the best light show of any band at DeLuna, shimmering with vibrant colors and turning the beach into a neon-glowstick-filled rave. The music itself certainly helped the cause as well, replete with thick, pulsating dance beats, shards of dirty, roaring guitar, and electronic effects that were relentlessly psychedelic — at certain moments the music felt legitimately hallucinatory. Often the synthesizer melodies would speed up and build to a fever pitch, sending the audience into a frenzy. Behrens’ voice got a bit shrill at times, but filled with an edgy sort of soul, a timbre that recalls an odd mixture of Ronnie James Dio and The Mars Volta’s Cedric Bixler-Zavala.
The Hood Internet
For those looking for a party to end out the second night after the beach blowout that was Girl Talk, The Hood Internet was a pretty good way to dance out the night. The Chicago duo are like a more indie take on the mash-up, going for artists like tUnE-yArDs and Hercules and Love Affair, instead of the mainstream usual. The group didn’t play most of their most popular mash-ups, instead seemingly improvising, which was a welcome change from someone like Girl Talk. But their choices were pretty brilliant, like their use of Rihanna’s “Rude Boy” over “Baptism” from Crystal Castles. The set felt short unfortunately, but ended with a bang as they utilized R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix)”, a great way to end day two.