￼The first ever Riptide Fest set a new precedence for festivals in South Florida. The unbelievable December weather combined with an amazing crowd proved to be the perfect concoction for a party that most of us will remember until we start talking about the next one (we all hope!). The 19 band lineup was built for everyone: children, teens, music critics, adults, people who still remember the ’80s, and anyone who wanted to just dance on the beach. The festival offered affordable alcohol selections (that tequila/coconut water cocktail was bomb) paired with the tasty food kept a mob of lovely concertgoers fueled throughout the two days in the sun. For that, and many other reasons we felt right at home at Riptide and we cannot express how great of a time we had covering, shooting and partying on the beach with Ft. Lauderdale’s finest.
Prior to our arrival, we had no other expectations than to kick ass and enjoy great music. There was one stage facing east, and just before the sand was the media pit, which was nice because we didn’t have to traipse through the sand between each set. Being a two-day festival, brand new to the scene of this area of Ft. Lauderdale, and during the same weekend as Art Basel in Miami, we weren’t expecting the crowd that had gathered on day one, under an already cloudless, sunfilled sky at 11 a.m. I was thinking to myself, “We’re early, let’s get a good spot (near some shade, please!) for our lowlying chairs and see Saint Motel.” There was a bit of a time delay getting in, so we ended up arriving as the first band warmed up the crowd and had well over a thousand people cheering. Forget getting close, this place was packed! And we had ten hours to go, hell. yes. This lineup had some big names to draw everyone in, but sometimes it’s the ones in between who capture your heart and attention. Here are some of the highlights of the festival:
DREAMERS: These guys are everywhere right now. Making a ton of noise as a 3-piece band (literally) all over XM and Billboard alternative charts with their single, “Sweet Disaster.” Dreamers seem eager to take their massive live performance into 2017. One of my favorite raw sets of the day, Dreamers kind of kicked ass live. You wouldn’t know it from their single, but they have quite a grungy sensibility to their live set. Screaming high fretted guitar squealed solos are common place with bombastic drum sounds that bring you back into the ’90s. Dreamers blindsided us with radness, elastic energy, and a gigantic sound. Check out their album released this last summer This Album Does Not Exist for jams!
GLASS ANIMALS: We here at Shows I Go To have it bad for Glass Animals. The boys from England really know how to make us lose all reasonable sensibility in public settings. This is now the 3rd time I’ve seen these talented fellas and the first since the release of their new album, How To Be A Human Being. While the album itself took some time to grow on me, hearing it live felt like a quick dose to the bloodstream. The body quaking bass and catchy synth hit you right in your dry musical palate with something you’ve probably never tasted before (is it “Pork Soda?”). There was an older couple in front of me casually cheifin’ a doobie and making Elaine Bennis proud of her dancing abilities. I couldn’t help but ask if this was the first time they had heard of the Glass Animals (amongst other inquiries), to which they replied, “Yes, this is the first time we’ve seen them, and they’re groovy man!” Yeah mannnnn! Life was good on the beach, and all of Ft. Lauderdale was consensually covered in peanut butter vibes.
MIIKE SNOW: The perfect combination of live production and instrumentation. Miike Snow played the funkiest, most danceable set I’ve ever seen. Andrew Wyatt’s stage banter was wonderfully witty. While the 2/3 production section of Miike Snow (Bloodshy and Avant) played it cool draped in their rockstar leather/accessories. Besides the drummer who remained in place, the other three members made their way around the stage switching between guitar, bass, piano, and production rigs. While frontman Wyatt played some guitar, he mostly remained behind the piano. A brilliantly seductive live show, Miike Snow tastefully combines the new age of electronic dance music with the roots of alternative rock. 10/10 would recommend.
THE STRUTS: Real freaking rock stars, all you can say. Never holding back, be it their wardrobe, stage antics, or instrumentation; The Struts are the last of a dying breed when it comes to kicking ass and taking names. They must be seen AND heard. Making a name for themselves via their live show (WE CAN CONFIRM THE HYPE IS REAL) The Struts have taken the rock n’ roll world by storm by giving us exactly what we need. Sexy, sultry, fast-paced, in your face, rock. The Struts are going to be around for a while, and deservedly so. They are the perfect festival band, lifting the spirits of a tired sun-soaked crowd by giving their all through every single measure of every song. Rock enthusiasts; The Struts are a must see live, we’re hoping to catch em’ again reviving rock n’ roll in 2017.
ANDREW MCMAHON: First of all, who doesn’t love this dude? If you’ve seen Dear Jack on Netflix, or are a fan of Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin than you would’ve killed to see this set. Originally an Into the Wilderness set, plans quickly changed as Andrew announced after his first tune that none of the equipment made it to the airport, so all he had was this grand piano. Let’s just say I don’t think anyone was upset. Maybe he was? But really, it was okay. So he and his one bandmate necessary to accompany such an acoustic set, performed much more than Into the Wilderness with greats like: “Dark Blue,” “I Woke Up in a Car,” and “Holiday from Real.” He spoke of his remission, wife, and child in such a beautiful way that had everyone crying and clapping and hugging. He’s a pleasure as always, I would never miss a chance to see his show, acoustic or otherwise.
ROBERT DELONG: After the end of the first night, I dubbed Robert as the real MVP of the day. As we photographers made our way back to the pit to prepare for his set, we see a lighting rig lowered all the way down, low enough to reach. A crew member doing a sort of tightrope performance across the top to fix the issue as the ￼crowd was cheering, while we were wary for a few moments. We made jokes about waivers, and not standing directly under it when shooting, and who would get hit first due to being the tallest. Little did we know this was going to be the first setback for Robert DeLong. Fresh off the plane, he’d come out to his rig set up for him and nothing, and I mean nothing, would turn on or function. At one point there were five guys surround him as he kept throwing up his hands in frustration saying, “This is fucked, nothing is working.” I was sure he’d walk off the stage in some childish tantrum, but man was I wrong!
His set was delayed almost 45 minutes, and we watched semipatiently as they struggled with “turning it off and on” and I’m sure many more complicated DJ things than that. He must have made something work, because he began to mess around with some beats, added some layers, began singing, and then made a beat on some sort of synth pad (forgive me, I don’t know the lingo) and then it glitched and wouldn’t stop. The song moved on, rhythm changing, but that one stuck beat persisted on begging to be heard until he looked off stage and threw his hands up again. He killed the rig, and then walked upstage to mess with some equipment mumbling something about “equipment these days, right?” So he explains how he’s never done an acoustic set for any more than 20 people, and there were thousands there that night. He grabs a guitar and IT DOESN’T WORK. At this point, I felt bad for the dude. But then, something clicked on, and he played several songs in a manner in which they’d maybe never been heard, and I loved it. I loved everything about him after that; I was instantly a fan. He showed up, and he performed. NO MATTER WHAT. That’s a true artist. He didn’t throw a hissy fit, and he didn’t drop out like Good Charlotte (inside joke, sort of). Cheers to you, Mr. DeLong. Please come back soon!
AWOLNATION: The headliners of day one, and one of the most anticipated bands to see at Riptide (for good reason). Megalithic Symphony, anyone? That explains their live sound. Epic and massive, the crunching and smashing of invisible monoliths on stage backed by sawtooth synthesizers that make your chest vibrate. You can’t watch cell phone videos of “SAIL,” because they won’t do it justice. At one point Aaron Bruno told the crowd that for the holiday season he was going to gift us with a drum solo. The drummer killed it, and then Aaron himself got behind the kit as I shouted out loud, “OF COURSE.” As if I should be shocked or something. (I have a thing for drummers.) But that’s beside the point. This was during “Woman Woman” and after he’d already exclaimed to all the “beautiful ladies in the crowd” that “when AWOLNATION is playing, every day is National Woman’s Day!”. They played so many good songs like, “Burn it Down”, “Not Your Fault”, “People” and “KOOKSEVERYWHERE!,” which ended the evening perfectly. We danced, sang along, and forgot we’d burned in the sun for hours. Prepping us to do it all again the next day, 80’s style.
￼Let me just say, there were multiple times throughout the day that I looked at my sister and said, “THAT’S WHO SINGS THIS SONG?!” Don’t get me wrong, I love the ’80s, but when you grow up being born near the end of them, you wind up with a catalog of music in your head of which you know all the words, but the memory of who sang or wrote them is a little vague. So when A Flock of Seagulls began to sing, “And I ran, I ran so far away …” or when The Fixx started to play “One Thing Leads to Another” well, you get my point, right?
EARTH, WIND, & FIRE: Holy. Shit. My life had not prepared me for what I was about to witness. So much talent on one stage at one time, and so many classic songs. Three original members, with about 100 other ON POINT musicians danced around the stage wildly, never missing a beat. Philip Bailey at one point was honest enough to say their time was limited and went to the crowd for requests. He laughed and responded to someone’s request with, “Well, of course, we are gonna play ‘September.’” I thought people were gonna lose their minds. In fact, they have so many hits and had a limited set time (as every band did, about an hour or even less at times) that near the end of the set they just played a medley and it was unbelievable. LEGENDS. Some of the guys now have sons who make up the band, and you would know after one song that that shit runs in the family. EWF, we are not worthy.
THE B52s: The band, less Keith Strickland, was just so much fun to watch. Of course, we all know “Love Shack” but there were so many more songs they played that are equally danceable for our new wave loving little hearts. Fred Schneider was hilarious on stage — as usual I am assuming. He played the kazoo, among other funky instruments that looked like children’s toys. Their outfits were retro, Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson were FIERCE. You would never know this band has been around for close to 40 years. Everyone song was upbeat, energetic and just freaking fun! It was a throwback to good times, and we left wanting more.
Riptide was made up of an eclectic mix of bands, and if this inaugural lineup is indicative of next year’s, then start to plan your trip NOW, you don’t want to be left out! Here’s to getting SHARKWRECKED in 2017!
Sean Gray & Jenn Ross.
Riptide Music Festival Live Photos by Jenn Ross.
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