Pensacola, Florida
Saturday December 20th 2014

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451 Years In The Making

Pensacola’s First Proper Beach Festival Debuts
By Will strickland

For those of us who thought that Pensacola is where motivation goes to die, it was a surprise to hear that DeLuna Fest would be taking place on Pensacola Beach. At a time when what little remains of the once respectable music scene are a few hobbyists tinkering with their toys, a new festival was way past due.

However, the organizers didn’t waste any time or try to go even remotely grassroots. It was a very bold decision to start out on such a large scale, and this sort of ambitiousness is exactly what Pensacola needs more of and is an endeavor worthy of the utmost respect.

As with all festivals, the first year should be expected to have some hiccups, and the DeLuna Fest staff did a great job of keeping problems to a minimum.

“I made the drive over from Mobile and I have been pleasantly surprised with the set up…and it has been great to see how reasonably priced the food, drinks, and merchandise have been,” said Brent Jarreau, a festival patron.

On Friday, there were crowds lining up before the gates even opened. Once inside, it took a little effort to get your bearings, convert your currency, and find a good spot. After jumping through a few hoops, you couldn’t help but take a step back and be thankful for the fact that entrepreneurs are finally making use of Pensacola’s greatest asset.

The first bands mirrored the enthusiasm of an eager crowd and highlights started to stack up. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros provided one of the most engaging performances of the whole weekend. The crowds continued to grow as the evening progressed, and the efficiency of the double main stage proved to be a brilliant way to keep the crowd engaged.

It didn’t take long for the crowds to grow to the point that the festival was clearly a success.

Saturday started off with great performances by Neon Trees and Rebelution, and moved quickly onto another memorable highlight of the weekend. “For me, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club is about as good of a show as you are ever going to get. They sounded great, and the drummer…wow,” said patron Matthew Tanner, of Biloxi, through his blissful grin.

It definitely wasn’t just the Jared Leto fans who fell in love on Saturday. 311 and Stone Temple Pilots, who have incredibly managed to avoid obsolescence on the Pensacola airwaves, came out and put on performances that were easily worthy of the headliner and sub-headliner spots.

Sunday’s crowds were surprisingly not overwhelming despite the fact that the tickets were free. It was another perfect day featuring stand-out performances by The Smart Brothers, Cowboy Mouth, Galactic and Willie Nelson.

Perhaps the most memorable moment of the whole weekend and possibly the most quintessentially “Pensacola” moment of my entire life was the Blue Angels’ flyover during “Jenny Says.” You just don’t get any more Pensacola than that.

From the announcements that were made prior to Willie Nelson, it looks like DeLuna Fest will be back again next year. It will be very interesting to see how this festival grows. After all, it was never an issue of attendance that doomed SpringFest. I’m already looking forward to next year.

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PROS
Value, efficient trolley service, location, promotional artwork, weather, date (having the festival this late in the year will be a huge asset toward booking top tier bands while avoiding competition with summer festivals in the future)

CONS
Even if it’s at the beach, a parking lot is just a parking lot—insufficient amount of festival actually on the beach, general lack of non-musical art and performance, exclusively dated headliners, general lack of maps and signs, botched sound during Willie Nelson