If anyone thought DeLuna Fest catered to a certain demographic, spending Saturday at the festival would have entirely disproved such a notion. DeLuna Fest’s diverse Saturday lineup gave music lovers of all ages plenty of reasons to put on more sunscreen and keep moving. Like all great festivals, the hardest part of the day was deciding when to walk away from one amazing act in order to catch a few songs of the next.
Hometown crew Paloma kicked off the festivities on the gopensacola.com stage, while Tallahassee’s June in January helped promote the days’ acts during their solid performance across the grounds. Brooklyn–based songwriter Kevin Devine, the first Main Stage performer of the day, interspersed the poetic and thoughtful commentary of his songs with praise for the beach’s beauty. Devine was the first of many Saturday artists to express appreciation for Pensacola Beach, which became the biggest star of the festival.
Nearby, Nicos Gun got festival goers bouncing with catchy dance-pop tunes like “Tangerine Express,” which could be a nickname for the huge orange Mohawk that singer Barney Cortez sported throughout the set, then threw off during the last song (it was a hairpiece!) much to the delight of the crowd, or this writer at least.
On the other side of the festival, Still Corners gave a quieter, emo-based set, while Telekinesis dedicated the last of their dance-worthy rock songs to a crowd member waving a large, inflatable alien and bubble gun. Like the beach itself, one of the most memorable visuals of the festival were the original props seen in the crowd.
At the Jazz & Heritage stage, saxophonist Antoine Knight rivaled Friday performer Trombone Shorty for the longest circular breathing moment of the fest before playing an ultra smooth cover of Miles Davis’ “Tutu.” Just around the corner, New York-based indie rockers Robbers on High Street finished their set of rich, British invasion-inspired tunes with a cover of ELO’s “Evil Woman” that is sure to have anyone who saw that performance hunting down copies of both bands’ albums.
Late afternoon began with Soul veteran Betty LaVette giving a goose bump-inducing performance. LaVette’s powerful vocals and nods to the numerous artists she covered (including George Jones, Lucinda Williams, and Joe Simon) made her a personal favorite of the festival. Big Boi, as expected, brought the party to the beach, playing both solo and OutKast material, and getting the Main Stage crowd dancing both onstage and off.
Even without singer Neko Case’s dynamic stage presence, The New Pornographers delivered a satisfying performance, with female vocalist and keyboardist Kathryn Calder doing an admirable job filling in for Case. Catching a few songs from rockers War on Drugs was enough to shake off any remaining No-Neko blues, and their rootsy, Americana quality served as a good prep for listening to the authentic bluegrass brought by the Infamous Stringdusters.
For indie music fans, perhaps the most anticipated performance of the day was The Shins’ set, and the crew from Portland did not disappoint. The band played across their albums, including a song from an unnamed, forthcoming release. Lead singer James Mercer gave a warm shout out to the crew at Paddy O’Leary’s, where the band had been mingling with locals the two preceding nights.
Elsewhere during the mid-evening hours, Papa Grows Funk showed the crowd why they are a New Orleans staple, with guitarist June Yamagashi jamming in his characteristically joyful and arresting style. JJ Grey and Mofro honored their Florida blues-rock sound, playing favorites like “Lochloosa,” and expressing love for all things natural in Florida, including, of course, Pensacola’s very own beach.
Headliner Jane’s Addiction, in true rock-star fashion, began behind schedule. But the band made up for it with their amazingly powerful sound and engaging performance. Between songs lead singer Perry Farrell declared, “I love this place,” adding that playing on Pensacola Beach is “the best kept secret in America.” Coming from Lollapalooza’s founder, I’d consider that high praise.
True to form, Saturday at DeLuna Fest ended with a spectrum of choices including Diplo’s raucous DJ set, lasers and beats galore with Ghostland Observatory, or a set of NOLA standards with Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers. Or, if you couldn’t make up your mind, (and how could you, really?) a little bit of all three.