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Friday October 31st 2014

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DeLuna Fest Day 3: Cut Copy, Nico Vega Highlight Sunday

By James Hagan

While the cancellation of Lincoln Park’s headlining set put a damper on DeLuna Fest’s final day, the thousands in attendance Sunday were still treated to over two dozen bands from a wide variety of genres performing under perfect weather on Pensacola Beach.

An early highlight was New York dream-pop band Asobi Seksu performing songs off their latest release, “Fluorescence.” The duo played for an hour on the Grooveshark stage, which over the weekend featured some of the best performances at the festival by highlighting lesser-known, but critically-acclaimed performers like The Sounds, Stars, and Diplo, who performed in front of a modest, but rabid and sweaty audience Saturday night while Jane’s Addiction headlined on the Main Stage. Playing an always difficult early afternoon set under the sun, Asobi Seksu proved another highlight for the stage as they put on a spirited set that seemed to impress many concertgoers, who expressed interest in the band making a return engagement to the Gulf Coast.

Like all festivals, while it is great seeing mainstream bands like Weezer and Cake, it is discovering previously unknown acts that make the festival experience so unique. Nico Vega was one such band. The Los Angeles band, and “Last Call with Carson Daly” favorite, played their first show in Pensacola on the Groovseshark and thrilled the crowd with a high-energy rock show, punctuated by the soaring vocals, and dynamic live performance of singer Aja Volkman. Frequently compared by critics to such rock goddesses as Karon O from the “Yeah Yeah Yeahs,” and Janis Joplin, Volkman demonstrated star presence that wowed the hundred-plus people watching the set, who may have been unfamiliar with the band’s discography.

“The best part of Sunday was discovering new, really good bands that I’ve never listened to before like Nico Vega and Colour Revolt,” said Chelsea Powell, who attended all three days.

“Nico Vega was a great discovery,” echoed Ryan Steward, who said that the only reason he had planned to attend the festival Sunday was to see that evening’s Cut Copy performance.

Of course, music is just part of the overall festival atmosphere. Festival goers were able to enjoy the beach, and take a look at some wares from local artists. One unique attraction was the Ultimate Fighting Championship van, which allowed people a respite from the heat and the chance to peruse memorabilia, play the UFC video game, and do their best Cain Velasquez-impression while posing with a replica UFC Heavyweight Championship belt.

Without Linkin Park, Cut Copy and Mute Math served as Sunday’s default headliners. While not having the radio hits of Linkin Park, or the cultural recognition, both indie-darlings proved more than up to the task. While these bands may not have proved the draw hoped for by the festival organizers, their performances were certainly superstar-worthy. Under a perfect sunset, on the flawless white sand adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico, the thousands of enthusiastic, exhausted revelers still in attendance danced and sang their hearts out through the two performances, ending the festival on a definite high note, and leaving attendees expressing hope that Deluna Fest will survive its challenging second year and return next year for a third go-round.

“Cut Copy put on an amazing show,” said Brittney Goodman. “Listening to such an amazing band with my toes in the sand on a beautiful beach – what else could I ask for?”
Attendees praised the event overall, but expressed frustration with some of the disorganization of  the event, including under promoting changes in performance times. They also offered suggestions for next year’s event.

“It was a fine, fresh, fierce event,” said Alex Steward, “let’s just get everyone a little more organized next time.”

“It’s only year two and Pensacola has never hosted anything like this before,” said Shelsie Lawrence. “It takes a few times to get all the bugs worked out.”

The eclectic line-up also drew kudos.

“I felt like this year there was a little bit of everything: dance, hip hop, rock, indie etcetera,” said Powell. “It was a great festival and I felt so happy and luck to have such a wonderful thing happen on my hometown beach.”