Rock The Ocean’s Tortuga Music Festival blew through Fort Lauderdale beach this past weekend like a cat 5 hurricane. Granted it didn’t leave any destruction in its wake, a lot of beer cans maybe, but everyone who attended, made it out okay. The only casualty is the intense sunburn and potential hangovers the tens of thousands who attended are dealing with.
The weather was perfect, the concessions were ringing constantly, and the people were singing, dancing, drinking and just enjoying every aspect of what a music festival on the beach has to offer. Tortuga, now in it’s third year had a great lineup on day one with performances from Old Dominion, David Nail, Trace Adkins, Chase Bryant, The Doobie Brothers (not country, but who cares, it’s the Doobies), Jake Owen, and that was just on Saturday. Day one had Judah and The Lion performing their brand of country/cover band/folk and just killed it on the Sunset Stage. David Nail and Trace Adkins both performed on the main Tortuga stage and each set had the ladies screaming and the crowd clapping.
The festival itself had a decent layout, with plenty of shade, concessions, and info in the Conservation Village to keep everyone, fed, hydrated (water was free) and informed. Plenty of shaded port-o-potties everywhere, which, judging by the dozens of pallets (yes, pallets) of beer I witnessed at every concession, that was a good thing. There were 3 stages and the walk from one stage to another could get tiring if you took the sandy route, otherwise, getting around was much easier from previous years.
The conservation village, which is a big part of Tortuga, had dozens of informational booths from NFP’s like Surfrider Foundation, Rock the Ocean, Sea Shepherd, and many more. The awareness Tortuga brings to it’s attendees is amazing, and hopefully people are waking up and getting involved.
The VIP area was big and open, and the tickets are priced as much as a weekend in Las Vegas with airfare, but it had its perks. Bars everywhere, food, air-conditioned bathrooms, outside air-mister/air-conditioners, and they even had a swimming pool for the elite concertgoers. Due to safety regulations, even though this was a beach festival, the ocean was off limits. Bummer, I know, but think about how many lifeguards would be needed for the 45K plus drinking in the sun all day crowd? Exactly, a smart call for the festival and the city to close off the ocean access.
Sunday at the festival started off much slower. I guess the partying all day Saturday makes it more difficult to get an early start for Sunday. Maddie and Tae opened up the show with some fun music and those two are cute as all get out. They worked the Tortuga stage, and the crowd loved them. They smiled, jumped around and looked like they were having a damn good time. They have a great sound, and a great future ahead of them.
On the Sunrise stage, The Cadillac Three hit the stage and they were one of the highlights of Tortuga. Originally known as (The Cadillac Black) TCT ripped into their country rock/southern rock set, and the crowd was waiting for them. Like a lot of country musicians, Jaren of TCT co-wrote songs for country artist (Keith Urban, Tim McGraw, Jake Owen), but Sunday at Tortuga was all about them. The 3 members Jaren, Neil, and Kelby, had a great in your face stage presence, and a kick ass sound. Look for them to get bigger and better as the years go by.
Another highlight was Frankie Ballard. Originally from Michigan, but now part of the Nashville scene, Frankie jumped on the main Tortuga stage and was non-stop. His look, sound, and attitude make him one to watch out for. He played his guitar with intensity and worked the crowd, the ladies and even played nice with the photographers.
At one point Frankie walked down the runway to the crowd, reached out asking for something from a concertgoer, she thought it was her cell phone, his response was “I don’t want your damn phone, I want your beer” as she handed it over, he drank some and gave it back. I’m sure she still has that beer tucked under her pillow. A great sound, great artist, he will definitely be kicking ass for years to come. Check him out next month in West Palm, when he opens for Florida Georgia Line.
Other Sunday performances included Sublime with Rome, Colt Ford, Sam Hunt, Chase Rice and others. The only downside is every other hour, two artists take the stage simultaneously, so you need to be prepared to pick and choose who you want to see, and make sure you get there if you want to be close. The 50 yards in front of every stage filled up fast, as that was prime real estate.
The Band Perry hit the main Tortuga stage with a huge entrance, lights, large video screens and their big sound. Kimberly, Neil & Reid had the capacity crowd screaming and singing from start to finish. The Band Perry is one of the festival highlights and a big fan favorite. A great high energy set, and another band that loves their fans and keeps the party going non-stop. The Zac Brown Band closed out the festival and from what I gather was a good set.
The staff at Tortuga was kick ass and the production is top notch. The amenities are great, and the public relations people were cool and accommodating, regardless of a few artists and their quirks. If you love the beach, good food, cold beer, and good country music, then Tortuga is a festival to check out at least once! Support live music!