Downloads Interviews Show Reviews Contact Us Merchandise Contests

DeLuna Festival – Pensacola Beach, FL – September 21st-23rd, 2012

The third annual installment of Pensacola Beach’s DeLuna Festival was a wonderful way to bid farewell to summertime 2012, with the sugar-white beach and the glistening Gulf of Mexico as the backdrop scenery for a lovely weekend. I grew up in Pensacola, FL, and returning to the beach here is always a welcome visit wrapped in youthful nostalgia. This year’s festival lineup allowed me to revel in that nostalgia with acts like Pearl Jam, Bob Mould, and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, while also being firmly planted in the present with Florence and the Machine, Band of Horses, and the Zac Brown Band. DeLuna Festival producers did a fabulous job selecting the talented acts to grace their seven stages; every music lover could find something to suit their fancy.

Arriving on site Friday evening, I heard reports of a lively early performance by New Orleans’ Honey Island Swamp Band, on the intimately sized beach-situated Heritage Stage. A girl from Georgia informed me that Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam) had a guest appearance with Gaslight Anthem, causing a joyous crowd reaction. Meanwhile, Ben Folds Five was walking onto the sizable WindCreek Stage, located right next to the iconic “beach ball” water tower. With the recent release of their first album in nearly 12 years, The Sound of the Life of the Mind, the band was happy to play new tunes as well as fan favorites like “Battle of Who Could Care Less” and “Brick”. I passed through the food vending area to approach the accessible GoPensacola Stage, where Trampled By Turtles was dishing out some hot bluegrass, enticing their eager audience to dance with abandon. The mandolin, the banjo, the rapid-fire fiddle: this band will have you grinning from ear to ear with its rich textured sound. Switching gears to funk mode, I headed to the Heritage Stage for some of Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk. I really enjoyed the vibe at the Heritage Stage throughout the weekend; the audience was always in the groove, dancing in the soft sand, and the bands were able to connect with the audience. Dumpstaphunk took full advantage of the kind setup, and played a powerful set that kept us movin’ and groovin’. Highlights included a masterful rendition of David Bowie’s “Fame”, and their super-funky “Put It In the Dumpsta”.

The time came to trek a little way down the beach to the main DeLuna Stage, which was set up at the western boundary of the concert site. The crowd was thick, as the masses gathered for the Friday night headliner, veteran rockers Pearl Jam. Conscious of the beautiful location, the show opened with “Oceans”, and then swiftly proceeded to rock out with “Corduroy”, “Got Some”, and “Once”. Eddie Vedder reminded us that the last time Pearl Jam played in Pensacola, it was 1994, at the Civic Center; I recall it being an intense rock show, and it seems the band has not lost any intensity from 18 years ago. The guitars of Stone Gossard and Mike McCready still wail, Jeff Ament’s bass and Matt Cameron’s drums persist relentlessly, and Vedder works the crowd and lets himself go as far as the music takes him. In true activist fashion, Vedder encouraged us to get out and VOTE in this year’s elections. “Porch” made for a great set-closer, and then Pearl Jam returned for not one, but two encores. After the anthemic “Alive”, they did an awesome version of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”, before “Yellow Ledbetter” gave way to a Hendrix-inspired version of “The Star Spangled Banner”. What a great way to kick off DeLuna Fest 2012!

Saturday afternoon was hot, and so was the music rolling off Pensacola Beach. The winners of Battle of the Bands, LF Knighton from Mobile AL started the party at the DeLuna Stage. Local favorites Paloma held court at the WindCreek Stage with their enjoyable melodic vibe. Back at the DeLuna Stage, Mike Doughty came out and wowed the crowd. Shortly thereafter, Jimmy Cliff brought a fitting reggae set to rest upon the shores. Then came the moment when I wished for the ability to be in two places at once: Joan Jett and The Blackhearts were poised to rock the WindCreek Stage at the same time Anders Osborne would appear on the Heritage Stage. I forced myself to catch a bit of both. Joan Jett still looks and sounds incredible, a hard-rockin’ woman who commands the stage effortlessly. The audience was enthralled, enjoying every bit of their performance; and the sound seemed better dialed in for Saturday’s shows on the WindCreek Stage than it was for Friday, which was much appreciated. Meanwhile, the Heritage Stage was the perfect place to enjoy Anders Osborne, digging my toes in the sand while dancing to his delicious guitar. Based in New Orleans, Anders along with bass player Carl Dufresne and drummer Eric Bolivar deliver a powerhouse of a show every time they play. Songs like “Burnin’ On the Inside” and “Got Your Heart” displayed a tenderness, while “Send Me A Friend”, “Darkness At The Bottom” and “On The Road To Charlie Parker” brought a dirty get-down influence sure to please any lover of rockin’ guitar music. After a little break to catch my breath, I returned to the WindCreek Stage for my first live experience with Band of Horses. They put on a great show, with a rich depth of sound and range of tempo; hearing “The Great Salt Lake” warmed my heart, I was happy for the chance to see them.

An excited crowd gathered at the DeLuna Stage for Saturday’s headlining act, Foo Fighters, and I braced myself for what I would later deem one of the BEST rock concerts I’ve ever attended. When Dave Grohl addressed the crowd with a screech-screaming “HEY!” and the audience echoed “HEY!” right back, a feeling that we were all comrades in the brotherhood of rock n roll took over, and we knew we were in for a win. The Foo Fighters came out true to their name, opening with the hard rocking “White Limo” and “All My Life”. One of my favorite Foo Fighters songs, “The Pretender” was delivered with gut-wrenching honesty, liberating in its full intensity. Throughout the set, the band clearly put their heart and soul into their music, and the fans responded warmly, sometimes singing along on songs like “My Hero”, “Learn to Fly”, and “Best of You”. Nate Mendel’s bass and Pat Smear’s guitar kept the rhythm rolling, and keyboardist Rami Jaffee (also of The Wallflowers) provided nice texture. Taylor Hawkins is a fantastic drummer, and took a turn with lead vocals on “Cold Day in the Sun”. Dave Grohl takes rock entertainment to a peak, travelling across the entire stage with his guitar, singing with his unmistakable voice, and he’s quite funny, too. When the PA system unfortunately cut out several times, Grohl asked why the dubsteppers were getting better sound than we were, then tactfully insisted the sound guys fix the issue fast; thankfully, it was resolved. We were rewarded with a smoldering cover of Mose Allison’s “Young Man Blues”, done in a style reminiscent of The Who, and also a spectacular version of Pink Floyd’s “In The Flesh?” During their encore, they invited Bob Mould onstage to perform a track he contributed to on the Wasting Light album, and I was floored hearing Dave and Bob sing my name, with “Dear Rosemary”. The literal icing on the cake was when Joan Jett came out, and Dave led the audience to sing “Happy Birthday” to her, before Joan Jett and the Foo Fighters laid down a rip-rockin’ “Bad Reputation”. With “Everlong” to close the show, the crowd was flying high, with the consensus that we’d just seen one of the best rock bands perform an amazing show!

On Sunday afternoon, DeLuna Festival attendees shared the beach with an impressive invasion of dragonflies; I’ve never seen so many of these graceful creatures. I watched as fingertips held up in the sky became perches for the migrating insects, and could not resist the opportunity to let a dragonfly land on my hand. On the DeLuna Stage, Blackberry Smoke spread their Southern rocker charm to the crowd’s delight. Shortly afterward, The Wallflowers gave us a chance to gently groove, with “6th Avenue Heartache” and “One Headlight” coming out to play. DJ Trey Stein spun some tunes at the entrance gate, but in case you missed him there, you can listen to his radio show on www.jamsplus.com. Many other great musical acts appeared on Sunday, like Charmaine Neville, Bonerama, Fitz and the Tantrums, and The Wood Brothers. My favorite act of the day, though, was Bob Mould on the WindCreek Stage. Not only did he enthusiastically play the well-known songs off his classic album with the band Sugar, Copper Blue (1992), but also reached back even further to his days with Hüsker Dü. His new album Silver Age is one that all fans of Bob Mould should check out. To close out the 2012 DeLuna Festival, Florence and the Machine took the WindCreek Stage by storm, stealing the hearts of listeners, thrilling their fans and gathering new admirers. Then the Zac Brown Band appeared on the DeLuna Stage, and rocked the crowd until the night was done.

Pensacola Beach is fortunate to have the awesome DeLuna Festival gracing its shores, adding yet another attraction to the beautiful Gulf Coast. The festival was well-organized, and it seemed that sound difficulties that occasionally arose were able to be overcome. The crowd was pleasant, drawing not only locals, but music lovers from all across the country. And the music was certainly the star of the show, as it should be. I look forward to returning to DeLuna Festival again next year, it was a fabulous event!

Written By: Rosemary A.W. Roberts

Photos By: Clayton Roberts


Copyright 2012 Jamsplus.com.  All Rights Reserved