As a New England native, covering a music festival on the warm sands of Fort Lauderdale Beach in December was nearly a dream, and the line-up for this festival was just as dream-worthy. Florida's Riptide Music Festival, presented by 104.3 The Shark, featured some of the scene’s hottest acts including Weezer, Saint Motel, New Politics, and plenty more. Though the festival’s hype made parking a total nightmare, causing me to miss Joywave’s set entirely, it was certainly well worth it in the end.
Starting off the day (for me) was Brother Sundance and their purest-white aesthetic. Locals to the Ft. Lauderdale area, their harmony-rich songs (especially their single “Blind”) certainly stole the hearts of the crowd. Each member had a powerful amount of energy—I swear, the frontman barely stayed on the ground.
New Politics was definitely one of the bands I was anticipating the most to see at the festival. I had seen them once many moons ago when they opened up for Fall Out Boy and was mesmerized by frontman David Boyd’s breakdancing. Without fail, their performance swept me off my feet yet again with similar tactics. When Boyd ran past security and dove straight into the crowd during “Fall Into These Arms,” everyone in the crowd was frantic and excited. To be perfectly honest, they are still my favorite performance of the day.
Even before the members of PVRIS entered the stage, fans were already screaming all around. PVRIS definitely had one of the most theatrical sets of the day, as they had backtracks from their recent headliner playing during step off and in between some songs. Vocalist Lynn Gunn even mentioned how the festival was their first stop back into the US from their sold out UK headliner tour, and how the warm weather was very inviting. They opened up with “Heaven”, followed by my personal favorite off of the new album “Half”.
Saint Motel is probably the band I had the least prior knowledge of (so I thought) before their set, but I was instantly impressed by their musicianship. Their groovy jazz-like melodies and incredible energy had me dancing in the pit to songs I didn’t know the words to. By the end of their set, though, when they began to play "Cold Cold Man" and “My Type”, I had an “Aha!” moment and realized quite a few of my favorite songs of the summer were actually by them.
Following up on the main stage was Portugal, The Man., coming in hot with their heavy metal introduction. Struck by the lovely glow of golden hour, they definitely had the most aesthetically pleasing set. As they played "Atomic Man", the backdrop swirled with dynamic colors. Their set was an interesting mixture between cover songs and originals, which I feel was personally a nice warm up to what their regular shows are like.
As the first artist to play the main stage under the night sky, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness's set was incandescent, shining far brighter than the moonlight did. Andrew McMahon is an artist that always has you on your toes--while you're standing there mesmerized by his smooth and sweet vocals, he's already jumped off the stage, straight over your head, and into the crowd. In fact, he was in the crowd before his inflatable duck was even fully inflated, running up and down the aisle singing along with his fans. McMahon's smile never faded, either, and his positive energy flowed effortlessly throughout the venue.
As the night was getting closer to the end, the crowd was at its maximum and fans were getting impatient as Weezer's stage crew began to set up. Weezer has always been a bucket list band for me, so finally getting to see them live, even so far from home, was completely satisfying. Of course they played their top hits like "Pork and Beans" and "Beverly Hills", which had a couple people going "Oh yeah, I know this song!", but unsurprisingly almost everyone at the venue was singing along to every song they played. To be truthful, I'm surprised they weren't the headlining act for this day, but they ultimately sill played like they were.
Closing out the night was Cage The Elephant. I have heard so many positive things about this band's live performances, as I've never seen them live before. I had an idea on what to expect just based on the songs I know by them, but I was blown away by the time vocalist Matt Schultz sprinted through the stage. The way he could run and jump and dance around the platform and not miss a single beat had me both in an trance and, well, stressed out. Musically a top notch band, but their entire theatrical presentation solidified their hype to me instantaneously.
All in all, I commend everyone who put together Riptide Festival because it was one of my favorite concert experiences thus far. Perhaps part of it had to do with escaping the cold December air for a music-based vacation on the sand, but the line up (for Day 1) and the smoothness of the day overall made it such an enjoyable time. I'm looking forward to seeing what the festival will have to offer in it's third round next year.