REVIEW: TortugaFest Day 3+
last leg of the sprint marathon
Having caught 9/15 performers each of the previous days, 20 miles in hot sand,
netting souvenir blisters and aches, only losing a prized koozie from Red Dog Saloon in Pioneertown, California
(I’ll cry about this for years as well as a FloraBama koozie at Stagecoach ‘22)
I’d say the weekend is going swimmingly.
Huge day ahead with 13 of 15 performers, the goal,
culminating in Kenny Chesney in his element on the beach at dusk…
I am secretly hoping for rain, adding texture to his set, for there is no better perfection
than Kenny on a warm beach in a spring rain.
As luck would have it, I’m running behind, just missing the Water Taxi not helping,
and a crotch whiskey reup needed: handy while waiting for Kenny late,
hoping to not need a potty, filled up with tall boys and cocktails.
these are the things I plan…
anyhow, the stop at an egregiously priced liquor store cost me missing George Birge,
whom I was excited to see and disappointed to have missed,
though again, I’m sure will come back around when meant to.
So I roll right into Kylie Morgan sparkling on a penetratingly sunlit Sunset Stage,
dancing out her hits, paying respect to Gwen Stefani. Kylie is a beautiful, joyful woman with a killer voice,
infectious songs, and self-written lyrics that seem to catch fire as quickly as she can write ‘em.
Missing George was a thorn, catching Kylie was the rose to start a long,
kickass day on the beach in South Florida.
Near the end of her set and I’m humpin it thru near-boiling sand to and by a folk-littered Nashville Stage,
shade providing, barely covering a capacity crowd watching a super cute and talented Mackenzie Carpenter
rock the set and just as I map out a strategy to get within eyesight and reasonable earshot,
she mentions an unscheduled set in the Rock the Ocean tent later, which I note
and move on to Main Stage to catch a bit of good ol boy, Shane Profit, hollerin out anthem redneck songs,
(my people among others) to a solid early afternoon crowd, likely posted up for the long haul,
invested in real estate for Kenny 8 hours later.
Hoofin it back to the other end, again,
jogging with saddle bags, no shirt, no shoes, I overhear a vendor remarking in awe of my back and forth
so I toss her a quick smile and nod just beforefinding myself front row to beauty,
catching the production crew safety-lined into speaker towers, strapping No Shoes Nation pirate flags,
indicative of the Kenny Chesney cult following, no doubt having descended upon this apropos destination,
which has visibly increased in density of attendees, compared to previous days.
Continuing on to the Sunset Stage, I await Nate Smith, now about 20 minutes behind schedule
leaving me with the tough but necessary decision to head back toward Nashville Stage to see Frank Ray.
Defeated feeling sets in as it would appear I’d miss Nate, but knowing he plays Stagecoach,
he comes on as I’m exiting the fringes of the Sunset Stage universe so I took what little I got
and later would overhear convos commenting on him killing it.
Awaiting Frank Ray, a fun, spicy brand of country, a dude a couple people over, Charlie, and his wife,
draw near and chat a bit, remarking on having seen me all weekend getting around and they knew I was
appreciative of the music as they are.
I couldn’t be happier to just hear the compliment, considering I mostly feel judgement from folks
who overtly peg me as weird and less than what they consider their programmed normal,
though I’ve learned to finally give the thought no gravity and enlist loving awareness.
Thank you, Charlie, for your kind words.
Frank bursts out on fire,
moving and swaying with the entire crew, dancing and playing in a line, and full on enjoying every moment
sharing their passion…
I’m moving along with, just as much as anyone (more, likely) and bolt just before playing their last song,
having had a kickass time and hoping to catch Ashley Cooke on Main Stage.
Another free Monster and a light jog through vendor alley and into a now dense Main Stage arena,
boisterous with jovial Ashley Cooke jams.
Near the middle and close to the point, a kind dude notices me shooting a video
and offers the space in front of him with a better view, totally out of ordinary most of the time,
so with total gratitude I offer up some whiskey or a puff of herb but he declines, citing unruly rowdiness
on occasion with the stuff and having to work super early Monday teaching,
so a sincere thank you sufficed.
The thought of my must-see, Niko Moon back on this stage soon,
I fly back thru the dense crowd, hot ass sand blistering my feet, and arrive for Kidd G’s opening track,
a ‘hick-hop’ style country artist whose rap style is quite solid, glowing with his country roots.
His anthems, belting out “I don’t wanna do shit today” are clearly meant to voice that of the youth
(and the rest of us), while partying on a beach.
The energy of the festival ratcheting up to Sunday evening standard…
Alana Springsteen and Kidd G scheduled at the exact same time and halfway thru Kidd G
and I aim for Rock the Ocean’s tent and Mackenzie Carpenter’s acoustic set after Alana on Nashville
but damn if Nashville was crowded as all get out, partly because it’s effectively the only shaded stage,
mostly because this girl rocks…
using her music as background soundtrack, I opt to pass in lieu of her acoustic set on Corona Stage later,
I roll on by, to find the Rock the Ocean tent jammed as well,
posting near a sliver of a view, adjacent her and her guitarist,
the perfect view, and couldn’t have planned it any better.
As for Rock the Ocean,
the conservancy partnered and titled with Tortuga Music Festival, both raises awareness and funding
for issues plaguing oceans, dwindling shark numbers, and derivatively event-named turtles,
that nest and hatch eggs on this very beach.
If you can, please consider taking a look at the wonderful goodness they provide
and share with them what you can.
Onto who will be one of my favorites,
If you follow Niko at all, immediately you soak in the pure joy and energy emanating from this creature
In everything he does and the music is no different.
Previously a part the Zac Brown Band, Niko also wrote songs for many others, and is now venturing out
creating a cult following, naturally attracted to his bass thumping bangers, smile-inducing lyrics,
and magnetically lovable sound in his uniquely vibratory voice.
This one gonna be fun…
It so was!
Coming out on fire, in his signature flat-brimmed hat, drink in hand,
and iconic logo on the screens,
Niko Moon starts off with “No Sad Songs”,
“Paradise” and Travis Tritt cover, “Great Day to Be Alive” keep jubilant crowds bouncing,
with me ear to ear smiling remembering this as the song Z-Club would play at last call
in college at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, California , an everything bar, but certainly filled with cowboys ready to fight on exit…
those were the days…
“Hope Heaven Has A Bar”, a song he recently brought us fans along with via his Instagram to choose,
then announce who would be a feature, netting Zac Brown himself, perfectly matched
and I project we’ll see Zac show up at Stagecoach this week to duet,
considering he’ll be at nearby Yaamava playing the following night.
and a heartfelt story about his 6 month old whom the next song is written for
and I begin moving rearward to snag the end of Megan Moroney on Nashville.
Niko Moon’s “Better with You” and “Good Time” play as I move out of earshot,
missing what I can only assume is “She Ain’t You”, another great drop
and a sacrifice made to the festival gods, though I’ll catch him again
at Stagecoach and GoldenSky Fest later this year.
Weaseling may way back through crowds to find Megan Moroney’s set bursting at every entry.
No real surprise considering some her instant favorites like Tennessee Orange,
which I’ve missed by now though I rocked to a few in the far reaches behind the sound guy setup
Her too, I would see later in the year at GoldenSky Fest.
Content, I continue on to Collie Buddz,
reggae rap, where I find myself and my friend near the front and ready to spark up…
Mellowing out to a few, I’m ready to forge the arduous task of getting back to Main Stage
and settle in for Jake Owen then Kenny Chesney who will now be starting 30 minutes earlier
due to impending lightning as the clouds begin to bubble ominously, begging to burst on us finally,
spoiling the end of an already wacky weathered weekend.
Given my now mellowed state,
I make the decision to sit back and watch Jake Owen from afar and off on the side
since I’ve seen him before up close at Stagecoach 2018 with a much-appreciated Artist wristband
gifted thru friends. At this point, I’ve already planned the same for Kenny, given I wasn’t in the mood
to expend the effort navigating judgement and this particular crowd
that has all but forgotten they’re at a festival and do not own the ground in front of them,
despite efforts to tuck in, just offset from the people to my front, clearing a tunnel view for those to my rear.
It truly feels like the nastiness given to anyone who tries to move forward after about 3:00pm
by those who’ve staked the ground, is a No Shoes Nation phenomenon or of Floridian nature,
though it definitely seems to surround those older than about 30
like a negative energy field of cancerous cantankerousness.
That said, the young have their own issues, highlighted while enroute to Jake Owen,
watching a kid holding 4 unopened beers get gently bumped in elbow to elbow crowd, nearly dropping one,
call the girl a bitch, which she didn’t hear,
but I offered some perspective by saying, ‘bruh, you’re in a crowd, at a festival,
you’re gonna get bumped, make peace with that,’
to which he responded, ‘well, if she were hot, she could get away with it’
and stricken with amazement that things really haven’t changed much
since I was a moronic twenty-something slaphole, I said,
‘I feel for ya if that’s how you choose to see life,’
as we parted paths…
Jake Owen, in Jake Owen fashion, comes out, has a total blast running around stage barefoot,
knocking out beautifully upbeat song after song,
leaving many who hadn’t seen him before, sincere fans, I’d later hear through the
At this point, Justin Moore was set to play at the far end and I’m a fan,
but knew I was to sacrifice his set for a halfway decent view of Kenny now coming out a half hour early,
but realizing I’ve decided to watch the bigger picture from farther away and relax a bit with a different,
solid view, I can make Justin Moore and Kenny.
Quickly, surfing the crowd again,
I land just in time to hear a few of my favorites including “The Ones That Didn’t Make It Back”,
about those faced with military duties and paying military prices.
I do have to say, while the previous night’s Wallflowers proved leaps and bounds better live than on record,
Justin Moore in the exact same time slot and stage felt a little sluggish live,
where I love his voice and feel on wax.
Though to be fair and not to really knock Tortugafest, but the sound system,
if you are not at least in the relative middle of the venue, felt underserving across the board,
as referenced by many complaints about Eric Church Friday night.
That all said, in total respect for Justin Moore and TortugaFest,
back to Kenny, which felt like a pilgrimage, soaking in every barefoot, cool evening’d step.
Back on the shoreside fringes again,
Kenny Chesney’s video intro paying respect to the fans plays followed by the man of the hour himself.
Kenny bounces across the stage with Kenny energy to “Till It’s Gone” while what feels like a million fans
explode in relief after a long, hot weekend filled with trials and tribulations.
Among flashes of lightning in the distance, another coupla tastes of sweet nostalgia vibrate the beach
in “Beer in Mexico”, “We Do” (Kenny’s homage to No Shoes Nation fans), and “Here and Now”
and I’m getting the itch to work my way closer for better sound and energy.
Methodically and politely, I work toward center as “Summertime” and “Reality” play
and content with my place in life, I settle in for “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven”
while the boom lighting tower sways in the wind, visibly shadowing Kenny’s face who now looks back stage
in confusion with hands up while the sound effectively gives way to dudes rushing out to meet him on stage,
telling him they’re pulling him off due to lightning…
Kenny, fights it for a second and quickly before the mic cuts says ‘we’ll be back!’…
Uproar is a mild way of putting the reaction from a tumultuous and rowdy crowd,
needing this release to expunge away the traumatic preamble as the repeating emergency alert
beckons people out of the venue with notes to seek updates via their social media…
Clearly, I’m one of those folks who wait till forced out, certainly not in aggressive stand-off position,
but with enough buffer that I’ll hang till it becomes a must…
Freezing cold, big-dropped rain pissing on us now at an angle
and while I’ve prepped myself with a poncho and hat protector, others clamor for any plastic
left on the field of sand or under foot-wide vendor awnings cascading buckets of cold rain.
Finally, it becomes necessary to leave the Main Stage area and out thru the VIP section of the venue
which is now opened as an emergency exit.
Knowing we will be back in matter of 20-30 minutes, this GA-VIP congregation will be a story for many later.
Personally, I had no real interest in sticking around the VIP area so I make my way to the restrooms,
fill up on water and slowly circle back toward a path to Main Stage
while also moving in the direction of the exit…
Flashes soon diminish as rain tapers off and there’s not but 2 people between me and Main Stage
when a few folks run past, yelling ‘we’re back’…
Others look to security who have no idea of any truth in this but also don’t stop them,
so the 30 or so of us nearby begin walking, many running, toward front row, Main Stage…
Security then gives the All Clear and I had no real intention of running
considering bare feet and the barrage of landmine trash littering the Main Stage field of play.
Yet, I still manage literal front row at the point of the T,
A few minutes roll by and boisterous chatter fills all parts of the crowd, excited to be up front
when likely most would never be in such a position…
A point highly accentuated by the behavior I was to experience the next 30 minutes
while crews work furiously to reset the stage for Kenny after a brutal weekend and week leading up.
I found myself again amidst the group of fans who find ways to complain about just about everything
with a sense of entitlement reserved for the real assholes in life…
Every production person was on stage mopping and drying with anything they could
and nearly everyone around me were moaning and yelling to do it differently, or faster,
or omg this is gonna take forever…
Instead of fighting asshole with assholian nature,
I countered with classy, subtle assholianism and scream as loud as I can,
many cheered in response…
Also, as mentioned before, I’m not really a fan of being on the rails in the front
so I trade with a couple just behind me, placing me in a more comfortable spot,
though physically between jackasses that really didn’t know how to manage their own appendages
as they elbowed the back of my head throughout the remainder of the show,
while giving me dirty looks as I danced in the space my body took up, feet secured in one spot…
Kenny’s return is looming as crews exit the stage and band members take places and test gear…
then, again, with Kenny energy,
he runs out to the point and thanks everyone for staying while rolling into “I Go Back.”
Maybe it’s because I’m so close, but he was clearly high AF, as well he should be,
hat pulled down, bouncing all over stage blowing kisses to all who stuck around as he plays out his set,
filled with “Get Along”, “Big Star”, and a duet with Ashley Cooke, who played the stage earlier in the day,
now having a moment “When the Sun Goes Down.”
Finishing the night with what felt like another full set, Kenny played “Young”, “American Kids”,
“Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”, “We Went Out Last Night”, “How Forever Feels”, “Don’t Happen Twice”,
capping the night and weekend appropriately and respectfully by bringing the crew on stage
to take some cheers….
and then lights.
I won’t mention the guy next to me complained that Kenny didn’t come out to the T part of the stage enough
nor will I show him the 15 videos I took of him doing exactly that…
Just can’t please everyone, and at this event, seemingly nearly anyone …
Though that’s just not truth as the majority of folks, self-included, walked the walk home,
glowing and bittersweetly relieved to move on to the rest mode part of this adventure.
Again, it’s not how I planned or would’ve planned the weekend, but oh so perfect it was
and I flew out the next Tuesday after watching a lightning storm Monday morning
then sitting poolside Monday afternoon with pure gratitude for every way my plans were foiled
and every spot that new path placed me in,
only to be cherry-topped with finishing the movie I started on the flight in, A Man Named Otto…
Bawling through most of it because of the subtle and pure beauty it portrays by offering us a man
plagued with a big heart disease, though perceived as a man with a small one due to his orneriness,
just like most the folks we pass at the festival, we know not what path they’ve walked
to get to this juncture, where we now perceive them as assholes, but had we known full truth
and the algorithm they’ve become,
maybe we’d have compassion for their story, and maybe we could see
they’ll get to the other side of that disdain for life and others living theirs.
Maybe we can be those people with the clearer honest view, maybe not, but it’s certainly an option.
I must also note that my journey ended just like it started, in addition to the movie,
by stopping on the way home, eating a giant $9 Chipotle Burrito,
and napping, closing the circle…
.a week to rest before we do it again in the desert at Stagecoach
Born city, raised country, west coast to east coast and back again. B.A., M.B.A., then back to LA,
lending to a love of capturing moments given any lens, and the adoration of all music, especially experienced live,
where this moment-capturing poet jives and thrives.
work in progress, y’all
[a part of the Founders Yonder Collective (FYCmoments)]