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Festival Review: Coastline Festival West Palm Beach

By Jordan Weil posted Nov 12, 2013 at 04:09 PM

Click ahead to see what our DJ Jordan Weil thought of this past weekend's hottest music festival!

On November 10, 2013 twelve of indie’s premiere acts convened at Cruzan Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach to deliver one of the most refreshing festival experiences in recent south Florida history. Diverging from the increasingly traditional DJ and turntable set-up, Coastline created a ‘musiculinary’ experience that extended beyond the main stage by offering a well-rounded cultural playground around which the festival centered. A truly unique event for this area, there were strengths and weaknesses to be learned from this event and this passionate festival-goer is here to deliver the constructive criticism necessary for the development of festivals and cultural events in the future.

Graced with a beautiful day for an outdoor event, Cruzan presented an ideal venue: the festival centered around a marketplace of artists and vendors with an extensive beer cove immediately adjacent to the main stage and a designated area for food trucks on the way to the second stage. Taking advantage of the weather, fans gathered on the lawn, creating a sizeable crowd by the time The Mowgli’s took the stage around 2pm.


Running slightly behind schedule (the only notable hiccup in scheduling; for the most part, this festival ran impeccably on time), the band knew that they would have to perform to the max in order to retain the flighty crowd. For a band with only a handful of recognizable songs, The Mowgli’s had the most impressive and most immediate stage presence of all the other groups. They were the kind of band you know you like during the first song of their set, even if you’ve never heard it before. The band drew a sizeable crowd considering only having a few known hits and even fewer albums, and their style was bold: while most guests were expecting the band to play their two biggest songs, ‘San Francisco’ and ‘The Great Divide’ as their closing pieces, The Mowgli’s kept the energy high by teasing the crowd with these tracks early on and spread out throughout the set. The rest of their material was genuine and well-played, keeping the crowd intrigued all the way through to the end of their thirty minute set, which they culminated with a climactic stage dive by frontman Michael Vincze. Instead of the customary sea of hands that pops up to catch the diving frontman, it was funny to see a wave of phones and cameras swarm the singer as he quickly recovered and embraced the impromptu photo opp.

The success of The Mowgli’s set is largely due to the genius of the thirty minute set employed through the beginning of Coastline Festival. For a band with limited material to pull from, a shorter show is an ideal way to trot out the crowd’s favorite tracks, introduce a few new hits, generate high energy that can be sustained throughout the whole set and, hopefully, create new fans.


Coastline did a great job of showcasing bands that don’t have an extensive library of hits and crowd favorites without alienating them on a stage with too much time to fill.The balance worked on the other end for the headliners that fans bought tickets to come see, giving them a longer set time than they would have been allotted at another festival where all the bands could easily perform a full hour show. The variety was also appreciated by fans who got to sample lots of sounds they hadn’t specifically travelled for, but never would have been able to see in any other context.


On the other hand, Coastline organizers somehow failed to realize that, despite propping up two stages, only one was being used at a time, defeating the purpose of the second stage. One would think that if the expenses were incurred to support two stages, the lineup would reflect that economic interest with conflicting shows, allowing fans to choose between their favorite acts. Instead, organizers forced the entire crowd to engage in a regular migration cycle between stages (or sit unentertained until the next set came on their stage). Perhaps it was a ploy to lure customers to the Beer Cove, or perhaps it was just straight up poor organization. Either way, it was a great opportunity to people-watch and witness the increasing attendance as the day went on and the schedule transitioned more to the festival headliners.

Next up was St. Lucia on the second stage. On the trek to the Gulf Stage, it was clear that traffic had increased since the beginning of the day, with the line for beer abutting the merch tent and thru traffic interrupted by guests shopping and perusing the marketplace on the way to the next set. The crowd only grew as you neared the stage and it was easy to catch the hype as pumping fists and waving hands could be seen peeking out from the top of the horde. On the stage, St. Lucia was another brilliant example of the thirty minute set, filling the set with performances from their first full-length album, When the Night, as well as crowd favorites from past EPs, an apropos tail end to the southern leg of their international tour. Jean-Phillip Grobler’s South African and British roots were distinctive in the performance, charming the crowd in the way that only smooth, swanky Brits can, and leaving the mass bopping until the very end of the set.


Capital Cities on the Main Stage suffered the beginning signs of a weary crowd (probably a result of the regular trek between stages) and incorporated a cover of The Bee Gees’ ‘Stayin’ Alive’ early on to bring everyone back to life (no pun intended). In my point of view, that was a cheap shot to amp up the crowd. Admittedly, they could have killed the cover (in a bad way) and made an unsuccessful attempt to generate energy; I just wonder whether the cover was originally part of their set list or if they strategically inserted it to kickstart the show. Fully clad in customized bowling jackets and slicked back hair, this band was rocking the vintage look hard. And the vintage sound, too. Before I saw them live, I had never noticed how ‘80s this band sounded but the style was unmistakable in their live performance. Whatever you may think about their decision to use the cover, it worked: fans stayed pumped for the rest of the show and partied all the way through Surfer Blood on the Gulf Stage immediately after.


As the day grew dark, the bands got bigger and the energy remained on a sustainable high as fans got excited to see the bands they bought tickets specifically to come out and see. Although The Neighborhood came off as slightly cocky for a less-than-memorable performance, all was forgiven by Fitz and the Tantrums’ straight-shooting, hit-driven show. I don’t think most fans realized how many hit tracks were on the new album, More Than Just a Dream, combined with those from the debut release, until they were all juxtaposed live. Clearly inspired by Motown roots, the funky performance created necessary variety from the heavy electronic influence of the preceding bands. Fitz’s show was all about the music; very little stage show was needed after all the raw energy brought by the music. In contrast, this made The Neighborhood seem reliant on their stage presence and highlighted how shallow their library is in comparison.


The Neighborhood proved to be the unfortunate ‘buffer’ act that made Matt and Kim seem like veterans in comparison...literally. I had always pictured these two as young high school hipsters; I didn’t realize Kim was like the really fun mom from my friends’ Bar Mitzvah parties. The two musicians commanded the sizeable Main Stage with incredible stage presence comparable to that of The Mowgli’s way earlier in the day. That being said, I must say that the live performance made me take a whole new look at their music as a whole. Sure, they were confident and worked the stage, but their music came off as loud and somewhat rudimental. Maybe the contrast from funky Fitz was still lingering, but their sound seemed amateur in comparison to the slick, smooth electronic alternative that was prevalent during the day.


The last few sets really highlighted the organizational mishaps of the festival. Now it’s dark, people are tired and the last big bands to see are all at the Main Stage. Not only that, but the sets have increased to an hour in duration and the difference is noticeable. Two Door Cinema Club played just about every song that anyone in attendance had ever heard by them, leaving fans commenting ‘I had no idea I knew so many songs by TDCC’. Don’t get me wrong, they played a great set: great stage presence, high energy and probably the best light show thus far. However, I found it somewhat unsatisfying that my favorite songs were over and gone early in the set; it’s almost like they deserve to wait until the encore! But not to diminish TDCC; they played their heart out in that set and it was clear to everyone there. The light show was the best of the day and every fan could leave satisfied having heard their favorite song played to the max.


Culminating the day-long summit of electronic alternative jams was the king of the genre itself, Passion Pit. Probably the most anticipated show of the day, I think everyone walked in with high expectations of this last show in the 16-month Gossamer tour and it was not lost on the crowd. Maybe it was the thirty minute delay between TDCC and Passion Pit, or perhaps the band was already mentally done with their tour, but, speaking from past experience seeing this band, they were not fully there. The pulse had gone down during the set-up delay, a ripple effect of the scheduling mistake that could have been anticipated. During the delay, many weary fans left, creating a steady outflow that discouraged the remaining guests, and probably the band as well.


Passion Pit lead with hits from Gossamer to entice remaining fans and stir up energy, leaving many wondering what could be left for the encore? As always, they came prepared with a light show to complement the psychedelic, technical music and yet somewhere around ‘Constant Conversations’ the vibe noticeably slowed and outflow increased, signalling that the day was finally drawing to a close. They played the crowd out with their most classic anthems, ‘Sleepyhead’ and finally ‘Little Secrets’ to remind their loyal fans where the foundation for all the music of the day had come from.


Perhaps the most senior band on the lineup, it was appropriate that Passion Pit punctuated the day-long festivities. Their performance emphasized the roots of electronic rock and closed out the festival with a resounding, satisfying finish to a delightful day of music exposition.

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