Florida Man Music Festival
with Weezer, Young the Giant, Bishop Briggs, Alice Merton, Cold War Kids and more
Orlando Ampitheater; Orlando, FL • November 30, 2018
by Jen Cray
Some would find it embarrassing to live in a state known for its bizarre, back-asswards criminals and the wacky shenanigans they get caught in. Instead of cowering in shame, hardcore Floridians shrug off the Nuts that give the Sunshine State a bad name and embrace the crazy. Radio station FM 101.9 even went so far as to name a music festival after the phenomenon. The Florida Man Music Festival lit up the Orlando Amphitheater on the kind of perfect, crisp late November day that seems to be the consolation prize for our State’s residence (there are some crazies living here, but the weather is to die for!).
Food trucks, inflatable slides, secret pop-up performances, and live on-air interviews with bandmembers entertained fans throughout the afternoon, while the two main stages ping-ponged performances with precision and ease. The set up for this still-pretty-new amphitheater, located at the Central Florida Fairgrounds, is a manmade slope of grass that faces a highly impressive main stage. For this event, a second stage was set up exactly opposite of it so that fans on the grassy knoll could just turn around to view the second stage.
It was on that second stage that Alice Merton tapped into some St. Vincent funk with her bass-heavy hit “No Roots,” and where electronic darling Robert DeLong juggled more instruments than I could keep track of and proved that just because your sound is digital heavy, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a full band backing you.
Underneath the rising star of Young the Giant, the stage suddenly seemed remarkably small. The charisma and playful presence of singer Sameer Gadhia seduces the crowd and elevates the band’s indie pop into something greater than the sum of its parts. It’s his dynamic vocals and contagious energy that makes songs like “Cough Syrup” and “Something To Believe In” fly.
The real treasure of the Festival (sorry, Weezer) was Bishop Briggs. Her incomparable voice and ability to somehow combine R&B with dance music and deliver it in a way that is on one hand Popstar ready and yet punk AF stunned and won the crowd from the opening moment when she belted out an acapella version of “The Way I Do” beneath a stark starburst light. With a newly shaven head and a smile that could awaken the dead, she was a commanding presence, even as she skipped and frolicked across the large stage like a Bjork-ian pixie. Side note: my girlfriend, who rocks the same shortly shaven look, kept getting mistaken for Bishop Briggs for the rest of the night following her set. So, ya know, if you hear any rumors about Bishop Briggs getting all cozy with an Orlando photographer… 😉
Closing out the night with a tight set of crowd-pleasers was the always reliable Weezer. When the band you have adored since high school opens up with the song that made you fall in love with them (“Buddy Holly”), you know you’re in for a treat. And while they may not be breaking any new ground, they never fail to delight.
Know what else never fails to delight? An outdoor music festival that DOESN’T take place in the dead heat of summer! Promoters and bookers of shows take note: Fall and Winter Festivals in Florida are the way to go!… And always put Bishop Briggs on the bill.