It’s no easy feat to organize a music festival. I think that’s something everyone can agree on. When you’re a music promoter from the UK organizing a new experience that has to live up to the expectations and hype associated with festivals like Reading, Leeds and Glastonbury on foreign soil, your job becomes a little harder. But this was the task that the folks at Festival Republic undertook and embraced wholeheartedly. With a determined spirit and passion for music, they organized Orlando Calling, and they ultimately delivered it.
I will be the first to admit that I had my initial reservations about the festival. I don’t know if it had to do with the fact that I was leaving my comfort zone in terms of location and traveling north to cover one of the largest events I have ever done. Maybe it was because I was going at it alone. I usually manage to drag a friend or two along with me to shows, and they’re pretty good sports about waiting around before and after for me to do whatever it is I’m doing. But this time, I was flying solo. I tried not to show it, but part of me was really worried about how the two-day festival was going to unfold this past weekend. When something is being done for the first time, it usually leaves itself open and vulnerable to all kinds of mishaps. But in the case of Orlando Calling, I was happily proven wrong and put at ease from the moment I arrived at the Florida Citrus Bowl about an hour before doors opened on Saturday.
The area was divided to house five different stages, the Main Stage being inside the actual stadium. The Killers, the Pixies, The Raconteurs, The Avett Brothers and Kid Cudi all played there. The Festival Republic Stage hosted a lot of local artists including Andy Matchette & the Minks and Renee & the Translators while the Authentic Stage was probably the most diverse, ranging in acts from Parachute and Iron and Wine to Gavin Degraw and The Roots. The FreeCreditReport Stage featured an eclectic mix of artist like Pete Yorn and Dr. Dog. The smallest and most intimate setting was the Art House tent, which combined music and art to create a unique experience.
Overall, Orlando Calling ran smoothly and was well-organized. The grounds were large enough to host everyone and everything comfortably but still small enough to allow for quick travel between stages. There were a few delays here and there, but it was nothing major, and the staff on site worked diligently to put things back on schedule quickly. Despite the massive number of people on the festival grounds, the area, including the restroom facilities, remained pretty clean as the hours went by. If you’ve grown accustomed to seeing what the Cruzan in West Palm Beach looks like just an hour into Warped Tour every year, this is something you really appreciated and commended. Drinks were a bit on the pricy side, but this comes with the territory. Bottom line: when you go to a concert, let alone a festival, you know you’re going to overpay for refreshments. However, you really didn’t need to in this case if you were willing to live off energy drinks. Monster spent the whole day giving away full-sized products in a variety of flavors. Even I succumbed to them.
I don’t want to go into too much detail about each band or who my favorite acts were right now only because I have something up my sleeve for other posts in regards to them. But to touch on the surface for a little bit, locals Andy Matchette & the Minks stole my heart. Not only did they put on the most creative set I have ever seen, complete with balloons, dancing robots and a marriage proposal, but the actual music was great! They had a violinist on stage, for goodness’ sake. Plus, their crew has got to be one of the most fun and energetic group of guys I’ve ever encountered while working. Moving on to the Main Stage, I have to talk about The Avett Brothers. Finally seeing this band was a real treat for me because I’ve been bummed about having missed them at SunFest this past spring for months. Their performance was flawless, and it was one of the few I watched in its entirety. This is a band that sound better live than they do on their CDs, which is saying quite a lot seeing as how they sound absolutely phenomenal on them. The set was the perfect balance of higher energy songs and folk lullabies.
This post wouldn’t be complete without talking about Saturday’s headliners. The Killers played a solid, hour and a half set, making it the longest of the day. Orlando Calling was supposed to mark their only US show of the year, but the band put on a “secret” pre-festival show the night before at The Beacham. All that aside, I have nothing to say but praise about the performance in terms of music. They played a great mix of older and newer songs, and lead singer Brandon Flowers moved gracefully along the stage and took to the piano multiple times. The vocals and instruments shone, showing everyone that their touring-hiatus had led to a resurgence of energy. Their set featured strobe lights, smoke shooters, raining confetti and fireworks. Closing with “When You Were Young” was the perfect choice. The only thing I felt was lacking , which I suppose is minor when you consider how good the music was and how much the audience was enjoying it, was the interaction with the crowd; more of it would have been nice.
All in all, I personally found Orlando Calling to have been a success. And like the title says, it deserves an encore. The festival proved it was capable of drawing a crowd and with its diverse lineup, it had something to offer everyone. I complain about the music scene in South Florida (or lack thereof) all the time, but I really feel things could change if Orlando Calling came back for a sophomore effort and eventually became an annual event. A new tradition build around the idea of showcasing music and the artists who create it, in a central location like Orlando, could definitely transform things here. Ultimately, it has all the potential to grow into something bigger and better that could receive the same amount of buzz that more established festivals in the US get. I’d really love to see Festival Republic explore those possibilities, and I applaud them loudly for this effort.
I have a lot of pictures from Saturday. More than I could probably ever post on here. Therefore, what I want to do is devote a day to each artist I ended up photographing. In addition to just pictures, I’ll give you guys a little blurb about their style and background. I’ll also talk about their set and link you to a music sample (if available). I’m really excited to share all the incredible music I enjoyed and discovered with you. My favorite part? All the phenomenal acts housed right here in our lovely state. You guys are in for a real treat!
“In Tune” writing and photography by Kathy Paz unless otherwise noted. Contact me at Kathy.Paz@fiusm.com.