Live music lovers who are still dusting off the Day-Glo and blinking away the neon from this past weekend’s Ultra Music Festival already have another major event to prepare for in what has become South Florida’s peak music-festival season. And I’m not even talking about SunFest, which will rock downtown West Palm Beach for five days at the dawn of May. Two weekends from now, Fort Lauderdale Beach will play host to the Tortuga Musical Festival, a first-time event featuring three outdoor stages on April 13 and 14.
The initial artist announcement had the star power of a Country Megaticket, with the likes of Kenny Chesney, Eric Church and Jake Owen paired well with the spacious Americana sounds of the Avett Brothers and blues fusion of Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite. The undercard acts, announced later, increased the festival’s eclecticism: Now the lineup includes southern rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd (yes, they’re still around!); the versatile blues guitarist Gary Clark Jr.; reggae legends The Wailers; the clever multi-instrumentalist and road warrior Grace Potter; ‘90s alternative rockers Sister Hazel; and Austin indie rockers Bright Light Social Hour (pictured below).
“The concept was always, let’s break down the walls of genre and make this a festival where you close your eyes and open them and you’re on the beach. You’re feeling the music, the waves are in the background, your feet are in the sand,” says Jeff Kreinik, COO of Huka Entertainment, which is co-producing the festival. “That’s Kenny Chesney, Donovan Frankenreiter, G. Love, Jake Owen. It’s a combination of the sound that lends itself to the beach and the artists themselves, [some of whom] are boaters from Florida and who are all about the beach. It felt right and made sense, and in many ways it organically came together.”
Tortuga is the brainchild of Chris Stacey, a Nashville record executive (hence the southern sounds of most of the bands), and Huka Entertainment’s AJ Niland, founder of the popular Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, Ala. Like many great musical gatherings, it started with a cause: Stacey, who founded the Rock the Ocean nonprofit, is passionate about ocean conservation, and he thought that staging a concert was the best way to raise awareness about the topic. Portions of the ticket price (it’s $149 for the two days, or $649 for VIP tickets) will benefit the Guy Harvey Foundation and Rock the Ocean, which supports scientific research into the issues impacting the world’s oceans – like the plastic waste that kills 1 million seabirds each year.
Appropriately enough, the festival is named after a sea animal; tortuga is Spanish for turtle. “We know it’s turtle nesting season, and we named the festival in celebration of the turtles,” Kreinik says. “We understand that we’re in the front side of turtle season, and we’re taking every step necessary to make sure that the turtles are unabated and can nest as needed.”
And what about the fact that the previous festival that attempted to launch in South Florida, the UR1 Festival in Miami, announced a killer lineup only to be canceled shortly thereafter – presumably because the ticket price was too high? Not to mention the formerly great Langerado Festival, which met the same fate after its own lineup announcement in 2011? Kreinik is unfazed, though he says there are challenges in putting together any first-time festival.
“If I had to put my finger on something, it’s that we’re introducing a new brand. It’s about branding – what is Tortuga? It’s this festival, with the conservation message, we’re raising awareness, it’s great talent, we’re in the sand of Fort Lauderdale Beach. We expect it to take place year after year moving forward.”
For more information on the festival, including the full lineup and ticketing options, visit tortugamusicfestival.com.