October 15-17, 2010 saw the return of America’s original beach party with what is now slated to become an annual event in Pensacola. The DeLuna Fest, commemorating the settlement of Pensacola, one of America’s oldest cities, is a three day festival of music, food, and fun in the sun. Many big name bands performed over the course of the three-day weekend. From the DeLuna Fest website, bands such as Bush, Daughtry, The Bravery, 311, Michael Franti, 30 Seconds to Mars, STP, and even Willie Nelson rocked the stage. In all, 34 bands performed during the DeLuna Fest. As a concertgoer, here were some highlights of the festival, and some things to look for in next year’s DeLuna Fest.
Three days of music on the beach can get kind of pricey, when you factor in admission, food and drinks, souvenirs, and accommodations. DeLuna Fest admission was structured to provide discounts for early purchase. Purchasing full weekend admission early set me back $60 per ticket, which isn’t bad at all when you figure there were 30+ bands performing. Waiting until a little closer to the event brought the tickets up to $80 for the weekend, and then $90, all the way up to $99 if purchased at the gate. Additional options were available, such as one-day passes, and VIP treatment. I’ll get to VIP treatment later, as it definitely offered some nice perks, and inconvenienced the “unwashed masses” such as myself. In any case, I’d expect a similar pricing structure for any future DeLuna Fest as it seemed widely popular. Parking was $20 or more nearby on the island, unless you stayed at one of the nearby hotels, or you could park in Pensacola and take a shuttle. Once inside the DeLuna Fest, you purchase DeLuna Dollars to spend on food, drinks, and souvenirs, which was nice as it cut down on the wait for people potentially paying by various other means at the food and drink booths.
Given its popularity and beautiful white sands, Pensacola Beach has numerous hotels and resorts to choose from. Still suffering from the drop in tourism due to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, many were offering amazing discounts to people going to the DeLuna Fest. For big spenders, you could stay right on the beach in a high rise hotel, where the party continued nightly after midnight when the concert ended daily. For more budget minded concertgoers, you could opt for a cheaper stay at a motel off the island and take a shuttle to the island. Not wanting the hassle of finding a parking space or parking off the island and having to get a ride back to my car, I found a great buy on Pensacola Beach at the Day’s Inn Pensacola Beach, which had rooms for just over $100 per night for the DeLuna Fest. The Day’s Inn Pensacola Beach is quaint in appearance and is dwarfed by neighboring resorts and hotels, but still offers a decent room, friendly staff, breakfast, and best of all – free parking for lodgers! If you wanted to stay in a hotel on the beach though, you had to make arrangements early, as the beach hotels filled up quickly. I booked in late June and many nearby resorts were already filled.
Security was pretty relaxed, once you actually got in the gates. Being on the beach, the folks who ran the DeLuna Fest had to restrict access so people couldn’t just walk up the beach and into the event. This meant one entry gate for concertgoers. If you were staying at a nearby hotel, you could leave via the beach, but getting back in meant going around to the front. This wasn’t that big of a deal. However, on Saturday, they put up barricades restricting access to and from the beach to one opening near the front of the stage. When thousands of people cluster around a stage, getting in and out of the area gets rather difficult. Needless to say, the long, seamless barrier didn’t last long and other openings were made, assumedly by frustrated fans. Police and security were present, but it didn’t seem like they were there to spoil anybody’s fun, as it appeared they were primarily there to keep the peace and prevent people from slipping in without paying.
VIP Areas and Stage Separation
The VIP gates and the separation of two side-by-side stages were a source of irritation for concertgoers who didn’t fork over the extra cash to be concert going Gods. DeLuna Fest staffers carved out a choice area at the side of the stage for VIP’s who paid $300+ for a weekend VIP pass. The areas were larger than really necessary, and folks were continually pushing against the gates and trying to bypass the two guards. Understandably, VIP perks were necessary to make some people feel special with unfettered access to stage front, and the extra money obviously helped to put the event on. My main complaint was that the two side-by-side main stages had fencing that separated them from each other and the fencing also protected the hundreds of cables running from a power supply and sound system to the stage. There was only a single opening allowing people to move from one stage area to the other, unless you journeyed quite a ways back and walked around, past the sound booth, which is no small feat amidst thousands of people on the beach. When you’re crammed with thousands of people into a pen, you really aren’t going anywhere in a hurry. So, note to DeLuna organizers: in the future, let’s try to bury those cables ahead of time (it is sand, after all) and not put up barriers between the stages to avoid folks being unnecessarily penned in. Otherwise, and the cynic in me wonders if maybe this is what DeLuna organizers were hoping for, if you want to avoid being herded like cattle, you might consider paying extra for a VIP pass in the future.
In a word, the acts were amazing! There’s something about seeing great stage personas in the sun, on the beach, with temperatures in the low to mid 80’s that just makes everything seem perfect. Michael Franti had the crowd fired up, literally, if you catch my drift, and towered over the crowd as he made his way through his fans and brought children and seniors up on stage for a rendition of “I Love You.” Bush and his hair were amazing. 30 Seconds to Mars was as obnoxious as ever. 311 was a powerhouse of song and movement, and their drum set was awesome! STP showed that despite the years, they’ve still got it. Unfortunately, I missed Sunday and didn’t get to see Willie Nelson, but all accounts were that it was a great performance, and best of all, according to Sean Dugas of the Pensacola News Journal, prior to Willie Nelson’s performance, the organizers of the DeLuna Fest announced that the DeLuna Fest would be back for 2011 the second week of October!
2011 and the Future
Stay tuned to the DeLuna Fest website for further announcements as they line up acts for the 2nd DeLuna Fest . The 2010 DeLuna Fest was truly a memorable concert experience, and was without a doubt, a preview of more great things to come in Pensacola.
Days Inn Pensacola Beach. (2010). Days Inn Pensacola Beach.
DeLuna Fest. (2010). DeLuna Fest.
Dugas, Sean. (2010). DeLuna Fest Sunday. Pensacola News Journal.