Coral Skies Festival - Cruzan Amphitheatre, West Palm Beach - October 26, 2014
It was a day where you couldn't ask for better weather. Among a medley of food trucks and craft beers, a smorgasbord of indie rock was served up steaming hot at the Coral Skies Music Festival.
The descriptor "indie rock" at this point is a catch-all term for any type of music performed by people wearing skinny jeans and/or thick-framed glasses. The Hold Steady, with their Brooklyn-bar-band raucousness, fit the label, as did Atlanta's Manchester Orchestra, with its emo sarcastic grunge, and headliner Cage the Elephant's classic rock.
"Indie" at this point really has nothing to do with independence, as many indie acts are signed to major labels and license their songs to commercials; rather, it seems to be synonymous with authenticity, where the music does not seem overproduced and Auto-Tune is only used with a sense of irony.
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The two biggest acts at Coral Skies were solo projects by members of supergroups who wanted nothing to do with the songs of the bands that made them famous. Midafternoon, we saw Jack Antonoff, the guitarist of Fun as frontman of Bleachers. Antonoff cowrote "We Are Young" for Fun and cowrote and produced songs on Taylor Swift's new album. He is definitely on the borderline of what can be considered "indie" with his polished sound. But Bleachers had the crowd on their side cheering on and handclapping along with the twin drum sets, especially during "I Wanna Get Better."
After it got dark, out came Julian Casablancas + the Voidz. The onetime lead singer of the Strokes expanded his entourage by one. The six-piece would occasionally verge on Strokes-like guitar riffs, and Casablancas' distinctive voice made you think he might go into "Last Nite" any moment, but they stayed firmly on their path of artier world-music beats.
Their music managed to inspire one of the cooler spontaneous acts of collective joy I've ever seen at a concert. Midway through his set, people began running from the pit in front of the stage toward the lawn, where a massive orgy of hundreds broke out in dance. Participants formed a hand-holding circle with a diameter of a football field that closed in to a convergence of what from far away looked like a mosh pit but without any violent slam dancing and, on closer inspection, were seen to be spirals of conga lines. Casablancas noticed this from the stage and said, "You guys look like you're having fun. I wish I was out there with you."
It was fitting on a day so perfect that it inspired envy even in those present. The two stages were synchronized with atomic clock precision, so there was never a lack of music, and there was a pleasant absence of the meatheads who might drag down any festival.
The highlight for this critic hit around 6:30 p.m., when City and Colour controlled the main stage. Singer Dallas Green has a deep speaking voice that ranges all the way to falsetto when backed by everything from a slide guitar to piano. The band's music transitioned from folky to actual rocking out. And as it locked into a groove, the sun was setting behind it, leaving the sky in that promised shade of coral.
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