There Were Only Two Arrests at Tortuga, and One Involved Butts

A lesson to all future Tortuga attendees: Look but don't touch.
A lesson to all future Tortuga attendees: Look but don't touch.
James Argyropoulos

The South Florida festival scene is getting stronger. The past two months have brought our tip of the state Ultra Music Festival and Tortuga Music Festival. And the next few weeks will bring us West Palm Beach's SunFest and Tampa's Big Guava Music Festival.

When it's all said and done, South Florida music festivals will have hosted a disorienting smorgasbord of artists ranging all the way from Justin Beiber and the Pixies to Kenny Chesney and Lenny Kravitz. Gone are the days when South Florida fans would have to pack their bags and haul ass to California or Tennessee to catch multiple national acts in one place. Now, like alligators and naked drug-crazed stragglers, we can just sit back and watch them come through our own backyard. 

One of the fastest-growing festivals to hit Broward in the past few years has been Tortuga Music Festival. The two-day concert takes place on the sand of Fort Lauderdale Beach and was bigger than ever this year when it came to town on April 11 and 12. The festival broke all previous attendance records when it netted 75,000 attendees, not far from doubling last year's record of 44,000. Headliners Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown Band, Jake Owen, and the Band Perry helped draw never-before-seen crowds to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. Next year, the festival's headliner — and arguably the biggest act in country music alive today — Blake Shelton, is sure to bring even more shirtless Floridians to Tortuga. 

But wherever there is sand, water, and country music, there is also sure to be booze. A lot of it.

And though Tortuga is now established as a festival that brings international talent to Fort Lauderdale, it's also an occasion for many concertgoers to grab the nearest bottle of Fireball and get smashed.

Tortuga drew a record 75,000 attendees.
Tortuga drew a record 75,000 attendees.
James Argyropoulos

The heat and alcohol can make for a dangerous combination and no doubt lead to some very poor decision-making. Surely many Tortugans left the beach with plenty of regrets and sand in places they never imagined, but surprisingly, at the end of the two-day festival, Tortuga wrapped up with only two arrests. 

Both arrests took place the first day of the festival, Saturday, April 11. One arrest came when an intoxicated attendee tried to sneak into the VIP area. The police report states: "While working an off-duty detail at the Tortuga Music Festival, I was advised by a patron that there was a male causing problems in the VIP area. Upon arrival in the area, I met with Security who advised me that the subject was trespassing in the VIP area without a paid admission to the area; the Defendant only had a General Admission ticket."

The VIP trespasser — 29-year-old Royal Palm Beach resident Brandon Backer — was asked to leave and did — for, like, a minute. But "a moment later," the VIP ninja returned. We'd like to imagine that this time he was wearing a fake mustache and a monocle.

Unfortunately, the attendee overestimated his sneakiness and was spotted. After being approached again by arresting officer Eric Pekrol of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, the attendee became argumentative and was eventually arrested and charged with trespassing after warning and resisting arrest without violence.  

The second arrest was more bizarre. Here's an excerpt from the police report: "While working an off-duty detail at the Tortuga Music Festival, I was advised by security staff that the Defendant was in the crowd grabbing random girls on their buttocks."

At this point, the butt bandit — 31-year-old Fort Lauderdale resident Brian Gibson — was escorted out by security. While at the gate, he began to argue. And when approached by an FLPD officer, he apparently doubled down. "The Defendant stated that he did nothing wrong and wanted to be permitted back on the property," the police report says. 

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His legal defense didn't hold up, and when the "very intoxicated" Gibson continued to disobey orders to leave the festival grounds, he was placed under arrest. 

Neither of the two arrested concertgoers could be reached for comment.

All in all, a mere two pairs of handcuffs for a two-day festival attracting 75,000 concertgoers is an impressively small number, especially considering a healthy portion of those 75,000 were drinking like teens with access to an unlocked liquor cabinet. And let this be a valuable lesson to everyone out there with wandering hands: It's never cool to touch another person's butt without said person's permission.

Not even if Sisqo is singing the "Thong Song" during a twerking contest. Or if Nicki Minaj placed her mat directly in front of you during your weekly Bikram yoga class.

The only possible situation we can think of where it would be appropriate to start slapping strangers' asses would be if there's some type of butt fire and the only way to subdue the flames is by smothering them with your palms. And even then, it might be a little weird.

Tortuga 2016 is sure to be the biggest thing to hit Fort Lauderdale Beach in a long time. So drink water, be safe, and keep your hands to yourself.

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