All sorts of things happened on Saturday.
Art Basel parties were in full swing down in Miami, which seemed to bring out both a special kind of tourist and an even more special South Florida native. Local musicians fought for a chance to flex their muscle while nationally inflated acts capitalized on the sudden special attention Miami is allotted early every December.
With all of the weekend hubbub pulsing through this part of the earth, the appropriately named Lauderdale Live served as an oasis of space and sunshine during a weekend where rubbing elbows with art stars and Kanye inside galleries and convention centers seemed to take precedence over good music.
The gates opened around noon to a less than eager line of folks waiting to get in. Security was loose, and it seemed like the general feel of the festival was easy-going as the crowd slowly trickled in throughout the day.
The first in a list of Americana singer/songwriters set for Saturday kicked off about a half hour after the gates opened. The festival offered a simpler kind of music which loaned itself to that lazy Saturday afternoon feel. Andrew Ripp took the stage followed by New York native Jillette Johnson as folks in lawn chairs bopped their heads to and fro. There was a kid with a red fez, dancing to whatever sounds came from the stage.
Those without chairs seemed to just sprawl out on the grass in worship of sunshine as Lee DeWyze, former American Idol winner, charmed festival-goers with his folky output. His message was gratitude for being out from under the wing of American Idol so he could "finally write the music he wanted to write," but when it came down to it, Dewyze's set seemed to rely on the Idol mentions.
Two eight dollar beers into the festival and a walk around the venue, and there wasn't a single line for anything. Admission allowed for coming and going, which also loaned itself to the laid-back feel of the fest, though security seemed to care a bit more about what was in your bag the more you came and went. The audience steadily shuffled through the gates, while food truck vendors waited eagerly for business. There were more Porta Potties than there ever was an actual demand for.
Next up was Mat Kearny, who played a pretty magnetic set, engaged the crowd with conversation and played a few well-known covers as well as his acoustic pop hits.
While a lot of the hype for Saturday's event relied on Huey Lewis and the News, Robert Randolph and the Family Band took the stage around six and seemed to help the festival forget it was waiting for the San Francisco-bred institution for excitement. A renowned master of the pedal steel, an instrument rarely seen on stage, let alone on a stage in South Florida, Robert Randolph and his literal family (only Noodles the bassist was an honorary Randolph) blew through a set that transformed the lazy feel of Huizenga Plaza by injecting it with a buzz-worthy energy.
Vendors began to close before the music was over and behind the crowd, who were all eyes to the stage, the whole set up of the festival began to zip up and head out. By the time Huey Lewis and the News took the stage, the venue offered no other reasons to stick around. But Huey played all the hits, and even some tunes that he admitted weren't "thirty years old," which, upon mentioning, had some of the younger audience members turning to each other in disbelief.
Huey Lewis was as young and hip as ever. If he wasn't such a household name, you'd never know he's been making music since before some of our beloved New Times writers were even born, but when he was done, the festival was done.
For the inaugural year, Lauderdale Live is on the right track. A bit more promotion and a few more things to do between waiting for the next band to play, you know, something to keep folks from passing out in the grass, and next year's incarnation should be an even bigger hit and hopefully a staple for the state.