Photo Credit: Tortuga Music Festival
It’s not unusual to catch an artist unable to contain a smile as they watch tens of thousands of fans singing their lyrics back at them. It’s not unusual for fans to travel hundreds of miles for those moments – to see some of their favorite artists play songs they love. But at Rock the Ocean’s Tortuga Music Festival, there is an unusual magic, where country music is accompanied by the smell of sunscreen, the feel of sea spray, and the crash of waves.
The three-day festival, which takes place on the white sand beaches of Ft. Lauderdale, balances the best of country: up and comers like Russell Dickerson and Luke Combs share a bill with good-time heavyweight champs Luke Bryan and Kenny Chesney.
Fans were treated to new music beginning Friday, with artists like Jordan Davis and his infectious upcoming single, “Take It From Me.” Brett Eldredge took charge of the upbeat vibe on the Tortuga Stage, playing his beachy “Beat of the Music” and danceable “Somethin’ I’m Good At.” As the sun set over the palm trees, the bright lights of the main stage came on and Luke Bryan played a chart topping filled two hour set.
Saturday’s line up was jam packed with talent. Russell Dickerson and Steve Moakler played music off of their new records while Brett Young and Maren Morris represented some of Nashville’s finest new breakout talents. Sound waves met ocean waves across the warm air, which promised a jump-start on summer. Sunday continued to impress, including vibrant sets from Old Dominion and Drake White.
Bikini-clad attendees took a break from country to pack the beach tight for Nelly, who took it way back with hits like “Country Grammar (Hot Shit)” and “Hot in Herre,” and nodded to his country collaborations, playing “Over and Over,” “Cruise,” and “Die A Happy Man.” Pop music’s Daya also performed a set, showcasing her hit “Sit Still, Look Pretty.”
“I love what Rock the Ocean is doing here this weekend, it’s all about leaving a small footprint people,” said Drake White, who took the stage Sunday. Rock the Ocean’s three-day-event, which celebrated it’s fifth year this year, offers more than just a sun-soaked vacation: Tortuga highlights marine conservation efforts, with a Conservation Village section of the festival educating attendees on efforts and the ocean. People dressed in shark suits posed for pictures with girls sporting new turtle temporary tattoos. Over by the pirate ship DJ set stage, a group that could have passed for the inspiration for Captain Jack Sparrow toasted whiskey drinks for people’s snapchats.
A hot beach calls for a cold beer, and Tortuga was in no short supply this weekend, with tall boys raised early and sipped late, and vendors wandering the cement to refill empty plastic cups. Between sets, the options were varied: those craving cajun grabbed po boys and gator tail, while others formed lines for smoothies, Thai, funnel cake, or mac & cheese, chatting with those next to them about how far they’d traveled or who they were most excited to see.
As “No Shoes Nation” pirate flags were hoisted and Kenny Chesney took the stage for the final two hours of the festival, fans could be seen lifting their beers while they jumped and danced along to Chesney’s string of number one hits. The perfect setting for the artist, fans felt like they were living out every single one of his beach-filled tunes. Country fans from all 50 states and 22 different countries basked in the sun and flocked to 2 stages during the 3-day fest, no doubt making memories and planning their trip for Tortuga 2018 next spring.