On October 25, the first annual Coral Skies Festival took place at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, FL. The festival, featuring 12 bands over the span of 12 hours on two stages, catered to alternative music lovers.
Big and small alternative groups, including Cage the Elephant, Tokyo Police Club, Julian Casablancas + The Voidz and Manchester Orchestra made a splash at the all day festival that also made its way to West Palm Beach October 26.
Smaller local bands, inlcuding Sarasota’s Good Graeff and Brooklyn’s Junior Prom kicked off the day with small, but intimate sets at the Sunrise Stage, with Graeff equipped with twins Brooke and Brittany Graeff, a cello and a sound reminiscent of Tegan and Sara. Tampa’s Benjamin Booker and Bombay Bicycle Club rounded out the earlier sets with a mix of punk-rock and English style indie rock.
With the hot Tampa sun beating down at the Sunrise Stage, Canada’s Tokyo Police Club played a medley that included hits from albums, Elephant Shell (2008), Champ (2010) and Forcefield (2014) in their brief, 30 minute set that had hardcore fans singing word for word on songs “Your English is Good” and “Wait Up (Boots of Danger).”
While The Hold Steady seemed to please the older crowd, Bleachers was the first to take on the the larger Scion Stage to provide a must-see performance for younger viewers and those who have tapped their toes to their single, “I Want to Get Better.” Bleachers, led by fun.’s guitarist, Jack Antonoff, was no stranger to the bands playing at Coral Skies, with lead singer Dave Monks of Tokyo Police Club and even Julian Casablancas in attendance for their mid-day set.
Crooner Dallas Green of City and Color gave an intimate set of breezy indie-folk tunes with old style guitars and down home vocals that evened out the raucous fun that would soon come later in the day.
Atlanta’s Manchester Orchestra made a huge splash with their intense, hour-long set, playing cuts from their recent releases, 2014’s Cope and Hope, just before the top two headliners, Julian Casablancas + The Voidz and Cage the Elephant were set to take the stage.
Casablancas, who started his project with the Voidz separately of his band, The Strokes, introduced fans to his latest work filled with synthesized vocals, dark and experimental instrumentals that gave a different experience for The Strokes-seasoned audience. While the crowd consensus wasn’t all the way convinced or understanding of the new material, Casablancas, decked in a ripped denim outfit that highlighted his “rockstar” signature style, put on a performance with equal parts intensity and soul that included quirky one-liners. The six piece band ended the set with what Casablancas dubbed as “the longest song on the album” and the band’s first single from their album, Tyranny, “Human Sadness.”
Closing out the long day of alternative explosion was Kentucky’s Cage the Elephant. The band, best known for the 2008 hit, “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” put on an energy packed performance, led singlehandedly by lead singer Matt Shultz’s moves that were much like Jagger. The pint sized singer’s antics included toe touching during “Aberdeen,” more theatrical strides in “Come a Little Closer” and crowd surfing in between that kept energy levels up for all ages.
While Coral Skies was a melting pot of indie rock and alternative music, the festival is still in its inaugural stage, though its niche audience was targeted correctly. In attempt to combat the influx of EDM festivals that currently sweep the nation, Tampa’s Coral Skies Festival does it job to aim to the “hipsters” of the mid and central Florida area by inviting them to one of Tampa’s biggest venues that offers lots of room to explore big and small acts of the same genre.