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SWEET SPIRIT, CAGE THE ELEPHANT, MGMT – BEST AND WORST OF FLOAT FEST 2017 (FESTIVAL REVIEW)

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Float Fest is a bold endeavor that has paid off once again. Bringing thousands of music-loving Texans to the Cool River Ranch in San Marcos, in the middle of a scorching deadbeat summer, has liability written all over it. However, the festival founder, Marcus Federman, along with his crack team pulled off another spectacular festival weekend for the fourth year in a row July 22-23.

The festival, which has grown larger every year, hit a new high this year in terms of the lineup, attendance, and overall production. While an increase in ticket pricing, long entry lines, and scorching weather threatened to stem the flow of attendees – those setbacks were overshadowed by the impressive lineup and galvanizing atmosphere that made the slight inconveniences worthwhile.

The lineup of music acts were split down the middle, with half of them local and the other half national headliners:

Best 3 Local Performances:

Sweet Spirit – Fresh off the road from their national tour, Sweet Spirit crashed back into the Austin crowd with a raucous performance on Sunday afternoon. Lead singer Sabrina Ellis showed her trademark spunk while guitarist Andrew Cashen smashed guitars. Tearing through a hit list of songs like “The Power”, “Baby When I Close My Eyes” and “Rebel, Rebel”, their performance was a refreshing shot of energy on a torrid day.

Walker Lukens – Playing with his band that looks straight out of a modeling agency, Walker Lukens proved his eclectic pop prowess while wearing a white suit in 100 degree heat on Sunday afternoon. The emotive songwriter captured the crowd with emphatic songs like “Every Night” and “Lifted” while charming the pants off everyone simultaneously. Walker’s charisma and music skills make his appeal undeniable and his songs make his future bright.

Ume – While this local hard rocking trio played at the peak of heat wave on Sunday, they still managed to rattle the audience’s skulls in a good way. Lead singer Lauren ‘LL’ demonstrated that big things can come in small packages with her whirring guitar and banshee-like vocals. The Austin veterans continue to impress with their dedication to devastatingly awesome music and their longevity in making it.

Best 3 Headliner Performances:

Cage the Elephant – This bluesy rock band form Bowling Green, TN is the embodiment of the rock n’ roll spirit. Lead singer Matt Shultz parades around the stage like Jagger in his prime. The passion, urgency, and exuberance of each band member creates a synergistic explosion of unparalleled proportions. This young sextet stole Sunday night from Weezer and MGMT, as their brilliance couldn’t be contained.

Passion Pit – Michael Angelakos might be stepping away from music for a hiatus but his Saturday night performance showed that he and his band are still at the top of their game. Crushing songs like “I’ll Be Alright” and “Lifted Up” are the nectar from which pop hook-loving millenials feed. Angelakos is a great example of a veteran artist who doesn’t take anything or any show for granted by giving his all on every song.

Mac Miller – While I have to admit I was not a fan of Mac Miller prior to seeing his live show, the Pittsburgh rapper is persuasive in his power to impress. Commanding a large crowd that hung on every lyric, Miller weaved in popular samples to his music that created something like a block party. While there might be more talented musicians and rappers in the world, no one can say that Mac Miller doesn’t know how to throw down.

3 Performance Let-Downs:

MGMT – Uninspired and mopey, MGMT came out flaccid and flat-lined in front of a crowd the desperately wanted to dance with them.

Mike Jones – The Houston rapper dropped the ball for the second year in a row. Jones seemed out of it and passed the mic to his posse for the majority of the show.

Neon Indian – More of a personal preference, but Alan Palomo chose to play all of his newer tracks, which aren’t bad, but refuses to acknowledge his Chill Wave roots that got him there.

Float Fest still remains a favorite for campers, tubers, and vibers who find reasons to attend that are not directly related to the music. Expect more stages, bigger headliners, and more extra-curricular activities as this atypical festival continues to blossom. Kudos must be paid to a team that somehow found a way to succeed in the Texas Summer in an area dominated by ACL and SXSW.

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