The inaugural Coastline Festival is an act of faith for Neil Jacobsen, who believes the seeds he is planting this weekend can flourish, no matter how parched the environment. The harvest, he believes, will come.
“We’re not gonna get rich on this festival. We are doing it for the long haul,” Jacobsen says. “We want to have a festival where we can grow some bands, grow the audience, and support the local music community. It’s an investment in the future.”
Jacobsen, of course, can afford to gamble. He is president of the massive Live Nation Florida concert promotion operation. But that doesn’t make the effort any less worthy.
In the same way Live Nation has nurtured an audience for jam bands with the Wanee Festival in Live Oak, blues at the Sunshine Music and Blues Festival in Boca Raton and laughs at the South Beach Comedy Festival, the company hopes to develop an audience for alternative music that can be counted on to fill midsize spaces such as the Cruzan Amphitheater in West Palm Beach, Bayfront Park in Miami and the Fillmore on Miami Beach.
The first step is Coastline, which on Sunday will bring a number of nationally known alternative acts (led by Passion Pit and Matt and Kim) and locally popular indie bands (including West Palm Beach natives Surfer Blood and Fort Lauderdale-based Kids, plus Civilian from Orlando) to the Cruzan.
“There are so many great alternative bands that don’t get as much play in Florida, because we don’t have any alternative radio stations. So we thought we’d get 10 or 12 indie bands, with some decent headliners, and make it a different kind of experience,” Jacobsen says.
Coastline, which has a sister festival scheduled for Tampa on Saturday with many of the same acts, also will include a craft beer area, a phalanx of food trucks and plenty of local art.
Perhaps most important is the price: Advance general-admission lawn tickets opened at an astonishing $20 and even at the gate on Sunday will be $30.
“The first year is always tough, especially with no radio support, but it was a conscious decision to keep a reasonable ticket price,” Jacobsen says. “It’s an investment in the future.”
Tickets sales have been on target, says Jacobsen, who hopes to top 10,000 fans on Sunday, depending on fair-weather walk-ups. A 2014 edition of Coastline is pretty certain, he says.
THE GOOD LIFE
One gamble that has already paid off is the early booking of a relatively unknown Los Angeles electronic duo called Capital Cities. That was before their song “Safe and Sound” became a Top 10 hit.
Sebu Simonian, who found Capital Cities partner Ryan Merchant serendipitously on Craigslist, has stopped trying to figure out what fate has in store for him. Same goes for the perplexing popularity of the optimistic sing-along “Safe and Sound.”
“I’m not sure there’s one reason. It might be simply that it’s a good song with a lot of little hooks. People are connecting with the trumpet line and the drumbeat. It’s a dance-y little groove … Somehow it’s resonating,” Simonian says.
Speaking by phone before a recent gig at the House of Blues in Boston (where his impressive beard drew frequent comments from the Red Sox faithful on the street), Simonian found it much easier to explain another song that will be part of Capital Cities’ set on Sunday, “Farrah Fawcett Hair,” a Jiffy Pop explosion of pop-culture references featuring OutKast’s Andre 3000.
“Ryan and I sat down and made a list of really cool things in pop culture, guilty pleasures,” Simonian says of lyrics about Nutella, Democracy, ceviche in Peru and Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew.” “It’s a list of the undeniably good things in life.”
CHEEK TO CHEEK
When Matt Johnson, one half of Brooklyn-based pop-punk duo Matt and Kim, recalls his last visit to South Florida, for the 2013 Ultra Music Festival in Miami, the enduring memory is of “hanging cheek.”
“You know, where the girls are wearing these high-waisted shorts pulled up quite high?” he asks, appreciatively. “Kim and I were taking the bus in from the hotel, and we’d see one, then another and another. You have to understand that in New York, there is not a lot of skin involved. And I am fully comfortable with them expressing themselves however they want.”