The Sixth Tortuga Music Festival Showcased Dwight Yoakam, Keith Urban, Snoop Dogg, and the Beach

For the sixth installment of Tortuga Music Festival, which ran this past Friday through Sunday on Fort Lauderdale Beach, the winning strategy seemed to be less is more. The award-winning event mostly stuck to its tried-and-true formula — though there were a few key tweaks.

The lineup was a powerful collection of country music superstars including Eric Church, Keith Urban, Dwight Yoakam, and Florida Georgia Line. However, there was one less stage for the smaller, alternative acts.  In the past, the smaller side stage hosted artists such as Chase Rice, Delta Rae, White Denim, and in 2013, Sister Hazel, who returned this year for a second go round.

All three headliners did what great headliners do: they played the hits. Eric Church made people cry, Keith Urban made them sing, and Florida Georgia Line made them dance.

One of the standout sets was always going to be Snoop Dogg since the West Coast rapper is hardly country, but he made sure it was truly memorable. It’s a safe bet that no other Tortuga act dropped as many “motherfuckers” as he and his hype man did, smoked weed on stage, or had strippers on poles enjoying a little girl-on-girl action. Even Friday night’s headliners, Florida Georgia Line, were fans, wishing they could get away with what Snoop does (if we’re honest, he does seem bulletproof).

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Photos by Christina Mendenhall and Carina Mask

Shaggy was another fun afternoon spent grooving to baby-making music. His inclusion is a product of the organizers knowing and learning that a festival on the beach should always, always, always have at least one reggae act. Thinking otherwise would be foolish and a disservice to fans.

One of the few additions festival organizers made also had a huge impact. Trudging through the heat and the sand drunk and dehydrated is no damn fun. The trek between the two main stages was made miles better with a temporary plastic path laid down atop the sand, creating a much-needed bridge between the Main Stage and the Sunset Stage.

Also gone were the shuttle buses that transported attendees from parking lots to the front entrance. This was a bit of a shock since they had always worked so well. Instead, for those driving to the fest each day, the only option was water taxis ferrying passengers from a number of stops around Fort Lauderdale. The results were a mixed bag, although we would lean towards the water taxis being efficient more often than not. The lines moved fairly quick and the majority of the water taxi crews were very friendly and accommodating. But more than a few fans had long waits, got on the wrong ferries, or missed their boats altogether. Truth be told, most of these problems were the fault of one thing. To quote Jamie Foxx, “blame it on the alcohol.”

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Photos by Christina Mendenhall and Carina Mask

Something else missing from Tortuga this year, thankfully, was garbage. An important reason for Tortuga’s existence is the extensive effort made by the Rock the Ocean organization to not only keep the beach clean, but also to promote awareness and education. The Conservation Village was again at the heart of these efforts.

Their partners, Clean Vibes and Clean Vibes Trading Post, are responsible for the volunteers who continually sweep the sand for litter, oftentimes leaving Fort Lauderdale Beach cleaner than before the festival arrived.
Sometimes the volunteers are fans who come around the Clean Vibes tent, grab a garbage bag, and pick up garbage between Budweisers and Lee Brice songs. Moreover, Rock the Ocean reports that Clean Vibes has been responsible for recycling 68% of all festival waste.

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Photos by Christina Mendenhall and Carina Mask

Meanwhile, Rock the Ocean works with Sea Turtle Oversight Protection to put something back into the landscape. In the past five the years, both fans and participating artists have planted more than 30,000 sea oats. It’s part of the festival’s “Change the Tide” initiative.

Last year, one of the trouble spots was the side stage. Though it was also the scene for one of the crazier Tortuga sets, Sam Hunt, it was removed this year because of the logjam it created in foot traffic between the two main sets. While we lament the loss, the difference was night and day. Movement was freer and smoother than it had been the last couple of fests.

What hasn’t changed are the good times. Tortuga Music Festival is a staple of not only country music, but of the South Florida festival season. And while, it’s a big, beautiful beach event, it seems that it’s the little things, the minor changes, that made it better this time around.

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