This Little Underground: Reading the tea leaves on Moonstone Music Festival

This Little Underground: Reading the tea leaves on Moonstone Music Festival
Photo by Liv Jones

The Moonstone Music Festival is Orlando's latest big-scale hopeful. Before last week's media announcement event at the Orlando Eye (Dec. 15), however, I knew as much about it as you did: nothing.

So upon arrival, I take in as much of the scene as I can. There are cops, cameras, news vans, even a couple Barbies in little black dresses meaninglessly flanking the stage. This could be serious. But classic rock is playing conspicuously on the PA so I'm getting a feeling already, and it's that I might end up less pumped than everyone else here once the news drops.

Turns out, my hunch is Sherlockian. With the exception of Surfer Blood and the Flaming Lips, I practically flatline at this first-round announcement. Guaranteed, I was the least tingly among the gathered media when Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons were trotted out to announce rock corporation KISS as a headliner. And as for the inclusion of local shame Scott Stapp, well, you couldn't have chosen a more dubious Orlando name. No, this one's not for me.

That said, as a local advocate, I wish Moonstone well. Although I can tell you if an effort is good, I'm no expert in what makes large-scale music festivals actually workable. Hopefully, the man making the announcement – co-producer Paul Lovett of event-planning company Incognitus – does. Besides logistics experience at major sporting events like the Olympics, the music experience his CV lists are music festivals Beyond the Valley (Australia) and Orlando Calling.

Clearly, that last flopping credit pops out. Now, one sure thing that can be said about the man is that he's on a mission to make a music festival stick in this city, so cheers to that. But hopefully his key involvement in Orlando Calling means he's carrying some fresh and valuable lessons about that kind of endeavor here.

Artistically, Moonstone's not breaking any new or even sexy ground with an initial roster that's mostly a parade of past- and sub-prime talent whose target demographic is a Venn diagram of dads and dudes. Music notwithstanding, though, Moonstone does have some distinguishing aspects like a comedy component and full family friendliness. There will be a carnival atmosphere with a midway featuring sideshow attractions and rides. They're even letting kids in free (under 10 years, one per adult), which is way dope for rocker parents.

But hopefully Lovett knows the market forces at play because major music festivals are one of the few things to which Orlando's world-famous hospitality has not historically extended.

The Beat

The recent show by Film Speak and White Sands (Dec. 14) reunited forces responsible for some incredible parking-lot performances back at the setting where the magic began. Film Speak's Gerald Perez and White Sands' Steven Head were behind the extraordinary parking lot project that dazzled the Orlando art world back in 2012 by using the sound systems in people's cars as the PA and ingeniously syncing them into an organic sonic whole like some post-classical urban symphony.

Around dusk at the original scene of their outdoor alchemy behind the Guesthouse (formerly the Peacock Room), an ad hoc setup of instruments, video equipment and screens came together across two parking spaces. The waning sunlight quickly succumbed, first to the faint force of yellow lot lights and a sliver moon, and then to the tweaked, saturated colors of Broken Machine Films' video. Once Perez started to play, Film Speak began. His electronic soundscaping this time came with more pronounced noise and drone, feeling more aggressive in volume, tone and movement. But the milieu factored in. Something about being out in the night air – beyond the politics of a room – felt especially apt for Film Speak's norm-defying multimedia expeditions. It's finally a setting renegade enough for their concept.

Afterwards, White Sands performed. With the quantum benefit of Broken Machine Films' visual accompaniment, Head's compositions went from ambient to astral. Together, it was another cogent case for alternative show settings.

Next week is TLU's annual Underground awards, where I immortalize this year in Orlando music in the history books for all your progeny to be embarrassed by ad infinitum. I'm sorry.

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