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Indie Spirits Rise Through Cold Air at Playground Fest

Nintendo Wii theme music filled the air with childhood nostalgia as thousands of fans excitedly waited for the headliner, Flipturn, to deliver a grand finale to a full day of music.

by: Evan Fleischer


Flipturn lead guitarist Tristan Duncan shown performing at Playground Music and Arts Festival 2024

Credit: Lauren Ludwig

 

Gainesville’s own Heartwood Soundstage hosted 12 bands and artists from across the country at Playground Music and Arts Festival 2024 this past Saturday, January 20th. Brought together by the efforts of Swamp Records, Atlas Touring, Heartwood Soundstage and Indie Live, the event rallied nearly 2,100 attendees to the 39-degree F outdoor venue. 


Headlining the festival was Flipturn – an indie rock band that was once signed to the student-run music label Swamp Records. Flipturn has accumulated over 1.7 million monthly listeners on Spotify and has toured beside indie greats such as Mt. Joy and Rainbow Kitten Surprise.


Flipturn frontman Dillon Basse, 26, said they wanted to return to their roots and see that the north Florida music scene is still growing.


“The Gainesville community is really what helped us grow,” said Basse. “Whenever we started touring, we would see people from UF. They’d be like, ‘Go gators, we saw you in Gainesville.’ But we’d be playing up in New York, or Boston or Chicago.”

Drawing from a range of influences like country guitar techniques and Irish rhythms, Flipturn has utilized the vibrant music scene of north Florida to build their own sound.


While the festival itself lasted a lengthy ten hours, 29-year-old folk artist Corey Kilgannon was backstage helping many of his fellow artists remain calm and ready for their sets through the power of sound therapy. 


“My day job is working with Tibetan singing bowls,” said Kilgannon. “I took a course, bought a bunch of bowls, and accidentally got a job doing it...I've been back in the green room playing singing bowls all day.” 


Nonetheless, his focus on helping other musicians did not stop him from a killer set. Through his one-man performance, Kilgannon showed his love for stripping songs back to just guitar and vocals.


“The whole way you have to run a festival like this is when the last band rings out one note, then the next band rings out their first one,” Kilgannon continues. “Our nervous systems are delicate, and loud music is awesome, but it is powerful. And twelve hours of power is a lot of power. So it’s nice to have a little pause and a deep breath.”


Playground also welcomed multiple local artists into the lineup. Quail Hollow, who signed with Swamp Records this past year, had the opportunity to play at the festival.


Quail Hollow drummer Augustus Hoff, 20, said, "It's honestly just a surreal moment, kinda walking out on stage and being like, 'Cool, we're at Playground Music Fest right now with Flipturn.'"


On top of being one of the leaders in the Gainesville music scene, Quail Hollow strives to positively impact the environment through their non-profit organization, Quail Hollow Conservation. Through this, the band often donates proceeds from shows and events to environmental advocacy and conservation groups in Florida.


Quail Hollow lead singer and bassist Ashley Griffith, 20, explained, “No matter what we do and where we go, we want to give back, and we want to donate and we want to help out causes that we are super passionate about.” 


Quail Hollow found themselves warming up the night before the festival at the “Unofficial Playground Pre-Show.” The lineup for the backyard house show featured Quail Hollow and fellow Swamp Records group The Housing Crisis. Both bands were set to open the festival the following day. 


After Quail Hollow’s set concluded, fans were in awe as Flipturn threw down a surprise show. Basse said that it felt good to be back in that chaotic environment. “We haven’t played a house show in like three or four years I think,” he added.


Quail Hollow guitarist Douglas Jaramillo shown performing during their set

Credit: Lauren Ludwig


Another band that attracted a massive crowd was The Brazen Youth. They usually operate and record out of a farmhouse in Lyme, Connecticut, thus adding unique tints of ambient folk rock to the chilly Gainesville night. “We didn’t know what to expect from this festival,” said The Brazen Youth guitarist and singer Nic Lussier, 25. “It's just very inspiring to see how many people came out despite the cold.” 


Singer and multi-instrumentalist for The Brazen Youth Charlie Dahlke, 25, explained that he views Gainesville as a transient place. He sees it as a breeding ground for ideas before individuals pursue other endeavors. 


To turn this event from an idea to reality, Swamp Records Director of Booking Grant Schmid, 22, handled the logistics and noted the immense effort that went into planning the event.


“There’s a method to the madness,” Schmid said, “It deviated a little bit from the plan, but all in all, we set it up pretty nicely and specific beforehand.”


Similarly, Swamp Records President Ansley Diaz, 21, acknowledged how well the festival was organized. She could watch an amazing set and then easily head to another stage to catch the next band already playing. 


Diaz best encapsulated the spirit of Playground when she said, “We transported from Gainesville into, y'know, this crazy, indie, magical playground with the best musicians out there.”


Playground is only the cusp of what's to come for Gainesville’s music culture, with new bands and artists continually building a bright and widespread scene. 

 

Evan Fleischer is a second-year student at the University of Florida. Originally from Ponte Vedra, Florida, Evan enjoys exploring the dense and vastly unexplored culture that north Florida has to offer. 


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