Upwards of 100,000 fans gathered on Fort Lauderdale Beach Saturday for a long day of great music. By 1 p.m., large mobs of bathing suit-clad country music lovers swarmed the venue, ready to party until 10:30 p.m. (because any later would disturb the sea turtles, of course).
Tortuga is heaven for country fans and a place of major discovery for non-country fans. Most don’t realize that today’s country is no different than southern rock and, in many cases, pop. But if country isn’t your thing, you might want to queue up a sampler of some of this year’s headliners on Apple Music or Spotify. Here are some of the best performances at Tortuga for the self-identified “everything-but-country” fan.
One of the first performers Saturday was up-and-coming star Chris Lane, a charming vocalist with two hit songs, “Fix” and “For Her.” Given his lack of radio singles, Lane still put on an energetic show filled with covers of popular songs from all genres. It’s a smart concept; he filled his one-hour time slot with songs to get the crowd excited just in time to end the show with enthusiastic performances of his own hits. He won the crowd over when he sang Tim McGraw’s 1999 country classic, “Something Like That.” The band stopped playing halfway through the song, and the crowd sang back the lyrics word-for-word. He later won over the hearts of every girl in attendance by pulling a fan out of the audience, giving her a rose and singing throwback love songs, including “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys. As he left the stage, he sang “All I Do Is Win” by DJ Khaled, turning the increasingly crazy crowd into a giant dance party and hyping them up for the next performer.
Chris Lane performs at Tortuga Music Festival. // Photo courtesy Tortuga Music Festival
Later, country newcomer Maren Morris took the stage. As one of the few women in the Tortuga lineup, she completely killed it. Her show was laid-back, with Morris performing in sweatpants and a crop top. Singing about lost love and simple pastimes, she sounded just as relaxed as she looked. Morris performed all of her hit singles, including “My Church,” “80s Mercedes,” and her humorous new song “Rich.” Morris’ songs could easily be played on pop radio, and, as a result, she’s redefining country music.
The last country-pop artist to perform was Brett Young. His single “Sleep Without You” has won the hearts of fans everywhere. By the time he took the stage, the crowd was rowdy and relentless. No matter where you were standing, the smell of beer and cigarette smoke masked everything, and the constant roar of the crowd echoed throughout the beach. But when the catchy first seconds of “Sleep Without You” blasted through the speakers, the decibel level tripled. Fans got up on their friends’ shoulders, and Snapchat was open on every girl’s phone. Country and pop fans rejoice – you’ve found your new love anthem.
These artists are the epitome of modern country music. Sure, their songs might feature a banjo, but, other than that, they are purely pop and rock performers. Without a doubt, even an “everything-but-country” fan will have a blast at Tortuga, so don’t forget to book tickets for next year’s festival when April swings back around.