Despite Big Bookings, Riptide 2019 Fails to Improve

the killers
The Killers at Riptide 2019, photo by Rob Loud @robloud

The 2019 edition of Riptide Music Festival was the biggest and boldest yet, in a number of different ways. Now in its fourth year, the festival booked the most substantial acts in its history, and drew what is likely its largest-ever crowd for a Saturday lineup that featured The Killers and The 1975. 

The festival has continued to slowly move away from its original format, which stacked indie and alternative acts on Saturday and older, “throwback” type groups on Sunday. This year, rather than Earth, Wind & Fire or KC & the Sunshine Band, Jimmy Eat World headlined the festival’s second and final day, bringing the Sunday booking from the 70’s to the 90’s. 

riptide

Despite a number of clear steps forward, this year’s edition of Riptide failed to address many of the issues that have plagued the event since its inception in 2016.

While organizers finally added enough restrooms to accommodate the large crowd, they still didn’t place any within a five minute walk of the main stage, which has been attendees’ most consistent gripe over the event’s four years.

Though they booked the Killers, an indisputably massive act that’s large enough to headline the American Airlines Arena, they didn’t do anything to improve sightlines at the main stage. Views to the stage were still impeded by trees and a far-too-large sound booth / viewing deck / bar structure that takes up a disproportionate amount of space in front of the center of the stage. 

The vendors were successful, as they have been in past years, and the addition of White Claw as a sponsor seemed to be a huge hit with the crowd. The vendors were so successful, in fact, that trash piled up on the grounds as cans went unemptied for hours on end.

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Sound issues permeated the early sets on Saturday afternoon, with particularly glaring issues during the Silversun Pickups’ midafternoon slot. The group’s opening song was performed without any sound from the snare drum, an issue that simply shouldn’t happen at a festival of Riptide’s size. After a stagehand made his way to the kit to plug the snare mic back in, sound levels continued to fluctuate wildly throughout the set. 

In short, this year’s Riptide was beset by the same issues that have marred previous iterations of the event, and until organizers address the complaints of annual attendees, the experience isn’t going to improve much. 

the killers
The Killers at Riptide 2019, photo by Rob Loud @robloud

With all that being said, the festival still fills in a glaring hole in South Florida’s musical landscape– particularly considering the struggles of similar events to survive in the area. Look no further than the aborted Miami Beach Pop Festival for proof of those struggles– it was cancelled before its inaugural event even took place. Riptide deserves credit for surviving long enough to cultivate a dedicated following, and continues to deliver solid lineups of indie, alternative, rock, and more. 

As long as the festival continues to bring solid acts to South Florida, fans will continue to make their way to Fort Lauderdale Beach Park for the event, and this year was no exception to that rule. Red-hot critical darlings The 1975 provided a set that made a convincing argument for the all the acclaim the group has received in recent years, and The Killers were exactly the climactic fist-pumping factory of sing-along rock that fans and organizers hoped for, just to name a few.

For all its flaws, Riptide capitalizes on South Florida’s strengths in a way that no other regional musical event has been able to. There’s no better time to be outside all day in Fort Lauderdale than in early winter, and there’s nothing like enjoying a day (or two) of music with your feet in the sand. Regardless of the issues outlined above, Riptide will almost certainly continue to succeed as long as it continues to bring big-name rock acts to the beach in South Florida. 

Riptide Music Festival 2019 Setlists