Friends of Nature Festival Falters, Cancels Matisyahu and Cafe Tacvba's Headlining Sets

On Saturday, Mother Nature was no friend to the inaugural Friends of Nature Music & Arts Festival as an almost Biblical downpour forced the cancelation of all acts -- including headliner Matisyahu -- scheduled to go on stage after 7 p.m., by order of the fire department.

On Sunday, though, despite the weather being free and clear of storms, headliner Café Tacvba was missing in action too.

According to Friends of Nature's Facebook page: "FON FEST and representatives of Café Tacvba will work together to see if a rescheduled performance in an alternative venue may be possible in the near future, dependent on the band's previous commitments - but at this time no make-up date can as of yet be determined. Look for an updated announcement in the near future."

See also: Cafe Tacvba: "Music Comes From Nature, We Have to Keep It Safe and Love It"

Though Friends of Nature blamed these aborted sets from Matisyahu, Café Tacvba, and a number of other bands on bad weather, it appears that poor organization and lackluster ticket sales also contributed to the festival's faltering debut.

In the run-up to opening day, as the Miami Herald reports, the City of Miami nixed the use of a side stage for local bands after it was deemed to be in breach of sound ordinances. Meanwhile, O Cinema's tent never even opened, because of missing gear that FON Fest apparently failed to provide as planned.

And acts, like Nortec Collective's Bosstich and Fussible as well as Miami's Suénalo, have told the Herald of FON Fest's inability to pay band fees. "They said they were not going to be able to pay us," Nortec's label rep says, "they didn't have the funds, the walk-up [ticket sales] were not what they were expecting, and we should not perform."

Nevertheless, come Sunday afternoon, a balmy ocean breeze refreshed shirtless hippies throwing Frisbees between signs that warned of crocodiles.

Scattered throughout the beautiful site overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, there was a vast array of entertainments and diversions: the customary food trucks, a stage featuring electronic music, a man with a truck-sized contraption that stamped your dollar bills to read, "Not to be used for bribing politicians."

In the tent for stand-up comedy, the day's biggest laughs belonged to Forrest Shaw as he trashed the disorganization of the festival and worried about it being Veteran's Day tomorrow, joking that he'd have to sweat out another day to make sure their check cleared.

The frustration was understandable.

When you go to an event that describes itself as taking place rain or shine, it is assumed all advertised acts will perform no matter the weather, not simply that there will be no refunds even if the weather is too awful for the musical acts to perform.

But despite all these setbacks, Sunday was a marvelous day.

It was not too hot and there was a cool wind keeping kites in the air. The attendance was sparser than I'm sure the festival organizers would have liked, but it was a friendly festive crowd.

Throughout the daylight hours, the mainstage was populated by every Afro-Cuban-influenced band with bongos and horns in South Florida, save the Spam Allstars.

The best of this Latin-tinged lot was Uma Galera. This seven piece was the one band confident enough in its grooves to not feel the need to constantly ask the fans how they were feeling. It was obvious that most of the assembled Friends of Nature were feeling good, dancing, vibing out, and communing with the music.

As the sun set and Orion's belt became visible in the clear sky, a few different genres of music took the stage.

First was Los Angeles indie trio We Are Scentists, whose Rush-influenced whininess and witty banter (dedicating songs to all the food vendors, "even the not-good ones") stood in contrast to all that came before.

Next was Venezuela alt-rock crew La Vida Bohème's maiden Miami show. Though the band memebers sing in their native tongue, they boast Anglophile influences, occasionally sounding like a Spanish translation of Brit New Wave lovers, the Killers.

La Vida Bohème's most popular song, "Radio Capital," referenced the Ramones with a chorus of "Gabba gabba hey." But overall, the group's sound is more reminiscent of the Cure than New York punk.

The set became dreamier (and definitely weirder) when La Vida was joined on stage by ornate costumed stiltwalkers and dancers.

Finally at 11:30, an emcee apologized for the weather and announced that one of Saturday's performers had stayed to put on a show.

Dub FX took the stage with only his soundboard. He explained, "All the beats you are going to hear are made live," and then proceeded to throw down.

The Australian is a human beatbox who loops and modulates his voice, so it seems that there's an entire cast of characters singing his songs.

Dub FX was occasionally joined on stage by his freestyling manager who name checked Vanilla Ice and spaghetti while spitting clever, silly lyrics like, "Time flies like a watch in a plane."

As he played his last song, "Love Someone," Dub FX invited everyone backstage to join him on the stage and dance. There were ultimately as many people on the stage as watching.

It was one of those special moments that make you hope that Friends of Nature is not a one and done deal. The FON Fest folks found a great venue and introduced us to several fantastic international acts.

Now if only they can get the weather to cooperate. And you know, sharpen those organizational skills.

-- David Rolland

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