Entering its seventh year on the white sands of Fort Lauderdale Beach Park, Tortuga Music Festival remains a unique and mostly positive option on South Florida's steadily growing list of music fests. Known primarily for its bill of country music all-stars and earnest ocean conservation efforts, Tortuga has thrown a few choice wildcards into its lineups year after year. Consider 2018, when Keith Urban, Florida Georgia Line, and country pioneer Dwight Yoakam headlined alongside Snoop Dogg, Shaggy, and Cheap Trick.
While Tortuga consistently strives to diversify its genres, gender has been a different story. Last year's inequity was so glaring (the lineup featured only two women out of nearly 30 acts), New Times was prompted to publish a think piece about the subject. For 2019, Tortuga offers one of its biggest lineups ever, and of the 46 performers scheduled to play the three-day event, 21 of them are solo women artists or female-fronted bands. That's nearly half! And they're among country and pop music's brightest stars right now.
Here are New Times' picks for the five best acts playing Tortuga this weekend. Hell, yes, they're all badass ladies.
Carly Pearce. Born into the bluegrass brawn of Kentucky, Carly Pearce has one of those quintessential country-music backstories that becomes inseparable from her sound. After touring with a local band when she was 11 and quitting high school at 16 for a job performing at Dollywood outside Nashville, Pearce juggled home-schooling and odd jobs before finally striking gold. The gold-certified title track off her acclaimed debut album, Every Little Thing, made her the highest-charting solo female debut since July 2015 and one of only three to accomplish the feat in 12 years. Dubbed “the new voice of country” by People, Pearce last year took her textured vocals and emotive songwriting to four major tours alongside Blake Shelton, Thomas Rhett, Rascal Flatts, and Luke Bryan. She's scheduled to play the main stage Sunday, April 14, at 1:05 p.m.
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Delta Rae. Liz Hopkins and Brittany Holljes front this robust folk-rock six-piece from Durham, North Carolina. Hopkins' and Holljes' sultry harmonies are rounded out by Holljes’ brothers Eric (vocals, piano) and Ian (vocals, guitar), Mike McKee (drums), and Grant Emerson (bass). Regulars on the festival circuit and known for larger-than-life performances, Delta Rae headlines more than 100 shows a year and has earned coveted slots at Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, Firefly, Hangout Fest, Voodoo, Lollapalooza, and others. Touted by major outlets such as NPR, the Washington Post, and the New York Times and included in Forbes’ "30 Under 30" list, Delta Rae was named a band to watch in 2018 by Billboard, CMT, and Rolling Stone. Check them out on the Sunset stage Sunday, April 14, at 1:30 p.m.
Elle King. An alum of Tortuga 2016, Elle King delivers performances that can be summed up in one word: fiery. The 29-year-old daughter of actor and comedian Rob Schneider and former model London King, Elle has forged her own path as a Grammy-nominated blues-rock musician who's toured with everyone from Dixie Chicks to Train. When it came time for King to title the followup to her 2015 gold-certified debut Love Stuff, she explains in a statement: “I thought, How do I sum up ‘The year I lost my **** mind’ in an album title? Because that’s really what this record is about. I decided to call it Shake the Spirit because I was shaken to the core over the last year and a half. I was literally talking to ghosts... Putting this record out is like shaking myself awake.” King will take the Sunset stage Friday, April 12, at 5:10 p.m.
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Maren Morris. The 28-year-old Texas-born, Nashville-based Maren Morris has quickly established herself as an artist who effortlessly traverses the country, folk, and pop worlds. Rooted in country music, she's garnered a global fan base through her versatile vocal styling, honest lyrics, and magnetic stage presence. With appearances on Saturday Night Live, Good Morning America, Today, CBS Sunday Morning, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and The Voice, in addition to multiple stops on the late-night circuit, Morris has also garnered awards such as Billboard's Top Country Female Artist of 2018 and iHeartRadio Music's Song of the Year and Dance Song of the Year in 2018. Further proving her crossover chops, last year she collaborated with electronic house DJ and producer Zedd and electronic duo Grey for the megahit "The Middle." She'll play the main stage Saturday, April 13, at 6 p.m.
Sheryl Crow. A verified goddess of '90s pop-rock and accessible country hits, Sheryl Crow needs no introduction. She's sold more than 50 million albums worldwide and won nine Grammys (out of 32 nominations). Her songs "All I Wanna Do," "If It Makes You Happy," "My Favorite Mistake," and others form the soundtrack of many a millennial youth. Making her second Tortuga appearance (she first graced the stage in 2014), Crow will precede Kenny Chesney on the main stage when she performs at 6 p.m. Sunday, April 14.
Tortuga Music Festival. Friday, April 12, through Sunday, April 14, in Fort Lauderdale Beach Park, 1100 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; 888-512-7469. Tickets cost $135 to $1,799 via tortugamusicfestival.com.