PALM COAST – After a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19 and its variants, the annual Flo.wav Fest music festival made its grand return to Palm Coast on Saturday, and not much could’ve gone better than the way it did. The largest gathering of musicians from Flagler and the surrounding counties drew attendees from all over North and Central Florida.
Much was uncertain in bringing back a beloved event three years removed from its last running. For one thing, a series of new apartment buildings had been constructed just next to the Palm Coast Arts Foundation stage, where the festival was held. New parking arrangements had to be made, and the talent pool that organizers had to draw from had changed drastically since 2019. With all this in mind, organizers Dylan Parra and Mike Biller would’ve been more than excused had the event been smaller in scale than its predecessors. They had a pass. But they didn’t use it.
Two grand stages stood opposite one another for the headlining acts, one permanent and one set up for the occasion. A third stage, operated by local music godfather Artie Gardella, played host to some of the smaller-scale performers who were booked to the festival (including the author of this article). Each act was scheduled to minimized overlap with the other stages, creating an environment where no artist had to be missed by necessity and clashing sound waves didn’t ruin anyone’s set.
The cherry on the cake came in the form of Maika Maile – performing simply as MAIKA – headlining the festival on its second stage. Maile spent years building international fame as the frontman of the pop punk band There for Tomorrow. Though the group no longer exists, Maile delivered an electric performance of his own solo compositions.
Also on the mind of attendees was the recent passing of Tristen Nash, a local artist who was scheduled to open up the day on the C Stage. Nash died of cardiac arrest on Thursday.
It was the third time the festival was held in Palm Coast, its inaugural year taking place at Sarbez, a grilled cheese bar in St. Augustine. Where the festival’s tenure in Palm Coast had gone mostly smoothly in years prior, the city was less hospitable on Saturday. Each performance slot had been moved back about an hour by the end of the event (an inevitability of music festivals), and so Maile began his headlining set around 10:00 pm. By around 10:30, city employees contacted festival organizers demanding proceedings wrap up immediately. Maile’s set was cut short mid-song.
The only residences within earshot of the stage were the Central Landings apartments, which were built with the Arts Foundation stage already in place. City ordinances state that noise from 10:00 pm to 7:00 am was required to be 55 decibels or under in residential areas, and 65 decibels for commercial areas. The sound from the festival no doubt exceeded both numbers, but it calls into question what the city was thinking when presumably it gave organizers the initial go-ahead, only to act on a violation later on.
Palm Coast also hosted the Palm Coast Fall Arts Festival nearby in the Town Center area, with its own live music and arts displays. The methodology of the two events falling concurrently is unknown, but it’s easy to imagine a degree of competition having existed between the two events.
In any event, Flo.wav Fest was a triumph in spite of some of the hindrances it was presented with. Just under a year out, it’s hard not to be excited for the the 2023 edition of the festival. The best and brightest talent of Palm Coast and Flagler County are sure to be on the list for next year too, whether or not their hometown has the honor of hosting them again.