Summer has officially ended, leaves are turning, the weather is cooling, and the festival season has ended. This year saw the glorious return of outdoor music festivals, and attendance has skyrocketed. They proved that people are ready to get out amongst fellow music lovers and rock out. With its fantastic line-up, the Oceans Calling music festival was the perfect exclamation mark to end the summer fest season.
A record number of fans (and many seagulls) flooded the sands and boardwalk of the scenic town of Ocean City, Maryland. They were taking in the carnival-like attractions, cheating on their diets with boardwalk munchies and delicious eats from top local food vendors.
Three massive stages dotted the beach. On one side, the excitement of the boardwalk; on the other, the Atlantic ocean churning and flowing almost in tune with the music, and in the center of it all, a carnival. I loved the juxtaposition of it all. The atmosphere was entertaining. Whether you wanted to chill on the beach and take in the tunes, or if you wanted to spend the day winning stuffed animals and watching your favorite band from a Ferris wheel.
But enough about the absurdly fun atmosphere. After Hurricane Ian prevented the last Oceans Calling, festival co-founders, partners, and local legends O.A.R. took a massive swing with this one, and they 100% knocked it out of the park!
There were some killer acts on the bill all three days. Not only were huge names like Jack Johnson and John Mayer part of the line-up. There were also some tremendous up-and-coming acts and current hit makers as well.
Michigander was the first band I chose to take in. Having never heard of them, I went in with a completely open mind. I was not disappointed, and neither was the crowd.
Nathaniel Radcliffe and the Night Sweats put on an incredible set. They were grabbing the massive crowd with his songs “A Little Honey” from Tearing at the Seams (2018) and “S.O.B” from his 2015 self-titled album. His embellished guitar solos and heavy, funky, bluesy voice made for an excellent live performance.
Fitz and the Tantrums had everyone waiting with sweaty palms, anxious to let loose when prompted during the song “Clap.” The thunderous simultaneous clap of over 50,000 people was in awe. I saw people stop, drop everything they were doing, turn around, and clap rhythmically on command.
Honestly, if I had to make a complaint, it would be that there were just too many great acts, some at the same time. I most definitely had to make some difficult decisions. The three stages, Rockville, Sea Bright, and the more intimate Carousel stage, all offered unique and varied performances across three days.
Peach Pit was my second band of choice, day 1. I was pretty stoked to hear these guys. These boys from Vancouver came to put on a damn show! Opening with a favorite, “Tommy’s Party” from the Being So Normal. Lead singer Neil Smith’s velveteen vocals warm your soul. Christopher Vanderkooy’s lead guitar was a sight to see on the title track of that very same album. He mercilessly wailed on his guitar and delivered some of day one’s tastiest licks. Peter Wilton’s bass lead-in for the song “Alrighty Aphrodite” is still stuck in my head.
Toad the Wet Sprocket had a great set, providing the comfort tunes we all know and love like “Come Down” and the location-appropriate “Walk on the Ocean,” which had the crowd swaying like the sea.
Third Eye Blind completely blew me away; they came out full tilt performing “Thanks A Lot” from their 1997 self-titled release we all know and love. They also performed and completely nailed the Joy Division’s song “Disorder.”
Alanis Morissette was an absolute force of nature on stage, from the moment she stepped on stage blowing the harmonica intro to “All I Really Want” from Jagged Little Pill up until the final song from her set of classics “Thank U” from Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie (1998).
O.A.R. closed out night one. The co-founders of the fest looked pumped at the turnout. Lead singer Marc Roberge’s smile beamed from ear to ear. They started their rain-soaked set with “In the Clouds” from The Arcade (2022). It quickly became emotional as the band thanked the crowd for coming out and dedicated the song “Love and Memories” off 2005’s Story of a Stranger to their friends, family, and everyone in attendance. They closed the night with the track “Night Shift/ Stir It Up,” a fan favorite, ending the first night on the perfect high note.
Matt and Kim gave one of the most fun performances of the entire fest. The electric duo of Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino put on a short set but burst at the seams with energy. The two use the whole stage to their advantage. During the opening song, “Cameras,” Kim hopped atop her drum set to hype the crowd while Matt bopped up and down, laying on the notes of his keyboard. When they reached the song “Daylight” on their setlist, two massive beach balls and several blow-up dolls were smacked around the crowd, which was a fun sight.
Jimmy Eat World put on a dark and moody set on the Carousel stage. They were opening with the song “Pain” from the 2004 Futures. Lead singer Jim Adkins shredded on the song “Sweetness” from 2001’s Bleed America, engaging his legendary hair flip, which was spectacular to experience in person. I couldn't help but sing aloud when they played “A Praise Chorus.” All of a sudden, I was transported back to high school, listening to the song non-stop on my CD Walkman.
Incubus was another band I was anticipating, and they crushed it. Lead singer Brandon Boyd’s vocals hypnotized the massive audience. Mike Einziger’s guitar screeched like a perfect blend of Hendrix and Zappa. Nicole Row’s bass took memorable bass lines and ultimately made them her own. She completely crushed the low end on “Privilege” from 99’s Make Yourself. The audience was mesmerized when they played “Absolution Calling” from the 2020 EP Trust Fall. Boyd owns the stage and almost appears to be having a spiritual experience. By the time they played “Pardon Me,” the band was on fire. Watching the gigantic audience lose their shit when the chorus hit was one of my many goosebumps moments.
Weezer “Wow, there's like a zillion people here,” Rivers Cuomo exclaimed as he took to the mic. They started their set with “My Name is Jonas,” it was like putting on the Blue Album for the first time again. When the crowd sang the lyrics “fresh out of batteries, but still making noise!” It was electrifying. Watching Rivers, the king of freaks and geeks, morph from quiet and unassuming to an absolute rock god was an absolute pleasure. Sure, we all know he's a legend already, but seeing the transformation live is a special treat. Brian Bell’s talk box solo on “Beverly Hills” was legendary. While Rivers and Bell dualed guitars, Scott Shriner brought out a double-necked bass and laid down that signature bass line. When they performed “Return to Ithaka” from Everything Will Be Alright, the crowd echoed with screams and applause during the high-octane instrumental. A favorite moment of mine was when they played “Only in Dreams.” Which started as a song long until I looked around and saw mouths fly open when Rivers took to the front of the stage, tongue out, and murdered his guitar in front of a sea of people. In the end, he raised his arms and bathed in the audience's roar—another goosebump moment.
The Lumineers closed out the fest in perfect fashion. They were opening with Wesley Shultz (lead singer, guitar) singing “Cleopatra” from the 2016 album of the same name. During “Flowers in Your Hair,” Lauren Jacobson (violin) and Bryon Isaacs (bass) walked out onto an extended stage, and the performance seemed to turn from a massive gathering to a more intimate setting. They were later joined by Jeremiah Fraites (drums) and Brandon Miller (guitar) for the song “Hey Ho” from the 2012 self-titled album. My last goosebump moment of the fest was singing along with the crowd to “Slow It Down,” which was a pleasure to see live.
With so many astounding performances, Oceans Calling is a must for all festival goers. O.A.R. has a winner on their hands. The music, food, and staff were all top-notch. This being the inaugural run, I was impressed on every level. I know next year will be even bigger and better. The setting, the approaching fall weather, and the surrounding atmosphere make Oceans Calling the perfect bookend to the summer festival season.
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