The festival was taking on water, and the seaside concert grounds sank under an apocryphal four inches of rain during the night of Friday, Sept. 29, forcing organizers deep into backup planning.
Almost 55,000 concert attendees were to arrive the next morning for the first day of the Sound on Sound, and organizers had to move quickly to adjust to the weather—the classic setup for a Woodstock-style hullabaloo, if Woodstock had VIP sections and John Mayer’s “Your Body is a Wonderland.”
“Our crews have been working hard throughout the night and morning to prepare the grounds,” Clarion Call publicist Chris Vinyard wrote in a press release.
Preparations included laying mulch, 1,000 tons of gravel, and walkways throughout Seaside Park. To preserve the integrity of the grounds and the full set times for headlining acts, festival organizers delayed the start and cut four of the opening bands from Saturday’s lineup, including Sammy Rae & The Friends and Bridgeport local JULAI and the Serotones.
“I think there was pretty poor communication about the adjustments,” festival attendee Nicole Xing said of the rain delay. “Overall though, it was still enjoyable, probably in no small part due to the festival planning.”
Other festival attendees agreed with Xing and lamented the overall criticism of how organizers responded to the intense rain and mud.
“Can no one be happy ever?” Floyd Malmbord commented on a Sound on Sound Instagram post, in response to complaints about the conditions. “It was great. Muddy cause of rain and they did all they ever could of done to save the festival.”
Bridgeport residents also seemed unaware of the scope of the festival, as New York-plated cars filled residential streets, creating traffic that was—as you would imagine—unimaginable. As gridlocked cars blocked the central streets of Bridgeport on my drive in, I passed a contractor’s truck with “Bridgeport Terminator” written on the side.
“Jesus Christ,” the contractor yelled to the passing cars. “I should have worked yesterday!”
“Any parking tips?” I yelled back.
“Turn fucking around,” he replied stoically.
Jamming Into the Night
The Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP) closed Saturday, their first performance in Connecticut since 2000. Their 14-song set included classic hits such as “Scar Tissue” and “Dani California,” in addition to deeper cuts (“Me and My Friends” and “I Could Have Lied”) and newer material from their two 2022 albums (“Eddie” and “Here Ever After”).
As I’ve written for The Provincetown Independent before, the RHCP do not have a great track record with music festivals. A fiery ending to their set finale at Woodstock ’99 might reflect their punk rock beginnings, but the band members are now old enough to withdraw from their well-funded Roth IRAs, so it makes sense that they’ve mellowed out in their new album Return of the Dream Canteen.
“I didn’t love their two most recent albums, but they really blew me away live,” Xing said. “Flea in particular. Live performance really brings out his jazz background, and he had such interesting lines and licks.”
Though getting noticeably older (Anthony Kiedis’ shirt stayed conspicuously on during the performance), they jumped and jammed as always, bantering with the audience.
“The air smells good up here,” Flea said.
“The air smells like someone ate 20 tons of marijuana and farted,” Kiedis replied.
At one point, Chad Smith announced an afterparty at a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts. Flea, ever the late-night soul, voiced his preference for the iconic Yale college bar Toad’s Place.
During the performance, their sound engineer turned up the subwoofers to such an extent that Smith’s bass drum hits reverberated through bodies of festival goers during the performance.
“Turn down the bass next year!” Lindsey Williams commented on Sound on Sound’s Instagram post. “It was physically painful at the stage in the VIP section…”
Preceding the RHCP, Trey Anastasio and his group phenomenally funked it up for an hour-long set. Backup vocalists Natalie Cressman and Jennifer Hartswick shined as they accompanied the group with soulful licks on trumpet and trombone.
Alt-percussionist Cyro Baptista, however, was truly the star of the weekend, playing every possible percussive instrument, including swimming flippers, agogo bells, and the Brazilian apito whistle.
Earlier in the day, indie folk artist Lord Huron and rock group Nathanial Rateliff & The Night Sweats were among the other headliners.
Integral to such a seamless weekend was the festival’s unique rotating stage. While one band performed, sound engineers and roadies prepared the next group’s setup backstage. Then, when the set ended, the producers rotated the stage 180 degrees, which cut down set transition times to a truly impressive 10 minutes.
A small army of crew workers enabled the festival’s success, streamlining everything from trash and recycling collection and festival security to directing traffic around the festival. Backstage, dozens of artists’ tour buses, construction vehicles, and sound engineers maintained the festival’s strict schedule.
According to the CT Post, Bridgeport received $726,535 from the organizers for last year’s festival, including reimbursement for police overtime costs. Founders Entertainment, the group which runs Sound on Sound, has a ten year-long contract with Bridgeport.
Sunday, Oct. 1 brought sunshine, crowds, and Bridgeport’s own John Mayer.
“He loves Connecticut,” Governor Ned Lamont introduced him. “We love Connecticut. We love John Mayer.”
So close to home, Mayer’s father was the long-time principal of local Bridgeport Central High School, and Mayer joked that he first really discovered music when he would listen to the confiscated walkmans his dad brought home from school.
A stellar lineup, Alanis Morisette and Hozier delivered fantastic sets as well. Dispatch and Mt. Joy rounded out the day with afternoon performances.
Thomas Lyons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.