Oceans Calling 2023: Day One

Of A Revolution (O.A.R.) and industry titan C3 Presents partnered with the town of Ocean City in Maryland to host the first annual Oceans Calling Music Festival. After two grueling years, battling mother nature, through hurricane seasons, navigating uncharted waters, breaking new barriers and against all odds Oceans Callings planted a forever flag on the shoreline planting Ocean City on the map as the Mid-Atlantic’s premier festival grounds. Hats off to all those involved.   

September 29th – October 1st fans of all ages traveled far and wide to dance barefoot on the beach. Kevin Gibbs, owner of local pizzaria, Dough Roller — with two locations within the festival, the business owner shared that there was a 70/30 split; 70% of attendees were tourists most of which were new to the area.”

Fans flocked to see headliners Jack Johnson, John Mayer, Alanis Morissette, The Lumineers, and event co-host O.A.R. among others. As a native of the Eastern Shore of Maryland, I grew up on the beach in Ocean City and it still amazes me how magnetic this place truly is. I flew back from my current home in California to partake in the inaugural splendor. This event is a long time dream come true. I can honestly say it lived up to the hype. Proud moment.   

Nestled in the sand, smack dab in the heart of the Delmarvalous Peninsula’s most historic beach town, Ocean City. Sandwiched between the shore break of the Atlantic and OC’s iconic boardwalk, Oceans Calling hosted 30 bands & 50,000 a day of adoring fans to their first official music festival in OCMD. Guests were not only treated to three stages of entertainment, each ticket also granted attendees access to the Jolly Rogers Amusement Pier, who’s ferris wheel, rides, and games silhouetted the festival’s picturesque skyline. Personally, I’ve been blessed to work and attend hundreds of festivals nationwide, each of which boast their own unique flavor, but I’ve never experienced a music festival that incorporates local business and provides exclusive access to an iconic boardwalk.

Such an organic vibe. 

Day one of the three day extravaganza kicked off with Calder Allen, Devon Gilfillian and a cooking demo by Chef Robert Irvine with Michael Franti and Marc Roberge. Michigander kicked off an afternoon set. The brainchild of Michigan natives Jason Singer and his band of indie rockers, who flew back from their European tour with The Manchester Orchestra to join the fun on the Rockville Stage pumped up the already massive crowd. Next up, on the Sea Bright stage, an electric set by Peach Pit exploded! Vancouver native, hipster-pop-rock band fronts the band as the lead singer Neil Smith with lead guitarist Christpher Vanderkooy, bassist Peter Wilton, and drummer Mikey Pascuzzi completing the lineup. This was my first time catching both Michigander and Peach Pit. I was thoroughly impressed and can officially say they earned new fans that day. I highly encourage a deep dive into their music libraries, we’ll be seeing more from both of these acts.  

Toad The Wet Sprocket and Declan Mckenna, of course, set the perfect vibe but it was Ocean Beach, CA legends, Slightly Stoopid, that surprised the audience with a killer set including saxophone GOAT, Karl Denson, a fellow SD native and the front man of Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe. Anthem after anthem, Stoopid delivered a high energy set filled with crowd favorites. Their performance more so resembled a church service than a concert, as the audience sang in unison to front men Miles Doughty and Kyle McDonald’s every word.  

Back at the Rockville Stage, Third Eye Blind teleported us down memory lane with a nostalgic set filled with semi-charmed hits that melted hearts of Gen-Xers and elder-millennials alike. Songwriting sensation Stephan Jenkins has been rocking stages with Third Eye Blind since their debut back in 1996 and their Friday set was no exception.

Michael Franti, on the Carousel Stage, and Alanis Morissette, on the Sea Bright Stage, faced-off forcing fans to make a tough decision. Having seen Ocean City regular, Michael Frante dozens of times, the decision to migrate to Alanis Morissette was a no brainer. Morissette kicked off her performance with a tear jerking time-capsule video presentation guiding fans through her 30+ year career. Hit after hit, she delivered a jaw dropping performance, one which left a lasting impression.

The pendulum swung back to the Rockville Stage to catch Rockville MD natives and Ocean Calling co-host, O.A.R., perform a thrilling sunset set. Adoring fans belted out lyrics to their high school and college anthems at the top of their lungs. A truly nostalgic tribute to a much simpler time in life. From loving memories to crazy games of poker O.A.R did not disappoint — which was an enormous feat seeing as the rain misted attendees throughout the entire performance. No one seemed to even notice. 

Despite that though, there was no better way to close out day one than a star studded performance by, Hawaii native, surf sensation, Jack Johnson. Johnson served up banana pancakes before inviting longtime friends, Slightly Stoopid including Karl Denson (who has been featured on a number of Johnson’s hits) for a very special tribute to Tom Petty. Johnson invited Karl to stay and invited up Michael Franti to join in on the fun. Jack Johnson proved to be the people’s champion of day one, as he packed the Sea Bright stage with a record breaking crowd for Ocean City, MD. After a moment of reflection, Johnson paused to address the crowd,

“look we’re doing our best to play it cool, but this is the most people we’ve ever played for!” 

Worn out from 12 hours of dancing, a margarita and a quick fist pump with DJ Papi Roisterous at Guidos Burritos was all that stood between us and day two.

Photography by Jenna Shaw

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