There was something electric buzzing in the salty air blowing northeast up the Delmarva Peninsula on this unforgettable Saturday. Festival-goers were still glowing from the inaugural splendor of Oceans Calling day one extravaganza the day before. The collective energy was palpable. Not even the low pressure storm system migrating up the coast could deter the melomaniacs of all ages from charging Ocean City, Maryland’s iconic boardwalk & pier to dance in the sand with the likes of John Mayer, Incubus, Ben Harper and many more as part of Ocean Callings three day music and arts festival.
Virginia Coalition (VACO), dubbed “our oldest musical friends” by festival host O.A.R.’s frontman Marc Roberge, kicked off the day on the Sea Bright Stage. VACO is no stranger to Ocean City, having performed regionally for the past two decades; longtime staples in the DMV scene. I personally fist pumped when I saw their name on the bill. Andrew Poliakoff’s (lead vocals & guitar) voice is forever ingrained as one of my high school musical inspirations, a synesthetic portal to much simpler times. VACO undoubtedly earned thousands of new adoring fans kicking off Ocean Callings’ main stage. If you’re not already hip to these guys, do yourself a favor and deep dive into their collection.
Continuing the nostalgia from high school daze, Gin Blossoms came out swinging with a gripping performance of “Follow You Down”, that I and 50,000 new friends sang backup vocals for. My personal favorite was singing at the top of my lungs to their i’m-not-crying-you’re-crying performance of “Hey Jealousy”. One of my favorite moments in time captured over the weekend.
But watch out “Flashback Friday”, Saturday at Oceans Calling was just warming up. Dispatch, who was high on my weekend’s list of must-see-acts, general-ed a sea of die-hard fans with hearts of gold through an all-you-can-eat anthem buffet kicking off Saturday evening. Proud longtime fan over here. If you have a chance to catch their tour, don’t miss out.
The true sign of a kick ass music festival lineup is…a schedule conflict. Saturday evening left fans with some tough decisions. The Top Shelf crew hit a figurative fork in the road…Sheryl Crow vs Matt & Kim. No wrong answers here. One of us headed to Sheryl Crow at Sea Bright Stage, while I attended Matt & Kim at the Carousel Stage. The ole’ divide and conquer method, it’s festival science. Both sets did not disappoint, as a record number of people poured into the inlet as the rain ramped up. Not a problem, dancing in the rain like nobody’s watching is my specialty.
As rain fell sideways, The Innocent Criminals walked out just moments before their frontman, Ben Harper and began to serenade the soaking crowd with a sky splitting a cappella introduction. Adoring fans were treated to the most beautiful layered harmony as the sun made its first appearance all weekend; miraculously breaking through the storm clouds and the rain stopped. As much needed UV rays warmed the hearts of a sea of admiring fans, including myself, I looked back across the inlet parking lot in awe of the true splendor that is Oceans Calling. What a magical time to be alive.
The night was only warming up, and fans were faced with yet another tough decision, as newcomer Noah Kahn took Sea Bright stage at the same time 90’s sensation Jimmy Eat World packed the Carousel Stage. Nostalgia won the day, and so did the vocal stylings of front man Jim Atkins of Jimmy Eat World. “Are you listening? Woah-o-o-O!” is still echoing in my head from their moving performance of their 2002 smash hit “Sweetness”. Ocean City’s inlet has never been more electric.
A title wave of rock connoisseurs flooded the Rockville stage to watch front man and heartthrob, Brandon Boyd of Incubus deliver a truly monumental performance. These seasoned vets took no prisoners as faces melted into the sands of the Maryland shore, but most “Stellar” of all was the gripping performance by Nicole Row, the band’s newest addition holding down the bass and hitting those iconic drops just right.
The crowd still thick rushed over to catch John Mayer as he closed out day two on the Sea Bright stage. Women and men of all ages shouted their love for the dreamboat at the top of their lungs to which Mayer responded with blushed cheeks and a shy “thank you”. Throughout the intimate solo performance, Mayer displayed an uncanny way of transforming an ocean of people into a backyard beach bonfire. Fans floated down the lazy river of Mayer’s catalog of hits and smooth jams. The only thing warmer than the spotlight shinning upon Mayer were the hearts of yet another day of adoring fans. Such a special milestone in Maryland music history.
The only thing between us and day three was a giddy walk down the boardwalk, Thrasher’s fries in hand.
Photography by Jenna Shaw