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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

More than a thousand fans jam out at Playground Music and Arts Festival

13 indie bands played at Heartwood Soundstage Saturday

<p>Robbie Kingsley, lead singer of The Hails, performing their hit song “Younger” for Gainesville fans at Playground Music Festival at Heartwood Soundstage Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022.</p>

Robbie Kingsley, lead singer of The Hails, performing their hit song “Younger” for Gainesville fans at Playground Music Festival at Heartwood Soundstage Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022.

As the last note played and the crowd began to simmer, a quick moment of silence turned into a stampede as the audience moved from the “see” stage to the “saw” stage, chatting excitedly about the act to come. 

More than 1,000 people from across the state flocked to a small Gainesville venue in the sticky summer heat Saturday, headbanging and jumping up and down to local indie acts. Thirteen bands played back-to-back sets at the Playground Music and Arts Festival. The festival was hosted by Heartwood Soundstage as a kick-off to indie rock band flipturn’s debut album, “Shadowglow,” which dropped Aug. 19.

The nearly 11-hour festival was organized as a collaboration between Heartwood, flipturn, the band’s touring company Atlas and UF music label Swamp Records. 

Flipturn manager Sam Heekin, 26, said he partnered with Swamp Records in order to help promote the local music scene in Gainesville. 

Flipturn headlined the festival, performing last in the lineup with a two-hour set from 9 to 11 p.m. Since the band’s creation in 2015, it has gained a loyal fanbase that has allowed them to play larger venues and launch a cross-U.S. tour.

Bassist Madeline Jarman said the band has grown considerably since its early days. 

“We started out just having like 20 of our friends that we basically forced to buy a ticket to come to our show,” Jarman said. “Seeing the fan base blossom in other cities like Atlanta and throughout Florida has been really neat.”

The band wanted to do something special in Gainesville following the release of its debut album, flipturn’s publicist Madi Florence said.

Florence, 24, has been close with the band members since college. Holding a show the week school started has been a tradition the group wished to bring back with Playground, she said.

“It's an excuse to get all the friends together,” Florence said. “A lot of us graduated during COVID, and it was like a very non-goodbye to everybody.”

Dave Melosh, the 42-year-old co-founder and general manager of Heartwood Soundstage, said the festival contracted bands through flipturn and their management team. The total cost of the event was estimated to be around $40,000 to $50,000, Melosh said. Bars and food kiosks were set up around the venue, offering people a refreshing drink to beat the 90-degree heat. 

Playground was the first festival experience for Maggie Tran, a 19-year-old UF music sophomore. 

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Initially, Tran said, she thought she wouldn’t have fun at the festival because she’s 4 feet, 11 inches tall — worried she wouldn’t be able to see the performances. But she did. Tran was especially excited to see flipturn perform at the end of the night.

“I’ve listened to their music,” Tran said. “They have no skips.”

Bruce Floyd, the social media director for the Florida Gators, said he came out to hear “quality live music.” Floyd, 50, is a flipturn fan who said he follows other acts on social media.

“A lot of them originated in Gainesville, and it's been nice to see them sort of blossom and expand,” Floyd said. “This is a fantastic opportunity to see a lot of these bands who have come back and have spent all this time tightening up, getting better.”

Isis Aguilar drove two hours from New Port Richey to see flipturn for the fourth or fifth time since she was introduced to the band at a house show two years ago.

Aguilar, 24, said she recently listened to flipturn’s album, “Shadowglow,” and plans to support the band on any future music endeavors. 

“I’m very proud of them. When I followed them, it was in the house show,” Aguilar said. “This was also like a year ago, and now they have a whole festival.”

Orlando-based rock band The Forum has performed with flipturn in the past. The band began in Gainesville in 2016 while members Michael Higgins, Nick Wheeler, Jake Farrell and Ethan Klohr were UF students. Higgins, Farrell and Wheeler met each other through Craigslist ads, which served as inspiration for the band’s name.

The Forum performed a 40-minute set that had the crowd dancing and jumping along to the beat. 

“Heartwood has its own built-in community,” Higgins, 27, said. “The crowd was very receptive, and I’m glad that many people were here as early as they were.”

Farrell, 25, said the band experiments with different concepts to create its own sound. Though Higgins writes most of the lyrics, all of the members come together to produce the music. 

“We're entertainers,” he said. “That's not the same thing as being a musician. When you are in a band, you are like 50% musician and 50% entertainer.”

One performance attendees were looking forward to was Driveaway, a local indie band that draws influence from hip-hop, R&B and pop. 

Bassist Tanner Ropp, 23, said one of the most exciting parts of playing Playground was connecting with other musicians.

“It’s really cool seeing all these bands in the same place because we’ve crossed paths with a lot of them throughout our journey here in Florida,” Ropp said. “So, it’s been really fun to all come together because everybody’s met each other at some point.”

Ropp’s passion for music began in first grade when his parents signed him and his brother and current bandmate, Trenton Ropp, 25, up for piano lessons. From that point forward, both brothers started learning how to play guitar, playing local churches and looking for members to form a band.

The Ropp brothers’ love for music led to an interest in live performance, resulting in the creation of the band Driveaway alongside guitarist Kyle Boswell Tapley, 26. 

Shortly following the band’s formation, Driveaway has had the opportunity to perform at Gainesville staples like High Dive, and they’ve become recurring performers at Heartwood.

Swamp Records bands The Forum, Madwoman and Driptones also performed at Playground. Kayleigh Thomas, the 21-year-old Swamp Records co-president, said tickets began to sell fast when the lineup dropped in April.

“I think events like this are that uniting factor of Gainesville,” Thomas said.

Contact Erina at and Isabella at Follow them on Twitter @ErinaAnwar_  and @IsabellaMarzban.

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Erina Anwar

Erina is a second-year journalism student and reports on East Gainesville for The Alligator. Originally from Dhaka, Bangladesh, Erina grew up in Fort Lauderdale and is excited to discover new stories in Gainesville. When she’s not writing, she enjoys exploring local restaurants and watching Korean dramas.

Isabella Marzban

Isabella Marzban is a fourth-year journalism major and an avenue reporter for The Alligator. You'll usually find her going on hikes, listening to classic rock on her record player, and doing yoga with her friends. 

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