Unicorns could be seen floating at Cool River Ranch this weekend.
San Martians came in troves, equipped with inflatable unicorn inner tubes and beach balls Aug. 28-30 for the second annual Float Fest event.
The festival featured a unique vibe and unforgettable performances across two stages and three days. Festivalgoers listened to artists such as Local Natives, Ghostland Observatory and Phantogram.
Each day of the festival showcased very different genres of music.
Friday’s lineup highlighted mostly indie rock artists whose performances seemed to be a carefree representation of what many of the musical artists abilities.
Although the day was jam-packed with great artists, it seemed that many people chose to stay at the river until the sun began to set.
Greg Earl, University of Texas at Austin student, said he was surprised to see how relaxed the festival was.
“It has actually been pretty intimate because there are not a lot of people here compared to what I was expecting,” Earl said. “I would say it is pretty laidback and you don’t feel as stressed to go to each show because everyone is just kind of hanging out all over.”
Friday’s highlight happened in the heat of the day, as crowds still soaking wet from the river watched Taylor Muse, Quiet Company lead singer, leave the stage to stand side-by-side with them during a cover of Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets.”
Muse said the band, which has been together for nine years, strives to leave everything on the stage during their performances.
“I think it was pretty good. Man, I had an awesome time,” Muse said. “My first goal was to pass out onstage, but that’s never happened to me before. So I set a goal for myself to throw up and never quite got there.”
Local Natives hit the main stage Friday night as the headliners for day one. Their set featured enough energetic drumming and smooth three-part harmonies to get any audience member up off their blanket as they danced to the beat.
People showed up in droves for day two of the festival, dressed casually in T-shirts, bathing suits and the occasional flower crown.
Crowds were treated to electric and hip-hop performances that were as musically sound as they were aesthetically pleasing.
Sam Lao, who performed in the early afternoon, said the festival was a nice way to become familiar with the San Marcos community.
“This is my first time ever in San Marocs,” Lao said. “I happen to love areas like this with the countryside that just feel a little bit more open and more relaxed. I love that there is a sense of community here.”
Lao said the event had a very different vibe from larger productions like the Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL) and South By Southwest (SXSW).
“Float Fest feels a little more homey to me, and I don’t mean that in a bad way its just that something like SXSW can get really overwhelming,” Lao said. “Places like San Marcos that seem to be more appreciative when big artists come and I feel like those are the people who become real fans.”
Saturday’s standout performance came from Ghostland Observatory, whose concert captivated festivalgoers with its synchronized laser show and floating unicorn tubes scattered across the audience.
Anthony Erikson, Float Fest marketing director, said the decision to extend the festival to three days was a no-brainer.
“It was very well-received last year and we had just over 6,000 people,” Erikson said. “We just wanted to be able to provide a more diverse musical lineup and more opportunities for folks to enjoy the river and camping on the ranch.”
Erikson said Marcus Federman, Texas State alumnus, founded the festival last year.
“He lived in San Marcos for years and enjoyed many floats on the river and was a musician himself,” Erikson said. “He eventually got the idea to combine two of Texas’ favorite pastimes into one great event.”
Mutemath, Youngblood Hawke, Wild Cub, Sarah Jaffe and Mobley were just a few of the acts that performed throughout the festival’s final day.
Each performance built on the one before it until Phantogram ended the night with an explosion of energy that captivated audience members.
Follow Mariah Simank on Twitter at @MariahSimank