Published on February 2nd, 2022

After a pandemic hiatus, northern Florida’s Winterland IV music festival is back and, in the founders’ words, “living on the edge of natural and digital decay.”

This free-admission two-day event at Jacksonville’s Riverfront Plaza in late February promises visual and interactive installations as well as vendors, food trucks and best of all a stellar set of performers. Among the 30 national and regional acts announced as of press time: medium-bending music man Reggie Watts; dream pop weavers La Luz (was forced to cancel); genre-jumping singer-songwriter Caroline Rose; confessional pop architect Slothrust; Miami’s formidable indie-punk power trio Las Nubes; and the rising Jacksonville hip-hop band L.O.V.E. Culture. More are in the wings at a festival that promotes a spirit of inclusion and belonging animated by a powerful sense of place.

Winterland creators Glenn Michael Van Dyke, Lena Simon and Matthew Shaw set out to create a space and a platform for North Florida talent to flourish. Like festivals before them, Winterland took on a life of its own after its launch. Thanks to some good friends already supporting the local art scene, the first edition in 2017 happened in an abandoned building that was being repurposed as an art gallery at the time. This year Winterland will take over a waterfront park in the heart of downtown Jacksonville.

Reggie Watts

The Census Bureau identifies Jacksonville as the largest city in land area in the contiguous United States. It’s a place whose boundless potential is being tapped into by locals including the team behind Winterland. Though co-creator Van Dyke has traveled extensively, and lived in New York City for a decade, something powerful called her back to her roots. Through her travels as a musician and audio engineer, she had concluded that vision and willpower matter more than geographic location when it comes to creating culture and building a scene.

“We want to empower our music community and build this into something that gives a platform for North Florida’s musical identity,” Van Dyke told PureHoney in an interview. We have so many talented bands but no industry. It’s our mission to bring some of the industry in, and also build up our own.

“We want to give the power of music as a commodity to the artists that are making it,” she continued. “We are run by artists and everything we make goes back into the music community. There’s no reason Jacksonville can’t be as booming as other major cities. We have so much to offer here but musicians face an uphill battle with limited resources and little opportunity for networking.”

Just like she did, Van Dyke hopes that people take chances in life and leave their home towns to grow and network, with the goal of bringing what they’ve learned back to the places that raised them.

Caroline Rose

To create both an auditory and visual experience, Winterland has again partnered with Tachyons+, a multi-dimensional video installation house with a beating analog heart. A Tachyons+ representative tells PureHoney that festival goers can expect “melting VHS tapes pulsating to the music, dreamed out dimensional glitch, errors and distortions, [and] blissed out television telepathy.” The visuals serve as real-time compliment to the live performers — almost another instrument or even band member.

Admission to both days is free, but attendees can show Winterland some love and support ahead of time: Organizers are offering a $65 merch bundle of festival art and apparel plus a reusable carry cup that buys drink discounts on the festival grounds. All proceeds that don’t go directly back into the arts community will be donated to local non-profit North Florida Board Riders, which offers surf camps and gear to at-risk kids.

It’s an enterprise that challenges the old saw that you can’t go home again. If there’s one pithy way to sum up the festival and the community work it’s doing, we leave it to the wise and ethereal Winterland headliner Watts: “You’re part of the world/even when you try to run away.”

Winterland IV is Saturday and Sunday, February 26 and 27, at Riverfront Plaza in Jacksonville. ~ Freddie Zandt