Connecticut’s favourite music festival, Sound On Sound, is back for a second year after the wildly successful inaugural festival last September. Compared to last year, the festival is now centred around one main stage, with all the bands performing back-to-back, making for an elevated fan experience at Seaside Park.
Sound On Sound Festival
Bridgeport, Connecticut – 30 September – 1 October 2023
Words and Photography: Shannon Wilk
All of the attendee concerns from last year’s festival have been heard and addressed for this year, showing the event organizer’s dedication to the fan experience. From the Sports Hall to the Wine Grove to the newly added Ferris wheel, Sound On Sound brings entertainment of all kinds for folks of all ages, all overlooking the gorgeous Long Island Sound.
The music for the day began promptly at noon, with fans still pouring through the gates into the muddy field. Coming from Philadelphia, Snacktime brings danceable music to spark energy in the festival in the earliest hours of the afternoon.
Introducing their song Space Love, the group asks, “Can I get a ‘hell yeah’ if you’ve ever had sex with an alien?” After their performance on the festival’s main stage, Snacktime performed several short acoustic sets back at the far end of the festival grounds, giving the crowd an intimate treat.
The second act of the day was quite a contrast from the previous one. Calder Allen is a 20-year-old country singer-songwriter rising out of Austin, Texas. Something to be appreciated about the Sound On Sound festival is that it has no genre bounds. The lineup features straight-up rock bands, indie artists, singer-songwriters, country artists, alternative artists, and more. There truly is an artist to suit anyone’s taste at this festival.
Just beginning his set, Allen’s guitar strap popped off, his bandmates assisting him with fixing it, but he takes it all in stride and continues his set with confidence and power.
Next to take the Sound On Sound stage were Gin Blossoms. This group is one of the most seasoned acts on the bill, being around since 1987. Beginning their set about 15 minutes late, frontman Robin Wilson says, “I know we started a little late, but we’re still gonna play our full set for you all,” prompting cheers from the audience.
Gin Blossoms were the band that got the audience moving and energetic for the day, with the crowd waving and clapping their hands collectively. Wilson speaks again, backtracking on his prior statement. “We’re going to have to cut a few songs, so that means hits the rest of the set,” once again prompting cheers from the audience.
Cautious Clay takes the stage for his 45-minute slot at the festival. He shares his new project, which he describes as “very different” from anything else he has released. “I’m gonna do an old song of mine for a fan who reached out to me, so happy birthday to them. They know who they are,” Clay says and begins the tune.
Clay recently released Karpeh, a new album in which he not only sings but also plays flute, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, guitar, synthesizer, and bass. For a well-rounded, captivating set, Clay plays many of these instruments on the Sound On Sound stage, showing off his multifaceted musical ability.
Just after 3 PM, Margo Price stood centre stage, beginning her set. Price is a country singer-songwriter, producer, and author based in Nashville, Tennessee. Her voice is reminiscent of Dolly Parton, with her warm, soft tone and southern twang.
While Price is a singer-songwriter, she isn’t just a woman with an acoustic guitar. She brings a show. The sound of a phone ringing fills the park, and she picks up a retro pink telephone, “hello,” she says and begins a song.
Mt. Joy steps onto the stage for their 45-minute set. They are a 5-piece indie rock band with members from all over the country. Behind the band is a massive screen displaying colourful, trippy visuals.
Each of the nine songs had their own unique introduction. For example, “This one is about falling in love in a bathroom.” To fan’s surprise, Mt. Joy played several covers such as Old Town Road by Lil Nas X, Crazy by Gnarls Barkley and Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers.
Just before 7 PM, sensational Irish singer-songwriter Hozier takes the stage. Fans chant “Andrew!” addressing Hozier by his first name, showing their love and admiration. His set includes a masterful combination of music from each of his releases.
“I miss that little drone flying around,” Hozier says with a smirk and sly laugh. “That’d be such a fun mini-game, hitting that drone down with those beach balls… and if it’s an official Sound On Sound drone, I’m not saying do it; I’m just saying it’d be fun.” His albums have a very full sound, something that can be hard to replicate in a live setting, but Hozier and his large backing band accomplish this with ease.
Quintessential ’90s alternative star Alanis Morrisette was the artist for the 8 o’clock hour of Sound On Sound. Morrisette projects her expressive, unique voice as she walks back and forth to each side of the stage. Her set featured eight out of twelve studio tracks on Jagged Little Pill, her No.1 album on the U.S. Billboard charts. Morrisette spins around in the middle of the stage for an impressive amount of time, falling to her knees and continuing singing. After song after song from Jagged Little Pill, she and her band close the set with Uninvited and Thank U.
Grammy Award-winning guitarist and singer-songwriter John Mayer returns to his hometown to headline the second night of the second-ever Sound On Sound festival. This legendary artist stands far back in the middle of the stage under a spotlight with just an acoustic guitar and his voice to captivate the massive hometown audience.
After a few songs staying behind the mic at the back of the stage, Mayer says, “I see these photographers down there trying their best to get good shots with this high stage, so I’m going to cheat a little and go up front for this solo,” and he walks to the front of the stage.
Mayer plays through a few songs from many of his albums, leaving no chance for monotony in his set. Mayer even brings out a double-neck acoustic guitar, wow-ing the hometown crowd. This year, he set out on his first-ever solo acoustic tour, something raw and authentic that Mayer does so well. Sound On Sound closes out with his iconic rendition of Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’.
Sound On Sound 2023 was a massive success and the first of “many” more, as stated by Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont. Each year the festival has improved vastly, and Bridgeport looks forward to next year.