Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam perform Friday night at DeLuna Fest 2012 at Pensacola Beach. / Jody Link/GoPensacola.com
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DeLuna Fest 2012 began with song and sun and wrapped with a musical buffet under the stars on the last night of summer.
Fans strolled from country legend Dwight Yoakam's set to DJ AC Slater's energetic dance throwdown and then on to the main act -- Pearl Jam, and a crowd of thousands crammed elbow-to-sweaty-elbow onto the sand at Pensacola Beach.
Singer Eddie Vedder marveled at how beautiful Pensacola has become since the band's last appearance here in the '90s.
Grunge rock fans got a sweet surprise earlier in the evening, when Vedder joined punk-influenced rockers the Gaslight Anthem. The roar of the crowd echoed across the beach.
It was an early highlight on the weekend-long festival at Pensacola Beach. Anticipation and crowds built throughout the day, as people cruised from stage to stage -- jamming, making new friends and getting excited about a weekend packed with music.
Heather Rampulla, 39, of Mobile, said that although she was excited about Band of Horses and Florence and the Machine, one band would be the main attraction for her.
"I'm here to see Pearl Jam," Rampulla said.
31-year-old Jen Bryte of Navarre said that even though she has seen Pearl Jam and Foo Fighters, DeLuna Fest was impossible to resist this year.
"It's so close, how could you not come?," Bryte said. "When it's, like, in your backyard."
But even at a beach festival, Bryte said one thing she isn't looking forward to is all of the sand.
"We'll have to see," Bryte said. "It might get a little old by the end of the day."
Holly Deguzman, 24, of Pensacola, said that she's ready for a weekend of music on the beach, and is especially ready to see Diplo Saturday night.
"I just come here for the music, and getting to know other bands that I might not otherwise know about," Deguzman said.
Having been to other non-beach music festivals, Deguzman said she loves the DeLuna Fest atmosphere.
"It's a different environment, because this is on the beach with the water and the sand, and others are on the grass," she said.
Thousands watched veteran genre-hopping band Fishbone open the DeLuna Fest main stage with an energetic set highlighted by classic songs like "Everyday Sunshine" and "Hey Ma and Pa."
The band also got political, dedicating its song "Lyin' A** B***h" to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and suggesting that, just maybe, the band does not support his candidacy.
The song caused controversy earlier this year when the Roots covered it as intro music for then-presidential candidate, Rep. Michelle Bachmann, on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon."
As the crowds began to grow and cell phone service started to get spotty on the beach, so some concertgoers are finding creative ways to help their friends find them.
A group of friends from Huntsville, Ala., brought a homemade bandanna flag to make themselves easier to spot.
"It's just so our friends can find us," said Tiffany Brewer, 33, of Huntsville.
But they didn't need to wait for their friends to enjoy the music, sand and sun or get excited about the upcoming weekend. Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters and Zac Brown Band are at the top of their list.
John Maynard, 44, said that he's excited about being at DeLuna Fest for the first time, although he'll be seeing some repeat acts.
"I've seen Pearl Jam three times, and I've seen the Foo Fighters twice," Maynard said. "I love the lineup. They did a good job. And being on the beach, the sound is great."
Brewer said that the atmosphere at DeLuna Fest is amazing so far, and is complemented by perfect, sunny weather.
"Being able to mix your fun on the beach with music, it's just the best of both worlds," Brewer said. "It's like a vacation, but you get a concert with it."
Earlier today, morning beachgoers and guests of nearby hotels were was treated to the sounds of Pearl Jam, as the iconic rock band performed its soundcheck on the DeLuna Stage.
The Seattle-based band hit the main stage to warm up before its performance as today's festival headliner. The band is scheduled to perform at 9:30 p.m.
The first day of the festival also will feature such acts as the Gaslight Anthem, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Dwight Yoakam and Guided By Voices. Saturday is headlined by Foo FIghters, and Sunday will close out with the Zac Brown Band.