The 2017 Gasparilla Music Festival was a pretty rockin affair with a multicultural and genre-bending lineup of local and national acts. The two-day festival showcased better than average talent with some acts that have jumped onto my list of new favorite bands. Located on the banks of the Hillsborough River with downtown Tampa, FL as the backdrop, the venue seemed larger than the small Curtis Dixon Park that it encompassed. Throughout the four stages, there was nonstop music, sunshine, and warm weather to propel the vibe of the show forward.
Both days showcased a wide variety of acts, but Saturday offered a longer downtown curfew. Have Gun Will Travel, Moon Taxi, Ghostface Killah, and Cage the Elephant were the largest national acts of the day, but it was the bands in-between that captivated the attention of crowd.
Shamarr Allen & the Underdawgs commandeered the Sykes stage at the unenviable time slot of 2:30 PM on Saturday afternoon. With the crowd barely pouring in, Shamarr Allen put on a clinic in showmanship. The hip-hop, R&B group owned their time slot with covers of Prince and Black-Eyed Peas, with Mr. Allen and his trumpet putting their stamp on a New Orleans style of hip-hop.
Parrotfish brought a groove-laden brand of rock to the small and intimate Shea Barclay Stage and made their mark. Ari Chi did the same in the even smaller and more intimate Fermin Amphitheatre. Chicago’s Twin Peaks won the day though and became my new favorite live band with an energetic set that dialed it to 11 and kept it there for the duration of their time. They begged the crowd to crash the gate that separated the VIP from the GA ticket holder instantly winning them over, and then killing at least 15 songs from their three studio records, with a punk-laden, impromptu cover of “Stand By Me” thrown in for good measure. I will make it a point to see the band whenever they journey to Florida.
Sunday saw Ryan Adams as the headliner on a shortened, but no less energizing, day. The morning began with the Tampa Metro Youth Orchestra killing it on the Sykes Stage. Karl Denson brought the funk and the soul when he lined up on the Sykes Stage mid-afternoon. I found it hard to believe that Marcus King is only 20 years old as he sounds, and plays, like a seasoned blues magician. His band heated up the afternoon and held a revival on the Channelside Bay Plaza Stage.
But it was Ryan Adams that stole Sunday. Adams has had some high-profile issues in the past couple of years including a marriage, and divorce, to singer Mandy Moore. Adams poured that emotion into his new record Prisoner, which came out in February, bringing that heartbreak to the Gasparilla stage. But you would never know it. If he wasn’t such a gifted songwriter and performer, he could make a second career in stand up comedy, playfully bantering back and forth with the crowd making fun of himself as the saddest headliner ever at a festival. But Adams and his band were tight, on point, and everything in between. Very rarely does a singer sound exactly like they do on their record, Adams is one of those performers. The band played new and old songs from his extensive catalog with longer versions of the Love is Hell nugget “I See Monsters”, and Cold Roses gem “Magnolia Mountain”.
All in all the Gasparilla Music Festival was a fun event. Security was good, but not on anyone’s ass that wanted to imbibe. The festival was on the smaller side, and I hope that they take expanding the current grounds into consideration for the 2018 event. The massive SXSW festival was happening at the same time as Gasparilla and it was nice to see some bands come to Tampa to have a good time rather than get lost in Austin. It was a kid-friendly, family vibe, and we are excited to see what the 2018 event brings.
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