The RARA’s Farm team decided to divide and conquer this year’s two day Welcome To Rockville festival and I have to think we had the more melodic day, as we enjoyed a magnificent Saturday of excellent rock ‘n roll at the newly configured Metropolitan Park.
Check out more pix from the event here: Gasparilla Music Festival Photos
GASPARILLA MUSIC FESTIVAL
Beautiful downtown Tampa was the scene for a day of music and picturesque weather for this year’s Gasparilla Music Festival.
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The Hip Abduction
Roadkill Ghost Choir
The Gaslight Anthem
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
The first thing I noticed about this year’s festival was how prepared and together it was. It seemed that all had been taken into account for the weekend. Stepping through the gate into Curtis Hixon Park there was an apparent conscience of space. Of the festivals I’ve been to, Gasparilla has the most palpable arrangement. The two major stages are separated by a short walk and two flights of short stairs. This difference in elevation gives each stage its own area, no bleeding over from the other stages interrupting the experience of any one band.
Outside of the usual cliché Florida tourist art, there were a number of vendors who were of the professional level. Artists and sculptors who were spotted in the vending areas were diamonds in the rough, but if you were to peruse long enough, any potential customer could be surprised with something truly unique.
Wandering around alone, waiting for my photographer and others to join me, I came upon my first act of the festival. THE HIP ABDUCTION took the stage and surrounding area with an air of dance and reggae undeniable to even myself, who tends to stray away from the inheritable happy styles of music. I danced my way near the front surprised by the band’s composition. The stage was pale, yet had as much soul as any. Echoing islands’ shores and a lack of any and all cares. THE HIP ABDUCTION were a perfect introduction to my Gasparilla music experience. At ease and ready for where the night should lead me.
I wandered about the park a little more, found myself on top of raised rows of bench seats overlooking the park where I could see it in its entirety. The spotted and towering building seemingly encasing us inside the Music. Laughs and shrieks of joy wafting about the park, Gasparilla does not attempt to rival the larger festivals, it creates a proportionate dose of a scenic location, a well selected array of talent and a feeling of something great happening with you amongst it.
The next act I made a point to see was UNRB, a seven piece band from St. Petersburg, Florida. My interest was sparked by the size of the band and the use of an electric ukulele instead of a guitar, based around a four piece horn section.
UNRB have presence, with the bass, drums and Ukulele giving direction and the horn section driving the performance above and beyond. The crowd was at attention at the start of each song, yet seemed to lose spark throughout, coming to at the end for the outro. I should say this for myself, I am not a fan of Ska or Reggae, yet there was something undeniable about a four horn section blasting along with a ukulele. UNRB had panache, and I liked that.
Wandering again, I realized how small the park was, or what was accessible. I cannot stress how well designed the setup is. After a pork taco, which was delicious, from the food stands, I took to walk by each stage, waiting to be picked up and carried to the next show I would enjoy.
A dreamy 80’s sound caught me, turned into a nightmare droll and dropped before me – SASKATCHEWAN. It seems that a piece of how the 80’s lo-fi was supposed to sound survived, it takes the form of four awkward musicians from Orlando. The air was taken, and replaced with groove, then growing into a sporadic synth wave. It recedes into an obscure chant that mirrors the odd surrealist band that plays the Roadhouse in Twin Peaks. Laura Palmer would have loved doing drugs to these guys.
Saskatchewan have the ability to blend with current popular styles and create a sound of their own. I believe that these guys could headline this festival with two more albums. My first recommendation to listen to now, SASKATCHEWAN turn that sulk and sorrow into a dreamy lucid bike ride.
My photographer made it out and was admitted easily with help from festival staff, a testament to how well run Gasparilla is. It glides upon well-constructed and greased tracks. A wonderful experience, since I’ve had problems with communication and shared information in other shows I’ve reviewed. We made our way to ROADKILL GHOST CHOIR and a sense of happening was around. The festival was in full swing and everyone in attendance was moving happily with it.
ROADKILL GHOST CHOIR is a powerful indie-rock-southern-shoegaze band from Orlando that has recently made a move in both location and success. With the release of last year’s In Tongues, as well as playing Letterman, RKGC have made great strides. They possess an undeniable southern charm with a back alley grit mixed with quiet pines. These Florida natives held the crowd before them as well as the mixing masses around the stage. Beer lines moved to the beat and patrons passing by couldn’t help but walk in step to the rhythm. I recommend any and all to take a gander at this on-the-rise band; you will surely not be disappointed.
The sun began to drop down little by little and I followed the crowd across the park to the main stage. GMF projections danced across the buildings near the park, the day drinkers stumbled and the night kids lights were turning on one by one. MUTEMATH started with the drummer taping headphones to his head with thick tape and I knew something good was taking place.
MUTEMATH is an old flame for me, I enjoyed them in length at a younger age yet fell out a few years back. I had seen MUTEMATH at a northern Florida festival two years prior and was amazed by their live energy and showmanship. My expectations were high. The men of MUTEMATH were well dressed and well-rehearsed, controlling the crowd with a blend of songs and beat driven synth breaks that had any and all bodies moving in unison. A wide base of fans as well, some sang along to the newest songs and swayed to older ones, while others like me belted out the first albums and hummed the newest tunes. This is progression, keeping old fans happy while cultivating new fans with each album released. Beside the music, they possessed a real sense of performance as well as a choreographed motion. Jostling about the stage in a rehearsed yet seemingly sporadic manner. They are at place on the stage, perhaps having the best time of anyone there. Some bands cannot be fully appreciated until they are witnessed live, MUTEMATH is like this, as well as MODEST MOUSE, but they are another story. Finishing with an encore of the song that started it for them, MUTEMATH and the packed crowd crooned “Typical” and the night was upon us.
I crossed the park again, taking in the sights and smells of a festival, and all around pleased with Gasparilla Music Festival. Came upon the proverbial group of college students playing hacky-sac, joined them for a moment. Then bought a cup of overpriced and over sugared lemonade for $5, drank it too fast and made my way to DUMPSTAPHUNK, not prepared for what was in store.
DUMPSTAPHUNK are a dirty funk and bass band from the sweet big easy, New Orleans. With two bass players and a non-stop drum monster, they possess a groove and grind that is undeniable. Long bouts of enviable funk that led to a rock chorus belted with a fiery guitar solo to smolder back into the underlying funk groove that never ends. I have not been back to New Orleans in a few years, and it was as if The Big Easy had been delivered. Raunchy funk infused with debauchery, Dumpstaphunk was a Cajun fueled release for this panhandle native. I wanted crawfish etouffee, I wanted a fish bowl and a walk through the French Quarter. I had two bass players and a groove that could have carried me there with ease, so I enjoyed the ride. I finally allowed myself a drink, the sun had gone down and the moon was out.
Making my way back across the park to the main stage again, I was engulfed into the moving tide towards THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM. I had surprisingly never heard one song from them, yet I seemed to be the only one. I joined in the excitement that surrounded me and made my way with it. THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM channel their New Jersey roots with a mix of Bruce Springsteen and the guttural vocal styling’s similar to later AGAINST ME! A blend of Pop-punk with an occasional twist and shout, then a crawling ballad enticing lighters and cell phone screens as everyone sang along to “Great Expectations.” For some reason it blended like AGAINST ME! and THE KILLERS. The lead singer had the crowd sing Happy Birthday to a young boy named Eddie, and he was the happiest kid in the area code. I saw the accessibility of the band, and how so many could love them. Perhaps due to my first experience being a live show, yet I couldn’t shake the comparison. THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM have a spiritual sound, I remembered a youth trip to a Christian retreat, the band playing major chords as everyone raised their voice in praise. I felt that again. The communion of others led by a heartbroken band, I felt the manifestation of a higher connection with those that surrounded me. THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM took me to church, yet as church always seems to do. It ran a bit longer than the feeling.
I scraped and crawled from within the depths of the crowd anticipating MODEST MOUSE to make my way back across the park for DALE EARNHARDT JR. JR. A dance party I just had to attend.
DALE EARNHARDT JR. JR. were the band that I had yet to truly hear but anticipated. Coming from THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM and the wonderful surprise they had been, I was ready for whatever followed. This power synth odd pop duo are a sight to be heard! Seamlessly blending the dance theme in an indie vibe. Un-deniable music ensues and the crowd was thick, and since they were sharing time with the headliners MODEST MOUSE that is a very big compliment. DALE EARNHARDT JR. JR. share a number of things with the man their name is a satire of. They possess an inherent power that should lead them to success. Perhaps the most notable remarkable aspect of this power duo is the stage presence they carry. Bounding energy that led the crowd with remarkable strength, DALE EARNHARDT JR. JR. leading the pack and taking to the outside. Keep an eye on these guys.
I got out of the pit and made moves toward my final show of the night, MODEST MOUSE! My main interest of the day and long standing obsession. For me personally, I will always be a Fruit that Ate Itself, or Lonesome Crowded West kind of guy. The last few albums from these humble mice have seemed to progress in an off kilter, apathetic stream of music that strokes the forgiving fan base they cultivated with the first seven albums. Yet, they are a band that is unlike any other. Two drummers and a cast of multi-instrumentalist that have complete control of their sound. The crowd was frothing with anticipation and the show began.
Isaac Brock, head mouse king, led the others with a sense of entitlement. Blasting old favorites like “Dramamine,” “Doin the Cockroach” and even the Ugly Casanova track, “Here’s to Now.” They also debuted two new songs from their upcoming release “Strangers to Ourselves.” Starting the show with the live debut of “Of Course We Know.” They also premiered “The Ground Walks, With Time in a Box,” and “Shit in your Cut.” Good news for MODEST MOUSE was the crowd’s reaction to the single off the album, “Lampshades on Fire.” They also visited they’re most successful album GOOD NEWS FOR PEOPLE WHO LOVE BAD NEWS, playing six songs off the album. Limited to one encore due to sound restraints, they finished the night with “A Different City.” The festival emptied into the streets of downtown Tampa full of joy and satisfaction.
The Gasparilla Music Festival was a weekend of great music in a perfect setting. I’ll have post Gasparilla blues for a week or so. If you have the way, make a plan to get out to next year’s Gasparilla Music Festival. It is an experience to begin your Florida spring off in the best way.
Check out more pix from the event here: Gasparilla Music Festival Photos
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Big Orlando Band Recaps
As soon as I saw Weezer and Fall Out Boy on the line-up, I knew that the first edition of The Big Orlando was going to kick ass. When the full line-up was fleshed out a month later, my expectations ratcheted up another notch, and I was not disappointed.
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For a glimpse of the Evening session reviews click here: Fall Out Boy, Weezer, New Politics, Young The Giant, Dirty Heads, J. Roddy Walston & The Business
I’ll share my thoughts on each band, in the order that I saw them; not a crappy act in the bunch, but a few really stood out above the others. As the festival began to resonate around the nickname The Big O (which I suggested many months ago), I thought about using some clever sexual-based rating system, but I’m much too mature for that. Well, maybe not, but let’s just go with some quick thoughts for each band. This is a two part series to be continued tomorrow – and we will also have many photos to share in the next week.
- Knox Hamilton – “We Can Work It Out” is their signature single, and from what I heard at the show, there are a handful of other catchy pop rock singles on the way from this Arkansas-based trio. They boasted two guitars and two lead vocalists who dished out laid-back, bouncy, feel good rock ‘n roll, which was a great way to open the Main Stage, and for me to start my day.
- A Hero’s Fate – An unsigned Orlando quartet just filled with energy. They delivered a nice blend of pop punk, that was mainstream and edgy at the same time. They appeared to be having a great time on stage, led by frontman Brian Frank and guitarist Blake Murphey who bounced across the stage throughout.
- The Hip Abduction – I listened to these guys before the event and their unique blend of music, that my wife astutely categorized as “reggaeish,” was captivating. Their live set, was even better. The six-piece from St. Pete calls their music “afropop.” The music, which featured a handful of unusual African instruments, a sweltering bass beat and sweet vocals, was an absolutely refreshing twist on surf music. All of their music was excellent, but I’d highly recommend their set-closer “Holiday” if you want to get a good feel for this talented band. Buy their music, check them out live, get to know them – you won’t be disappointed. They were the early highlight of the festival.
- Bear Hands – Probably one of the more anticipated acts of the festival, as this Brookly foursome is riding the success of two huge Alt-Rock hits, “Giants” and “Agora.” They sounded excellent and kept the cool afternoon groove going, even though they were one of the least animated acts of the day.
- Crazy Carls – another Orlando-based band, and a great choice to close the Axis local stage. Charismatic frontman, Alex Baugh eschewed his guitar for this set, as the band relied on backing tracks, allowing Baugh total freedom to interact with the crowd, and he had them in the palm of his hand. He’s a non-stop ball of energy, who moved around the stage constantly, belted out killer pop vocals, and seemingly connected with everyone in the large crowd. He’s a consummate front man who demands attention. (Make sure you follow our site, as we’ll publish an interview with him shortly.)
- Kasson – A trio from Orlando, who I believe won a contest to secure their spot on the Jagermeister stage. Good indie rock that was easy to listen to. I need to check them out sometime in The City Beautiful, as I missed part of their set due to a conflict with Crazy Carls.
- Big Data – I’ll admit, I was a little sceptical about this band, which is really the love child of producer Alan Wilkis. I had no idea how this would translate live, but was in for a nice surprise. The boy/girl vocals and interactions were excellent, and their waltz across the stage entertaining. I loved the bass throughout the entire set, but particularly on their megahit “Dangerous.” The setlist boasted nice diversity, as well, and they offered the strangest cover choice of the festival – “Private Eyes” by Hall & Oates!
- Sleeper Agent – The one band I was most excited to see, and they were good, but not as fantastic as I had heard. Another six-piece, these Kentuckians have a unique edgy rock sound. They offered “This is our last show of the year, we’re so happy to be spending it with you,” but unfortunately went out with a bit of a whimper. Lead female singer Alex Kandel sounded good, but Tony Smith’s vocals seemed lost in the mix. The band was energetic and the music sounded good, but I just felt like they were holding something back.
Okay, well if you made it this far in the article, you are obviously a rock music fanatic like the Rock And Roll Animals at RARAsFarm. Do us a big favor and like our Facebook page for future updates, including a bunch of pictures from The Big Orlando. Thanks and please spread the word to other intelligent, creative, beautiful music fans like you 🙂
Coastline Festival – Tampa Event Review
(Before we get started, just a reminder that we have a slew of photos from the festival itself and all of the bands we reviewed coming this week. Check our Facebook and Twitter for updates. Thanks for visiting…)
- Eleven of today’s hottest Indie/Alternative rock acts
- An eclectic collection of food truck cuisine
- The best selection of craft beers we’ve ever seen at a festival
- Great Florida November weather
- An excellent, well-laid out venue
- A superbly well-orchestrated event
Sounds like a perfect recipe for success, and Coastline Festival’s Musiculinary Experience was prepared perfectly.
We made the trip from Orlando hoping to catch a few of Alternative rock’s future stalwarts as they continue their journey to long-term success. We got that for sure, as you’ll see in our band capsules below, but we also experienced a vibrant, positive festival atmosphere.
The venue was laid out nicely with the smaller Gulf Stage just outside of the Mid-Florida Credit Union Amphitheater and the Atlantic Stage inside the venue. The grounds were festively decorated, with inflatable art, and colorful displays dotting the landscape.
Travelling between the stages, the attendees passed through a Food Truck caravan and a Craft Beer Cove that featured a dozen excellent choices, and in a nice touch, offered $3 samples of each offering. The lines at the food trucks were long as the day passed. Talenti gelati had a fun area set-up with super-sized lawn games and free sample of their delicious treats. On the opposite end of the venue was a nice craft area and the autograph tent, which hosted a constant flow of performers and happy fans.
Despite all of the other activities, this festival’s success hinged on the quality of the music artists, and the eight acts we caught were all excellent. Due to a long-standing commitment at another event, we ended up missing the final three bands, but the eight who opened show were well worth the price of admission. Our mini-reviews follow, in the order that the bands performed.
Zulu Wave – This local quartet did a great job representing the Tampa rock scene, offering an energetic set and their unique blend of rock that I would best describe as Tribal-rock. It sounds like an unusual description, but the music was good, and the band clearly has potential.
Blondfire – I just loved their recent EP release Where The Kids Are (see the review here) and was interested to see how this young band would perform on a big stage. Led by brother-sister duo Bruce and Erica Driscoll, the band offered up a fun set. Lead singer, Erica donned a guitar for the cool grove of “Waves” and shined during an excellent version of Fleetwood Mac’s classic “Dreams,” when she nailed the vocals that Stevie Nicks made famous. The band offered two excellent new cuts, “Life of the Party” and “Top of the World,” before closing with their hit single “Where The Kids Are” that had the crowd clapping and singing along.
St. Lucia – I didn’t know much about this Brooklyn band, but liked what I heard. The band is the brainchild of South African born Jean Philip Grobler and they offered up a tropical-infused dance rock that made you want to move. The quintet featured two drum kits and three keyboards, allowing for some fun mixes. Grobler’s vocals were excellent and he put on a bit of a theatrical show, at one time spinning with his guitar before dropping to the stage. As they wrapped the set, he beckoned the crowd, “Let’s do something crazy cause the weekends on its way; okay, let’s jump!” and the party was on.
The Mowgli’s – With a pounding drum beat, this colorful octet stormed onto the stage and immediately got their celebration started with the title track of their new album, Waiting For the Dawn. It’s one of our candidates for album of the year, so I knew what to expect musically, but I was blown away by their energetic stage show. They offered up tremendous harmonies in a fantastic version of “The Great Divide” and a raucous version of “Emily.” Their music is contagious and their positive energy captivating. Guitarist Michael Vincze shared, “We came all this way to tell your beautiful souls to believe in yourself and anything is possible. Do whatever makes you happy in life! Now put your hands up, take a deep breath and scream.” Cleansing, therapeutic and just pretty damn fun. They closed in the middle of the crowd, with a smashing version of their hit “San Francisco” which may have been the song of the festival.
Surfer Blood – As singer John Paul Pitts shared, “We’re from Florida and glad to be back.” The band features smooth Indie rock with a definite surfing subtext to their sound. The sound works well, and offers the perfect backdrop for Pitts’ versatile vocals, at times hitting the high notes and just as easily offering a snarling growl. As they wrapped up their set, we saw our first act of spontaneous crowd surfing.
Fitz And The Tantrums -Another band who stormed onto the stage and then kept the energy up for their entire set. Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs share the vocals and demand constant attention on the stage. Both singers sounded great and were non-stop action as they bounced across the stage. Scaggs, careened around the stage while constantly banging her tambourine and chatted with the Tampa crowd after every song. The pit was a surging amoeba answering every dictum from the band, hands high above their heads, clapping throughout. Highlights of their set included an extended version of The Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams that caused a spontaneous dance party on the lawn, and a smoking version of “Out of My League.”
The Neighbourhood – This California-based quintet might be the hottest band we saw at Coastline Festival. They are riding a huge crest of popularity that has found their music all over Alternative rock radio as well as on the small screen. Tattoo-covered lead singer Jesse Rutherford drips with charisma. He was a whirling dervish all over the stage and adorned in his “D.A.R.E.” shirt interacted with the crowd throughout the set. He had the entire crowd in the palm of his hand, singing along at his commend. Despite some early sound troubles, the entire band, adorned in their omnipresent black and white sounded superb, as they delivered crowd-pleasing versions of “Sweater Weather,” “Afraid” and “Female Robbery,” while the crowd surfed, danced and sang.
Matt & Kim – Okay, I’ll admit it, I wasn’t expecting much from this duo out of New York as I mistakenly thought of their stuff as a bit soft. Oh my, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino ooze energy and excitement. Matt plays keyboards, and Kim beats the drums, and the real-life couple accompany each other on-stage perfectly. Schifino was a mad-woman, climbing all over her drum kit, smacking her ass and prowling the stage in general. Johnson was just as energetic and sounded great all night. They interacted with the crowd throughout, sharing stories and bonding with the crowd. We learned about their sex life, the fact that this is the band’s penultimate stop on this tour, and their appreciation for the great Florida weather. Johnson offered, “This is the finale and I wanna remember this shit when it’s cold in New York. Let’s heat it up,” and for the next forty minutes, they raised the party to a fever pitch.
It was a great way for us to wrap up a killer day at the inaugural Coastline Festival. Hopefully this event that so nicely featured the best of today’s alternative rock music scene becomes an annual tradition for Florida’s rock and roll community.
Coastline Festival Photos
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|Fitz & The Tantrums||Tumblr|
|Festival and Crowd Shots||Tumblr|
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