Hungry music fans from all over come to taste the amazing bands, art, and food at this beautifully set buffet catered by Gasparilla Music Festival. It’s hard to keep your mouth from watering just thinking about the delicious music calling you to refuel your starving soul. I originally started going because of a few acts I knew on the menu. But now I go for the discovery as the festival is full of new flavors I will find to love forever. This festival might as well be an episode of First We Feast’s Hot Ones because the music continuously gets hotter while I question myself for not knowing any of these bands! This year’s line up boasts performances by Black Pumas, Cimafunk, GROUPLOVE, The Revivalists, Bob Moses, Band of Horses, Trombone Shorty, and The Allman Betts Band who are all dripping with sweetness. This non-profit festival is spread out amongst four stages and a silent disco so there is always something to do at Curtis Hixon Park in Tampa, FL. It’s a family affair in downtown Tampa as patrons enjoy a fantastic weekend of entertainment all of which benefits the musical education of our youth!
The music starts on Friday and my adventure begins late afternoon with Hearty Har. It’s only the second time GMF has had music on Friday and it’s the first time they have tried a full slate of bands. They entice the fans in early with great music and half-price drinks. Led by John Fogarty’s sons, Shane (guitar/vocals) and Tyler (guitar/vocals), Hearty Har is a psychedelic rock band from Los Angeles, CA. These guys have been ripping great rock since 2012 and show off their skills immediately with a blues number. Shane rocks an electric guitar that is shaped like a mandolin as they roll through their setlist. Later, he playfully fights with the mic stand as it falls towards him. He is so animated on stage, now he’s revving up the crowd while playing tambourine! The time blows by as I enjoy the first set of the day. Hearty Har’s rockin’ sound is a success! It’s worth noting that people are able to show up to the festival via water taxi! You can score a discounted ticket for both the ferry and festival and arrive in style. They even went as far as to put entertainment on the boat for the music lovers on the way to the concert! These guys think of everything!
I scoop some food in between sets and run into a friend from high school (you know how much fun that can be). The Aces take the main stage in the background and I bob my head while listening to their poppy, all-girls sound and my buddy droning on about his wife and kids. This female four-pack from Provo, Utah has been entertaining crowds since ‘08 and is keeping me from dying of boredom while I get my ear talked off. Their set ends and I am so ready to get out of this moment, but I’m not sure if I’m ready for the superorganism that is MELT. While I’ve refueled my system with this delicious food, I also have depleted most of the small talk I possess. Lead singer, Veronica Stewart-Frommer, is already belting the crowd with her vocal chords as I walk up on this red-hot indie soul seven-piece. Nick Sare on sax is simply delightful while girls in the crowd spin their light up hula hoops. This college band has taken the next steps to become a national touring act. They show this by being in sync and having crowd control all set long. They even have the people crouch down and explode upward during “Inside” at the end of the set. I feel like I’m in a panini press between the sun and the stage. I can’t escape the heat as I melt to this afternoon’s music.
I sneak over to the small raised amp stage that faces the water for Orlando’s GW Souther. They are a band that blends soul, rock and pop to create their amazing sound. Solo’s, melodies, harmonies and an instrumental blend that has me fully engaged when they cover “Redbone” by Childish Gambino. They don’t stop the fun and take on Toto’s “Hold the Line!” It’s breezy and super cool up at the top of the amp seating. It’s so exciting to be at a festival where you can catch so many great bands so close together! Thanks to GW Souther for getting both jammy and jazzy before sending me out on Skynyrds’ “Sweet Home Alabama!” I hurry over to the main stage for the end of GROUPLOVE. They perform their hit song, “Tongue Tied,” to the growing Friday evening crowd. They are a big time alternative rock band who still hasn’t lost that indie edge that makes them so good. They let loose a “Ways to Go” before ending their set with the first song they hit it big with, “Colours.”
Sprinting over to the side stage, I dive into the deep end of the Cimafunk dance party already at high tide. I don’t have time to take notes or try to translate lyrics. I simply forget my troubles and get down. Erik Iglesias Rodriguez mixes Cuban music with funk and hip-hop. His most recent album, El Alimento, was released in October of ‘21. His flow on the mic is fantastic and the band backs him with such a balanced sound. The next breakdown features funky solos from the sax and trombone players. Next Rodriguez unleashes a series of impressive dance moves at the front of the stage. He’s already looking cool with his flattop and sunglasses, but these moves launch him into the stratosphere! This is the best set so far! I can’t help but smile big in the face of a fantastic set. I love finding new bands at this festival! Thank you GMF!
Black Pumas cap off an awesome first day at Gasparilla Music Festival! They start things off right with “Touch the Sky!” It’s a loungy but soulful song that sets the mood for this huge band to do their thing. I was expecting a few people on stage (they are billed as a duo) but to have a full band and backup singers like this is impressive. Pair the breeze with the psychedelic guitar licks during “Know You Better,” and you get pure bliss. This smooth and sexy tune is stitched with beautiful bursts from the supporting singers Lauren Cervantes and Angela Miller. Wave after wave of groovy rhythms flow from the stage. Drummer Stephen Bidwell bubbles to the top before the song crashes over the bobbing crowd. JaRon Marshall emerges from the whitewater with a thrashing keys solo before they drop back into the song. Slowing things down a bit, they play the acoustic and vocal centered “Angel” before covering “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City” by Bobby “Blue” Band. GMF’s first attempt at a full Friday schedule has been a success. The park is full but there is still plenty of room for people to have a space for their kids or to be able to sprawl out if you have had too many. I am loving life right now at this beautiful Tampa city festival. The breeze and big time lights are the icing on the cake as Mavis Staples helps them finish the night out in style with “Dirty Dirty.” After the music, I get the chance to stay at my friend’s nice new home. It’s just fantastic to be able to hang out with my old friends again.
Saturday morning comes quickly and I roll out of bed to take a shower. I gather my belongings and head out for Gasparilla Music Festival day two! I pull up at the park in time for 90’s hip-hop act Arrested Development on the main stage. They represent Atlanta, GA, with their dancing and progressive rap. After hurdling a quick hiatus in the early 2000’s, AD has shown resilience by dropping three albums in the last four years. “Fishin’ 4 Religion” is the first song I hear as I walk up. Those funky guitar riffs on top of big bass lines makes everyone shake their ass. The backing band is fantastic and I can understand every word they are saying. This is how live hip-hop should be! What a fantastic set! They stitch their biggest song “People Everyday” throughout the set, constantly bringing the crowd back to that feel good sound. They finish up with “Tennessee,” a song that dreams of being somewhere else and understanding the Lord’s plan.
I check out immersive psychedelia rockers Moonthing from Tampa on the smallest stage. They bring heavily distorted guitars on their metal and rock adventure. A touch of blues and her amazing voice have me fully entertained the few minutes I have to spare before catching the end of Arrested Development and then the New Orleans Mardi Gras funk squad Cha Wa. Wanting to be in three places at once is a really good indicator that the festival is doing something right! The singers for the Grammy nominated Cha Wa are in feathered headdresses and costumes representing the culture found in the Crescent City. This set is funky and upbeat, really bringing that street party vibe to the Riverwalk. Their guitarist is superb and I am so excited that I got to experience such a cool act.
Next up on this warm spring day is Margo Price. Hailing from Aledo, IL, Price is a country singer and songwriter. She first popped on the scene with her ‘16 album Midwest Farmer’s Daughter where she received instant acclaim. Today she looks so great in her flowing pink dress, but what’s really impressive is the way she plays the battle axe in her hand. This is some rockin’ country music and I can see everyone around me enjoying themselves. She lets the crowd have it with my favorite tune, “Tennessee Song,” which puts the focus on her big time voice. Then she plays “Letting Me Down” off of her 2020 record That’s How Rumors Get Started. The sun is hot but Margo and her band are hotter! Whew!
Andy Frasco & The UN from Los Angeles are so much fun! The banter and antics on stage are top notch and although we didn’t get his usual crowd surfing, this was still a classic Frasco show! They play “Sweet Sympathy” as well as “Walk a Little Taller” during a set where they would yell “instrument switch” and all take up each other’s weapons. Frasco takes up the bass while the rest of the band plays musical chairs! They send it with “Addicted to You” before finishing up the set strong with Biz Markie’s “Just A Friend.
Band Of Horses set is fantastic! The time passes quickly as they move through darling sounds. They delivers me to the other side where I see the last music of the day: The Revivalists. Lead singer David Shaw is wearing a huge tiger print coat while performing the first few songs. They sound so big and put on a great show that they eventually cap off with their hit song, “Wish I Knew You.”
Sunday begins with the legendary Mavis Staples on the main stage. She is a civil rights activist, singer, as well as an actress. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in ‘99 and the Blues Hall of Fame in ‘17. She hit it big as a member of the Staples Singers and their ‘72 song, “I’ll Take You There.” Today she crushes her song “Brothers and Sisters” in the heat of the day. Her guitarist is something special during “Handwriting On The Wall” as my first set of the day comes to a close.
Neal Francis and crew are holding down the side stage with their smooth and easy approach. This singer/songwriter/pianist from Chicago charms his audience with r&b leaning alternative sound. Formerly of Chicago’s The Heard, Francis set out on his own with his ‘19 offering, Changes. As the set gets going he performs “Say Your Prayers” off of his latest release, In Plain Sight. These guys are glued together and sound so comfortable on stage. Francis’ calm distorted vocals pair nicely with Mike Starr’s smooth bass lines of the day. His guitarist Kellen Boersma spikes the punch bowl with his 150 proof solos while Neal ladles cup after cup of his jazzy tri-tones on the keys. They invite Revivalist’s lead singer David Shaw on stage and launch into their hit song “Can’t Stop The Rain.” Here they kick the party up a notch, showing off their ability to be smooth and groovy while keeping everyone entertained.
Next I cruise to the main stage for Allman Betts Band. Formed in November 2018, it includes the sons of three founding members of the Allman Brothers Band – Devon Allman, Duane Betts, and Berry Duane Oakley. The band plays mostly ABB songs, with some original songs mixed in. Here we are forty-five minutes into this set and they have only completed three songs. They’ve perfectly execute covers like “Dreams,” “Blue Sky,” and “Midnight Rider.” This is the best music I’ve seen all weekend. It’s not fair that they are covering one of the baddest bands to ever grace a guitar. These guys have already decided to break up at the end of this tour, so catching this performance is really special. From here I slow down with a few songs from Pinegrove. They remind the crowd to be environmentally conscious as they sing songs from their climate change influenced album, 11:11. Their slow rock from New Jersey isn’t exactly making me move, so I make moves for a fresh Coppertail beer and a good spot for Trombone Shorty!
Troy Andrews is Trombone Shorty. Not only is he a phenomenal trombone player, he also is a producer, actor, and philanthropist from New Orleans, LA. The guy was born to be on stage, first performing at Jazz Fest at age 4 with Bo Diddley! He brings with him a full band (they are playing with two drummers on two drum sets left by ABB) but he doesn’t really need them as he solos on trombone, raps, and dances all in the first minute of the show! His guitarist scribbles in a wild solo to help with their huge sound. Moments later it seems like music is blossoming from every corner of the stage as I frolic through a beautiful funk garden. His sax player shines bright with a huge solo and the band stops. A spotlight appears on stage while his sax player goes off. Shorty grabs him by the collar while he’s playing and puts him in the spotlight while he sweats the crowd with a heater of a solo. The band comes back right as he is finishing to complete the perfect moment. But the sax player wont stop swinging his sax, striking gold again and again as he fades to the back during “It Ain’t No Use,” a Meters cover. Next they take on Little Feat’s “On Your Way Down.” They are funky, punchy, and are simply dominating their set at Gasparilla Music Festival ‘22! Then they send it into overdrive with the Meters’ “Fire on the Bayou!” They play “Long Weekend,” radiating that poppin’ bass and drum combo. But halfway through the song they switch it up and “Get Down On It” which my friend called at the beginning of the song! “Get Up OffaThat Thing” by James Brown is next and we have liftoff! I’m up in the clouds as they finish a spectacular set with “Hurricane Season” and then “Do To Me” off of his For True record. Wow what a night! Funk me silly!
Gasparilla is the perfect place to fall in love. To fall in love with the park, the festival production, the awesome food trucks, and the many things to do for such a wonderful festival! Not to mention all the fantastic NEW music that I get to try out for the first time! I literally cannot wait for the next GMF! The pride of the Sunshine State!
GASPARILLA MUSIC FESTIVAL 2022 PHOTO GALLERY
Gasparilla Music Festival 2022 Live Festival Photos by Jacob Hayes.
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