More than 6,000 people converged on downtown Tampa for the inaugural Gasparilla Music Festival, and the conditions couldn’t have been better; pristine weather, picturesque setting, an overall laid-back vibe. GMF engendered renewed feelings of appreciation for our evolving cityscape and riverfront, with the three stages spread over Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and Kiley Gardens Park and Amphitheatre. The large main stage boasted a backdrop of the Hillsborough River and University of Tampa, and a natural amphitheater was created by the lush rectangular lawn that rose in a gentle incline toward Ashley Street, the music echoing off the glass-and-metal Skypoint building. The overall effect was like being hugged by the city or held in its palm. Sound seepage was minimal, set times were staggered so that no band played much longer after another had started, facilities included running water along with Port-o-Let options, the food offerings came from local eateries and food trucks, and the musical bill featured acts ranging from Deer Tick to Rebirth Brass Band to Ra Ra Riot. I can’t tell you how many times I ran into someone who expressed how great the day was going, who brought their kids with no fuss, who were already planning on booking a downtown hotel for the next one. The groundwork has been laid and the stage set for a second annual fest. gasparillamusicfestival.com
The University of South Florida’s dance company in residence, led by Artistic Directors Shelley Bourgeois, Erin Cardinal and Cynthia Hennessy, is that stellar example of why Tampa is a little more culturally sophisticated than many think. When your friends from the big city pooh-pooh our metro, pop on a vid from movingcurrent.com and show them MC’s vivid dance narratives told through poetically inspired movement. No doubt they’ll see how masterfully the moods range from light and mischievous to intense and heart-wrenching. After getting that taste, take ‘em to see Moving Current live during their 15th anniversary season. The collective’s “current” is inspired by the idea of electricity, and Moving Current’s performances continue to electrify. 813-237-0216, [email protected]
Sorensen was all over Bay area stages last season, playing multiple lovers in Stageworks’ The Blue Room, a naïve young American threatened by omnisexual ghouls in The Rocky Horror Show, a smug would-be rescuer of females in Becky Shaw, and an earnest American come to Weimar Germany to find something to write about in Cabaret. And in every role, he was just about perfect.
Watch: Recently married Natalie Symons and Jim Sorensen — Most Promising Playwright and Best Actor — talk w. CL's David Warner during the Best of the Bay awards reception Sept. 19 at Creative Loafing, and Natalie almost spills the beans about a part she just might be writing for her husband.
Sargent had a near-impossible mission in Tampa Repertory Theatre’s Streetcar Named Desire: to make the audience forget Vivien Leigh’s iconic performance in the film. But Sargent did it: her Blanche DuBois was skittish, vain, manipulative, self-deluding, fragile and tragic. She dominated the play and brought down the house. Amazing work.
An album 10 years in the making, Tin Year is an impeccably crafted LP by veteran local musicians and New Granada Records leaders Keith and Susie Ulrey, plus Brian Roberts, Melissa Grady and Michael Waksman. Longtime collaborators Susie and Michael whittled down years of songwriting to the 13 tracks that were recorded, mixed and mastered by this year’s Best of the Bay-winning sound engineer and studio, Mark Nikolich at Atomic Audio. Tin Year is a thoughtful and stunning collection easing between buoyant folk roots, warm indie pop and gently-driving alt rock. Susie's pure piping vocals soar bright and vibrant, or glide delicate and serene over shimmering cello-fused instrumentals, complementing the delicate masculine vocal harmonies and occasional turns on lead by Keith and Michael. Overall, salve to the soul.
Runners-up: Morean Art Center, Florida Craftsman Gallery
With remarkable rapidity, Davis has made freeFall Theatre into a jewel of a venue, a place where incisive straight plays and potently re-imagined musicals (this season’s Cabaret) are consistently offered on the highest levels of theatrical art. In Davis’ capable hands, first-rate Shakespeare has again become an annual event (The Comedy of Errors) and he’s shown an openness to local playwrights (Rip.Tied.) and a fine instinct for contemporary triumphs (Becky Shaw). He deserves our thanks.
Runners-up: Gasparilla Arts Festival, Florida Craftsman
I'm not sure exactly what San Francisco composer/multi-instrumentalist Adrian Younge and his "Venice Dawn" band played during their set at Antiwarpt 2012; aside from some cuts off latest release Something About April, it was all a blur of unadulterated badassness. A natural showman in hip aviator-style eyewear, Younge traded off instruments with his bandmates, from bass to organ and synths to flute and sax, then back to bass again. He expressed his excitement about being in Florida, struck a bargain at the beginning of the set — "Give us your all, and we’ll give you our all. Do we have a deal?" — and left both sides feeling like champions as the near full-house at State Theatre got the fuck down. Now that’s what I call a Sunshine State debut.
Weezer’s Pinkerton and Belle and Sebastian’s If You’re Feeling Sinister both dropped in 1996. It was also a good year for Tampa area music, as evidenced by the formation of Spiller and the release of their debut recording that year, Gold Leader EP, which features a catchy, sunshine-drenched mix of alt-rock and power pop. The reunion on April 7 at New World Brewery featured original members John McNicholas and Marcus McCord with new drummer Vinnie Cosentino. The Semis and Jensen Serf Co. opened, demonstrating the delightful progression of Tampa Bay indie rock through the years. Gigs at Heatwave and Antiwarpt have since followed; new music and more shows in the works. spiller.bandcamp.com