Best Of 2020

Kitty Daniels

Kitty Daniels is an octogenarian matriarch of the Tampa Bay jazz scene and the last person I expected to see jump on the coronavirus livestream bandwagon, but her sessions—bare bones with just a piano and whatever light was in the room—were some of the most heartwarming of those early shutdown days. Her love of the Great American Songbook shone through, and if you tuned in for even just five minutes, your day could be transformed. kittydaniels.com —Ray Roa

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Big Baby Scumbag

There are plenty of reasons to be more like Big Baby Scumbag right now, and the foremost is hygiene. The Tampa rapper born Tyrell Williams hasn’t changed his routine too much in the face of the coronavirus because he was pretty damn tidy to begin with. “Honestly, man,I wash my hands all the time. I’m not saying a lot of people are dirty, but people aren’t as clean as they need to be,” Scumbag, 25, told CL in April. Plus, the Town ‘N’ Country product is having a hell of a year. In January, Pitchfork gave his Big Baby Earnhardt mixtape a 7.1, adding that “The tracks on the Florida rapper’s latest tape overflow with jubilant maximalism and have a proudly Southern bounce.” A follow up (www.flexedupshawty.com), released in August) is a Windows 98-style throwdown, but our favorite single is March’s “Fuck Coronavirus 2020”—a full-blown trap rager where a masked Scumbag passes on dapping people or shaking hands all while spraying them down with Lysol and drinking Bud Light instead of White Claw. In the hook, Scumbag joyously sings, “Fuck coronavirus. I’ll punch him in his jaw.” If he was in office instead of DeSantis, we might have this thing under control by now. @bigbabyscumbag on Instagram —Ray Roa

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Tom DeGeorge

Tom probably didn’t want to be this guy, but we’re glad he is. From the very beginning of the COVID-19 shutdowns—when concert venues like his shuttered first along with the national touring industry (both are still closed, mind you)—he warned us about how small stages wouldn’t survive without federal help. Little did we know how bad it would get. While other bars got to bend the rules (and then fuck it all up, leading to a second shutdown), Tom kept screaming for help at the top of his lungs. He’s the Florida captain for the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), and he’s been on seemingly every TV station and quoted in every newspaper complaining about the lack of a good plan (and an unwillingness of local municipalities to enforce the rules) so that Crowbar and other venues like his can have a chance at dusting themselves off. Tom’s gonna fight like hell, and you’re gonna have to drag him off the mat to get him to shut up. nivassoc.org —Ray Roa

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Dojo Sounds

Every business in Tampa Bay has had to adapt to the challenges of coronavirus, but it was such a bummer to see Dojo Sounds—which had doubled as an unofficial community gathering place after it opened a year ago—put its events on hold. Still, the crew did its best Daniel-san, focused and kept making records with literally clean vocals (ie: sanitized mic covers) for local music fans to enjoy. Be on the lookout for the calendar here whenever we can all karate chop our way out of COVID-19. dojosounds.com —Ray Roa

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BC 'Time Pieces 3'

If there was ever an emcee to write a soundtrack for the moment when a global pandemic met a social revolution, then it’s BC. His new, 24-track sci-fi concept album is for fans of New York label Def Jux, Brooklyn trio Company Flow and Aesop Rock, but it’s also for real ones who wonder why public schools teach about Martin Luther King Jr., but not Malcom X. What’s even weirder is the allegorical elements which tie out-of-this-world events to the sadly-very-real current events of today. “On [‘Don’t Look Down, a highlight of the LP], I had to think about how I’d speak to her about prejudices of all kinds, you know, sexism, homophobia, all of that,” BC told CL. “How to treat people, and in classism as well. So, that song became really important to me in that sense.” bcofredtide.bandcamp.com —Ray Roa

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DJ Sandman

After being laid off in January after 15 years on 95.7-FM The Beat, Tampa Bay hip-hop godfather DJ Sandman undoubtedly felt a little down. But that didn’t last long. He remembered that it was him that made his radio segments great, and he knew he wanted to keep shining a light on the local scene he’s loved since he went to Madison Middle School. So together with Symphonic Distribution, Sandman launched the Illsboro record label and “Next Up” podcast which’ll shine a light on up-and-coming talent whether it’s signed to Illsboro or not. Sandman’s first act was enough to cement his status as a local legend, but there’s reason to believe the encore will be even better. His speakers are the best, after all. djsandman.com —Ray Roa

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The Killers At The Orpheum

On Nov. 22, The Killers headlined the 19,000-capacity MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre as part of 97X’s expanded Next Big Thing lineup. After that, the band played a one-off show in Abu Dhabi as part of a Formula 1 party. But on Nov. 21, Brandon Flowers & co. played 18 songs, new and old, to just over 700 fans at Orpheum in Ybor City. One guy outside was trying to buy a ticket for $400, but for Killers superfans no amount of money could’ve kept them out of that cage that night. —Ray Roa

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Steve Connelly

Some guitarists just have a way of playing solos that make the hair on your neck stand up and add a vital dose of energy to any song. Steve Connelly’s been delivering that juice for decades. He is unequivocally a Bay area legend, most notably as a founding member of The Headlights, a lodestar of the local scene from the early 1980s to the mid-’90s. (The band did a stint backing up ex-Byrd Roger McGuinn on tour and played “The Tonight Show” in ‘91). Connelly, who has owned and run Zen Recording in Pinellas Park for more than 20 years, is also a sharp-eared producer and engineer, and does some credible singing. But it’s his guitar work—played with a profound inner ecstasy—that has left the biggest mark on the Tampa Bay music scene. zenrecording.com —Eric Snider

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Matt Walker

The four-piece band Someday Honey can turn on a dime from country throwdowns to R&B stompers to heart-rending ballads and more. With such stylistic range, it’s essential to have a guitarist with consummate dexterity and fluency in different idioms. Walker’s the person for that. It’s not often you’ll find a six-stringer who can flow effortlessly through countrified twang, bluesy wail and gutbucket rock ‘n’ roll—with some jazz inflections tossed in. Walker solos on just about every song Someday Honey performs, but he keeps them tight and exciting. He also deftly complements the powerful singing of Kaleigh Baker, his partner in music and life. somedayhoney.com —Eric Snider

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Poisonville Songs Project

There ain’t no party like a hotel party, and Henri Wong has brought local acts playing everything from bluegrass to loud ass rock and roll to a St. Petersburg Comfort Inn on 94th Ave. N. The best part is that most of the guests don’t seem to mind the free concerts, and while coronavirus has all of it on pause for now, there’s no doubt that Poisonville Songs Project is keeping the bed warm for when we can finally come home. facebook.com/pvillesongs —Ray Roa

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