Tampa Bay's best 20 concerts for the spring

Jonny Fritz, Neko Case and more among shows to circle on your calendar.

click to enlarge Jonny Fritz, who plays Orpheum in Ybor City, Florida on February 17, 2018. - Photo by: Laura E. Partain / Meat suit by: Fort Lonesome
Photo by: Laura E. Partain / Meat suit by: Fort Lonesome
Jonny Fritz, who plays Orpheum in Ybor City, Florida on February 17, 2018.

It pays to have plans, so kudos to the promoters and venues who’ve booked these must-see gigs well in advance. Here’s a quick rundown of why we’re saving these dates. Follow links inside of the previews to get more information on the shows.

Neko Case w/Kimya Dawson Known for her work with ensembles like the New Pornographers and the Corn Sisters, Neko Case’s solo work is beloved by fans drawn to the 48-year-old’s smoky vocal, fearless songwriting and fiercely independent spirit. A 2018 album, Hell-On, is Case’s first since 2013; the addition of Moldy Peaches songwriter Kimya Dawson gives this bill even more bite. Feb. 1 at Orpheum, Ybor City. theorpheum.com

Japanese Breakfast Last April, Japanese Breakfast’s Ybor City gig at Crowbar sold out before doors even opened, and this one just down the street at Orpheum is well on its way. A lot of that has to do with the way Michelle Zauner commands her band and connects with fans on songs from her painfully-transparent and über-lush 2017 LP of intricate indie-rock Soft Sounds from Another Planet. Feb. 9 at Orpheum, Ybor City. theorpheum.com

Seal w/TheFlorida Orchestra American standards and soulful music from Seal’s hit albums, plus his early singles, including “Crazy” and the chart-topping “Kiss From a Rose,” are on the agenda when the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter joins TFO for its gala fundraiser concert. Feb. 9 at Mahaffey Theater, St Petersburg. floridaorchestra.org

Vince Staples w/Buddy Travis Scott may be headlining the big hip-hop arena show of the spring, but don’t sleep on this one from outspoken Compton rapper Vince Staples, whose feature-laden third LP, FM!, plays like a move towards the mainstream that doesn’t compromise on the 25-year-old’s spitfire wordplay and left-of-center themes like black power and street violence. Feb. 13 at The Ritz, Ybor City. theritzybor.com

Herbie Hancock You don’t have to travel to Miami’s III Points festival to see this giant of jazz. The 78-year-old 14-time Grammy winner headlines a set that spans the breadth of a cutting-edge career that’s still as interesting as it was when Hancock started Takin’ Off in 1962. Feb. 15 at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater. rutheckerdhall.com

Murder By Death w/J. Roddy Walston and the Business/Jonny Fritz No offense to headliners but the biggest, best and baldest reason to be at this show early is the Bay area debut of oddball country songwriter Jonny Fritz, whose 2016, Jim James-produced LP Sweet Creep is buoyed in a musicality that is only eclipsed by the way Fritz is able to poignantly capture the dregs of human condition in a way that doesn’t wanna make you jump off a cliff. Feb. 17 at Orpheum, Ybor City. theorpheum.com

Fleetwood Mac At this point, Fleetwood Mac fans know that the band has traded Lindsey Buckingham for the Heartbreakers’ Mike Campbell and Crowded House’s Neil Finn. If that’s not good enough for you, then you can probably go your own way, too. Feb. 18 at Amalie Arena, Tampa.


Jamey Johnson w/Kelsey Waldon Kentucky songwriter Kelsey Waldon was a highlight on Gasparilla Music Festival’s 2017 bill, and the 30-year-old country songwriter and John Prine pal gets to shine on another big stage when she opens for genre outlaw Jamey Johnson at Jannus Live. Feb. 21 at Jannus Live, St. Petersburg. jannuslive.com

Reels/SugarPlum/RV/Charles Irwin (unplugged)/They Hate Change/Story Mode/Clang! If you’ve never been to a DIY concert, then this is the one you want to start with. The Red Light is not an easy find (it’s in Ybor City, somewhere), but catching some of the Bay area’s most interesting young bands (hip-hop duo They Hate Change, punk weirdos Clang! And indie-rock golden boys Charles Irwin) all in one place is well worth the effort. It’s also the venue’s last show ever, so expect a blowout. Feb. 22 at The Red Light, Ybor City. Here's the flyer

Car Seat Headrest w/Naked Giants Car Seat Headrest’s newest fans have had a year to digest the band’s 2018 re-recording of a 2011 album, Twin Fantasy. That still might not have been enough time for them to wrap their heads around all the witty cynicism and detail that principal Will Toledo packed into the more than two-hour-long modern power-pop classic. Feb. 23 at Orpheum, Ybor City. theorpheum.com

Sarah McLachlan Sad puppy eye jokes aside, Sarah McLachlan is probably one of soft rock’s best songwriters. This is the 50-year-old’s first show since 2015 (which was then her first in the area in a decade), so expect devoted fans and, yes, lots of sad piano chords at this one, being billed as “an intimate evening of songs and storytelling.” Feb. 27 at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater. rutheckerdhall.com

Dr. Dog w/The Nude Party Old-school princes of indie rock (Dr. Dog, supporting yet another sterling LP, last year’s Critical Equation) arrive alongside a group of down-to-earth, hard-working youngsters who may be psych-rock’s next big thing (North Carolina sextet The Nude Party, whose unreal harmonies and wild live shows have made the boys darlings of the festival scene). March 1 at Orpheum, Ybor City. theorpheum.com

Dom Flemons Flemons was just in town in November, but seeing the Grammy-winning Carolina Chocolate Drop play his cerebral, occasionally acerbic, new black cowboy songs at this museum will add another layer of authenticity to his already special brand of Americana. March 2 at James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art, St. Petersburg. thejamesmuseum.org

Gasparilla Music Festival Gasparilla Music Festival has had its share of strong Sunday headliners — none will pack the power that Texas songwriter and bluesman Gary Clark Jr. does. While the Avett Brothers’ Saturday set will please all comers, Clark, 34, is bound to ruffle feathers when he launches into his raging and righteous new six-minute single “This Land” (the video is paranoid, pissed off and features Confederate flags and black children haunting a plantation landscape). March 9-10 in downtown Tampa. gasparillamusic.com


Jeff Tweedy Wilco frontman and Trump troll agitator Jeff Tweedy released his first solo album, Warm, late last year, and he brings all of its melancholy to what is perhaps Tampa’s most beautiful concert venue. Fans might laugh, but they’ll definitely get wet in the eyes at what could be one of 2019’s best concerts. March 14 at Tampa Theatre, Tampa. tampatheatre.org

Hozier w/Jade Bird After three years, Irish songwriter Hozier is finally headed back to the Bay area in support of Wasteland, Baby!, a full-length follow-up to the 28-year-old’s self-titled debut. Bonus points since Jade Bird — a 21-year-old rising songwriter from England — opens the show. March 20 at Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg. themahaffey.com

Leon Bridges CL’s only complaint about Leon Bridges2016 set at Ruth Eckerd was that the soul singer was never afforded the luxury of growing into the big rooms he was tasked with headlining. The 29-year-old Texan has most certainly adjusted since then. His latest album, Good Thing, was one of 2018’s best, and we can’t wait to hear it onstage. April 18 at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater. rutheckerdhall.com

FKJ Parisian producer and multi-instrumentalist Vincent Fenton will play Coachella in April, but the 27-year-old better known as FKJ (much better than “French Kiwi Juice”) warms up with this date that’s part of a 2019 world tour in support of a 2017 debut that blends hip-hop, smooth jazz and pop with ease. May 3 at Orpheum, Ybor City. theorpheum.com

Slayer w/Cannibal Corpse/Lamb Of God/Amon Amarth Fans and bandmates have coalesced around Cannibal Corpse guitarist Pat O’Brien, who, in late December, was arrested for burglary and assaulting a police officer while his Carrollwood home was in flames. We’re hoping he’s there when the legendary death metal band plays on this epic bill as part of a farewell tour for genre legends Slayer. May 10 at MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre, Tampa. livenation.com

Ariana Grande w/Mormani/Social House By the time she gets here, it'll have been four long years since Ariana Grande was in Tampa. That won't make the 25-year-old's date with the Bay area any less sweet, but you might want to grab tickets before this one sells out. May 28 at Amalie Arena, Tampa. amaliearena.com

About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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