Concert review: Hopscotching from one stage to the next at WMNF's 29th annual Tropical Heatwave (with lots of pics)

If Tropical Heatwave was their final show, however, they went out with a bang, running through a collection of crowd favorites, Ernie switching between guitar and harmonica as required. At the same time, Heatwave was the same show we've been watching the band perform for the last six months. Mind you, it's always an awesome show, and I know I see them a lot more than the average person, but it's time for them to work some new material into their sets, be it originals or covers.


[image-1]After Nervous Turkey's set I decided to just wander around for a little while. I headed over to New World Brewery to check out local sensation Jim Morey Band [Jim Morey below, photo by Phil]. I am sad to say this was my first time catching them live, but the four-piece certainly lived up to the hype. They play a New Orleansified version of jazz-blues-soul that I can't recall ever seeing done so well by a local band. Despite it being early and the sun still being up, the crowd watching them was in full party mode, so I grabbed a beer and joined in the festivities for a while before trekking over to catch the heavily recommended Stone River Boys with Dave Gonzalez.



[6:01pm] @autopsy4: The crowd is loving The Stone River Boys. I am finding them pretty pedestrian.


I was told by more than one person to check these guys out, so I made a point to drop in and catch their set. In retrospect, I should have just stuck around New World and caught the end of the Jim Morey show. I guess it falls under the "you can't like everyone" tab, but I was pretty underwhelmed and quickly returned to my wandering state.


[image-2][6:16pm] @autopsy4: For all the Stone River disappointment, I am finding Ruthie Foster to be a hell of a surprise!


As is a typical theme at Heatwave, I didn't have to wander far to find something awesome and a one-minute stroll away from Stone River Boys found me back at the El Pasaje Plaza watching Ruthie Foster [pictured right, photo by Jeff]. Ruthie and her band are described as blues/folk/R&B, but if I were asked to describe the music myself, I would call it gospel blues. I hung out and watched the bulk of Ruthie's show before wandering back over to New World to see a show by yet another local band making their presence felt at Heatwave: The Chicken Chasers. I arrived, caught a song, went in to get a beer, saw some people I knew, and damned if 30 minutes didn't by pass like three and before I knew it, it was time to head over to Orpheum for one of the highlights of the night, Have Gun Will Travel.


LEILANI: [7:25 p.m.] @Leilani79 Island tasty grooves w/the hip abduction @ Orpheum


I hoofed it all the way to the farthest stage at Crowbar to see Peter Baldwin, only to realize I had to return to Orpheum to get my reggae-groove dance on with The Hip Abduction. Since Baldwin was playing in downtown St. Pete in the upcoming weeks, I [image-3]figured I'd catch him then and booked it back to Orpheum, where I pushed through the people and ended up in front of the stage, getting dow hip-shake happy until the set came to a close.


I hurried on to the Cuban Club Cantina to enjoy a set by a quirky folk-pop-vintage rock singer-songwriter from South Florida who I've been meaning to see for a really long time -- Rachel Goodrich. She was just as adorable and talented in person as on disc, her huge velvety sweet voice soaring from her tiny little body, and her backup band -- dubbed "The Muppets" for the night -- were dressed up in all kinds of costume-ish attire. Goodrich herself played an assortment of instruments, like a giant Rickenbacker guitar as big as her entire torso, charango (a lute similar to a ukelele but with more strings), and a racked kazoo. Towards the end of her set, she invited a bunch of audience members onto the stage (including CL staffer Joran Oppelt's adorable four-year-old daughter, Alchemy) and handed out various percussive instruments so the guests could take part in a huge jam that ended with Goodrich playing from the floor [pictured above, photo by Phil]. Good stuff.


[image-4]I sprinted upstairs to the Cuban Club Ballroom to catch Luminescent Orchestrii. The Brooklyn foursome were billed as "gypsy punk," but their instrumental sound was not at all like the sort of frenzied Euro punk you get from Gogol Bordello or even Golem; the members of Lumnescent Orchestrii -- made up of string players on viola, violin [Rema Fand pictured right, photo by Phil], steel guitar and melodica, and cello -- obviously came from classically-trained backgrounds, and they broke up the subtle harmonic moments with brisk-paced numbers that stabbled the air with precision notes, European chamber folk music infused with elements of tango, gypsy jazz, Americana, and klezmer, and delivered with lively punk rock energy.


Next up was The Semis, although I arrived early enough to see local lady emcee Dynasty finish up her set at New World with a particular funkified favorite, "Magnificent." While The Semis were setting up, I returned to my car to freshen up and as I made my way back, discovered Nervous Turkey's Ernie Locke wailing on harmonica with Texas eclectic rock musician, Alejandro Escovedo, the crowd going wild as Escovedo gave props to Locke for his usual hot-solid playing.


[image-5][9:59 p.m.] @Leilani79 Semis rocking faces off @ new world


I haven't seen The Semis play in some time and was stoked about finally catching them live in their current state of forward momentum. With a stellar new album out to support and a sense of drive that shows in the band's spirited playing, frontman Billy Summer [pictured left, photo by Jeff] tore it up while still managing to look infinitely cool and collected in his Panama hat and "Spoiled Brat" t-shirt, a very different Summer from what the local scene has seen in the past, and one I came to appreciate after his band's hotshit set of driving alt-surf-hard rock n' roll. In fact, aside from Rachel Goodrich, The Semis were among the few bands that I stuck around long enough to see the majority of their performance. But Two Man Gentlemen Band was calling, and I had to catch the last bit of their show, too, so I made my exit as The Semis set drew to a close.


AUTOPSY IV: [8:25pm] @autopsy4: Have Gun. If you don't know. Ask me muthafucker!


[image-6]After a little waiting in line and preshow banter, it quickly became apparent that the to-capacity crowd at Orpheum wasn't just "a Heatwave crowd." No, the bulk of attendees were there for a purpose that became obvious the moment the first note was played, and that purpose was to sing along to the gems of Tampa. It was probably the most energetic, appreciative and familiar Have Gun, Will Travel crowd I've ever seen the band play for, and the band certainly played to the crowd, storming though an hour-long set that I left Orpheum thinking it would be the best show I saw at Heatwave. [Frontman Matt Burke pictured at right, photo by Jeff.]


[9:07pm] @autopsy4: Holy. Shit. Tornado Rider are fucking awesome


[9:39pm] @autopsy4: To everyone who told me to check out Tornado Rider: there aren't enough Thank You's on earth!


The week leading up to Heatwave I'd been told not to miss Tornado Rider and earlier in the evening Scott Anderson (HGWT guitarist) had tried to describe what they were like live, but I just did not get it. It's not his fault; trying to describe what they do [image-7]live is a lot like trying to describe what The Legendary Shackshakers do live. You can put the show into words, but the experience is beyond words. Tornado Rider is a three piece made up of a drummer, bassist and cellist/vocalist [pictured left crowd surfing, photo by Jeff] doing a nerd rock version of The Ramones. The cellist wears the friggin' cello like an electric guitar and plays it in much the same way. I'm not even gonna try and describe it other than to say it was the funnest show of my night and I can not wait to catch them live again.


After Tornado Rider, I roamed around basking in that "I just saw greatness" afterglow, talking to friends and wandering about before calling it a night and heading home. In the end, this Heatwave could be looked back upon as Tampa's coming out party. All it takes is for the people who came out to Heatwave to come out to a local show once a month. Just come see a local band you liked once a month instead of coming to Heatwave once a year. If that could happen, we'd have something special, but odds are, I'll see y'all at Heatwave next year.


[image-8]LEILANI: [10:34 p.m.] @Leilani79 2man gentlemen band using wit and kaz00s to great effect @ ybor room


I was charmed by the sounds of Two Man Gentlemen Band before I ever saw them live, and my charm has transformed into full-blown infatuation after seeing a mere 15 minutes of their set. Yes, what they do could be considered novelty: pithy, tongue-in-cheeky Americana/neo-vaudevillian ditties that focus on pre-1940’s history as performed by a pair of clever Long Islanders -- Fuller Condon on upright bass, and Andy Bean on banjo, guitar and cornet -- who share vocal and kazoo-playing duties. But novelty or not, the music was jaunty and fun-spirited, and translated well in a live setting, though the Ybor Room wasn't the best place for throwing down since the audience was forced to take seats in the over-darkened lecture room, which also seemed to be having AC problems. In fact, the gents -- who performed in dapper throwback suits and had to be sweating up a storm -- even performed a song in salute to the room's too-high temperature, "Drip Dry," as well as "Fancy Beer," which was played in response to the Ybor Room's alcohol restriction, apparently the only venue in the whole place that didn't allow drinking...


[image-9][11:27 p.m.] @Leilani79 Ettes rawk hard n sweet @ the cantina


I made it back to the Cantina in time to find The Ettes setting up and working through some sound problems. After an impatient (likely beer-drunken) person in the audience yelled something about getting the show started, cute and sassy lead vocalist/guitarist Lindsay “Coco” Hames [pictured left, photo by Phil] grabbed the mic and retorted "Do you think we don't want to be rocking out hard and loud for you guys right now ? Because we do, so just give us a few, okay?" The foursome proved themselves worth the wait when they launched into their seething brand of heavy-handed alternapunkpop, the fuzzed out guitars carried by the wild, thunderous drumming of femme stick-wielder Maria “Poni” Silver and the girlish-pretty vocals of Coco.


I slipped out to see what I was missing after enjoying several Ettes songs; BoomBox was throwing a rave party in the Cuban Club Bandshell, with lots of lights and fog and unz-unz-unz so bland and boring that it drove me out to see a few quick minutes of Jason Ricci, who was running all over the stage and doing his best blues-punk impression of Iggy Pop, killing it on harmonica as sweat dripped [image-10]from his lean, sinewy, shirtless and tattooed body. I vaught the end of The Ettes before making a few last stops in my night.


[11:52 p.m.] @Leilani79 jtyler n crew raging barechested @ Orpheum


By the time I returned to Orpheum, Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights were ripping it up, three of the four members rocking the shirtless, glaring white tattooed chest look, long hair flying as they wailed through their final songs of heavy-stomping Southern gritty rock n' roll.


Afterwards, I made an obligatory a pass through New World Brewery, attempted to pay attention to the Sleepy Vikings and failed utterly as the end-of-the-night exhaustion started hitting me hard. So before I was completely done in, I hiked to the El Pasaje stage to see a little of The Soulphonics & Ruby Velle.


[image-11]


The band's horn-drenched funk, soul and R&B revue was led by vintage classy frontwoman Velle, who was dressed in her high heel best with a tasty peach polka-dot dress [pictured right, photo by Phil]. I enjoyed the  dancelicious music for as long as I could, but couldn't get my aching feet to move, no matter how much the upper half of my body begged.


Eventually, I made my tired way back to my car, content that I'd not only made it through several hours of steamy heat intact, but that I'd managed to enjoy myself immensely along the way, see the majority of the acts I'd intended to, and was only thoroughly unimpressed by one of those (BoomBox). Overall, it was a success and I can't wait to see some of these bands again...


More photos by Phil


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More photos by by Jeff


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live

Autopsy IV and I spent this past Saturday, May 15, moseying up and down the streets of Ybor City, and taking in the sights and sounds of the 29th annual Tropical Heatwave. The following is a record of our separate Heatwave adventures paired with our Tweets and a slew of fab photos by Phil Bardi and Jeff O'Kelley. Enjoy!

LEILANI: I came, I saw, and over a period of nine hours, I conquered. While this was only my second Tropical Heatwave ever, I had it all figured out. See, Heatwave is all about sampling – it's a genre-crossing buffet of music that features national acts amid a selection of high-quality local fare. Try a band here, try a band there, and then it's off to the next and next and next. But even as you're scurrying, you know it's casual because chances are real good that 'MNF will bring back most of them again, so it's more a matter of catching said acts for long enough to figure out whether they're worth investing your time in the future. The local bands are an added bonus, since they play around town often enough that if you discover a few you like, you can drop in and see them at local music establishments all over town whenever you want. Mostly.

I manged to sample the offerings of a whopping 16 bands, some for only a minute or two, others for a few or several songs, but it still managed to feel like a musical feast.

TWEET: [3:15 p.m.] @Leilani79 These panel lights are blinding.

My day started at at the CL Space, where Creative Loafing and and Homemade Music Symposium had teamed up to present three Pre-Heat Music Industry Panels, at which local musicians were offered insight and advice from key players in the Bay area music scene. I took part in the Demo Listening Party with WMNF's Flee (WMNF), Husky Jon of 97X, and entertainment lawyer Kevin Astel, Esq., and basically, we listened to demo tracks by three local artists and offered our thoughts and creative criticism on both the recordings and how to better promote them.

Two artists were pre-selected, one chosen at random from the audience of musicians. First up was Johnny Cakes and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypso (also a Heatwave performer), and they brought a high-energy ska-reggae track with lots of horns and rhythm changes. The next, Warlock-Z, provided a beat-heavy laptop electronica number he'd created specifically for a video game. The randomly-chosen artist from the audience ended up being Bobby Lee Rodgers, who wasn’t actually in attendance (his super fan showed up in his place), wasn’t actually from Florida (he’s based in Savannah, Ga., but was playing a few dates down here that weekend), and wasn’t really a struggling artist (I interviewed him a few years back when he was touring with Col. Bruce Hampton and The Codetalkers, and the song that was played for us came from his first already-released solo album). Yes, it was a little like being in a music editor's version of The Twilight Zone, since I've been a fan of Rodgers for years and the chosen song was barely recognizable as the the fiery jazz-country-swing-blues artist I knew.

Afterwards, I spent some time chatting with all those who'd attended, got CDs from the artists who didn't get the chance to have their songs picked apart, and after changing into heat-friendly clothes, I made myw ay into the press of people to catch Nervous Turkey and Jim Morey Band, and dropped into Orpheum to see the very tail end of Lauris Vidal and Andy Zipf, who jumped from stage to floor, sang at the top of their lungs while playing their acoustic guitars and skipping amidst the packed crowd, and vaulted back on stage for their finish.

AUTOPSY IV: Going into this year’s Heatwave, I kept saying that it was either a sad statement or a grand statement about the state of Tampa's local scene that most of the "must see" bands were homegrown. Now, after sampling Heatwave's offerings, I've decided that it's a grand and (mostly) accurate statement about the state of our local scene.

My day started early with Nervous Turkey opening the El Pasaje Plaza festivities. [Pictured right, photo by Phil.]

[4:19pm] @autopsy4: I'm at Tropical Heatwave w/@cl_streetteam @reaxmagazine @laughterkey.

[4:43pm] @autopsy4: Watching Nervous Turkey as Tropical Heatwave lives up to the name with a pronounced sweat ring on my shirt

[5:19pm] @autopsy4: This is the first show I've ever seen Ernie finish with his shirt on.

[5:23pm] @autopsy4: and there went the shirt

So, let's just address the big white elephant in the room. Word around town was that Heatwave was Nervous Turkey's final show. The band never officially announced this, and later that evening, I tried to get Ernie to tell me one way or the other, but he avoided the issue all together. Let's just hope it's all a rumor or that they work out whatever issues they may have and soldier on.

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