Fall Arts: What to watch for in Tampa Bay area music and beyond

Florida is flush with live music offerings this fall, and the Bay area is reaping the benefits. Arena rock stars, the hottest indie buzz bands, a bounty of music fests brimming with first-rate talent, and plenty else. Here’s the music you need to have on your radar.


Florida’s fall festival season begins even before the humidity wanes and the temperature drops from mild and tolerable to cool, breezy and pleasant. Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak hosts two camping-optional fests. The first is this weekend’s inaugural Blackwater Music Festival (Aug. 26-28). Jamtronica, swamp rock, world beat, West Coast reggae, Nola funk and jazz — all these sounds and more are repped by a lineup headed by Slightly Stoopid, Michael Franti & Spearhead and STS9, and featuring Disco Biscuits, G. Love, Galactic and guest Cyril Neville, Particle with Michael Kang, and many others. The fourth annual Bear Creek Music & Arts Festival (Nov. 12-14) arrives at Suwannee three weeks later. Legendary illustrator Ralph Steadman created 30 limited edition posters for the event, which features its usual abundance of funkadelic fusion artists (Soulive [pictured], New Mastersounds, Maceo Parker Band, Dumpstaphunk, Lettuce) along with some jam tasty highlights — upstate New York fivesome moe. and co-prog jazz rock fusionists, Chicago sextet Umphrey’s McGee, Canadian electro-funtastic trio The New Deal and scene turntable vet DJ Logic. Some perform twice over the weekend and Bear Creek kicks everything off early with pre-party shows on Wednesday and Thursday nights.

Locally, Pinellas County’s nonprofit arts center for people with disabilities, Creative Clay, closes down three blocks of Central Avenue for its Fourth Annual FolkFest St. Pete. Organizers have raised the bar of the free music and art fest fundraiser with two solid headliners: folk rock duo Indigo Girls and folk pop singer-songwriter Dar Williams, who join a solid bill of local and regional acts, like Heavy Pets, Lorna Bracewell and Have Gun, Will Travel (Oct. 1-3, 1100-1300 blocks, St. Petersburg). Clearwater Jazz Holiday strays from its contemporary flavor a bit into surprising territory, with headliners like Little Feat, Dr. John & the Lower 911 and Soulive [pictured above] rounding out the usual smoothies (Oct. 14-17, Coachman Park). Finally, HCC’s Ybor Jazz Festival (“There’s nothing smooth about it!”) features topnotch local talent (Trio Vibe, Helios Jazz Orchestra) as well as select out-of-town guests, like scat-singing vocalist Kevin Mahogany and jazz fusion guitarist Larry Coryell (Nov. 2-7, HCC-Ybor City).