Local community-funded radio station WMNF brings a mass of local, national and regional talent to Ybor City every year for its multi-venue genre-crossing music fest, Tropical Heatwave. On the Daily Loaf, we’ve spent the past 10 weeks counting down to this weekend’s 31st annual event — which encompasses 14 stages and more than 60 performers — by featuring our top 10 favorite acts, the ones you can count on to bring the fire to this year’s Heatwave. Read about them below, and click here to check out the complete schedule.
Damion Suomi & The Minor Prophets Roots-folk-soul outfit Damion Suomi & The Minor Prophets is a Cocoa Beach-based five-piece driven by the strong soaring tenor and acoustic guitar strumming of Suomi (pronounced ‘Sue-me’). The high-powered Minor Prophets — brothers Gavin and Ian Little (on bass and drums, respectively), lead guitarist Zac Sullivan, and instrument juggler David Fountain, who plays banjo, mandolin, lapsteel and trumpet — flesh out their sound with strong four-part vocal harmonies and lush arrangements. 6-7 p.m., Crowbar.
The Preservation The Austin group’s 2011 debut LP, Two Sisters, was co-produced and engineered by Brad Bell (best known for his work on the Arcade Fire’s Grammy-winning Suburbs), and mixes the bright, refreshing sounds of indie folk pop, The Band-influenced roots, and retro-ish psych rock into their self-styled “cosmic American music.” Piping lead vocals by husband-and-wife leaders Mario and Cayce Matteoli paired with charming boy-girl harmonies, piano-driven melodies, and a light touch of horns add up to a very solid work and a band worth checking out live. 7-8 p.m., New World Brewery.
He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister Imbuing their vibrant kitchen-sink music with elements of gypsy, indie rock, roots, rockabilly, cabaret blues and folk pop, LA sextet He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister are made up of musician-vagabonds ostensibly led by siblings Robert and Rachel Kolar (on guitar and percs, respectively), who harmonize and trade-off vocal duties. Adding to the instrumental arrangements are tap-dancing percussionista Lauren Brown, upright bass player Oliver “Oliwa” Newell, cellist Satya Bhabha, and lap steel guitar-slinger Aaron Robinson, his sliding technique bringing a mournful element to the infectious, upbeat sound. 7:20-8:20 p.m., Crowbar.
The London Souls We’ve featured NYC-based London Souls a few times since their self-titled debut dropped last year, and they’re most deserving of the spotlight again. The modern power trio is inspired by late ’60s/early ’70s classic Brit Invasion rock, their own sound a marriage of heavy metal, hard blues, funk-fused psychedelia, and roots rock. Lots of hip-shaking grooves, cocky riffage, and strong vocal stylings by core members Tash Neal and Chris St. Hilaire, the deeper growl and saucy soulful howl of guitarist Neal a nice counterpoint to drummer St. Hilaire’s husky drawling croon. They recently parted ways with bassist Kiyoshi Matsuyama and officially introduced a new bass player into the mix, Stu Mahan, at a show in March. 8:40-9:40 p.m., Crowbar.
Barons of Tang A seven-piece ensemble from Australia that missed last year’s Heatwave due to visa issues. Luckily, we’ll finally get the chance to experience the bedlam when the self-professed “pioneers of gypsy deathcore” get a do-over at Heatwave 2012. Barons of Tang turn gypsy music on its head, taking the exotic sounds of Eastern Europe and infusing them with elements of ska, dub, punk, metalcore, tango and rockabilly. Their boisterous, colorful compositions are marked by heavy distorted guitar riffs nestled amid acoustic strumming, marching double-kick rhythms, horn arrangements ranging from jaunty to mournful to doomfully discordant to slinky and exotic. Wailing strains of accordion add to the old country mystique. The rollicking moments are interspersed with the downright bizarre and heavy, and while the music leans instrumental, vocals are added when apropos and encompass demon-possessed lead shrieks and rah-rah choruses that shout things like “Even if you’re missing fingers, you can still make a fist!” 9:50-10:55 p.m., Cuban Club Cantina.
The Growlers The Long Beach, Calif. quintet crafts a dark, effects-laded fusion of retro surf pop, lo-fi garage, country blues and psychedelia they’ve dubbed “beach goth.” Frontman Brooks Nielson has a brassy raw and slightly nasally quality to his vocals, with laid-back instrumental and vocal accompaniment provided by bassist Patrick Palomo, lead guitarist Matt Taylor, drummer Scott Montoya and keyboardist/guitarist Kyle Straka. 10-11:10 p.m., The Ritz.
El Tule A bilingual Austin-based eight-piece, El Tule (el TOO-lay) draws on elements of cumbia, merengue, salsa, Mexican folk, Afro-Cuban, funk and reggae music to get to their vibrant, high-energy horn-and-percussion-propelled sound. The musicians are inspired by art, history and culture with a focus on legends and tales of the mystical, like fan favorite “El Chupacabra,” or “La Ruta Maya,” a tribute to the renowned Mayan Route. According to the band’s mantra, “El Tule is for those who love to dance, feel good and enjoy the positive expression of music.” 10:10-11:10 p.m., Cuban Club Ballroom.
The Explorers Club Charleston, S.C. sextet The Explorers Club imbues their music with all the nostalgia and warmth of 1970s AM gold, narrowly escaping maudlin PG-rated pop with a sound that recalls the softer jazzy side of Steely Dan, the lush orchestrations of Burt Bacharach and the doo-wop vocal harmonies of the Beach Boys. Breezy, easy-going tempos, light percussion, vibes and horns, and keyboard grooves sway behind the swoon-inducing croons of frontman Jason Brewer (guitars, keys). 11:15-12:20 a.m., Cuban Club Cantina.
JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound A sharp-dressed quintet that purveys self-styled “post-punk soul,” Chicago’s JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound marry ferocious blues-fused garage rock, Stax-funkified soul, and heavy-grinding R&B to get to their high octane aesthetic. Frontman Brooks is a tall, lean, afro pompadour-sporting force who pilots the pack with his powerful pipes, his throaty lower-register tone climbing to impressive heights in raw outbursts of emotion and remaining in the smooth falsetto range for his more romantic interludes. Tight instrumental support comes via guitarist Billy Bungeroth, drummer Kevin Marks, keyboardist Andy Rosenstein, and bassist Ben Taylor, who are joined by a horn section for some dates. Get ready for a sweaty dance affair. 11:30 p.m.-12:45 a.m., The Ritz.
The Bright Light Social Hour A favorite that played the fest last year has already been promoted to a headlining slot on the main stage — The Bright Light Social Hour. For the few who haven’t experienced a performance by the Austin foursome, Heatwave is an ideal opportunity. Bright Light thrives on the communal energy created by a thick crowd, both fueling and feeding off the wild and sweaty rock ’n’ roll frenzy they create with their infectious vigor and dance-inducing, face-rocking mix of psych and Southern rock, gritty ball-busting blues and funky howling soul, the musicians complementing each other both vocally and instrumentally. There’s a reason Bright Light is one of my favorite live acts. Don’t miss their Heatwave explosion. 11:25 p.m.-1 a.m., El Pasaje Plaza.