Gasparilla Music Festival: A Couple Rants and a Ton of Raves

With a much shorter than usual turnaround time, Gasparilla Music Festival and mastermind Phil Benito again nailed it. (Almost) all of it. And Mother Nature smiled on the proceedings (thinking about a festival in North Carolina just postponed because it was going to be 23 degrees and raining!).

GMF 22. 📷: Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.com

There is so much to rave about. Let’s get the rants out of the way first.

There was a scheduling problem Sunday which could have been straightened out. The way the schedule generally works is that there are two very short 30-minute sets that separate performances on the Morgan Automotive Stage while there are sets on the main JW Marriott Stage. Those two mini-sets are on the Replay Guitar Exchange Stage and in the Ferman Amphitheatre.

The printed schedule — and apparently the one given to the bands — listed sets that should have been 3:45-4:15 as 4:00-4:30. As it is, those bands only have 30 minutes to play, but the next set on the Morgan stage began at 4:15. That wasn’t fair to anyone involved. Let’s hope somebody proofs the schedule more carefully next year.

Music from the two main stages was MUCH, MUCH TOO LOUD, unnecessarily loud, ear-damagingly loud. Obviously this is my opinion, but there are many who share it. Music reaches the back of the area of each stage just fine without cranking it up so far. I will continue to rant; they will likely continue to crank it up, although I AM a cock-eyed optimist. Just trying to promote ear health. LOUDER ISN’T BETTER, ONLY LOUDER.

Finally, several of the MCs for the weekend thought that this was a great opportunity to make off-color comments, engage in sexual innuendo, and use profanity. I’m well aware that some of the musicians did as well, but, with so many young and very young children in the crowd, this was unwelcome and unnecessary from the hosts of the event.

Rant over.

On to the brilliance of the weekend!

Mavis Staples – GMF 22. 📷: Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.com

 

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 25

I missed the first nine performances of the day, arriving in time to catch Melt, a really solid indie/soul band from NYC. Their female vocalist was captivating, and the standard bass, drums, guitar, and keyboards (he also sang) were augmented by trumpet and tenor sax. They played original music with “Ain’t No Sunshine” thrown in the mix.

Next up were two of the short sets. Sound engineer Andrew Kilmartin earned the gold for managing 13 bodies on the tiny Replay stage and making it sound great! Tampa’s Sam E. Hues offered lovely hip hop flow, accompanied by four female vocalists, bass, drums, two keyboards, turntablist, guitar, percussion, and violin! WOW!

Meanwhile, at the Amp, superbly run by Tom DeGeorge, the patron saint of the music scene in Ybor City and far, far beyond, G.W. Souther from Orlando were tearing it up. This quartet reminded of very early Funkadelic, with soulful power rock. Their original music included a song called “Three Days Without You.” Near the end, keyboard player Weava noted that his bass player was from Alabama, and they funked up a quick “Sweet Home Alabama,” to everyone’s delight.

G.W. Souther – GMF 22.

GROUPLOVE brought their L.A. brand of alternative rock to the main stage before the largest crowd of the day, enthusiastic fans who knew their music up front for the well-played set. (And much love to bands who post their setlists!)

Grouplove – GMF 22. 📷: Angela Goldstein

[Just What You Want, Deleter, Raspberry, Scratch, Itchin’ on a Photograph, Love Will Save Your Soul, Deadline, Oxygen Swimming, Tongue Tied, Dancing on My Own, Welcome to Your Life, Ways to Go, Colours]

Meanwhile, up at Morgan, a seismic event was about to occur. It was so stunning that we published a piece about it the next day. Here is the link to the entire article, but this should give you the general idea.

I had begun that article with this about the headlining set to follow by Black Pumas:

Unfortunately for Black Pumas, they had to follow Cimafunk. Are you familiar? I’d say that almost on one there was. I guarantee you they are now! For my money, NOBODY could have followed their set.

Imagine stirring into a pot P-Funk, Los Amigos Invisibles, King Sunny Adé, Bosq y Orquesta de Madera, James Brown and His Famous Flames, Fela Kuti, and Irakere. What you’d pour out would be Cimafunk, the brainchild of Erik Alejandro Iglesias Rodriguez. Thom Jurek wrote that Cimafunk “blends Cuban and Caribbean sounds, from ancient to current styles, with Afro-Latin rhythms — including salsa, guaguancó, urban rumba, nueva trova, timba, and Santería ritual music — alongside modern funk, soul, pop, hip-hop, and EDM. His lyrics derive directly from Havana’s street culture.”

Cimafunk – GMF 22. 📷: Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.com

As usual, your mileage may vary. This was one of the most riveting performances I’ve see in the past decade, maybe several decades. Absolutely astonishing in its power and magnificence. I observed first the standard band: guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, and percussion. There was another male vocalist in addition to Cimafunk, and there were two female vocalists. Then the ladies grabbed their tenor saxophone and trombone and really funked it up. STUNNING

I had begun that article with this about the headlining set to follow by Black Pumas:

Unfortunately for Black Pumas, they had to follow Cimafunk. Are you familiar? I’d say that almost on one there was. I guarantee you they are now! For my money, NOBODY could have followed their set.

The set by Black Pumas was wonderful, beautiful psychedelic soul from Austin, the band fronted by Eric Burton. The band featured an excellent backing quartet and two dynamic female singers. Burton played guitar on occasion throughout the set. He is a tireless cheerleader, constantly drawing the crowd in. An early tune (“Take Me Off the Pedestal,” maybe) was great. 

Black Pumas – GMF 22. 📷: Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.com

On “Sugar Man,” he reminded of Curtis Mayfield vocally, and they followed up with “Know You Better.” There was a newer tune titled “Angel,” and “More Than a Love Song” was great, too. “Mrs. Postman” rocked, and Burton and the band dug deep into Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City” (written by Michael Price and Dan Walsh). The crowd responded all set long, especially when they closed with “Sisters and Brothers.” Called back for an encore, they gave as a raucous singalong with “Dirty, Dirty On You.”

They had Silent Disco set up Friday and Saturday, but the lines were slammed. I’m sure it was a blast.

Spencer Storch of Shows I Go To sung the praises of Hearty Har, a band I missed earlier. They are fronted by two of John Fogerty’s sons. Keep on the lookout for them!

Silent Disco – GMF 22. 📷: Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.com

 

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 26

I missed the seven early sets (it’s a long, long day!). Peach Tree Rascals were on the main stage. This pop musical collective from San Jose was pouring out uplifting, positive hip hop with lots of dancing and wide smiles, truly a lot of fun.

Peach Tree Rascals – GMF 22. 📷: Ysa Taylor

Tampa darlings Have Gun, Will Travel (Morgan) were doing what they do best: Americana rock. They sang “American History” and told us about “Any Place but Here.” They also played their brand new single “Buyer’s Remorse.” Subbing on drums was Taylor Galbraith, and she crushed the set.

Have Gun, Will Travel – GMF 22.

For pure fun it was tough to beat Arrested Development, the band created in the ATL in 1988 spreading positive vibes to help counteract negativity. They surely managed that at GMF with a colorful, uplifting show which began with a young lady in bright clothes waving an even brighter flag back and forth at the end of the stage runway. 

Arrested Development – GMF 22. 📷: Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.com

Group founder Speech was resplendent, leading the band and us through a great cross-section of their important work. Also on stage were three who have been involved for more than two decades: Jason “JJ Boogie” Reichert on guitar and production, One Love on vocals, and Fareedah Aleem on vocals, and dancing. LOTS of dancing!

[Give A Man A Fish, Revolution, Dawn of the Dreads, Fishin’ 4 Religion, Ease My Mind, Tennessee, Let Your Voice Be Heard, Jump / Jump Around, Mr Wendal, Mama’s Always on Stage, People Everyday]

On the Replay stage was a band reminded us not to judge a book by its cover, or, in this case, to judge a band’s genre by their dress. Moonthing looked like they were ready for a lounge gig with the vocalist in a lovely floor-length purple dress. We were NOT expecting to have great “cinematic psychedelia moon grunge rock n’ roll” flow off the stage in waves! Lounge metal!

At the Amp, was a very young jazz septet working through several originals and solid cover tunes as well. In the Pocket alto player (also soprano sax) got some nice space. Keyboard player Nick was prominent and at the center of the groove, especially on his composition “Nick’s tune.” “10 O’Clock” and “Free Love” were good originals, and they introduced their female vocalist to croon on Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Won’t Do for Love.”

In the Pocket – GMF 22. 📷: Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.com

One of the best parts of a festival is the people-watching. Two excellent t-shirts in quick succession were:

EVERYTHING IS BETTER ON A STICK

and 

BAD CHOICES MAKE GREAT STORIES

You bet.

It was time for a trip to Nawlins with Cha Wa, “torchbearers of Mardi Gras Indian funk” (Relix). The six-man band plus two singer/dancers in full regalia turned this into a party the instant they stepped on stage, opening with “Cha Wa,” “Get On Out De Way,” and a long take of “On Mardi Gras Day” (just three days before Fat Tuesday). There was no change of sitting still as they wooed us with Crescent City funk.

Have you tried to listen to what passes for country music on the radio? Yes, most of it is dreadful. Here’s a suggestion, program directors. Throw all that stuff in the trash, and just play Margo Price 24/7. Because that woman kicked MAJOR ass the entire set. The brochure said “folk rock.” Not hardly. She and her Nashville band rocked out as hard as anyone all weekend, and it was great music. Her voice is superb, her songs engaging, and her band explosive. At times there were FOUR guitars blazing. 

Margo Price – GMF 22. 📷: Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.com

She opened with “Letting Me Down,” a track from her 2020 album That’s How Rumors Get Started. A couple of songs in, she sniffed and said, “Smells good, Tampa! Keep it up!” Great response, and the crowd took her advice. A while later, she dropped the Leslie Gore classic “You Don’t Own Me” in the middle of her own fine tunes, and it worked. Think you don’t like country? Don’t care. Go see Margo Price. You’ll be glad you did.

Margo Price – GMF 22. 📷: Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.com

[Letting Me Down, Four Years of Chances, Nowhere Fast, Light Me Up, Tennessee Song, Twinkle Twinkle, Don’t Say It, You Don’t Own Me, Letting Me Down, Cocaine Cowboys, Country Road, Paper Cowboy, Hey Child, A Little Pain]

DBMK at Replay was having difficulty getting started. I only heard a bit of the alt-pop from the vocalist and the drummer who also handled production. 

DBMK – GMF 22. 📷: Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.com

Meanwhile, Vinny Virgo from L.A. was filling the Amp with positive hip hop vibes with his great voice and fine work from the DJ.

I wrote an article on Jam Cruise entitled “There is Nothing REMOTELY Like an Andy Frasco & the U.N. Concert.” That sentiment will remain true as long as Frasco can slip into his Lakers jersey and send us reeling with the madcap antics of the band and their unstated motto: If we CAN do it, we SHOULD do it. No crowd-surfing this time — just not set up for that — but otherwise this was vintage Frasco. As if anybody possibly could, they began with “Don’t Tell Me What to Do.” 

Andy Frasco & the U.N. – GMF 22. 📷: Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.com

They romped through”Sweet Sympathy” and “Walk a Little Taller.” Frasco then doubled us over laughing as he pointed out “all the trust-funders up in VIP.” Next he noted, “I’m out of shape. Haven’t played a show in four days.” And how about “no more gas station pizza for us!” After “I Don’t Want to Be Lonely,” Frasco noted that “it feels good to be back!”

Andy Frasco & the U.N. – GMF 22. 📷: Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.com

All of the musicians in the band are incredibly talented, but we discovered just how talented when Frasco called “instrument switch.” Tenor player Ernie Chang moved to Frasco’s keyboards while Frasco grabbed the bass. Amazing guitarist Shawn Eckels and the drummer switched as well. They rocked out, and we saw that Eckels was also amazing on drums and the drummer really smokin’ on guitar.

Andy Frasco & the U.N. – GMF 22. 📷: Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.com

They switched back for fan favorite “Addicted to You,” which led to a deep jam, a drum solo, and then a killer, killer (all-too-short) “N.I.B.” (from the first Black Sabbath album) and back to “Addicted to Love.” Next Frasco invited the men from Cha Wa to join them for some more gumbo funk. What a blast that was! “Smokin’ Dope and Rock ’n’ Roll.” A Biz Markie singalong with “Just a Friend.” The Frasco Dance Party. In other words, business as usual.

Andy Frasco & the U.N. – GMF 22. 📷: Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.com

K.III is a Tampa hip hop MC, accompanied by cello, drums, and DJ. They were rocking Replay stage.

Over at The Amp, a fascinating scene was unfolding. Orthotasce is a DJ/vocalist/keyboard player with more more patches on his board than I’ve ever seen. He would be awesome in a club: great beats, good vocals, nice presentation.

Band of Horses are a very popular indie rock band from Charleston, and the crowd in front of the main stage had swelled, filling much of the area. They were clearly great musicians, but the set seemed to lack heart. When one of them steps to the mic to say, “This is a song called [??] or something,” my thought was, If you don’t care, why should we? That was just my take; the crowd loved the set.

[The Great Salt Lake, Is There a Ghost, NW Apt, Casual Party, No One’s Gonna Love You, Islands on the Coast, Marry Song, Older, Factory, Crutch, Laredo, Lights, Ode to LRC, The Funeral, The General Specific]

Next up was a club set by Bob Moses. They self-identify as an “outfit consisting of Tom Howie and Jimmy Vallance blend[ing] electronic elements with piano and guitar accompaniment.” In its slot, this was absolutely perfect. The music was indeed designed for a club, and many danced to the infectious beats. It was a welcome respite, a chance to groove along after a long day of music.

The Revivalists had the last word Saturday, and frontman David Shaw was at his lithe, funky best, all over the stage as his bandmates threw down a great set of music. They opened with “You Said It All” and “Criminal.” Shaw was in fine voice, especially his falsetto. Zack Feinberg was crushing some heavy fuzz tone guitar, and the duo of Andrew Campanelli and Paulet “PJ” Howard (drums and percussion) had their foot on the gas all night long.

The Revivalists – GMF 22. 📷: Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.com

Shaw occasionally played guitar; it was fire when he and Feinberg played in tandem. Michael Girardot’s piano intro to “Soulfight” then yielded to some great pedal steel from Ed Williams. The band kicked total ass on “Catching Fireflies” and closed the set with “Celebration.”

David Shaw – The Revivalists – GMF 22. 📷: Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.com

Back on stage for an encore, Shaw and the band surrounded A. Hoffman, the band’s tour manager. This was her final show with the band, and they all showed appreciation before encoring with “Wish I Knew You.”

The Revivalists – GMF 22. 📷: Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.com

[You Said It All, Criminal, It Was a Sin, You and I, Oh No, When I’m With You, All My Friends, Change, ?The Wild Coming Out?, Fade Away, Keep Going, Soulfight, Catching Fireflies, Got Love, Celebration; E: Wish I Knew You]

 

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 27

I arrived in time to be dazzled by Kenzie Wheeler, a Plant City boy with a country band from all over. I am not much of a country fan, but this — and Margo Price — is what country music should sound like. He was an engaging frontman, and the band smoked. The lyrics weren’t filled with the cliches you hear on terrestrial radio. Looking forward to seeing him again.

Mavis Staples has still got it, and thankfully she is still sharing it with all of us at 82. Her warm set included favorites and unexpected covers, all delivered in her inimitable style. At one point she noted that The Staples Singers have been around for 74 years and that she isn’t done yet, to great applause. She closed with two signature songs: “Touch a Hand, Make a Friend” and “I’ll Take You There.”

Mavis Staples – GMF 22. 📷: Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.com

[Come Go With Me, I’m Just Another Soldier, Brothers and Sisters, Who Told You That, Handwriting on the Wall, Can You Get to That, Wade in the Water, Slippery People, Friendship, My Country, Got To Move, For What It’s Worth, Touch a Hand, Make a Friend, I’ll Take You There]

Mavis Staples – GMF 22. 📷: Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.com

This was also when the schedule time snafu occurred. The bands that should have started at 3:45 didn’t begin until 4:00, with Neal Francis ready to start his set on the Morgan stage at 4:15. Summer Hoop knew they had at most 20 minutes to show. Their experimental indie pop featured a female vocalist with a trio.

The Venus, from St. Petersburg, fared a little better with the sound better insulated in The Amp. They had acoustic and electric guitars, bass, drums, and trumpet. My view of them was all too brief, but reliable reports said check them out!!

The Venus – GMF 22. 📷: Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.com

“Bluesy retro funk” is the perfect description for Chicago-based Neal Francis, who spun us around our first time hearing him and his band at Suwannee Hulaween last October. This set was a match. Bass, drums, and guitar back the keyboard player, who hopped back and forth between two separate rigs: Hammond B3 and electric piano. They channel the sounds of the ’70s.

Neal Francis – GMF 22. 📷: Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.com

Some of the songs were relatively short, others jammed out. There was a point when they hit a 4 Tops vibe, another where Francis’ great falsetto rang through. Pop, rock, soul, funk… Francis and the band covered all the basses during a fine set. Francis then called up David Shaw of The Revivalists to help sing a song they co-wrote called “Can’t Stop the Rain.”

Neal Francis – GMF 22. 📷: Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.com

[Say Your Prayers, Problems, Alameda Apartments, How Have I Lived, Changes Pts. 1 & 2, Sentimental Garbage, Very Fine, BNYLV, Prometheus, She’s a Winner, Can’t Stop the Rain]

 

Khristopher James is a singer/songwriter from Tampa, delivering his Southern soul with outstanding back from an all-star Bay area band (Tucker, Vinny, Jordan, Levi, Christian).

MrENC pounded out some fun power punk pop in the Amp, with two guitars blazing.

The Allman Betts Band has made quite a name for itself over the past several years, featuring three sons of the original members of The Allman Brothers Band: Devon Allman, guitar, vocals, and Duane Betts, guitar, vocals, along with Berry Oakley Jr., bass. (Oakley was not present for this show.) The band delivered an excellent set of their own compositions and some from their fathers’ band on what was “The final show for a long time,” as announced on their Facebook page. The lineup also featured John Stachela, guitar; John Ginty, keyboards; R. Scott Bryan, percussion; and John Lum, drums; and there was a third guitarist on stage as well.

The Allman Betts Band – GMF 22. 📷: Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.com

There was a fine version of “Dreams” and a powerful rendition of the title track to the group’s first album, Down to the River. One of the set highlights was a long, jazzy jam in the style of “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” another the finale when Allman brought out “dad’s guitar” to play “Midnight Rider.”

The Allman Betts Band – GMF 22. 📷: Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.com

There was “twangy indie rock” from Montclair, New Jersey, in the form of Pinegrove. The group and front man Evan Stephens Hall were passionate about the environment and climate crisis, evidenced by the focus of compositions on brand new album 11:11. Their set included all 11 tracks from the album.

Pinegrove – GMF 22. 📷: Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.com

[Alaska, Cyclone, Intrepid, Flora, Rings, Orange, 11th Hour, Let, Over My Shoulder, Respirate, Habitat, Iodine, Angelina, So What, The Alarmist, Swimming, Darkness, Endless, Peeling off the Bark, Size of the Moon, New Friends]

I would like to meet the man (no woman is this stupid) who decided that shining klieg lights out into the faces of the audience would be a swell idea.

You couldn’t have asked for a better closing headline performance than the one we got from the unstoppable Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue. That man and his band are a freight train, heading directly for you. The festival program listed them as “post-bop jazz,” and that’s not a bad place to start, but Troy Andrews, aka Trombone Shorty, takes his crew in dozens of directions throughout the course of a show.

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue – GMF 22. 📷: Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.com

The band shot out of the gate with a strong “I Just Want My Heart Back.” WOW! More funk with Shorty on both trombone and trumpet eventually resolved itself into a superb version of The Meters’ “Ain’t No Use” featuring the two female vocalists and the band’s tenor sax player. This was CRUSH FUNK.

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue – GMF 22. 📷: Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.com

There was a very accurate song about relationships: somebody “you might meet on the way down.” This one had a killer guitar solo and then a LONG trombone workout. “Your Love Makes Me Do the Craziest Things” (yes, I’m guessing on song titles here) was followed by “I Wanna Rock Right Now!” and that twisted itself into The Meters’ “Fiyo on the Bayou.” 

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue – GMF 22. 📷: Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.com

There was a spectacular section where Shorty on trombone and the tenor and baritone saxophone players went old school, new school, out school that was mind-blowing. Then Shorty listed off some of the great Jazz Fest references. “Long Weekend” segued through a bunch of funk classics: “Get Down On It > Make It Funky > Get Up Offa That Thing > Rock Steady > Make It Funky” before returning to “Long Weekend.”

 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, wraps up the 11th annual Gasparilla Music Festival. Kudos to all the organizers, volunteers, medical personnel, food trucks, Aerial Dragons, Hoola Monsters, the ladies on stilts and with wings, police, water station folks, and everyone who attended to make this weekend a success.

 

 

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