This past weekend the Gasparilla Music Festival took over the Downtown Tampa area with sights, sounds and smells that were well worth the 4-hour drive. Not knowing what to expect, being my first time to this festival, I went in with no expectations whatsoever. In its fourth year and the first sellout, I had a feeling it would be good. The 10,000 strong in the crowd made it for a non-stop day of revelry. The weather was perfect with a nice breeze and the clouds did their job in breaking up the bright sun on occasion. Spread out between 4 stages in Kiley Gardens and Curtis Hixon Park, there was a multitude of stimulation to satisfy all of your senses.
The music was constant and the flow worked well so festival goers wouldn’t miss a beat. The festival was very well organized, from the easy access parking in a downtown garage ($4 p/day) to the valet bicycle lot, yes you read correctly, there was a valet bicycle lot at the entrance. Every detail was handled well for a festival only 4 years young. The music kicked off at 11 with a GMF tradition, the Mt. Zion Gospel Choir, and grew from there. A majority of the acts were central Florida artists, which is great when you can promote local artists in such a way. Miggs, a Tampa favorite, played to a nice crowd on the Soulshine Stage. The band members belted out some good pop/rock to a smiling crowd. From there the music was even more amazing. Bands like Thomas Wynn & The Believers, The Hip Abduction, Hiss Golden Messenger, Dumpstafunk, all killed their respective sets and the capacity crowds were loving every song.
From the Kuumba dancers and drummers having a drum circle in the crowd to the Hard Rock sponsored “silent disco” where the DJ played as dancers and partygoers all wore wireless headphones, which was kinda cool. There was something for everyone. Kids were playing, people were drinking, hula hoops were everywhere and the 14+ food vendors were cranking out some ridiculously delicious food. As The Budos Band from Staten Island, came out, they were in my opinion, one of the highlights of the festival. Their brand of afro soul mixed in with instrumental psychedelic, made for a sound that had the crowd up on their feet the entire set. Go check this band out, definitely worth the price of admission.
NOLA’s Mutemath put on an entertaining set, with darkness slowly filling in as they progressed, the light show and music took the festival to the next level. Jersey boys, The Gaslight Anthem took the main stage and hit the crowd with a great mix of their hits, “The ‘59 Sound” and countless other Gaslight Anthem(s) which the crowd sang along with great enthusiasm. It was a tough choice for festival goers since Ivan Neville, and Dumpstaphunk were simultaneously commanding the stage at Kiley Gardens. Being a Jersey boy myself, I had to sacrifice Ivan for TGA, #jerseyproud. As the night was winding down, Modest Mouse took the stage after a long hiatus from performing and I’m sure they gave the crowd a good set (disclaimer: I left after The Gaslight Anthem since I had a long drive ahead of me, and without Johnny Marr, Eh) All in all a great festival. I’m quite positive that day 2 was just as good, with headliners Gogol Bordello tearing up the main stage. If you can’t make it to Bonnaroo or one of the bigger festivals, then GMF in Tampa, is worth the drive. A great city, a great venue, and a first-class event. Always support live music!