By Anita Stewart, Journalist and Chyrisse Tabone, Photographer–Rock At Night Tampa Correspondents
Curtis Hixon is Tampa’s Hallowed Ground for Music Performances
Venue: Curtis Hixon Park, Tampa, Florida–March 11th-12th, 2017
In keeping with annual tradition of the pirate invasion, last weekend was the Gasparilla Music Festival in downtown Tampa’s Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, the site of the legendary Curtis Hixon Hall. This writer saw a lot of musicians and rock bands in that same hall back in the day. That old hall does not exist anymore; in it’s place are museums, eateries, the Water Park for the kids, the Riverwalk and the park itself all in the shade of the marvelous turrets of the University of Tampa. Lots of nostalgia for us oldsters as we walk around on these hallowed grounds! This area of the park and the river has been a vortex for trending music for decades now.
This time of the year usually has pleasantly warm days that heat up in middle to late afternoon. There were people of all ages in festival clothing, tank tops, backpacks, floppy hats, families with kids playing hula hoops, older rockers, dreads and crew cuts, skirts and high heels, flip flops and tie dyed shirts. Anything goes at this festival, especially for maintaining cool and comfort! Back from last year’s festival was “boxed water,” environmentally better than glass or plastic although beer seemed to be the drink of choice for most people. Most of the food vendors were not providing quality and quantity for the pricing, we were very disappointed with the food. However, Rock at Night has a favorite that we went back to this year; the Hot Donut Company, absolutely the best service, the best donuts, coffee and even smoothies! Known locally around Tampa Bay, we can’t understand why they don’t have a website, but look them up online to see where they go next and be sure to give them your business!
Lady Nicole Wray is from Portsmouth, Virginia and now considers Atlanta her home base. She took the stage sharply at 4PM and her neo-soul, rhythm and blues and even rock tunes flowed. Lady Wray was an old hand at communicating with her audience and putting on a show. In the game for almost 20 years, her styles and genres had wide range and so did her voice; gritty, soulful, with attitude and a range like the greats, Aretha, Gladys and others. Lady Wray was the first artist signed to Missy Elliott’s production company, Goldmine. Under the name “Nicole Wray” she was one half of the duo called “Lady.” She has worked with some of the biggest names in the business, Outkast, Timbaland, the Black Keys and many more. Her latest album is “Queen Alone,” a collection of superbly crafted songs that solidify her as a singer/songwriter to be reckoned with.
Rock at Night has been watching Moon Taxi for some years now. Out of Tennessee, they formed while attending college and have crafted a marvelous body of work since 2006. Their older music is a combination of Southern rock, folk, alt-country, Americana with jam rock thrown into the mix eventually morphing into indie-alternative. The crowd started to gather way before the band appeared on stage, the band definitely already has a dedicated following. They rocked through their set, bringing it home to their fans and acquiring a lot of new ones! Their last release, the great recording “Daybreaker” was produced by Jacquire King who has worked with the likes of Modest Mouse, Kings of Leon and Tom Waits. Listen, you will love it! Moon Taxi is hitting up the south with appearances all over this spring and summer…and of course, the festival circuit too. Don’t miss them!
Grammy winners, Los Amigos Invisibles have been around since 1991 and hail from Venezuela. This festival always has something for everyone and Latin Music is always included. This band had a mission for this show and that was to get the crowd dancing and pumped up. With elements of disco, electronique, salsa, acid jazz, funk, merengue and 70’s and 80’s dance, this band was a crowd pleaser. Reminiscent of music we knew, loved and danced to in the past, they also have some legendary friends and colleagues and a huge music catalogue. David Byrne of Talking Heads fame signed them to one of his labels in 1996 after finding a CD they had planted in a NY record store. It has been upward for this band since then. “El Paradise” is their latest release.
From Kentucky and living in London, this band captured our hearts and reassured us that rock and roll is not dead! Classified as alt-rock, garage rock, blues and indie, we heard a blending of all of that. There are not enough words to even describe Cage the Elephant’s live performance! This was the Grammy award winning band that everyone wanted to see and the crowd up at the front was slammed up against the barricades to watch Matt Shultz and his “moves like Jagger.” Getting a still shot of him was impossible as he was flowing and moving everywhere! Moshing is not uncommon at their performances and several times Matt and his brother, rhythm guitarist, Brad jumped into the audience and played. Brad, at one point, was in the audience and hopped back over the barricade and threw his guitar up to the roadie who caught it and started to play. Brad tried to leap back on the stage and missed! In his moments of recovering from almost falling and then getting back on stage–the indispensable roadie kept playing the rhythm part on the guitar along with the band without missing a beat. With very hip and amazing fancy footwear (Matt’s gold ankle boots were to die for), glam attire, and playing a blend of all kinds of rock, we were reminded of the British Invasion style from the 60’s and 70’s. We heard elements of Humble Pie, the Faces, the Rolling Stones, etc. Hard driving, irreverent, this kind of music styling reminded us of the rock genre right before the punk scene exploded in England. Rock at Night has decided that Cage the Elephant is our new favorite rock band! Last year’s release is titled “Tell Me I’m Pretty.” Get it! Get it NOW!
Rock at Night was disappointed in the Ryan Adams situation surrounding taking photo shots of this artist. At the Sunday performance of this show and at the last minute, photographers were told that they could only shoot from a platform on the side of the sound booth and very far away from the stage. Specific lenses would be needed for doing a shoot like that. Rock at Night did not have the lenses on hand, so we did the best we could for this shoot. This was our only disappointment at this festival. Waiting for next year!
**Please note that Rock At Night was unaware of the “photo flash” incident that took place between a photographer and Ryan Adams since we took a few photos and left the soundboard area. The use of flash photography is typically forbidden in the industry.
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