Over the course of its 8-year existence, Gasparilla Music Festival (GMF) has introduced the Tampa Bay community to national headliners, local musicians, and under the radar artists, while highlighting the best the area has to offer in the form of art, food, and beverages. The combination has quietly turned into one of the most successful music festivals in the region. A quick Google search will tell you that music festivals and the State of Florida generally don’t jive too well, so extra kudos for an independently, and nonprofit, run festival to do what it’s done for the past 8 years. And in a climate in which corporate owned and operated music festivals seem to be blending together as the same thing, different city, Tampa should be just as proud of what GMF has become – that is, embracing the unique aspects of the community it calls home and keeping an ear to ground versus giving in to major record label pressure.
In what used to be an abandoned warehouse district a short 15 years ago, GMF is returning to Downtown Tampa’s Curtis Hixon Park, the epicenter of an often under respected city’s vibrancy. A city that’s not necessarily known for its music prowess, GMF certainly proves that Tampa Bay has it’s finger on the pulse, or for at least one weekend out of the year. With no dominant genre preference, there is a little something for everyone.
If you’re headed to Downtown Tampa this weekend, or just want to find out what you’re missing, I’ve put together a list of things you can’t miss this weekend.
If they’re not already a household name because of their legendary status as hip hop pioneers, then you certainly know them as Jimmy Fallon’s house band. They are much more than just late-night talents nowadays. They have collaborated with the likes of Elvis Costello and John Legend on recent albums, have performed alongside Usher and Jay-Z in concert, had songs featured in several major motion pictures including Men in Black, won 3 Grammys, slow jammed with former President Barack Obama, and performed sketches with Mariah Carey, Adele, and Metallica on The Tonight Show to name a few. These are just a snippet of the Philadelphia bred hip hop group, but you get the picture.
Father John Misty
It’s not like Josh Tillman, aka Father John Misty, has played Tampa recently, but he couldn’t have picked a better time to do so. The former Fleet Foxes member is fresh off of 2017’s highly anticipated and heavily acclaimed album, Pure Comedy. Surprisingly he just took home the first Grammy of his career last month. His acceptance speech took place on stage in Australia, in which Tillman said “F**k society”, among a few other less than appreciative blurbs. Between that and his career spanning discography, expect a great performance by a legend in the making.
The indie stalwarts are currently on the road in support of their 9th studio album, Hot Thoughts. More than two decades into their careers and the Austin, Texas based underground turned iconic indie band haven’t lost the slightest bit of thunder. Part of that can be attributed to their return to Matador Records, the label that brought us the band’s debut album Telephono, in 1996.
Charli 2na & Naughty Professor
The Roots aren’t the only hip-hop legends making an appearance at GMF this weekend. Charles Stewart, known by his stage name Charli 2na, a derivative of Charlie the Tuna, the renowned mascot of StarKist Tuna, will be performing alongside New Orleans jazz fixture, Naughty Professor. Known mostly as a founding member of Jurassic 5 and Ozomatli, Charli 2na will bring his hip hop funk fusion to Tampa for the first time as a solo artist. He isn’t a stranger to GMF however, having headlined 2013’s installment with Ozomatli.
Hard Working Americans
The supergroup featuring Todd Snider, Dave Schools, and Duane Trucks of Widespread Panic, Neal Casal of Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Chad Staehly of Great American Taxi, and Tulsa guitarist Jesse Aycock don’t tour often, so don’t miss them when they do. They meddled with original material in 2016’s album, Rest in Chaos, and reinforced that decision with 2017’s We’re All in This Together. A live version of the latter is on its way. Their onstage charisma is infectious. Catching their set might be the best decision of your weekend.
The War and Treaty
If you’re looking for soul, you’ll find that and more with The War and Treaty. The husband and wife duo blend their powerful soul with roots, gospel, and folk. Their journey is a unique one. For Michael Trotter, it started nearly 15 years ago while serving in Iraq. He taught himself how to play piano on one confiscated from Saddam Hussein’s private residence. He would later go on to win “Military Idol” taking place on a base in Germany. It wasn’t until he came back to the US that he met Tanya Blount, a seasoned performer, and well, the rest is history.
Cigar City Brewing
If you mention Tampa to a beer snob, this is the first thing that would come to mind. The nationally acclaimed and award winning brewery will be this year’s title beer sponsor yet again. Their Jai Alai IPA is one of the best in the country, so don’t leave without ordering one. If you’re more of a light beer drinker, and want one that is actually drinkable, do yourself a favor and grab a Gasparilla Music Festival Pilsner.
Tampa Bay is quietly making noise as a foodie destination. Some of the restaurants largely responsible for that, The Refinery and Rooster & the Till, will be represented at GMF in more ways than one. The co-owner of those establishments also serves as the festival’s food and beverage director, and makes the festival’s culinary lineup enviable to any other festival, large and small.