Music For All Ages

Posted: March 16, 2012 in Words In Progress

I can’t quite explain it. Like I keep saying you had to be there. Coming from a wordsmith, when I say I’m speechless, you can take my word for it.

I got downtown around 2 PM. There were people everywhere. Old-timers, toddlers, teenagers, generation now, everybody in Tampa was there. And everybody who wasn’t missed out on a day that will make the history books. But, there’s always next year. Thank God.

The weather reeked of Floridian goodness – calm air, bright sun and the sweet notes of feedback from the sound check drew me in like anti-gravity. The Gasparilla Music Festival had arrived.

I’d invited the only person I knew who’d appreciate artists we’d never heard before. I stood at the center of Curtis Hixon Park looking around in wide-eyed wonder at the land where Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley and Janis Joplin had performed before. Icons whose I’ve listened to on repeat, whose documentaries I’ve sought out and watched, whose era I wish I’d lived in. But this was the best I could’ve asked for and Tampa did a damn good job of exceeding my expectations.

Three massive stages, one historic venue, a dozen local food vendors with delectable vegetarian options, and a diverse crowd with one thing in common, music. The first ones to take the main stage when I arrived, the Lee Boys were the reason I knew I made the right choice when I bought those tickets. Undoubtedly, one of the most memorable performances of the day, I’ve never seen old school hard rock with such a strong blues flavor brew so well together. For a moment when I closed my eyes to shut the sun out, I could’ve sworn I’d been transported back in time and The Doors were at a distance not far away.

Soon after, Alvin ‘Youngblood’ Hart. I’d read on the poster that they had won the Grammy’s a while ago, but I’ve stopped watching award ceremonies since music stopped being about tunes and took the well-trodden path of sound. But this group was all about the audience – in tune, in sync, in every way possible. The crowd was still small and I was up front by the speakers giving my ears the treat they’d long deserved. My restless camera kept jumping out of its case and into my hand. Considering how close to the stage I was, I have to say my camera has an IQ of 183. I took some brilliant photographs.

Toward the latter half of the day, Deer Deer Tick drew in an elaborate crowd. Though they started off looking rather good with a tight sound check, it seemed the herbs took over the performance and left them a little off balance. The fact that one of their leads looked eerily like Bob Dylan didn’t hurt. My friend said I was acting like a real girl, gawking and the guy and taking a million pictures. In all honesty, if I never get to see Dylan live at least I’ll have his doppelganger to hold onto.

Walking through the park to keep warm in a night that turned chilly just as it was burning up, we stumbled upon the Distinguished Men of Brass. Entertainers true to their form, this troupe brought their marching band sound to the forefront; it was the only time in the day I saw the amphitheater packed and people climbing in over the sides of the wall. They danced, they hollered, they played and they performed. By the end of their show, the audience was up on their feet, moving and clapping. To say the least, they received a standing ovation.

Not all the bands matched up. But those that did made the Gasparilla Music Festival an unbelievable event that will transcend history. And I’ll be there to write about it. For years to come.

Ladies and gentlemen, the show has just begun.

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