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As 'American Idol' launches tour in Clearwater, finalists adjust with show's evolving place in pop culture

'American Idol' finalists (from left) Rayvon Owen, Jax, Clark Beckham and Tyanna Jones stopped by the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg on July 1, 2015.

Sophia Nahli Allison

'American Idol' finalists (from left) Rayvon Owen, Jax, Clark Beckham and Tyanna Jones stopped by the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg on July 1, 2015.

American Idol's annual summer tour kicks off Tuesday at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater.

This used to be a much bigger deal -- back when Kelly Clarkson won Season 1 in 2002, more than 9,200 fans turned out at the then-named St. Pete Times Forum to see her and her fellow finalists in concert. Tuesday's show, featuring just five finalists instead of 10, might not even sell out Ruth Eckerd Hall.

With Idol about to enter its final season, and its role as a pop culture force on the downswing, the tour, too, has had to evolve.

“When Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood won, the show was at a level where you can’t compare it to anything,” said Season 14 winner Nick Fradiani, who will be joined in Clearwater by Clark Beckham, Jax, Rayvon Owen and Tyanna Jones. “As soon as you got off, you were so well-known and so huge of a star right off the bat. ... Now, it doesn’t mean that if you win you’re going to be a star.”

Click here for details on American Idol Live!, which hits Ruth Eckerd Hall on Tuesday. And for more of our story about how Idol is changing with the times, click here.

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SoundBytes: Drive-By Truckers, Three Days Grace, Dej Loaf, Carrot Top and more

-- The last time Southern stalwarts the Drive-By Truckers came to Tampa Bay, they played the stately Tampa Theatre. This time around, they'll be playing much more intimate quarters, the State Theatre in St. Petersburg. The show is Oct. 11; tickets are $26.50 and up and they'll go on sale Friday. Click here for details.

-- Also coming to the State Theatre: Metal powers Machine Head on Dec. 4. Tickets are $25 and they go on sale Friday. Click here.

-- According to their website, hard rockers Three Days Grace are coming to Jannus Live on Oct. 1, with tickets going on sale Friday. No prices have been announced, but click here for details.

-- Buzzworthy rapper Dej Loaf will be at Club Skye in Ybor City on July 19. Click here for details.

-- Rapper Juelz Santana will be at Whiskey North in Tampa on July 23. Click here for details.

-- Comedian Scott Thompson is coming to the Capitol Theatre on Dec. 13. No, not the one from the Kids in the Hall; the one with all the props who goes by the name Carrot Top. Tickets to see the Vegas and pop culture icon start at $45, and they go on sale Saturday. Click here. …

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Between the Buried and Me's Dan Briggs talks 'Coma Ecliptic,' the death of Yes' Chris Squire and more

Between the Buried and Me

Between the Buried and Me

The numbers would have matched up perfectly. Between the Buried and Me was to release their seventh album Coma Ecliptic on July 7 — 7/7 — and they planned to celebrate by launching their summer tour on the same day.

Then the music industry had to get involved.

This happens to be the first week that new music releases in the United States will shift from Tuesday to Friday, meaning Coma Ecliptic will drop on July 10, not July 7. The group will be in Florida by then, playing a show in Orlando on Thursday (click here for details) and Fort Lauderdale on Friday.

“It’s close enough,” said bassist Dan Briggs. “We’re gonna have the album for sale. We’ll still be celebrating that whole week. It’ll be fun.”

Besides, touring, and not album sales, is where Between the Buried and Me really make their bones, anyway.

“All we know, and all we have done, is go write music and play our asses off,” Briggs said. “Thankfully we’re at a point now where we can tour a little bit less, about four or five months out of the year as opposed to six, seven or eight, and be able to make more, which is good.” …

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Tampa's Uncle John's Band heads to Chicago for Grateful Dead 'Fare Thee Well' concerts

John Pendygraft

Today at Soldier Field in Chicago, the four core surviving members of the Grateful Dead -- Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart -- will kick off their three-night "Fare Thee Well," a stand billed as the Dead's final shows ever.

Just across the street, at Chicago's Field Museum, long-running Tampa Grateful Dead tribute act Uncle John's Band will headline a four-hour pre-show VIP party before each night's show. 

Talk about your tasty gigs.

“I never thought, after seeing the Grateful Dead when I was a 16-year-old kid in 1973, that all these years later I’d actually be part of their last performance,” said bassist and lifelong Deadhead Mike Edwards, who co-founded the group in 1989. “If you were to lie down in a field of grass, with the blue sky and clouds over your head, and a little piece of grass in your hand, and you could daydream your absolute daydream, that would be it.”

For more on Uncle John's Band's trip to Chicago -- and the long, strange trip of Mike Edwards' life with the Grateful Dead -- click here.

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SoundBytes: Sister Hazel, Beres Hammond, Breathe Carolina, GTA and more

-- The Tampa Bay Rays have added Sister Hazel to their 2015 postgame concert series. The Gainesville rockers will perform following the Sept. 19 game against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field. Click here for details.

-- Several new shows coming to Jannus Live over the next few months: DJ duo GTA on Aug. 15 (tickets are $30-$40, click here), reggae legend Beres Hammond on Aug. 21 (tickets are $30-$50, click here) and country singer Corey Smith on Oct. 3 (tickets are $22-$27, click here).

-- Arizona alt-rockers Lydia, recently seen at the Big Guava Music Festival, are coming to Crowbar on Sept. 23. Tickets are $15-$17. Click here.

-- Breathe Carolina are returning to the State Theatre on Aug. 4. Tickets are $17. Click here.

-- Hip hop duo Blackalicious is coming to the State Theatre on Aug. 12. Tickets are $21. Click here.

-- Electric Six and Yip Deceiver are coming to the Orpheum on Oct. 5. Tickets are $13-$15. Click here.

-- Haujobb is coming to the Orpheum on Sept. 8 with Alter Der Ruine, Negative Format and DJ Griffin of Communion After Dark. Tickets are $18-$25. Click here.

-- Jay Cridlin

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This week in Tampa: Vans Warped Tour, American Idol Live!, Shinedown, Shaggy and more

Welcome to a slightly revamped version of This Week In Tampa! From this week forward, Times Pop Music/Culture Critic Jay Cridlin and tbt* music contributor Ray Roa will collaborate on the week's top music picks around Tampa Bay. And there are a lot of 'em!

This week, Jay and Ray delve into American Idol Live!, Shinedown (above), Shaggy, The Fixx, mewithoutYou, Caked Up, Superheaven, Paul Oakenfold and more. We also dig into St. Pete's Vans Warped Tour and Ybor City's annual Hot Dog Party on Friday, both of which will feature lupine St. Pete punks Wolf-Face. Click here for Jay's preview of those shows.

Get more from Ray and Jay after the jump...Full Story

Nick Fradiani talks about the business side of winning 'American Idol,' writing new music and more

If you spent time at the TradeWinds Island Grand Resort in the late ’80s or early ’90s, you may have bumped into a future American Idol.

“My family stayed in St. Pete every single summer of my life, from when I was I don’t know how old,” said Nick Fradiani, whose father, a professional musician, used to take summer gigs playing piano at the resort. “There are videos of me singing at the TradeWinds when I was like 4 years old.”

Oh, what those videos would go for today. Fradiani was crowned American Idol’s 14th champion in May, and he’ll headline the annual American Idol Live! tour, which kicks off a 37-date run at Clearwater’s Ruth Eckerd Hall on Tuesday (click here for details).

The Connecticut native wowed Idol crowds, judges and voters with his assured voice, sylish rock persona and, perhaps most of all, his poise. At 29, he’d already spent years kicking around the music business, achieving decent success with his band Beach Avenue, which in 2014 competed on NBC’s America’s Got Talent. He’s the second-oldest contestant to win American Idol, just behind Taylor Hicks; he is, in fact, four years older than Season 6 winner Jordin Sparks today. …

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Original Wailers, Tonic, Everlast, more coming to ROC Park in Madeira Beach

So this new waterfront park in Madeira Beach really seems to be coming into its own as a concert destination, huh?

A couple of weeks ago, ROC Park ("ROC" stands for "Remember Our Children") hosted this year's Summerland Tour with Everclear, the Toadies, Fuel and more. And in August, it'll host one of the most anticipated outdoor festivals of the summer, with Culture Club, Howard Jones, C+C Music Factory and more.

In between, we've got the Rock and Reggae Beach Bash on July 24. Headlining this event are reggae greats the Original Wailers, House of Pain frontman Everlast, pop-rockers Tonic (above) and metal outfit Saliva. Tickets to this show are $27.50-$69.95, and they're on sale now via Ticketfly. Click here.

I checked out the scene during the Everclear concert. At the time, there was still quite a bit of construction going on, and parking was a bit of a nightmare -- the best option seemed to be parking at Madeira Beach for $10 and taking a shuttle. The parts of the park that were completed looked good, as did the stage itself, although there wasn't much shade anywhere. Thankfully, umbrellas will be allowed at the Beach Bash, provided they don't block anyone's view.

-- Jay Cridlin


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Vance Joy to play free concert at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg

Darren Anekmann

Do you love free stuff? Do you love that song Riptide? Do you love Vance Joy, but don't feel like braving the screaming throngs at this Halloween's Taylor Swift concert to see him?

This show is for you.

Joy, the Australian singer-songwriter behind the smash pop hit Riptide, will headline the latest free 97X Shindig concert on July 22 at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg. All you have to do is show up at one of the station's many ticket drops across Tampa Bay between now and the show, and entry is yours (although be forewarned, these shows tend to fill up fast, so get there early).

As a bonus, opening the show is Tennessee-via-L.A. guitar-slinger Meg Myers, whose brand of raw, angsty rock has made her a critical favorite. Top to bottom, it's one of the more interesting Shindig lineups of late.

-- Jay Cridlin

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Juicy J cancels Sunday's concert at the Ritz Ybor in Tampa

It's hard out there for a pimp. And for Juicy J fans in Tampa, it just got a whole lot harder.

The Three 6 Mafia rapper has canceled Sunday's concert at the Ritz Ybor in Tampa, according to announcements from the venue and promoters Dope Entertainment. However, his show in Orlando on June 26 is still a go.

Dope says the Tampa show was canceled "due to personal reasons beyond his control. ... We apologize, but please understand this situation was out of (our) control. Thank you for your understanding."

According to Dope, your Tampa ticket will be good at the Friday show in Orlando, if you choose to use it that way. Or you can get refunds via email if you purchased through Ticketweb. Click here for info.

-- Jay Cridlin


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Tampa music scene rallying around local producer, guitarist Steve Connelly

Sophia Nahli Allison

Steve Connelly has for decades been among the Tampa Bay music scene's most ubiquitous personalities. As a guitarist, he was signed to a national label, appeared on the Tonight Show, played a stadium with the Grateful Dead. As a producer, he's brought life to hundreds of songs at his Zen Recording in Pinellas Park by artists like Ronny Elliott, Rebekah Pulley and Have Gun, Will Travel.

This year, musicians are giving back to Connelly at a time he needs it most. He has hepatitis C, a diagnosis he chalks up to "the decadence of the punk rock era," and which resulted in cirrhosis of the liver. He's awaiting a transplant that could come as early as this summer. And in March, a ceiling collapsed at Zen, effectively halting Connelly's livelihood.

Connelly's musician friends launched a GoFundMe campaign that has raised more than $12,000 since March, much of it from other cash-strapped artists. And on Saturday, 15 bands will take the stage for a benefit concert at Skipper's Smokehouse. Click here for the details on that show.

For more of our story on Steve Connelly, click here.

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SoundBytes: The Neighbourhood, Ani DiFranco, Purity Ring, Alvin and the Chipmunks and more

The Neighbourhood

The Neighbourhood

-- Two big new rock shows coming to Jannus Live in St. Petersburg: Breaking Benjamin with Young Guns on Aug. 26 (click here for details); and The Neighbourhood (above) with Bad Suns and Hunny on Sept. 21 (tickets are $30 and up; click here).

-- This sounds intriguing: Promoters Dope Entertainment have announced plans for a new hip-hop festival, TAKEOFFxLANDING, that'll take over multiple venues in Ybor City on Aug. 15, including the Ritz Ybor, Orpheum, Market on 7th, Tequilas and Crowbar. Artists announced thus far include Travi$ $cott, Robb Bank$, Denzel Curry, OG Maco and Pouya. There will also be industry and producer panels and art installations curated by Robert Gallardo, A$ap Rocky's art director. Tickets are currently $40 and up. Click here.

-- Indie electronic duo Purity Ring are coming to the Ritz Ybor on Sept. 10. Tickets are $22. Click here.

-- Iconic singer-songwriter Ani DeFranco is coming to the Capitol Theatre on Oct. 7. Click here.

-- Guitarist Jorma Kaukonen is coming to the Capitol Theatre on Aug. 7. Click here.

-- Ruth Eckerd Hall's new Murray Theatre may have just booked its most interesting act yet: Singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III on Dec. 12. Click here. …

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Billy Gardell talks 'Mike & Molly,' managing his weight, Monopoly strategies and more

When Mike & Molly hit its 100th episode in January, Billy Gardell wasn’t gifted with a fancy Ferrari or a brand new beach house in Cabo.

“There wasn’t a lot of gifts,” said the CBS sitcom’s eponymous Mike. “The network sent us all really nice watches. Back in the ’80s, it was cars. But, you know. Inflation.”

All kidding aside, 100 episodes still is a massive milestone. The film success of Gardell’s onscreen wife, Melissa McCarthy, had a lot to do with that. But it took more than a breakout star for Mike & Molly to become a genuine hit, going beyond its one-note premise — two overweight lonelies meet cute and fall in love — to deliver a sitcom that resonates.

“The gift of that was being able to join that rare fraternity of syndicated shows, like Seinfeld and Cheers and Friends,” Gardell said. “To be in that routine where you’re with people when they’re coming home from work or getting ready for the night shift or dinner, that’s a big accomplishment for a sitcom.” …

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Review: Romeo Santos whips Tampa's Amale Arena into historic, bilingual frenzy

Romeo Santos performed at Tampa's Amalie Arena on June 19, 2015.

Luis Santana

Romeo Santos performed at Tampa's Amalie Arena on June 19, 2015.

If there were any lingering doubts about whether Tampa's a viable tour stop on the Latin pop circuit, the gale-force screams that greeted bachata star Romeo Santos on Friday at Amalie Arena blasted them all away.

“Is this building full of Latinos tonight?” the Bronx-born heartthrob yelled early in his sold-out, endlessly energetic show, eliciting deafening shrieks in the affirmative. This was their Bieber, their Usher, their Timberlake, all rolled into one and wrapped in an impeccable, form-hugging rose blazer.

Yep, this one was a pretty big deal. A-list Latin acts rarely route tours through Tampa, especially not those as big as Santos, the self-proclaimed – and globally affirmed – King of Bachata. Full Story

SoundBytes: Lucero, The Orb, Gruesome and more

-- Two Tampa Bay shows at the same venue in one year? Hey, if you're Lucero, why not? The Memphis rockers, who played the Ritz Ybor in February, have a new album, All A Man Should Do, coming out in September, and they'll support it with a tour that includes another stop at the Ritz on Dec. 5. Tickets are $20.50. Click here.

-- Veteran alt-dance outfit The Orb are coming to the State Theatre on Sept. 5. Tickets are $24. Click here.

-- Acclaimed death-metal outfit Gruesome is coming to Crowbar on Sept. 4 alongside Generichrist and Disevered. Tickets are $12-$15. Click here.

-- The Growlers are coming to Crowbar on Nov. 2, alongside Broncho and more. Tickets are $12-$15. Click here.

-- L.A. rock duo El Ten Eleven are coming to Crowbar on Sept. 16. Tickets are $13-$16. Click here.

-- Jay Cridlin

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