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Review: Clean Bandit mix musicianship, disco energy at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg

Clean Bandit, with singer Elisabeth Troy, left, and cellist Grace Chatto played the State Theatre in St. Petersburg on March 26, 2015.

Brian Mahar

Clean Bandit, with singer Elisabeth Troy, left, and cellist Grace Chatto played the State Theatre in St. Petersburg on March 26, 2015.

Can a band coming off a Grammy win for a gigantic pop hit truly be facing an uphill climb?

Well, look at Clean Bandit. Six weeks after Rather Be won a Grammy for Best Dance Recording, here they are schlepping their cellos and synthesizers around the United States, trying to sell their sleek, seductive spin on deep house and U.K. garage to the American masses -- all without the help of Rather Be’s ascendant vocalist Jess Glynne.

On top of all that: When Clean Bandit hit the State Theatre in St. Petersburg on Thursday, they were also down violinist/pianist Neil Milan Amin-Smith, who was off DJ’ing a pre-Ultra Music Festival event in Miami; and their backup vocalists, who were stuck in the United Kingdom.

So yeah: Clean Bandit has their work cut out for them.

Thing is, there are times when the British boppers are doing their thing that it all seems to work perfectly, and you can see how their unique blend of classical training and retro-pop glitter really could have a transformative effect on dance music in America.Full Story

Safety Harbor SongFest preview: Shawn Mullins, Steep Canyon Rangers, Joseph Arthur and more

The second annual Safety Harbor SongFest brings more than 20 national touring artists in the Americana, country, folk, blues, pop and bluegrass genres — including multiple Grammy Award winners — to Safety Harbor's Waterfront Park on Tampa Bay this weekend.

It all begins Friday with a 6 to 8 p.m. happening at Syd Entel Galleries as artist, poet, and Grammy-nominated musician Joseph Arthur demonstrates his many talents, simultaneously.

Headlining this year's event is Grammy nominee Shawn Mullins, who takes the stage Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, the Grammy Award-winning Steep Canyon Rangers (above) start pickin' at 5:30 p.m. Other top draws include Grammy Award-winning artist Jim Lauderdale as well as Joe Craven, Willie Sugarcapps, Meiko, David Jacobs-Strain, Seth Walker, Kawehi, Ryan Montbleau, the Vespers and Caroline Kole, a local gal who tours with Reba McEntire.

Click here for Terri Bryce Reeves' full preview of the Safety Harbor SongFest.

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This week in Tampa: Eric Church, Nickelback, Sarah McLachlan and more

Tons of great rock, country, hip hop and singer-songwriter fare is on its way to Tampa Bay this weekend: Nickelback (above), Eric Church, Sarah McLachlan, Atmosphere, Kristian Bush, Steep Canyon Rangers, Joseph Arthur, Steven Curtis Chapman, El Gran Combo, Moon Hooch, Swans, Dar Williams, Enter Shikari, Taking Back Sunday, Frankie Ballard, G. Love and Special Sauce, the Ataris, The Devil Wears Prada and more. Here to walk you through it all is Ray Roa...Full Story

Review: Bleachers transcend cookie-cutter pop with energy, positivity at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg

Jack Antonoff and Bleachers performed at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg on March 25, 2015.

Brian Mahar

Jack Antonoff and Bleachers performed at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg on March 25, 2015.

Bleachers released their first album, Strange Desire, eight months ago, and are selling out small venues across the country. But they didn’t get to the spotlight by luck, as frontman Jack Antonoff has earned his musical clout and paid his dues as a member of Steel Train and Fun.

I must admit that I went into Bleachers’ sold-out concert Wednesday at the State Theatre a hater. Personally, the studio cuts appeared trite, cheesy catchy and cookie-cutter, aside from Antonoff’s distinct vocals.

You’d guess that it’d be hard to perform a full set with only 40 minutes of material, but they managed just over an hour -- and not a Die Antwoord “hour,” but a rather crowd-rousing, high energy set that included three covers and plenty of lathering the crowd with compliments.

Antonoff said he fell in love with St. Petersburg when he was 15, and told anecdotes of meeting strangers and forgetting his broken heart while romping about the ’Burg, ending with, “Anything can happen here; that’s what I think.” …

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Ticket Window: Dierks Bentley, Slightly Stoopid, Everclear, Steel Panther and more

Topping this week’s edition of Ticket Window is a curious new concert: Everclear’s annual Summerland Tour, which this year features Fuel, the Toadies and American Hi-Fi, on June 14 at Screwie Louie’s Porpoise Pub in Seminole. This is the same tour that played the Mahaffey Theater in 2013, and was slated for Vinoy Park last summer before heavy rains forced a last-minute cancelation. Screwie Louie’s is a surprising venue for Summerland, but they’ve hosted big-name acts before (Quiet Riot, Marshall Tucker Band). So maybe it’ll turn out great. Tickets start at just $5, so you might want to hop on it. Click here for details.

Also, because we skipped last week, this week’s edition of Ticket Window is playing a bit of catch-up. Here are the concerts and events with tickets going on sale both last week and this week: Steel Panther (May 8, Jannus Live), Laurie Berkner (May 17, Capitol Theatre), Melt Banana (May 30, Orpheum), GBH (June 4, Local 662), David Crosby (June 12, Capitol Theatre), Summerland Tour (June 14, Screwie Louie’s Porpoise Pub), Mamma Mia! (June 23-28, Straz Center), Dierks Bentley (July 2, MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre), The Babys (July 24, Largo Cultural Center), Slightly Stoopid and Dirty Heads (July 26, Vinoy Park), Psychostick (Aug. 2, State Theatre), Cirque du Soleil: Varekai (Aug. 5-9, Amalie Arena) and Brian Regan (December 12, Ruth Eckerd Hall).

Click here and here for the past two weeks of Ticket Window.Full Story

USF Bullstock lineup: Young the Giant, American Authors, Andy Grammer to headline free concert

Young the Giant had to squash their last trip to Tampa Bay when February's Coastline Festival in St. Petersburg was canceled.

But they're coming back for Bullstock.

The University of South Florida's annual spring Bullstock concert released its lineup on Wednesday, and the California rockers behind It's About Time, My Body and Cough Syrup are its headliners. Joining them are Best Day Of My Life hitmakers American Authors and singer-songwriter Andy Grammer.The event will also feature local bands, a rock wall, bumper cars, inflatables, food trucks and more.

Bullstock 2015 is scheduled for 6 p.m. April 10 in the parking lot of the USF Sun Dome. And while it's organized by, and ostensibly for, USF students, Bullstock, like USF's homecoming concert, is free and open to the public.

For details on Bullstock 2015, click here.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*


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SoundBytes: UB40, Steel Panther, Bill Nye, Juicy J and more

-- Chart-topping British reggae-pop group UB40 is coming to the Mahaffey Theater on Oct. 23. (This version of UB40, we should note, features three key founding members -- singer Ali Campbell, trumpeter Astro and keyboardist Mickey Virtue -- although their use of the name "UB40" has been contested by other founding members of the band. It's kind of a Wailers/Original Wailers situation.) Tickets are $42.50 and up; click here for details.

-- Rapper Juicy J is coming to the Ritz Ybor in Tampa on June 28. Ticket prices haven't been announced, but are expected to go on sale Friday. Click here.

-- The one and only Bill Nye -- the Science Guy himself! -- will speak at the University of South Florida on April 7. The event is free and open to the public, but students and USF folks will be given preference, and this one will probably fill up quickly. Click here for details.

-- What Spinal Tap was to over-the-top arena rock of the '70s and '80s, Steel Panther is to hair metal. Finally, the comedic rockers are bringing their live show to Tampa Bay, with a concert at Jannus Live on May 8. Tickets are $25-$28, and they go on sale Friday. Click here. …

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Jay Leno talks about life after 'Tonight Show,' focusing on stand-up and more

It was, Jay Leno insists, a weekend of gigs like any other.

When he left the Tonight Show on Feb. 6, 2014, and hopped on a plane for a string of shows in Florida — including a handful in Clearwater and Sarasota — "it felt just like any other weekend," he said in a phone interview. "I finished the Tonight Show on Thursday, and Friday, I was in Florida.

"The difference is, I didn't have to run back to my room and write 14 minutes' worth of jokes every single day. Because no matter what happens, you still have to write jokes."

More than a year after ceding the Tonight Show to Jimmy Fallon, that remains the case for Leno, even if those jokes are no longer earmarked for his nightly, newsy monolgues. Always one of comedy's most tireless road dogs, his "retirement" consists of some 220 gigs a year, including one this Sunday at the Straz Center in Tampa (tickets are $49 and up; click here). And he sounds like doesn't mind the change of pace.

"Show business is like champagne: You drink it every day, you become an alcoholic," he says.

For more of our interview with Jay Leno, click here.Full Story

Sarah McLachlan talks motherhood, Lilith Fair, the dangers of social media and more

Even though Sarah McLachlan is one of pop music's preeminent feminist role models, she cannot shake the omnipresent fear of raising two young daughters in the modern world.

"You thought bullying was bad when we were kids?" the singer and Lilith Fair co-founder said in a phone interview. "The capacity to do so much more damage — it's massive. I look at Facebook and things like that as weapons in the hands of kids. They just don't have the psychological understanding to realize the possible damage they inflict. And there's such a degree of anonymity with it, too. You're not saying it to someone else, you're posting it. There's a level of separation where you don't really have to be responsible for it. That's the thing I am hammering into my kids ad nauseum — you have to take responsibility for your actions, good or bad. It works both ways. You f--- up, you apologize and try to fix it."

McLachlan always keeps her loved ones close on tour. When she arrives at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater for a concert on Sunday (tickets are $53.75 and up; click here for details), her daughters will be back at school in Vancouver, but she usually hangs out with them on her tour bus as soon as each show ends.

"Regardless of the job and the workload, I'm just mom," McLachlan says. "That doesn't stop just because I get offstage at 11. I'm in the bus five minutes later, getting into my jammies and reading stories. It's like, 'Hurry up, mom!' They don't care about the show. They just want their stories read to them. And I kind of love that, because it's really grounding."

For more of our interview with Sarah McLachlan, click here.Full Story

Bobcat Goldthwait talks Robin Williams' death, Barry Crimmins' 'traumatic' life and more

Until recently, Bobcat Goldthwait has been relatively quiet about the death of his best friend Robin Williams.

"It's weird to lose someone who means so much to the world," the comic and director said in a phone interview. "I've done all my processing on a very private level. I've only recently started talking a little bit about him.

"I loved him dearly, and it's been a rough year for me. I used to think I'd just have to deal with it as if, like, you lose an arm and you just have to get used to it. But recently I've begun to come out of the funk that it put me in."

Goldthwait is now opening up in part because of his new documentary, Call Me Lucky, about friend and fellow comic Barry Crimmins. Goldthwait will appear at a screening of the film at 9:15 p.m. Saturday at Channelside Cinemas as part of the Gasparilla International Film Festival.

For more of Steve Persall's interview with Bobcat Goldthwait, click here.Full Story

Van Halen coming to MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa

Are you ready to dance the night away? Do you want to run with the devil? Are you feeling kind of hot for a professional educator in your life?

Then you might as well jump on this news: Van Halen are coming to Tampa.

David Lee Roth and the Family Van Halen -- Eddie, Alex and Wolfie -- are apparently in one of their "everyone's getting along" phases, so they're embarking on a summer tour that'll bring them to Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on Sept. 13, the band announced Tuesday. Tickets are $18-$143 and they go on sale April 4. Click here for details.

While Van Halen are deserving Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, it's worth noting that Eddie Van Halen won't be the only guitar god on this tour -- the opening act is the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band. If there's any justice in this world, Shepherd and Van Halen will pair up for a killer axe battle on Eruption or something.

And hey, if you prefer the Sammy Hagar incarnation of Van Halen, don't forget, Hagar and his band The Circle are coming to Ruth Eckerd Hall on April 29. Tickets to that one are $49.50 and up, but get 'em quickly, because last we heard, that one was selling pretty fast. Click here for details.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

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Clean Bandit's Neil Milan Amin-Smith talks about 'Rather Be,' deep house, '90s dance music and more

Joshua Schulz

Thanks to their smash single Rather Be, Clean Bandit, who play the State Theatre in St. Petersburg on Thursday, are leading a retro-minded movement in electronic dance music.

Whereas dubstep heavies like Deadmau5 and Skrillex bombard ravers with cochlea-crushing beats, and electro-house icons like Calvin Harris and Zedd are all about synth-powered, CO2-spewing anthems, artists like Clean Bandit, Disclosure (Latch) and Kiesza (Hideaway) are throwing dance music back to the late '80s and early '90s with singles that would sound right at home on an MTV Party to Go mix.

"I don't think we were ever really trying to emulate anything in particular with our music," said Clean Bandit violinist and pianist Neil Milan Amin-Smith said, listing influences that range from jazz and Radiohead to U.K. garage acts like Artful Dodger and M.J. Cole. "It really just began as an experiment, how we made our music. We were just trying to work out ways to incorporate the classical stuff that Grace (Chatto, cello) and I were playing with electronic stuff that Jack (Patterson, bass and keyboards) was making, and then everything else evolved from that."

Clean Bandit perform at 7 p.m. Thursday at the State Theatre. Tickets are $20-$22; click here for details.

For more of our interview with Amin-Smith -- plus a look at some other dance acts who are pushing forth the deep house trend in pop music -- click here.Full Story

Joshua Bell talks about grassroots music education, his 300-year-old violin and more

Marc Hom

Joshua Bell owns one of the world's most famous violins, a 300-year-old Stradivarius called the Gibson ex Huberman, an impeccable instrument stolen twice in its storied life. Bell paid $4 million for it, and it goes everywhere.

"It's a special thing, opening up the case every morning and seeing this object that has had so much history and so much happen to it over the 300 years," he said. "It almost feels like a living, breathing thing."

You can hear it yourself when Bell, one of the world's most popular violinists, comes to the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater on Tuesday. He performs with Sam Haywood at 7:30 p.m. at the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater. Tickets are $50-$150. Click here for details.

For more of Stephanie Hayes' interview with Joshua Bell, click here.Full Story

Review: Lil Wayne flies through Tampa's Club Skye for quick late-night performance

Lil Wayne breezed through Club Skye in Ybor City for a brief late-night performance on March 19, 2015.

Luis Santana

Lil Wayne breezed through Club Skye in Ybor City for a brief late-night performance on March 19, 2015.

​Every person in Club Skye Thursday night could wring out their clothes and catch a contact high by the time Lil Wayne decided to start rapping.

The rapper, in town for his annual trip the Tampa Pro competition at the Skatepark of Tampa, deigned to bless the audience with two songs from his mixtape Sorry 4 The Wait 2, and two feature verses from Nicki Minaj singles.

Tickets said doors would open at 9 p.m., so the line started forming early outside the Ybor City haunt. When bouncers began taking tickets just before 11 p.m., the waiting game had already gotten into full swing.

DJ T. Lewis and promoters VYBENation did their best to keep the packed party entertained but mellow as the club began to fill up. Shortly after 1 a.m., it was even difficult to stand in one spot without being pushed or stepped on, so dancing was pretty much out of the question.

Lil Wayne’s bus arrived after 1 a.m. And at 2:20 a.m. He appeared in the crowd of VIPs and security crowding the stage with a prescription bottle stuffed with what we’ll assume were herbal remedies. He vibed with the DJ for 10 minutes before coming down to the front of the stage to perform. …

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Review: John Mellencamp rouses fans his own way at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater

John Mellencamp performed at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on March 19, 2015.

Jay Cridlin

John Mellencamp performed at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on March 19, 2015.

Selling out 2,180-seat Ruth Eckerd Hall on back-to-back nights is no small feat. Still, shouldn’t things have gone differently for John Mellencamp?

The Indiana icon has accrued enough massive hits that he could spend his 60s cruising through arenas and amphitheaters, blasting through a cavalcade of Baby Boomer belt-‘em-outs like Springsteen, Petty or Bon Jovi. Who wouldn’t raise a Tastee-Freez chili dog to that?

But Mellencamp goes his own way, always has, even when those paths weren’t the most obvious or popular. In trading down for smaller stages, he’s managed to remain exactly who he wants to be, even if it means leaving a few huge hits in the chamber.

Doing so on Thursday did nothing to diminish an overwhelmingly crowd-pleasing kickoff to Mellencamp’s two-night stand in Clearwater. He may be a legacy act, but the way he sees it, it’s a legacy he hasn’t finished writing.

“The only critic that ever really matters,” Mellencamp told the crowd at one point, “is time.” Full Story