Big Guava Music Festival preview: Schedules, interactive guides and more
If you want to get under the skin of any Live Nation executive this weekend, all you have to do is utter one little word:
The concert promotions giant would probably rather you forget last year’s inaugural Funshine Music Festival at the Florida State Fairgrounds. It’s not that Funshine was a terrible event — cheap tickets, big-name bands, food trucks, carnival rides; what’s not to like? — but it still fell well short of organizers’ and fans’ expectations. In the end, Funshine drew about half as many people as expected.
So in January, Live Nation unveiled plans for the revamped and renamed Big Guava Music Festival, which takes place Friday through Sunday at the Fairgrounds. (Click here for our interactive Big Guava Music Festival guide.)
The overall concept is more or less the same, but whereas Funshine was billed as a mainstream- and family-friendly weekend event, Big Guava has been called Florida’s answer of Coachella, the Southern California indie-rock spectacle held in April. Many of the same bands who played Coachella are also playing Big Guava, including reunited hip-hop duo Outkast in their only Florida concert.
It’s a big, pricey gamble, but one that’s already garnered national attention. If Big Guava is a success, drawing 40,000 to 60,000 people over the three-day weekend, officials say it could get even bigger in Year 3.
“From the very beginning we thought it would be an evolution, a maturation, and after several years, it would grow to the point where we could put a larger stage on the fairgrounds to support the major acts,” said Chuck Pesano, executive director of the Florida State Fair Authority. “Our expectations and hopes are that three, four, five years down the road, we’ll have 40, 50, 60,000 people in one day.”
Before then, we’ve still got Big Guava, which aims to improve on Funshine in just about every way. Here are five tweaks you’ll notice:
A NEW LOOK
It starts with the name. Live Nation Florida president Neil Jacobsen said Big Guava stemmed from an office contest — “Whoever picks the best name gets dinner” — and he liked the idea of borrowing the City of Tampa’s unofficial nickname. It led to the festival’s bold pink and green color scheme, a far cry from Funshine’s traditional red, white and blue.
A MORE FOCUSED LINEUP
Jacobsen admits that in trying to be all things to all people, Funshine’s lineup ended up falling flat. Each day had a general theme — current-ish rock (Train, Smashing Pumpkins, Phillip Phillips), classic rock (REO Speedwagon, Styx, Ted Nugent) and country (Gary Allan, Kix Brooks, Josh Thompson) — but that only made the festival feel less cohesive. Plus, none of the names could be considered a big-name “get,” at least not to the hordes of young 20- and 30-something music fans who typically flock to multi-day festivals.
In 2014, those fans are squarely in Big Guava’s sights. “We doubled the budget, and as a result, they went out and found some acts that, quite honestly, are just mega-acts in that age demographic,” Pesano said. That includes Outkast, arguably the biggest band on this summer’s festival circuit, who will be playing only their fourth show in the past decade.
None of Big Guava’s artists would look out of place at Coachella, Bonnaroo or Lollapalooza, and yet within that world, there is still plenty of diversity on all three days, from indie rock (Vampire Weekend, Tegan and Sara) to hard rock (Blue October, Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience) to EDM and hip hop (Girl Talk, Chance the Rapper). “We tried to get a little something for everybody without going too far askew,” Jacobsen said.
MORE FOOD, BEER
One good thing about Funshine? Local food trucks provided the grub. Live Nation built upon this concept by adding a craft beer garden at November’s inaugural Coastline Music Festival, a smaller indie rock festival that served as something of a beta test for the new Big Guava. It was so popular that some vendors ran out. “We were astonished by the response we got,” Jacobsen said. So this year, they’re increasing the number of food trucks and expanding their craft beer selection.
One of Funshine’s signature elements was a midway featuring more than carnival rides included with admission. Fun idea, but it didn’t really move tickets the way organizers had hoped. So this year, the rides and games are being scaled way back, from more than 60 to around 15. “We want it to be a music-intensive festival,” Jacobsen said.
A SMALLER FOOTPRINT
A side effect of that carnival midway was a sprawling festival footprint, which made it tough for fans to race from stage to stage between acts. This year there are fewer stages — four instead of six, with two at the Amphitheatre and two at the Fairgrounds. That means less legwork and, hopefully, fewer schedule conflicts.
Gates at the Big Guava Music Festival open at 3 p.m. Friday and 11:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre at the Florida State Fairgrounds, 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. Single-day tickets are $75-$175, weekend passes are $165-$499. (Note that Thursday’s concert by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, which the festival is calling a “Big Guava kickoff concert,” is a separate-ticketed event, and is not included in weekend passes.) General parking is free. For maps, a full schedule and a list of permitted and prohibited items, click here; for now, here are some details to know:
There are four stages in and around the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre. The full lineup by day (check the website for times and stages):
Friday: Outkast, Cake, Sleigh Bells, Twenty One Pilots, Jake Miller, Vic Mensa, Unlikely Candidates, Smallpools, Betty Who, NONONO
Saturday: Vampire Weekend, Tegan and Sara, Slightly Stoopid, Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience, Haim, Blue October, Hoodie Allen, Band of Skulls, Civil Twilight, American Authors, Terraplane Sun, Kitten, Bear Hands, Jacuzzi Boys, Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas, Hunter Hunted
Sunday: Foster the People, Girl Talk, Violent Femmes, Grouplove, Walk the Moon, Chance the Rapper, ZZ Ward, Timeflies, St. Lucia, Morning Parade, Earl Sweatshirt, Gringo Star, Magic Man, MS MR, Fly Union
There are fewer carnival rides at this year’s Big Guava Festival than last year’s Funshine Festival, but ticketholders will still have access to more than 15 rides, including roller coasters, spinning rides and slides. All are free and unlimited with a ticket.
FOOD AND DRINK
Big Guava’s local flavor goes beyond its name, with more than two dozen food trucks on hand to redefine the concept of fair food. Among them: Taco Bus, Hott Mess, Rollin Zoinks, the Dude and his Food and Jerk Hut. There will also be standard festival and Amphitheatre food. Live Nation is also taking a page from its smaller Coastline Festival last fall, opening an expanded craft beer garden with offerings from Cigar City, Fat Tire, Sam Adems, Southern Tier, Shock Top and many others. Of note: Fans can bring one sealed bottle of water into the festival grounds.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*