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The best Tampa Bay concerts of 2011 (Part 3): Little Dragon, Dance Gavin Dance, Clearwater Jazz Holiday and more

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December

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(Just as we did in 2009 and 2010, this week Soundcheck is reflecting on the greatest Tampa Bay concerts of 2011. All week various Soundcheck contributors will weigh in with their picks. Today: Carole Liparoto, who picks each week's best concerts for the St. Petersburg Times and tbt* — or, as Soundcheck readers might know it, “This Week In Tampa.”)

Not to sound like your human resources administrator or anything, but we here at Soundcheck have always prided ourselves on seeking out diversity. And this year was no exception. In 2011, we found joy and merit in everything from an a capella version of B---- Suck D--- by controversial rap troupe Odd Future (Nov. 2, Ritz Ybor), to dulcet trip-pop tones from co-ed NYC duo Phantogram (July 13, Czar), to faux fluid gross-outs from hard-gore rockers GWAR (Nov. 23, Hawaiian Village at the Stadium Green Iguana). But for me, there were three shows this year that not only exceeded expectations, but kept me salivating for encores. They were…

Dance Gavin Dance (Vans Warped Tour, July 31, Vinoy Park): There’s an Amy Winehouse-like saga going down in the Alternative Press world right now. Jonny Craig, a Gospel-inspired soul and R&B vocalist, who just happens to sing in metalcore and math acts, is irreversibly gifted. He’s also an addict. Drug problems, arrests and even a widely-published MacBook scam have kept Craig in and out of groups like Emarosa, Isles and Glaciers and Dance Gavin Dance over the years. But for a solid 25 minutes on a hot July day, all was right with Craig and his band. Imagine a blue-eyed, foul-mouthed Otis Redding/Craig David combo fronting Chiodos. In October, Craig was arrested again for drug possession and Dance Gavin Dance has since gone on hiatus. Needless to say, the Vinoy Park set was a ray of light in Craig’s otherwise dark career.

Clearwater Jazz Holiday Opening Night (Oct. 13, Coachman Park): In my mind, the Clearwater Jazz Holiday has always leaned a bit Yuppie. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’ve just never really pictured myself driving an Audi. But perhaps event organizers got that vibe, too, because for opening night of this year’s Jazz Holiday, they teed up what our Uncle Daly called a “lineup even soul-patched hipsters would have a hard time poo-pooing.” As promised, funky, charismatic N’awlins artist Trombone Shorty, a brass master with a hip-hop bent, had attendees out of their high-back beach chairs and up gyrating as he blasted tracks like Backatown. Before Shorty, a pick-less Kevin Eubanks, above, the guitarist and former bandleader of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and drumming dynamo Marvin “Smitty” Smith went on glorious jazz and funk tangents with a hazy, progressive style.

Little Dragon (Oct. 25, Crowbar): I realize I jumped on the Little Dragon bandwagon a little late in the game. The last time the group played Crowbar I knew little more than their Grey’s Anatomy-featured single Twice. But a tour with Gorillaz and collaborations with SBTRKT, DJ Shadow and Raphael Saadiq have since elevated LD to new heights. And October’s sold-out show at Crowbar (and an all-smiles promoter Jack Spatafora) proved that. The biggest question for me would be whether or not sultry lead singer Yukimi Nagano and her crew could reproduce their sound as well live as they do on their recordings. A slithering Nagano and Little Dragon opened with Ritual Union and Looking Glass, and from there, never stopped convincing the packed house that they were meant for the stage. For modish electro-pop with jazzy, neo-soul vocals, this was as good as it gets.

-- Carole Liparoto, tbt*. Photo: Douglas R. Clifford, tbt*

PREVIOUSLY ON THE BEST TAMPA BAY CONCERTS OF 2011:

Jay Cridlin's picks: Lauryn Hill, A Day To Remember/Bring Me The Horizon, Sleigh Bells, Brian Wilson, Bush

Curtis Ross’ picks: Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Iron Maiden, Sleepy Vikings, Tropical Heatwave, Sondre Lerche

[Last modified: Wednesday, December 14, 2011 5:29pm]

    

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