Review: Sleepy Vikings, The Groves, Crash Mitchell and Drake and Sofia rock the park in downtown Tampa
If the Gasparilla Music Festival drove one thing home, it's that Curtis Hixon Park is a lovely place to watch live music. Even Kiley Gardens, which sits at the foot of the Beer Can Building rather than the Tampa Museum of Art (talk about your architectural opposites), is excellent on a not-too-windy day, thanks to its views of the University of Tampa and downtown skyline.
So give us a park full of four of tbt*'s favorite local artists -- Sleepy Vikings, The Groves (above), Crash Mitchell and Drake and Sofia -- on a Friday night, with the sun setting over the Hillsborough River and the smell of Tampa Bay's best hamburgers wafting in the air (more on that in a minute), and it's a perfect setting for a night of good vibes.
Which is a good thing, because following the death of Adam Yauch, we all needed a pick-me-up.
"Rest in peace, MCA," said new Sleepy Vikings guitarist Jensen Kistler, from Florida Night Heat. And even though at least one guy in the crowd paid tribute to the late Beastie Boy by dressing as his character from the Sabotage video, the music and positive vibes of another crowded Rock the Park event went a long way toward easing our collective grief.
Friday's show was the culmination of this year's tbt* Ultimate Local Music Guide, in which we profiled 10 of our favorite local artists, these four acts among them. It's impossible for us to pretend to be unbiased here, seeing as how we picked the four acts and relentlessly promoted the show, but for what it's worth, we had quite a time.
Crowds huddled in close around Sleepy Vikings during a set of slow-burning indie ballads and feisty rave-ups like Flashlight Tag, during which drummer Ryann Slauson came to the front of the stage to bang on a drum, then traded with vampy singer Tessa McKenna for an impressively percussive finale.
The fuzzy southerners known as The Groves also drew a big, appreciative crowd, for whom they played a handful of new songs, including Cog, which might be the poppiest, catchiest thing they've ever done. The interplay between guitarist Travis Bourguignon and singer-guitarist Justin Brown is on full display; Brown's southern jam-band style and Bourguignon's poppy leanings blend in a way that at times calls to mind Phish and the Allman Brothers, and at others Dave Matthews and John Mayer.
Drake and Sofia kicked off the evening with a short set of sparkly indie pop as the cool dusk air mitigated the heat of the setting sun. The bubblicious No Worries got everyone into a breezy kind of mood.
The only major hiccup came during Crash Mitchell's otherwise enjoyable set. Performing live with the Crash Mitchell Five for the first time in about a year, Mitchell's typically wry, slurry-in-a-good-way cowpunk was forced to a halt a few times so as not to intrude on a remembrance ceremony for police officers that was being held two blocks to the east. Mitchell had to cut his set short, which was a shame.
One of the most telling signs of Tampa Bay scene unity at this Rock the Park event was the presence of Muzime, a Tampa-based digital music service that aims to put more money in the hands of the artists. Download songs by Sleepy Vikings, The Groves, Crash Mitchell and Drake and Sofia via Muzime, and not only do the artists get more than 75 percent of the sale price, but Muzime promised that the Rock the Park band that gets the most downloads following Friday's show would get double their normal payday.
Oh, and those hamburgers? They were the stars of the show in adjacent Curtis Hixon Park, which was hosting a Burger Showdown. Ten bucks got you four hefty slider samples from some of the Bay's best burgeries. Four our money, BGR The Burger Joint was tops. It's called The Wellington: "Roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions, garlic with a touch of mustard seed and blue cheese all atop our burger. Served on a fresh, buttery-toasted brioche bun with our mojo sauce." YUM.
Bands, burgers and a beautiful riverside setting. Not a bad way to end a work week. Who's ready to start working on the 2013 Ultimate Local Music Guide?
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*