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Review: Tonic, Will Hoge bring Williams Park to life in downtown St. Petersburg

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You might not know this, but there is a statue memorializing war veterans in Williams Park in downtown St. Petersburg. You may not know there's a fountain there, either. Heck, you may not have even noticed the giant green amphitheatre that sits across the street from historic First United Church St. Pete.

You may not know all of these things because, well, what reason have you ever had to visit Williams Park? Synonymous with St. Pete's ongoing struggles with the homeless, it's rarely been utilized for big, fun, family-friendly public events.

Enter Backline Music Group, which aims to bring Williams Park to life with a series of free pop and rock festivals throughout 2012. The first took place Saturday, with headliners Tonic, Will Hoge and Michael Tolcher (above).

Organizers had received more than 700 responses for VIP tickets, and were hoping for a crowd of 3,000. An unexpected rain shower on Saturday afternoon no doubt put a dent in those figures, but it didn't matter -- the vibe was fresh, fun and proof that Williams Park can absolutely be reinvented.

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Vans Warped Tour lineup: All Time Low, Taking Back Sunday, New Found Glory, Machine Gun Kelly lead St. Petersburg date

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We've been waiting patiently for a handy-dandy list of all the bands coming to Vinoy Waterfront Park for the Vans Warped Tour's annual date in St. Petersburg on July 29. Because Warped's lineup varies by date, it's not totally accurate to say ALL the headliners will be there.

But since this site is no help, we started compiling a list by looking at each individual artist's Warped itinerary. The verdict: St. Pete fans should be pretty happy.

Among the biggest bands who will be part of the St. Petersburg Warped Tour lineup: New Found Glory, Taking Back Sunday, We The Kings, Breathe Carolina, All Time Low, Streetlight Manifesto, Mayday Parade, Senses Fail, Bayside, Miss May I, Yellowcard, Pierce the Veil, Four Year Strong and rapper Machine Gun Kelly, above, who stole the show at Wild Splash 2012, and will be returning to St. Pete for the first time since his arrest following a bar brawl in January. …

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Pretty Lights to headline Sunset Music Festival at Raymond James Stadium

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To date, there have been no announcements about a 2012 version of the Identity Festival, which brought scores of DJs and electronic acts to amphitheatres nationwide last summer.

But that doesn't mean EDM fans are out of luck this year. Far from it. So far, we've already seen announcements of local shows by Avicii, Kaskade, Steve Aoki, Rusko and St. Petersburg's still-mysterious Downtown Digital festival.

And today we've got the goods on another massive show: The Sunset Music Festival on May 26 in a parking lot of Raymond James Stadium.

Dubstep/hip-hop DJ Pretty Lights (above) will headline the festival, with performances by Morgan Page, Alesso, Datsik, Nadastrom and Nervo. Crizzly, FuntCase, Lazy Rich, Revolver and Sabo round out the bill, with more to be announced. The show will take place from noon to 11 p.m. on three stages in the North Lot of Raymond James Stadium. General admission tickets start at $35 and go onsale Friday.

A huge Memorial Day weekend concert like this marks a splashy return to form for Sunset Events, which brings DJs to the Amphitheatre in Ybor City, and which staged similar electronic music festivals at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg in 2006 and 2007. Artists like Carl Cox, Rabbit In The Moon, Ferry Corsten, Darude and the Crystal Method headlined those festivals.

At the Sunset Music Festival, organizers promise "tons of performers, dancers and doaming stilt characters with loads of eye candy surprises for your pleasure." Sounds stimulating!

Click here for details on the Sunset Music Festival.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Photo: Luis Santana, tbt*

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Review / photos: Red Hot Chili Peppers kick off spring tour at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa

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Although the Red Hot Chili Peppers have always seemed better suited for burning down the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame than joining it, they'll do just that in a couple of weeks. But first, they kicked off a massive spring tour at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa on Thursday, mixing a bit of politics (the guys wore hoodies onstage in support of Trayvon Martin) with the raucous funk that is their trademark.

Sean Daly was among the crowd of 12,882, and he writes:

Riding Flea's meaty grooves, RHCP dutifully chugged through the goodies like the elder statesmen they've become. "Hey Flea, this is one of my favorite songs to dance to," said the 49-year-old Kiedis. "But since I have a [bleeped] up foot, I need you to dance for me." And with that, they spat out the new Look Around, during which no one really danced much at all. Suck My Kiss is no longer as nasty as it wants to be, but it's still a raucously fun song.

To juice the drama, video screens were everywhere, including, wildly enough, the stage itself plus shape-shifting gizmos that expanded overhead like something out of The Matrix. The show lost momentum in its midsection— Under the Bridge has always been a dull moaner — but the place just about exploded for a trademark take on Stevie Wonder's Higher Ground.

For Sean Daly's full review of the Red Hot Chili Peppers in Tampa, click here. And get more of Luis Santana's photos (including a cameo by Tampa Bay Ray Evan Longoria, who was sitting near the front) after the jump.

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Artist of the day: J2K

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Spinning through Tampa this weekend are J2K, a Gainesville trio that blends live rock, funk, roots and disco fusion with a free-wheeling jam-band vibe.

Guitarist and keyboardist Jason Shooster, bassist Keith Ladd and drummer Josh Hoffenberg are an energetic party group that has played with the likes of Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Big Gigantic and, weirdly, Bassnectar. Not surprisingly, given the energetic qualities of their music, they’ve performed at a handful of funk/jam festivals inside and outside their home state. In February, the group released their first full-length album, Like Your Face, will please fans of everyone from Tortured Soul to the Rapture to Flight of the Conchords. Click here to give it a listen and download a few songs.

On Friday, J2K will be at Crowbar with the Heavy Pets starting at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10. Click here.

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This week in Tampa: Jimmy Buffett, Snow Patrol, We Were Promised Jetpacks and more

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A busy week in Tampa Bay music wraps up tonight with the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. But the hits keep on coming this weekend, with performances by Jimmy Buffett, Snow Patrol, Tonic, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Torche, Dave Mason, Blue October, Passafire, Pink Martini and more. Here to walk you through it all is Carole Liparoto...

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A peek inside the USF Sun Dome's $35.64-million makeover

How weird is it that one of Tampa Bay's biggest concert venues just up and disappeared?

The USF Sun Dome has been MIA from the local concert scene for months now, due to a $35.64-million renovation aimed at turning the home of USF basketball some much-needed improvments, including suites and improved media systems. The goal is to reopen the facility by USF's graduation the first week of May.

Concerts -- no doubt big ones -- will surely follow. Everyone from Madonna to U2 to Frank Sinatra has played the Sun Dome over the decades. In the last few years, The Killers, Drake and Bob Dylan have taken the stage there. While it's safe to say few people probably considered it their favorite local concert venue, there's no doubt it's been missed. Over the past year, tours that might have come to the Sun Dome (Kid Rock, Miranda Lambert, Wiz Khalifa) have instead gone to Orlando's UCF Arena or Estero's Germain Arena.

Check out the video of the improvements above, and click here to read more about it in Greg Auman's story.

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Ticket Window: 311, Filter, Soulfly and more

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You're not likely to catch this author at a Slightly Stoopid show anytime soon, even if they ARE touring with 311. Once was enough for me. So I'll skip buying tickets to their show July 20 in Tampa, which goes on sale this week.

Other Tampa Bay concerts with tickets going on sale this week: Filter (April 21, State Theatre), Soulfly (May 4, State Theatre), The Queen Extravaganza (June 15, Straz Center), Happy Together Tour (June 15, Ruth Eckerd Hall) and 311 with Slightly Stoopid (July 20, 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre).

Click here for this week's edition of Ticket Window.

-- Photo: Luis Santana, tbt*

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Artist of the day: Sarasota Slim

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Like Tampa Red, Sarasota Slim wears his hometown pride on his sleeve. Born Gene Hardage, Slim has been part of the Tampa Bay blues scene for decades, and was part of the group called the Gulf Coast Blues Society that helped establish the best weekly blues jam in the Tampa Bay area, the Monday night shindig at the Green Iguana on West Shore Blvd. in Tampa.

In the '80s, Slim was a bandmate of Lucky Peterson, who went on to become well known in the international blues scene, while Slim kept living around here, helping build the local blues scene. He performed often with local bluesman Rock Bottom, and he’s still a regular at local blues festivals and rock concerts. His breed of the blues is highly influenced by classic R&B and soul, with some boogie-woogie thrown in for good measure.

On Friday, Sarasota Slim will perform with Nitro Bozeman at 8 p.m. at the Carrollwood Cultural Center in TAmpa. Tickets are $9-13. Click here to get 'em.

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Review: The Naked and Famous dazzle St. Petersburg's State Theatre with synths, lights and grooves

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Had you dropped a pair of New Zealanders on the streets of downtown St. Pete Wednesday night, their minds might have been blown to see two Kiwi bands on the marquee of the State Theatre: Katchafire and The Naked and Famous.

The latter group, in particular, would be quite the hot ticket in their native Auckland, where they have become one of the brightest pop talents to emerge from New Zealand in recent years, thanks to an award-winning debut album (Passive Me, Aggressive You) and a hugely catchy indie-pop single (Young Blood) that keeps them drawing comparisons to MGMT and Passion Pit.

The Naked and Famous picked a busy week to make their Tampa Bay debut, what with concerts around town by the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Black Lips, SBTRKT and, yes, their countrymen in Katchafire to contend with. But those fans who turned out were treated to an highly danceable set and dazzling light show worthy of a trip around the globe.

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SoundBytes: YACHT, Filter, Steve Aoki and more

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-- We've always enjoyed indie-electro-pop group YACHT, above, but we never knew their name is actually an acronym for "Young Americans Challenging High Technology." You learn something every day. We're gonna have to go listen to Dystopia (The Earth Is On Fire) again. They'll be at Crowbar on June 1; tickets are $11-$14. Click here.

-- Want to win free tickets to the Kenny Chesney/Tim McGraw concert on June 2 at Raymond James Stadium? Over the next two months, the stadium will give away 80 tickets through its Facebook and Twitter accounts through various contests, including a video lip-synching contest and photo contest. Click here for all the details.

-- It's been a while since we've pulled out Hey Man Nice Shot, but we may have to when Filter comes to town. The '90s alt-metal group performs April 21 at the State Theatre in St. Pete. Tickets are $18, and they'll go onsale Friday. Click here.

-- Major league party-starter Steve Aoki was most recently seen spinning at the mtvU Woodie Awards, but he's played several times in Tampa Bay, at the Venue, Jannus Live, the Identity Festival ... and, soon, the Ritz Ybor. Aoki will bring his beats to the Ritz on May 16, according to No Clubs Presents. Click here for details.

-- Franz Nicolay, formerly of The Hold Steady, will throw a free concert on April 25 at New World Brewery. But if you're a kind soul, you'll chip in a couple of bucks for gas money. After all the love the Hold Steady has shown Ybor City over the years, don't you owe it to him? Click here for details.

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Orlando Calling festival not returning in 2012

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It's official: Orlando Calling was a flop.

Immediately after last November's inaugural festival at the Citrus Bowl, organizer Melvin Benn estimated he lost "a couple of million plus" on the lightly attended two-day event. And on Wednesday, festival organizers tweeted the following: "Orlando Calling will not be happening this year, but we discussing opportunities for 2013 and will keep you updated." 

It's a shame, because musically, Orlando Calling was one of the biggest new things to happen in the Florida music world in years. Bob Seger, the Killers, Kid Rock, the Pixies, the Raconteurs, Blake Shelton and dozens more bands from a wide variety of genres made for a highly eclectic

One is tempted to say the economy is to blame for the failure of Orlando Calling -- especially considering another big festival, Langerado, was canceled in 2011. But then you look at the Deluna Festival in Pensacola, which not only put on a fantastic show in 2011 (even despite losing headliner Linkin Park at the last minute), but is already moving full steam ahead for 2012 (it's scheduled for Sept. 21-23 this year).

Orlando Calling was a fun time, too. But with the light turnout, less-than-spectacular setting and high prices, a return engagement was never a guarantee. Maybe things'll pick up in 2013.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

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Artist of the day: The Happiness Machine

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A couple of years ago, the Tampa Bay area experienced a surge in young, talented indie folk bands — The Sun Society, the Grecian Urns, Friends of Giants, John Gold, etc. The latest entry is The Happiness Machine.

Led by singing sisters Kathleen and Shaundra McGuire and guitarist Nick Arnal (all formerly of The Sun Society), they are joined by drummer Evan Eubanks and organist Jackson Davis. It’s a relatively new project, and their sound is still evolving, but if first single Greentown, IL, is any indication, you can expect more of the dreamy vintage indie pop those other bands embraced, mixed with “some world beats and tight homespun harmonies,” they say. “We try a lot of crazy ideas when we work out the songs, but the result, we hope, will be original and personal music.”

The Happiness Machine will be part of a very happy show on Saturday (3/31): The Talking Animals Music Night at New World Brewery. Organized by WMNF’s Talking Animals, the event features a ton of local artists performing animal-themed songs — for example, Talk To Mark will do the Pixies’ Monkey Gone To Heaven and Cake’s Sheep Go To Heaven, while Sunset Bridge will perform Miike Snow’s Animal. The Happiness Machine will do Pigeon by Tennis, Eagle on a Pole by Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band and Electric Feel by MGMT (like electric eel, get it?).

Other artists on the bill include Tribal Style, Sons of Hippies, Rebekah Pulley and Johnny Cakes and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypso. Tickets are $8-$10. Click here for details.

And at 11 a.m. Wednesday, artists from several of the bands (Sunset Bridge, Talk To Mark, Ricky Wilcox) will be in-studio with Talking Animals host Duncan Strauss to talk about the concert and other animal issues. Check it out on WMNF-88.5.

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On Gotye, 'Somebody That I Used to Know,' and musical obsession

I was on a road trip over the weekend, and the hit single Somebody That I Used To Know, by Gotye with Kimbra, came up on my iPod.

We've all heard this song by now, right? If you haven't, check it out in the video above. It's a great song, very pleasant, frequently compared to the work of Peter Gabriel. It's certainly one of the hottest songs in America right now, and I'd throw down an early $10 that it'll be nominated for Record of the Year at next year's Grammys.

Anyway, when the song ended, I hit repeat. And then I did it again. I wasn't keeping track, but I probably listened to Somebody That I Used To Know five times in a row.

The experience reminded me of a recent tweet by the folks at the Orpheum in Tampa: "we know someone who has played the gotye song 'somebody that I used to know' over 400 times!!!"

This, it seems, is not an uncommon phenomenon. I have heard (or read) multiple accounts of people who are absolutely, totally, perhaps unhealthily obsessed with Somebody That I Used To Know. Just look at these reports from around the web:

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Martin Short talks '80s remakes, John Candy and 'SCTV' vs. 'SNL'

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Perhaps because he’s spent great portions of his career buried in fat suits (like Jiminy Glick, above) and comically disfiguring makeup, Martin Short’s place in ha-ha history is easy to overlook. But the 62-year-old Canadian cut-up has been around more than you might realize.

From groundbreaking skit shows SCTV and Saturday Night Live to movies like Three Amigos and Father of the Bride, he not only steals scenes; he devours them. And his cavalcade of borderline creepy creations — wormy nerd Ed Grimley, corpulent celebrity interviewer Jiminy Glick, chain-smoking lawyer Nathan Thurm — are YouTube evergreens.

As he brings his stageshow to Ruth Eckerd Hall on Thursday — Glick will interview rocker Gary Puckett, by the way — Short chatted with Steve Spears and Sean Daly about topics ranging from the difference between SCTV and SNL to his late great friend John Candy.

"I adore John," Short said. John was exactly how you would love him to be. He was funny, and he was sweet, and he was a partier. And he would insist on paying every bill, even though he made the exact same money. “I’m taking that tab!” Wait a second — John doesn’t have any money, either! He was a deeply, deeply fabulous guy. He’s someone I can see walking in right now. He would always sing when he saw me. [Singing] 'Marty Short, how are youuuuu?'"

Short performs at 8 p.m. Thursday (3/29) at Ruth Eckerd Hall. Tickets are $43-$78. Click here for details.

For more of Sean and Steve's interview with Martin Short, click here. And click here to listen to the interview as a podcast.

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