This weekend, something in Tampa Bay seems a smidge wacky. We can't quite put our finger on it, but see if these three artist/venue pairings don't make you go "Huh?"
Bret Michaels: Before he became a winning Celebrity Apprentice or Mr. Rock of Love, Bret was just the head-banging frontman of Poison. Not exactly high culture. Which is why we were a tad surprised to see him leave his arena-loving bandmates behind for a solo show at the very intimate Largo Cultural Center. Really? The same cultural center that has jazz artist Keiko Matsui next week and Santa's Holiday Revue in December? Any ticket to Friday's show, which start at $59.50, will get you so close that if you sneeze, Bret will wipe your nose with his bandana. (727) 587-6793
Tom Arnold: At first glance, Arnold looks more like a neighborhood dentist than a cutting-edge comic or Hollywood star. That's perfect, because on Friday and Saturday, he's playing Side Splitters, which on the outside looks more like an orthodontist office than a comedy club. But don't let their looks fool you. The former Mr. Roseanne Barr has a razor-sharp wit that he strutted in movies such as 1994's True Lies. And Side Splitters still packs the house with actor/comics like Pauly Shore and Gilbert Gottfried, so expect a rowdy crowd on hand for Arnold's quirky humor. Tickets are $25 ($27 the day of the show.) (813) 960-1197
ELMO: The swanky revamped USF Sun Dome in Tampa is the hot venue of the moment. Sir Elton John. Florence + the Machine. Elmo. Oh yeah, baby. Because rock may rule, but nobody throws a kickin' party like the hipsters from Sesame Street. Elmo, Big Bird and other lovable characters are in town Friday through Sunday in the live show "Elmo Makes Music." Tickets are $12-$57 with showtimes at 7 p.m. Friday, 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, 1 and 4:30 p.m. Sunday. (813) 974-3002
A NEW DYNASTY: DRAGON BOATS IN ST. PETERSBURG
Long an annual event in Tampa, now it's St. Petersburg's turn to catch dragon boat fever. Paddles Up St. Pete has signed up 18 teams to compete in St. Petersburg's first dragon boat race in a 350-meter course in Bayboro Harbor on Saturday. It's an unusual sight: a 41-foot boat with a dragon head on the front and 20 paddlers keeping pace with the aid of a drummer. There will be an educational village set up in Poynter Park at 1000 Third St. S where you can test drive kayaks, canoes and paddleboards. There will also be food vendors, a beer garden and an awards ceremony with live music. The first qualifying races begin at 8:30 a.m., the educational village and vendors set up 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., followed by awards ceremonies. Free to watch.
– Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Times staff writer
HEADBANGERS BALL: ROCK OF AGES
Do you hear Journey's Don't Stop Believin' in your sleep yet? We're still not sure what singer Steve Perry meant by "streetlight people" and let us point out there is no such place as "South Detroit," but otherwise it's the perfect anthem of the '80s generation. Get ready for the earworm to invade again because Rock of Ages, the Tony Award-nominated musical about a wannabe rocker in love with a wannabe actor, is returning to Ruth Eckerd Hall on Saturday for two shows only. Now before you fire off about how bad this summer's movie adaptation was — hey, we loved Tom Cruise as ego-poisoned rocker Stacee Jaxx! — let us point out the stage production is soooo much more fun. You want a list of reasons to see it, don't you?
• It's campy: And campiness works better on stage than on screen. So does cheeky adult language, which filled the production during its first tour a few years ago, so probably best to leave the kids at home.
• The tunes: It's a shame the kids will miss legendary songs by Foreigner, Pat Benatar and REO Speedwagon. But be prepared to sing along (and just tip the babysitter a little extra).
• Dress to impress: Break out the hairspray, neon duds and tight designer jeans because you just can't fight this feeling any longer: Rock of Ages is more than a musical, it's a lifestyle.
Tickets are $50, $60 and $70 for shows at 5 and 9 p.m. Saturday. (727) 791-7400.