Here comes the drop: World's top DJs coming to Tampa Bay this summer
For Robert Uzzilia, the electronic music revolution in Tampa Bay hit its peak in September, when Swedish DJ Avicii played the Venue in Clearwater right around the time his song Levels was breaking huge around the globe.
"It was madness," said Uzzillia, formerly the Venue's chef and partner. "We were at max capacity. We turned away 300, 400 people. We just could not put them in the building. The day of the show, we were at a $100 cover, and people were begging us to take their $100 and let them in."
If 2011 was the year electronic music broke in America, 2012 is the year it's setting up shop right in your face. Three electronic festivals are slated to take place in Tampa Bay between May and August. For the first time, a DJ — the aforementioned Avicii — will headline the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Two more shows will take place at the Florida State Fairgrounds, of all places, in a building that can hold 4,000.
"The electronic music scene is now, in my opinion, becoming the mainstream music of the world," said Uzzillia. "All the major artists right now, they're singing over house tracks. Rihanna sings over Calvin Harris beats. Flo Rida sings over Avicii beats."
Funny enough, it was never Uzzillia's goal to turn the Venue into an electronic-music mecca. He came on simply for the food. But when he saw how successful the club's DJ nights became, he spun off his own booking and promotions company, Music Owns Me, which now has a stake in several big DJ shows coming to Tampa Bay this summer, including Avicii, Kaskade, Afrojack and Steve Aoki.
Uzzillia and his partners recently left the Venue, which has since renamed itself The V (Uzzillia says he's already talking to the new owners about booking shows there). But his success there — as well as that of John Santoro with Sunset Events and the Amphitheatre in Ybor City — has emboldened other promoters to get into the game.
In St. Petersburg, the inaugural Downtown Digital festival will take over Jannus Live and several nearby clubs on June 2. Unlike Santoro's Sunset Music Festival — which is bringing big-name DJs like Pretty Lights, Morgan Page and Alesso to Raymond James Stadium on Memorial Day weekend — Downtown Digital is focusing on underground artists from a multitude of genres.
"We still feel like it's kind of the wild, wild west with electronic music," said Downtown Digital production manager Zach Koche. "It's not that we're going against the mainstream so much as we're trying to bring a lot of emerging acts to the show — a lot of people that you might not know of, but we think they're going to be bigger down the road."
The big question now is, can Tampa Bay handle so many electronic acts one summer? Uzzillia said it does feel like the scene is getting close to oversaturated — and still, he's already working on bringing another three or four big-name DJs to town this summer.
"I'm not sure the Tampa market can handle that," Uzzillia said. "But we're gonna find out."
© 2016 Tampa Bay Times
Here comes the drop
In addition to Steve Aoki (Page 42) and Washed Out (Page 44), here are some of the biggest electronic concerts coming to Tampa Bay this summer. — Jay Cridlin
May 17: Rusko
At last summer's Identitity Festival stop in Tampa, British dubstep DJ Rusko brought a danceable, reggae-tinged flavor to the main stage. His squiggly wobble is poppy and lighthearted — you might even call it tongue-in-cheek — and will no doubt get the college-night crowd dancing on Thursday at the Hawaiian Village at the Stadium Green Iguana. Tickets start at $26. thehawaiianvillage.com.
May 26: Sunset Music Festival
John Santoro was just a few years too early. In 2006 and 2007, he threw similar electronic music festivals at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg, drawing names like Carl Cox, Ferry Corsten and the Crystal Method. Now that electronic music has gone mainstream, the reinvigorated Sunset Music Festival, taking place May 26 at Raymond James Stadium, should draw a much bigger crowd. Among the headliners: Hip-hop/dubstep DJ Pretty Lights, Dutch trance icon Paul van Dyk, pop singer Dev, house/electro DJ/producer Morgan Page and globe-trotting Swede Alesso. Tickets start at $35. smftampa.com.
June 2: Downtown
This first-year festival on June 2 will bring some two dozen DJs and electronic acts to Jannus Live and other venues around downtown St. Pete (Vintage Ultra Lounge, Bar Milo and more). Comparisons to the Sunset Music Festival are inevitable, but this one seems aimed more at underground fans — hipster approved duo Ladytron will perform a DJ set, electronic-rock act BoomBox is a veteran of WMNF's Tropical Heatwave, and Mustard Pimp . Plus, Downtown Digital has its pulse on the local DJ scene, booking the team behind Fubar's Turbo Tuesdays — Subpirate, KingKrow and Sidedraft. Tickets are $25. digi-fest.com.
June 7: Avicii
It's a watershed moment for the electronic music movement in America: A DJ is headlining arenas across the country. Avicii, by most accounts one of the world's top 10 DJs, broke into the American mainstream with the Etta James-sampling Levels, which served as the basis for Flo Rida's No. 1 single Good Feeling. The Swedish DJ has come a long way since playing the Venue in Clearwater last fall. He'll be at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on June 7. $46.75. tampabaytimesforum.com.
June 15: Afrojack
The Dutch DJ/producer, who scored a global smash last year with Pitbull's Give Me Everything, and is currently the DJ List's 17th-rated DJ in the world, will perform at the Expo Hall of the Florida State Fairgrounds on June 15. R3hab, Shermanology and other acts will also be part of the star-studded bill. And who knows, maybe his rumored girlfriend, Paris Hilton, will show up too? Tickets are $33.50 through livenation.com.
July 13: Kaskade
Ryan Raddon, a.k.a. glossy dance-music superstar Kaskade, headlined last summer's hugely successful Identity Festival. He has a thing for unconventional performance spaces — Google the near-riot he set off last summer in Los Angeles after announcing a free, secret block party — so it's only mildly surprising he'll be at the Florida State Fairgrounds' Expo Hall on July 13. Bring your glowsticks for a massive rave. $33.50. livenation.com.
July 20: Paul Oakenfold
The trance superstar has been rocking blocks since well before dubstep entered the international conversation — he was spinning funk and disco in London as early as the '70s. In addition to creating tons of music and remixes for films and video games, he's performed alongside everyone from Madonna to the Boston Pops. He'll be at the Ritz Ybor on July 20. Tickets are $25-$30. ritzybor.com.
Aug. 3: Identity Festival
The inaugural Identity Festival — sort of a Warped Tour for DJs and electronic acts — must have done pretty well at its only Florida tour stop last year, because it's returning to Tampa's 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre on Aug. 3. Wolfgang Gartner, Eric Prydz and Excision are among the headliners of the Tampa tour stop. For a preview, check out Identity performer Doctor P at the Amphitheatre in Ybor City on June 8. Tickets to Identity Festival are $40-$60. idfestival.com.