It's been an interesting year on the local concert scene, from Fiona Apple to the Ventures. And our Soundcheck blog writers and correspondents were there. Here's a look back at some of the best local concerts of 2012.
Jay Cridlin, Entertainment editor
Fun. (March 7, State Theatre): It's a testament to Fun.'s lightning-fast rise to fame in 2012 that at last year's 97X Next Big Thing concert, they took the stage at 11 a.m. Three months (and one mega-hit song) later, the State Theatre was already too small of a venue for this headlining show. The venue rattled and hummed with all of Fun.'s joy and theatricality, from the chest-pounding Some Nights to the boot-stomping One Foot. It was a rousing, electric and fascinatingly intimate look at a band on their way to the top.
Coldplay (June 28, Tampa Bay Times Forum): This show may end up on everyone's best-of-2012 list, but I don't care. I can't leave it off mine. Having seen two stops on Coldplay's Mylo Xyloto tour, I believe we may never see another arena-rock tour like it. The synchronized lights, the life-affirming scream-alongs of Every Teardrop is a Waterfall and Viva La Vida, the confetti, the inflatables, the crazy energy of Chris Martin and company — every bit of it made you wish the night would never end. They found a way to out-U2 U2. Say what you want about Coldplay, but it's tough not to fall in love with them live.
Fiona Apple (Sept. 29, Ruth Eckerd Hall): From the moment Apple walked onstage in an oversized hoodie, then proceeded to deliver a soon-to-go-viral rant against Perez Hilton and TMZ, you knew you were in for one of those nights. Looking more possessed than fragile, she performed a career-spanning 90-minute set that ranged from jazz to acid rock to delirious chamber pop. She left the stage somewhat abruptly without playing Criminal, but when you buy a ticket to see Fiona Apple, these things are bound to happen.
Rubblebucket (Guavaween, Oct. 27, Czar): I don't think I'd be alone in saying this year's inaugural Guavaween music festival was a flop. The music was fine, but few of the partiers on Seventh really seemed to care. Well, if they missed indie-jazz-funk outfit Rubblebucket at Czar, it was their loss. The Brooklyn-based group fully embraced the Guavaween spirit, dressing in costumes and having giant monster puppets roam the crowd. By the time they ended the show with a second-line march through the crowd, horns blaring, everyone there was a believer.
TIE: 97X Memorial Day Backyard BBQ, May 26; and 97X Next Big Thing, Dec. 1 (both at Vinoy Park): Someone has to give credit to 97X for the amazing year they've bestowed upon local music fans, with multiple free shows across Tampa Bay and these two blockbuster festivals in Vinoy Park. The May show brought a mountain of noise from Middle Class Rut; massive alt-rock anthems from Imagine Dragons; and the shamelessly wild strutting of Foxy Shazam. Next Big Thing was infused with warm and friendly vibes — Grouplove's cheerful hippie dance party; the warm embrace of Of Monsters of Men; the triumphant return of Fun.
Sean Daly, Pop music critic
The Kills (Jan. 30, Ritz Ybor): As soon as Alison Mosshart stalked onstage at the Ritz Ybor, that throbbing leopard-print backdrop behind her made total animalistic sense. The Kills' femme-fatale frontwoman, her thick untamed hair tussled like a howl, is a restless, unhinged performer, one of the most dynamic, and sensuously dangerous, singers in rockdom.
The Civil Wars (Feb. 2, Straz Center): The duo immediately jumped into their curious stage routine: Joy Williams' flirty twirl (she often looks like she's about to break into a tap dance) and John Paul White's gruff countenance. It should be noted that the Civil Wars are married — to other people. And yet their public relationship and all those exquisite disharmonies are not without heat, and their 70-minute show was fueled by their unique affections.
Regina Spektor (Nov. 15, Ruth Eckerd Hall): You can't fault ambition, of course, and when Spektor reins in her ideas, she can be otherworldly. Sweeping breakup dirge How was one of the most transcendent songs I've ever heard at Ruth Eckerd. It's string-laden and sad, and yet still injected with her curious touches: chirpy bird coos, Beatlesesque chord changes, a big-finish holler. It was different but sweet, and it was far more palatable than the song where she approximated what it sounds like to drown.
Stephanie Bolling, tbt* staff writer
Radiohead (Feb. 29, Tampa Bay Times Forum): Between the hypnotic stage set and Thom Yorke's groovy moves, the British rock stars threw fans many bones with stretches to The Bends, OK Computer and Hail to the Thief. The sensory and audible overload made my face and heart melt right into the nostalgic soundtrack of my youth. Hats off to these dudes for creating the musical threads of our lives.
The Ventures (Feb. 29-March 3, Stanleyville Theater, Busch Gardens): I know you're all like, "What?" But these dudes are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Playing three shows a day for four days at Busch Gardens is hardly a blowout spectacle, but it was an unlikely opportunity to snag a piece of history, a representation of transitioning music, formats, venues and an era that we won't hear live for much longer. Plus, the instrumental foursome played their top hits Walk, Don't Run and the Hawaii Five-O theme song. Rad.
Antiwarpt Music Festival (July 28, Downtown St. Petersburg): The third annual event cemented itself as a definitive part of the bay area's local music scene. About 95 percent of the bands were from Florida. Between 10 venues and 99 bands, it was overwhelming yet highly stimulating. It was also the night I fell in love with Saskatchewan and Adrian Younge, reaffirmed my penchant for Jane Jane Pollock and shed some tears over the tender-hearted last set for Sleepy Viking's drummer Ryann Slauson.
Carole Liparoto, Soundcheck writer
SBTRKT (March 24, Orpheum): For SBTRKT, a.k.a. London producer Aaron Jerome, wearing a tribal mask suggests ceremony and celebration. And that's exactly what he and honey-soul vocalist Sampha delivered on a spring night at the Orpheum. Pharaohs was a surefire feet-mover with a retro, acid-house style and enough swank for even the most upscale of lounges. The way SBTRKT's Jerome and Sampha bounced from live drums, keys, knobs, faders and tables was one-of-a-kind live.
Bon Iver (June 7, Straz Center): A woodsy, pillow-soft set was what I anticipated from delicate strummer and bearded outdoorsman Bon Iver. What I got was a sprawling, lively evening of wintry wonder. Justin Vernon, his falsetto, two drummers, horn players, violinists and a cast of other fine orchestral players brought modest, affecting tunes to a new dimension. Lanterns flickered and burlap curtains danced as the group uncorked tunes Perth and Michicant.
Florence and the Machine (Sept. 25, USF Sun Dome): If ever there was a woman who could rock an arena in a dark, flowy nightie, a Victorian-era hairstyle and pasty bare feet, Florence is the gal. At a newly renovated USF Sun Dome, more than 5,000 fans witnessed the London siren and most gracious host bare her soul … with soul. Shake It Out and Cosmic Love were cathartic dance-alongs. Welch encouraged lots of audience participation, too. "Turn to each other, shake each other's hands, embrace each other," she appealed during the finale of Dog Days Are Over. An evening of grace, elation and group hugs — what more could we ask for?
Andrew Carlton, tbt* correspondent
Lil Kim and Trina (Jan. 13, Channelside IMAX): In 2012, hip-hop legend Lil Kim made her first ever appearance in Tampa (according to her) at the Channelside IMAX theaters in Tampa. Despite fistfights and flying wigs, bottles and shoes, the show went on. Trina's security pulled her from the venue after the crowd became too rowdy and unsafe. Lil Kim, however, hopped on stage surrounded by her fans and did her set. She literally brought the house down — eventually Trina came back on to a makeshift stage set up in the lobby of the movie theater and sang a few songs with Kim.
Machine Gun Kelly (Last Damn Show, Oct. 6, Tampa Bay Times Forum): I'm pretty sure anytime MGK has stepped foot into Tampa Bay something crazy happens. Whether it was being arrested, climbing stage trusses, or trying to bash out windows of a hotel during a show, he stirs up something … and people love it! My most memorable MGK moment of 2012 was at Wild 94.1's Last Damn Show, where he jumped on top of a brand new Scion and completely dented in the roof! He later came back to apologize and actually autographed the car.
KISS (July 28, 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre): You can say what you want about them, but unlike many bands, KISS seem to "get it" when it comes to preserving their image for years to come. When these guys get old — I mean, older — and can no longer perform, the photos taken of them throughout the years will preserve their coolness forever. These guys realize that they need to look good on camera, and out of the hundreds of shows I have shot in my 11 years, KISS worked the cameras the best.
Psy (Dec. 8, University Mall): Never in my wildest dreams would I ever have thought that a Korean YouTube star would draw crowds of more than 3,000 people to the University Mall in Tampa! If you had told me last year that there would be a concert featuring a song called Gangnam Style and that people would wait more than five hours in front of a closed-down JCPenney store to see a five-minute performance of a Korean guy riding an invisible horse, I would have told you to lay off the drugs, because that would never happen. But it did, and I have photos to prove it!