BY JAY CRIDLIN
John Paul Pitts knows what it's like to grow up an indie rock fan in Florida.
He has driven to Atlanta for concerts. He has road-tripped to festivals such as Harvest of Hope in St. Augustine and Langerado in the Everglades. He has had to explain the Florida music scene, which he describes as "mysterious to people outside of the state," countless times over the years.
So out of all the flashy young artists at the inaugural Coastline Festival, which takes place Saturday at Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre and Sunday in Pitts' hometown of West Palm Beach, it is his band, Surfer Blood, that might be the most excited to play.
"It's been a long time since we've played either of those places," said the singer. "It's really weird that we're playing the Cruzan Amphitheatre in West Palm, because that's where I watched the Red Hot Chili Peppers when I was in middle school."
It's not every day that indie rock and pop acts such as Passion Pit, Two Door Cinema Club, Matt and Kim, the Neighbourhood and Surfer Blood get to play the same stage as a Hall of Fame group such as the Chili Peppers. But Coastline isn't your everyday concert. It's the third in a series of midsize festivals organized by promotions titan Live Nation, which is aiming to grow its already significant influence in Florida by creating new types of music experiences in Tampa Bay.
First there was the Sunshine Music and Blues Festival in January at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg. In May came the Funshine Music Festival, bringing mostly mainstream artists (Train, Smashing Pumpkins, Cheap Trick, Gary Allan) and carnival rides to the Florida State Fairgrounds.
Coastline may be Live Nation's most calculated fest yet. Dubbed a "musiculinary experience," it will feature two stages, a food truck rally and a mini art festival. They're hoping to draw more than 10,000 fans — not bad for any first-time festival, particularly one whose headliners typically play much smaller venues.
"It just seemed to me that there was a void in the marketplace to try and do something to get those 10 to 12 bands that were on the up-and-coming, but hadn't broken through," said Live Nation Florida president Neil Jacobsen.
Often left out of the festival mix are alternative rock fans between the ages of 15 and 30, the demographic Coastline is targeting. "A lot of these kids have never been to the Amphitheatre," Jacobsen said. "We wanted kids to come there for the first time and have a different experience."
Jay Cridlin is the entertainment editor at tbt*.