Florida Strawberry Festival
Details: Today-Sunday. Headline shows at 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices vary by performer; about 3,000 free seats available on first-come, first-seated basis for each show. (813) 752-9194 or flstrawberryfestival.com.
Those cagey shortcakers at the Florida Strawberry Festival kept us waiting until the festival's final weekend for many of this year's hottest acts:
Today: Georgia singer-songwriter Brantley Gilbert ($35) scored a major hit with power ballad You Don't Know Her Like I Do, but his forte is beefy, power-chord-enhanced singles that straddle the line between outlaw country and rock 'n' roll. Plant City's own Mel Tillis ($15-$20) returns to his old stomping grounds at 3:30 p.m.
Friday: Like Randy Travis and Josh Turner, American Idol winner Scotty McCreery ($25-$30) can bellow out a baritone with the best of 'em. Two hitmakers from the '70s and '80s, T.G. Sheppard and Janie Fricke ($15-$20), take the stage at 3:30.
Saturday: Need a break from pure country? Check out Bret Michaels ($25-$30), the Poison frontman turned pop culture jack of all trades (Rock of Love, Celebrity Apprentice), and don't forget your lighter for Every Rose Has Its Thorn. Shout-out to the cheeky bookers who thought it'd be a good idea to pair Michaels with gospel icons Gaither Vocal Band ($20-$25), who perform at 3:30.
Sunday: And here, finally, is the festival's top dog, Blake Shelton, a man whose outsize personality (The Voice) and industry respect (he was the Country Music Association's 2012 Entertainer of the Year) have made him one of Nashville's reigning king of country. He'll play hits like Honey Bee, Hillbilly Bone and God Gave Me You, but watch out for material from his upcoming album Based on a True Story. This show is sold out, but you can always try for one of those 3,000 or so free seats on the day of the show. As it turns out, Sunday's early show is also a hot one: Teenyboppin' country prodigy Hunter Hayes ($15-$20), who scored a Best New Artist nomination at this year's Grammys.
With Meek Mill, Juvenile, Juicy J, 69 Boyz, 95 South, Nee Nee from Dis-n-Dat, Kat Dahlia, Mr. Vegas, John Hart, RaVaughn, B.Smyth
Details: Saturday 3 p.m. Coachman Park, 301 Drew St., Clearwater. $25 and up. wild941.com.
Phillly rapper Meek Mill, a member of Rick Ross' Maybach Music family, has a host of hip-hop A-listers lining up to work with him, from Nas to Drake to Mary J. Blige. But is he big enough yet to headline this year's Wild Splash? Guess we'll find out Saturday, when the annual Spring Break hip-hop fest returns to Coachman Park. Rap veterans Juvenile (Back Dat Azz Up) and Juicy J of Three 6 Mafia (It's Hard Out There for a Pimp) are this year's other big names, but don't sleep on Jamaican dancehall star Mr. Vegas and Miami's Kat Dahlia, an up-and-coming rapper whose piano-driven Gangsta sounds like Rihanna covering Lana Del Rey. But the highlight of the day might be a Miami bass set by 69 Boyz (Tootsie Roll), Nee Nee from Dis-n-Dat (Party) and 95 South, the original performers of Whoot, There It Is (the more famous rendition, Whoomp! There It Is, was recorded by Tag Team). When the bass drops on Saturday, things'll be backing up all over Coachman Park.
Ned and the Lone Wolf Band
Details: Saturday 8 p.m. Ritz Ybor, 1503 E Seventh Ave., Ybor City. $15. (813) 247-2555.
Who's Ned? According to his official bio, he's a parody-song artist and contributor to the Bubba the Love Sponge Show. Unofficially, he's a creation of Bubba sidekick Mike "Manson" Waters, who portrays the cranky redneck on the air. The brainless raunch and insensitivity of Ned parodies like Lesbian Convoy should be self-evident. But a live appearance by this mysterious radio character is such a rarity, Bubba's Army is sure to turn out in droves.
Details: Sunday 1 p.m. Shephard's Beach Resort, 619 S Gulfview Blvd., Clearwater Beach. shephards.com.
So they didn't get Will.i.am or Fergie. Shephard's still has a Black Eyed Pea in the house for Spring Break, which is nothing to sneeze at. Contrary to what Saturday Night Live would have you believe, Taboo was not named after the board game, nor is he from the Matrix, nor is he a Japanese ghost. He does pop up on big Peas hits like Boom Boom Pow and Where Is The Love, though, so perhaps he'll grab the mike for a verse or two. Shephard's "Beach Party Sundays" start at 1 p.m., with $1 drinks until 6 and specials on Patrón, Grey Goose and Bacardi.
Florida Georgia Line
Details: Friday, doors at 7 p.m. Dallas Bull, 3322 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. Sold out. (813) 987-2855.
Big, rock 'n' roll-style fist-pumpers are big right now in Nashville, and Florida Georgia Line isn't shy about reaching for the sky. The duo's debut album, Here's to the Good Times, landed in Billboard's top 10 upon its release in December, powered by the No. 1 country hit Cruise, which extols the virtues of SoCo-sipping honeys and lift kit-enhanced Chevys. It's an album full of big, swaggering hits in the making, which makes sense, considering its producer has also worked with Nickelback and Daughtry. This show's sold out, but Florida Georgia Line will return to Tampa this fall, opening for Luke Bryan at the Live Nation Amphitheatre.
Times staff writer Jay Cridlin can be reached at [email protected]