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Music Planner: Billy Joel is back, the Straz gets rootsy and Pinellas Park is rockin'


Imagine having less than a week to turn a big outdoor concert into an even bigger outdoor festival. That was the challenge facing concert promoters in early December, when Ferg's Sports Bar put the kibosh on its new live music series.

Enter an unlikely savior: The city of Pinellas Park, and its 11-acre England Brothers Bandshell Park. The city has hosted a surprising amount of live music since the park opened in 1998, staging its annual Country in the Park concert each spring and renting out the bandshell for concerts by artists like Joan Jett, Blondie, Devo and Sublime with Rome. On Sunday, it will host a daylong metal fest featuring Hellyeah and P.O.D.

So when concert organizers at Ferg's needed a new venue with only a few days' notice, city officials said: Why not?

"It's nice when people can see something close to home and not have to drive out of town to go to a show," said city spokesman Tim Caddell. "It's not a moneymaker, but we always try to break even, or at least cover the city's actual costs on it, so we're not spending taxpayer money on stuff that not all the taxpayers really want."

Moving those first two concerts — Bone Thugs-N-Harmony on Dec. 11 and Quiet Riot on Dec. 12 — on short notice wasn't entirely seamless. The city scrambled to ensure police, fire rescue and public works employees could be on site. And Pinellas Park was already staging its annual Christmas parade on Dec. 12, which caused traffic nightmares for anyone trying to reach the second show.

But Caddell said the city got paid for both December shows, and feels good about the three still to come — Hellyeah and P.O.D. on Sunday, Europe on Feb. 3 and Dokken on Feb. 28. The city has had a little more time to promote these concerts, and Caddell expects local businesses to see a bump in business on the day of each show.

The park's sudden rush of live music might not stretch into summer, since heavy rain tends to cause flooding. "If it rains, it's Woodstock," Caddell said.

But the city is always open to booking more shows, no matter the style of music.

"We want to have something for everybody," Caddell said. "We're willing to try just about everything."

Sunday's concert features also features Adelitas Way, 10 Years, Avatar, Islander and Failure Anthem. Gates open at 2 p.m.; the music starts at 3. $14.98 and up. Tickets purchased when the show was still at Ferg's will be honored at England Brothers Bandshell Park, 5010 81st Ave. N, Pinellas Park. (727) 688-2025.

KEY CHANGE: Billy Joel

Perhaps Billy Joel's Madison Square Garden residency has given the ol' Piano Man a new outlook on life. After years of what felt like ambivalence toward the pop music industry, it seems Joel has loosened up since taking his monthly MSG gig at the beginning of 2014. Last year he headlined Bonnaroo (alongside the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Deadmau5, no less), and Friday's show at Amalie Arena will be his second Tampa show in two years, indicating he's no longer so reluctant to hit the road. Most important, it really seems like he's having fun out there — letting fans vote on his setlist, and busting out covers and rarer gems like All for Leyna, Where's the Orchestra? and The Ballad of Billy the Kid. He's still a hits machine; there's no way he'll get to everyone's favorites at Friday's show. You'll still hear Allentown, you'll hear Scenes From an Italian Restaurant, you'll hear Only the Good Die Young, and you'll most certainly hear Piano Man. As Joel nears his 67th birthday, we may be no closer to his first proper pop album since 1993's River of Dreams, but at least we know his heart is still in the game. $39.50 and up. (813) 301-2500.

FINE FOLK: Music at the Straz

Head to the Straz Center this weekend for three full days of All-American music. Well, okay, there's a little bit of Canada in there, too. On Friday, Canadian quartet the Slocan Ramblers, one of the bright new faces of the modern bluegrass movement, take the Jaeb Theatre stage at 7:30 p.m. $25 and up. On Saturday, it's hot jazz revivalists the Hot Sardines, who infuse their brassy fire with a touch of French swing. $35 and up for the 8 p.m. show in Ferguson Hall. And on Sunday, Grammy-nominated Tennessee alt-country rocker Will Hoge hits the Jaeb stage at 7:30 p.m. Look for some of the socially conscious material from his new album, Small Town Dreams, or, if we're lucky, Still a Southern Man, his snarling screed against the Confederate flag. $25. (813) 229-7827.

RETRO CHARM: Shannon and the Clams

Sensing a void for a borderline campy indie-rock homage to the innocent pop of the '50s and '60s, here come Shannon and the Clams to brighten your Monday. Much like, say, Lana Del Rey or Leon Bridges, singer-bassist Shannon Shaw and her Clams (guitarist Cody Blanchard and drummer Ian Amberson) looked to pop's bygone eras for inspiration on their latest LP, Gone By the Dawn. The result is a cheery, danceable and slightly punky brew of tambourines and doo-wop and sass. No wonder these guys are booking festival gigs like Sasquatch this spring. Catch them at 8 p.m. Monday at New World Brewery, 1313 Eighth Ave., Ybor City, with Golden Pelicans and Veiny Hands opening. $9-$12. (813) 248-4969.

Music Planner: Billy Joel is back, the Straz gets rootsy and Pinellas Park is rockin' 01/20/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 20, 2016 10:52am]
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