DEEP JAM: Sunshine Music Festival
You know your festival is doing all right when one of your performers just got back from winning a Kennedy Center Honor … and she's billed fourth. That's no disrespect to the legendary Mavis Staples — the Sunshine Music Festival is just that deep. In its fifth year, the fest co-masterminded by Live Nation and headliners Tedeschi Trucks Band is thriving in its unique groove of rock, blues, soul and jam-band merriment. Husband-and-wife guitar whizzes Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi have a lot to do with that, having curated yet another diverse bill of Hall of Fame-caliber legends (Staples, Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers, Dave Mason), younger jam-band disciples (Grateful Dead tribute Joe Russo's Almost Dead, Railroad Earth) and Southern rock favorites (North Mississippi Allstars, the Greyhounds). It's the rare festival that caters to a truly all-ages crowd. Gates open at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Vinoy Park, St. Petersburg. www. sunshinemusicfestival.com.
MARVELOUS NIGHT: Van Morrison
It's hard to overstate just how much a three-night stand by Van Morrison, right, at Ruth Eckerd Hall means to local fans. His shows at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 18 and Jan. 19 are his first here since a four-night run in 1997; before that, you have to go back to the '70s. At 71, the recalcitrant Irish iconoclast rarely tours anymore, and no one would be surprised if he soon retired his once-legendary roadshow. When he finally does hang up his fedora, capping more than a half-century of hits like Brown Eyed Girl and Domino and seminal albums like 1968's Astral Weeks and 1970's Moondance, the world will miss his magical mix of American soul and jazz, British mod rock and Celtic folk traditions. His songwriter's soul is intact, his influence on songwriters like Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and U2 immense. So if you're among the lucky ticketholders to one of these three sold-out shows, cherish every moment of the night. rutheckerdhall.com.
ALL ABOUT SOUL:Winter Jam, SoulFest
Got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in your heart? This weekend brings two big arena shows designed to let it all out.
Winter Jam returns to Amalie Arena at 6 p.m. Saturday with a lineup of top Christian stars like Crowder, Britt Nicole, Tenth Avenue North, Thousand Foot Krutch, NewSong and Colton Dixon, plus an appearance by Duck Dynasty's Sadie Robertson. $10 at the door only. (813) 301-2500. amaliearena.com.
Then on Sunday, get ready for soul of a different sort when Tampa Bay SoulFest returns to the USF Sun Dome, 4202 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. R&B crooner Brian McKnight (Back at One) leads this year's slate along with New Edition's Johnny Gill (My, My, My) and New Jack Swing favorite Al B. Sure (Nite and Day). $51.75 and up. (813) 974-3004. sundomearena.com.
GO, GO, LARGO: Central Park Performing Arts Center
If you've never visited Largo's Central Park Performing Arts Center — known until recently as the Largo Cultural Center — this is a pretty good week to rectify that. At 7:30 p.m. Thursday, the oft-overlooked theater will host cult late-'80s/early-'90s power-pop outfit the Smithereens (A Girl Like You, Only a Memory) along with openers Four Star Riot. $24.50 and up. At 8 p.m. Friday, it's singer-songwriter Livingston Taylor, the brother of Sweet Baby James and an accomplished vocalist in his own right. $19.50 and up. Then at 8 p.m. Saturday, it's Plant City's own Pam Tillis, a stalwart presence on '80s and '90s country radio (Mi Vida Loca, Shake the Sugar Tree). $29.50 and up. And if that's not enough, come back next week for a show by premier Pink Floyd tribute act the Machine at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 19 ($29.50 and up). 105 Central Park Drive, Largo. (727) 587-6793. largoarts.com.
STRANGER THING:Greg Billings Band
Many of you might recognize Greg Billings from his eponymous rock band's many appearances at Tampa Bay festivals and charity gigs. But those of you who were around in the '80s and '90s might remember him as the frontman for Stranger, a popular, nationally touring group whose self-titled debut came out on Epic Records. Stranger never made it as big as the bands fronted by Billings' buddies Robin Zander (Cheap Trick) and Brian Johnson (AC/DC). But local fans never forgot. When the Capitol Theatre convinced Billings to play a rare sit-down gig marking the 35th anniversary of the Stranger LP, the show sold out well in advance. It'll be a night in Tampa Bay's musical wayback machine at 8 p.m. Friday at the Cap, 405 Cleveland St. in Clearwater. (727) 791-7400. atthecap.com.