BRIGHT BLUES: Tampa Bay Blues Festival
In 2011, the Blues Foundation in Memphis gave the Tampa Bay Blues Festival a prestigious "Keeping the Blues Alive" award as the best blues festival in America.
"For us, it's like a Grammy or an Emmy — you can't get any better," festival founder and president Charles Ross said. "It's a recognition that the Tampa Bay Blues Festival has reached the upper echelon of music events that include blues music."
That legacy continues in the 22nd year, which runs Thursday through Sunday in St. Petersburg. This year's headliners include Kenny Wayne Shepherd on Friday, Aaron Neville and J.J. Grey and Mofro on Saturday, and Walter Trout on Sunday. If the weather's good, some 30,000 fans might pack the park.
Surprised by that number? Ross understands. Unlike Ribfest or the Clearwater Jazz Holiday, Blues Fest tends to fly under the radar on Tampa Bay's festival scene, partly because it's a niche genre, partly because many locals simply don't realize what they have here.
"It's become a destination event for blues aficionados from around the world," Ross said. "Our ticket presales are probably 70 percent from outside the state of Florida. This year we've mailed tickets to Brazil, Netherlands, Italy, Canada, Virgin Islands, Sweden, England … tell me when to stop."
The event opens with a $20 pre-party at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Palladium, 253 Fifth Ave. N; Victor Wainwright will perform. Gates open at 12:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday in Vinoy Park. Tickets are $30-$40 per day ($150-$200 VIP), or $95 for the weekend ($450 VIP), with late-night after-parties ($20 apiece) at the Palladium on Friday and Saturday. tampabaybluesfest.com.
'TEN' TO FIVE: Pearl Jam
For 25 years, Pearl Jam has mostly refused to play the same set more than once. They have a vast catalog and try to make each show an electric, unpredictable affair. In honor of their nearly sold-out concert at 8 p.m. Monday at Amalie Arena, here are some setlist suggestions — my five all-time favorite Pearl Jam tracks.
5. Immortality (Vitalogy, 1994): I could fill this whole list with songs from Vitalogy (Better Man, Whipping, Not For You). But this rusty blues number always hooks me, particularly Mike McCready's gnarly, barbed-wire solo at 2:17. (It's also the only song on this list I've never seen live. C'mon, Ed, help me out!)
4. Daughter (Vs., 1993): The biggest single from my favorite Pearl Jam album, I won't turn it off anytime it comes on, tapping my feet until the outro.
3. Do the Evolution (Yield, 1998): A vocal and lyrical weirdball, this one's all about those psychedelic garage-punk guitars. If Jack White covered this song Thursday, you wouldn't bat an eye.
2. Rearviewmirror (Vs., 1993): A five-minute crescendo of guitars and seething rage. If you have to get a speeding ticket, get it while blaring this song.
1. Alive (Ten, 1991): The most anthemic song in Pearl Jam's catalog. McCready's solo might be the best from a hit rock song in the past 25 years.
For a closer look at the power of Pearl Jam, and the reasons the band should make it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this fall, see Sunday's Latitudes section.
DRONE WARFARE: Sunn O)))
So, the name: Sunn O))). It's pronounced "sun," like the amplifier brand Sunn; the "O)))" represents the soundwaves in Sunn's company logo. If you find that deliberately confusing, just wait until you hear Sunn O)))'s music. For nearly 20 years, the experimental drone metal pioneers have been one of the loudest, weirdest, hardest-to-parse bands on the planet, with the guitars of cloaked core members Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson decimating all who stand in their path. It's arguably more jazz than metal, an opaque wall of tones with plenty of dissonance and very little melody — it's almost better felt than heard. Come get some, if you dare, at 8 p.m. Friday at the Orpheum, 1915 E Seventh Ave., Ybor City. $25 at (813) 248-9500. theorpheum.com.
CALIFORNIA LOVE: Dawes
If you dig Levi's and Laurel Canyon, you'll love Dawes, who return to St. Petersburg on Sunday for a night of dusty California rock in the vein of the Eagles, Jackson Browne and Buffalo Springfield. Swim into their catalog and get lost in comforting gold like Fire Away, Time Spent in Los Angeles or Most People; or admire Taylor Goldsmith's biting lyrics on Things Happen, from 2015's All Your Favorite Bands. Sweetening this show's pitcher of tea are openers Hiss Golden Messenger, whose sunny backwoods folk-rock — part Parsons, part Petty — charmed fans at the 2015 Gasparilla Music Festival. $25-$30 at 7 p.m. State Theatre, 687 Central Ave. (727) 895-3045. statetheatreconcerts.com.
REVVING UP: The Wilson Van
After wiping up the Sioux Falls Massacre on Season 2 of Fargo, Golden Globe-nominated actor Patrick Wilson is back in St. Petersburg, ready to revive the Wilson Van with brothers Mark and Paul. For their latest hometown gig, benefitting their new Wilson Family Foundation, the bros will mix Van Halen and classic rock covers in with a few originals, with Paul and Patrick sharing lead vocals and WTVT-Ch. 13 anchor Mark on lead guitar. The Ries Brothers will open at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the State Theatre, 687 Central Ave. $20 and up at thewilsonvan.com.