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This week's best Tampa Bay concerts: Sunset Music Festival, 97X BBQ, Train and more

RISING AGAIN: Sunset Music Festival

More eyes than ever will be on this year's Sunset Music Festival, the annual electronic extravaganza that will draw some 60,000 fans over Saturday and Sunday to Raymond James Stadium. A lot of that has to do with safety concerns and improvements following last year's event, when two fans died of drug overdoses, prompting local officials to consider pulling the plug.

For fans who already have tickets, the focus will be on the music. This year's headliners include Diplo-led dancehall-pop group Major Lazer, trance superstars Above and Beyond and bass monsters Zeds Dead and RL Grime, with a robust and eclectic slate of undercards (Yellow Claw, Cedric Gervais, A-Trak, Tritonal, Louis the Child and many more).

It's a diverse slate that Above and Beyond's Tony McGuinness said proves how far EDM has come from its build-drop, build-drop repetitiveness of the past.

"The high-energy, high-impact, mainstage-festival EDM sound that was enormous two or three years ago seems to be losing its luster a little bit," he said. "We've managed with Above and Beyond to create a sound which is not out of place amongst that kind of music, but it's sufficiently different that it allows us to do the big, sweeping, melodic thing we do without it feeling stuck-on."

Given the controversy over last year's Sunset Music Festival, anyone going should check out all the changes, rules and new security measures at smftampa.com. 3 p.m. to midnight both days. Tickets start at $109.95 per day, $189.95 for the weekend.

Read more with McGuinness at tampabay.com/soundcheck.

NOBODY BEATS THE WIZ: Todd Rundgren

It can be dicey when a veteran artist tries to reach young fans with a new album full of hip collaborators. Mercifully, Todd Rundgren's White Knight pulls it off.

The legendary studio whiz, who plays St. Petersburg's Mahaffey Theater at 8 p.m. Saturday, is joined on the album by some old pals (Joe Walsh, Daryl Hall, Donald Fagen) and head-scratching new ones (Trent Reznor, Robyn, Dam-Funk). The danceable result feels closer to Daft Punk's Random Access Memories or any Gorillaz album than you might expect.

"Those kinds of collaborations are important not simply for musical reasons, but for blurring genres and unifying audiences," Rundgren said in a recent interview. "That sort of breaks you out of that habit of preaching to the choir. Now I've got new choir members to preach to."

Rundgren's nearly 50-year career has yielded hits as an artist (Hello It's Me, Bang the Drum All Day), producer (Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell, XTC's Skylarking) and industry innovator, and it'll all be on display in St. Petersburg. $35 and up. (727) 893-7832. themahaffey.com.

Read more with Rundgren at tampabay.com/soundcheck.

'CUE IT UP: 97X BBQ

What's better than a day of live music in a waterfront park? How about one that's free? That's the price you could pay to get into the 97X BBQ at noon Saturday in St. Petersburg's Vinoy Park. Headlining this year's event are alt-popsters Grouplove, above, who are making up for a canceled Ritz Ybor gig in February. They'll be joined by Milky Chance, K. Flay, Coin, the Unlikely Candidates, Magic Giant and the Heydaze. Tickets start at $20 — or you can still snag a free one at several ticket drops across Tampa Bay through Friday. Get locations and more info at 97xonline.com.

ROLLING ON: Alabama

Alabama concerts are filled with boot-stompin' country classics like Mountain Music and Song of the South. But their new tour might feel a little more somber. Singer Randy Owen and bassist Teddy Gentry will be without founding guitarist Jeff Cook, who announced in April he was quitting touring due to Parkinson's disease. He was a key reason Alabama became one of the world's best-selling groups, and why, nearly 50 years after founding, fans will pack in to see them at 7 p.m. Sunday at Amalie Arena, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. The Charlie Daniels Band opens. $26 and up. (813) 301-2500. amaliearena.com.

ALL ABOARD: Train

Hate on Train all you want, but man, can those San Fran popsters get stuck in your head. Hey Soul Sister and Drops of Jupiter aren't cool to admit liking, but a singer as determinedly engaging as Pat Monahan doesn't care. He just wants you out of your seat with a glass of the band's Save Me, San Francisco Hella Fine Merlot, screaming out Calling All Angels like no one is watching. To keep the guilty-pleasure vibe going on their summer tour, they've enlisted O.A.R. and Natasha Bedingfield as openers. 7 p.m. Friday. MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre, 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. $22 and up. (813) 740-2446. livenation.com.

This week's best Tampa Bay concerts: Sunset Music Festival, 97X BBQ, Train and more 05/24/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 10:55am]
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