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Making the leap: How Lady Gaga and 10 other artists rose from Ybor City to the St. Pete Times Forum

Published Apr. 11, 2011|Updated Apr. 12, 2011

Now that she's one of the biggest stars in the world, it's easy to forget the humble origins of Lady Gaga.

In 2009, she performed not at the St. Pete Times Forum, but at the much smaller Ritz Ybor (that's it, above; click here for a review). And in 2008, she sang at the even tinier G.Bar, a gay club on Seventh Avenue.

It's a goal shared by almost every up-and-coming artist, isn't it? To go from playing small clubs to headlining 20,000-seat arenas?

Every artist has to start somewhere; Lady Gaga is only the most recent star who's risen from Ybor City to the St. Pete Times Forum (and before that, the Ice Palace). As Gaga hits the Forum this Saturday (click here for details), here are 10 more artists who have gone from Seventh Avenue to the biggest stage in Tampa Bay.

Marilyn Manson

Ybor City: Dec. 13, 1995. With his Central Florida roots, it's no surprise Brian Warner eventually made his way to Ybor City's Masquerade (now the Ritz Ybor). Twelve hundred fans packed into this show.

Ice Palace: March 27, 1999. This was supposed to be a double bill with Hole, but Courtney Love quit the tour shortly before this show after reportedly feuding with Manson. (That doesn't sound like the Courtney Love we know...)

My Chemical Romance

Ybor City: Feb. 18, 2005. In its waning years, a handful of promising young bands played Masquerade, including the Killers, Panic at the Disco, and the ever-angsty My Chem.

St. Pete Times Forum: April 19, 2007. Some fans might be more interested in the opening act: A little British band called Muse.

Foo Fighters

Ybor City: April 12, 1996. Nirvana played the old Masquerade (now Club Empire) back in 1990, but that was before Dave Grohl joined the band. He didn't arrive in Ybor until 1996 with his own group, Foo Fighters, at the newer Masquerade.

St. Pete Times Forum: Sept. 11, 2005. The Foos co-headlined this bill with Weezer. At some point, Nirvana probably would have played here, too.

Dave Matthews Band

Ybor City: March 2, 1994. No surprise here, since the road warriors played almost every club in the southeast at some point in the early '90s. Six months before Under the Table and Dreaming, DMB played the old Ritz. How do $4 tickets sound?

Ice Palace: Aug. 25, 1998. DMB played the Ice Palace and St. Pete Times Forum five times, actually, before the arrival of the Ford Amphitheatre. After that, it was all outdoors, all the time.

Matchbox Twenty

Ybor City: Feb. 11, 1997. Frankie's Patio! Remember that place? The Central Florida pop-rockers didn't even headline this show - they opened for Evan Dando and the Lemonheads.

Ice Palace: Oct. 2, 1998. In less than 20 months, Rob Thomas and company went from supporting club act to arena headliner.

The Jonas Brothers

Ybor City: Sept. 30, 2006. Yes, before they became international pop stars, the Jonas Brothers played Ybor's hipster haven, Orpheum, as part of a Disney promo tour. They drew only about 65 paying customers, and promoters lost about $1,000 on the night. Surreal footage of the show survives on YouTube.

St. Pete Times Forum: March 8, 2008. The JoBros opened for Miley Cyrus at the Forum in November 2007, in one of the hottest local concert tickets in recent memory. Four months later, they headlined the Forum all by themselves.

Nine Inch Nails

Ybor City: Feb. 14, 1990. Before industrial music went mainstream - and way before Trent Reznor won an Oscar - NIN played several shows in Ybor City. The earliest one we can find is a gig opening for the Jesus and Mary Chain at the Cuban Club.

St. Pete Times Forum: Oct. 22, 2005. Nothing says fellowship like 9,944 fans screaming, "I want to f--- you like an animal!"

Jeff Dunham

Ybor City: March 22-25, 2001. Few stand-up comics can headline an arena. But those that do had to start somewhere. The most recent to climb from Centro Ybor's Tampa Improv to the St. Pete Times Forum is ventriloquist Jeff Dunham.

St. Pete Times Forum: Feb. 24, 2011. Dane Cook has also pulled off this trick. And this fall, Bill Engvall will do the same when he, Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy hit the Forum for another installment of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour.

Insane Clown Posse

Ybor City: Jan. 18, 1998. The clown-rappers now have their own festival, and they generally favor outdoor venues (all the better for Faygo showers). But in their early days, Juggalos had to head indoors to see them at Masquerade.

Ice Palace: July 17, 1999. We still can't believe this happened.

Smashing Pumpkins

Ybor City: Nov. 13, 1993. Before they became one of the biggest bands of the '90s, they were simply one of the coolest. This show at the Ritz Theatre, in support of Siamese Dream, sold out.

Ice Palace: Nov. 15, 1996. Before they became one of the most overblown bands of the '90s, they were simply one of the biggest. This show at the Ice Palace, in support of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, drew 13,523 fans.

Ybor City: July 21, 2010. What goes around, comes around. With Billy Corgan the Pumpkins' sole remaining original member, the Pumpkins bit the bullet for a short run of club shows, including the Ritz. Once again, this show sold out.


As Smashing Pumpkins proved, fame can go the other way, too. Know who headlined the first-ever concert at the Ice Palace? It was Melissa Etheridge, on Oct. 2, 1996. Eight years later, she was headlining the Masquerade in Ybor City (two sold-out shows, but still). It just goes to show that no matter how big you are at any given time, you can always be knocked down a peg or two. Nothing against Etheridge, who has since found her groove headlining theaters. But it just goes to show you, anything can happen. Are you listening, Lady Gaga?

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Photo: Luis Santana, tbt*


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