1. Music

Gasparilla Music Festival returns with Roots, Spoon and more

INDIO, CA - APRIL 21: Musician Father John Misty performs on the Coachella Stage during day 1 of the 2017 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival (Weekend 2) at the Empire Polo Club on April 21, 2017 in Indio, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella)
Published Mar. 5, 2018

Festival fatigue. It's a real thing.

How many major, corporate-owned music festivals this year do you see sharing the same top headliners? Eminem, the Killers, Jack White, Queens of the Stone Age, the Weeknd, Arcade Fire — all great acts, but at this point, who can tell Coachalla from Bonnaroo from Firefly from Governor's Ball?

On blogs and music sites, at least, curmudgeonly consensus seems to be growing that the big guys seem to be running thin on ideas.

From Medium: Are music festival lineups really all the same?

From Pitchfork: Are music festival lineups getting worse?

From Uproxx: Music festival lineups are hitting a new low in 2018

It's all just another reason Tampa should be thankful for the Gasparilla Music Festival.

The fest returns Saturday and Sunday with one of its best lineups, especially at the top of the poster: Tonight Show house band the Roots, provocative singer-songwriter Father John Misty, electric dance-rockers Spoon and moody indie-pop band Warpaint. At no other festival in 2018 will you find even three of those acts, much less all four.

"There's been a number of larger events that have popped up nationally, and a lot of those seem to generally have pretty similar headliners across the board," said GMF programming director Phil Benito. "We have our own things in mind. We're not necessarily looking for what the agents are trying to sell us as much as what we feel like is going to be the biggest fit for us."

In a way, GMF was ahead of its time when it debuted in 2012, with its bold orange branding and embrace of what makes Tampa unique – the food, the downtown setting, the local businesses. Since then, eclectic festivals like III Points in Miami or Day For Night in Houston, have grown in much the same way: By thinking smaller, embracing unique identities rather than trying to be like the big guys.

"In some ways, that's always been our perspective on the programming, just because we know we don't have the budget of the big festivals," said executive director David Cox. "We've always tried to program in a way that we thought would be different."

It started with the setting. GMF was the first fest to figure out how to use Tampa's then-new Curtis Hixon Park, with its main-stage backdrop of the Hillsborough River and University of Tampa's minarets. Even though it didn't have the infrastructure or deep pockets of Tampa's Live Nation-owned Big Guava Music Festival, which ran from 2013 to 2015, its intimate stages and blanket-friendly greens were far more friendly to fans — and bands — than the concrete tarmacs of the Florida State Fairgrounds.

"The environment makes a really big difference," said Theresa Wayman, the guitarist for Warpaint, which has played festivals all over the world — including one that "was out in a shipping yard, so it was real concrete. People there were so excited, because it's their local festival, but it's nothing compared to, say, going to something in England with rolling, grassy hills. It makes it feel a lot more comfortable."

As Benito pointed out, the park's multiple tiers allows it to feature several stages on a much smaller footprint with little to no sound bleed.

"Being able to get to Kiley Garden to Curtis Hixon in five minutes at the most — you just don't have that kind of accessibility at a lot of festivals," he said. "A lot of the bigger ones, you're walking a half mile to a mile from one stage to the other."

The unique setting informs GMF's unique lineups. The fest has never been dominated one genre — headliners have included alt-rock bands, R&B singers, DJs, reggae artists and singer-songwriters, and the lineup usually features funk, hip-hop, kids' music and New Orleans brass.

Organizers often book artists who aren't playing many festivals — or who haven't played Tampa in years, if ever. This year that includes Father John Misty and Warpaint, both making their Tampa Bay debuts; and the Roots, who haven't been here in a decade. Performers sometimes feed off that pent-up fan energy.

"It definitely makes a difference," Wayman said. "It doesn't matter if it's not our biggest market. It just feels good to connect."

That sense of connection may be GMF's greatest asset. The nonprofit fest is not only self-sustaining, but growing, which is something not every bigger festival can say.

"The premise, or part of it, was building this community event that's music-focused with an eclectic lineup, but trying to have something for everyone," Benito said. "I think we've really just dialed things in."

Contact Jay Cridlin at or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.


  1. A man takes a picture of a sign at the Little A'Le'Inn during an event inspired by the "Storm Area 51" internet hoax, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, in Rachel, Nev. Hundreds have arrived in the desert after a Facebook post inviting people to "see them aliens" got widespread attention and gave rise to festivals this week. JOHN LOCHER  |  AP
    The Air Force has issued stern warnings for people not to try to enter the Nevada Test and Training Range, where Area 51 is located.
  2. Rapper NF will perform at the Yuengling Center in Tampa on May 1, 2020. John Taylor Sweet
    The two rappers have announced shows in the coming months, including one for USF’s Homecoming week.
  3. Michael Francis leads a community chorus during one of the Florida Orchestra's Sing Out Tampa Bay sing-alongs. MICHAEL FRANCIS  |  Florida Orchestra
    The music director is entering his fifth year with the orchestra, which has a Beethoven-heavy season opening Sept. 27 in Tampa.
  4. Lindsey Stirling will perform at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on Dec. 20, 2019. Shervin Lainez
    Catch up on today’s Tampa Bay concert announcements.
  5. Patrons hit the dance floor at Tampa venue Skipper's Smokehouse in 2015. LUIS SANTANA  |  Tampa Bay Times (2015)
    A 12-hour party in the Skipperdome, stargazing and a family-friendly Williams Park festival provide free and cheap entertainment.
  6. Roger Daltrey, left, and Pete Townshend of the Who will play Tampa's Amalie Arena on Sunday. CHRIS URSO  |  Tampa Bay Times (2015)
    The Who, Future, Billy Ray Cyrus, Disturbed, Meek Mill, Megan Thee Stallion, Orville Peck and more.
  7. Jimmy Buffett performed at Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on June 6, 2017. JAY CRIDLIN  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The quintessential Florida Man and his Coral Reefer Band hit town for the holidays.
  8. Buddy Guy charms the crowd in between songs at A Taste of Pinellas in 2011.
    Catch up on today’s Tampa Bay concert announcements.
  9. Oscar-winning pop star Sam Smith, who is non-binary, announced Friday that they now use "they/them" as their third-person pronouns. On social media, they said that "after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I’ve decided to embrace myself for who I am ..." JOEL C RYAN  |  Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP
    The singer now uses they/them pronouns. It shouldn’t be hard for reporters to recognize — and explain — gender non-binary terms. | Ashley Dye
  10. A composite image of Cars frontman Ric Ocasek, photographed by the David Richard of the Associated Press in 2018; and Eddie Money, photographed in 2004 by Jessica Reilly of the Telegraph Herald. Money died on Sept. 13, 2019; Ocasek died on Sept. 15, 2019. Associated Press
    The Cars frontman and ‘Take Me Home Tonight’ singer voiced a generation in distinct ways.