Tampa Bay is ablaze with music fest fever. One of the area’s oldest and most beloved festivals, WMNF’s Tropical Heatwave, is coming up May 9-10 in Ybor (stay tuned for coverage in our May 8 issue), following hot on the heels of the newest, debuting this weekend: the aptly named Big Guava
Anchored by headliners Outkast, Vampire Weekend and Foster the People, Big Guava emulates big festivals like Coachella while adapting the most successful components of last year’s Funshine
music fests. The inaugural edition, brought to you by Live Nation and the Florida State Fair Authority, kicks off at the fairgrounds and adjoining amphitheater on Friday.
In addition to four stages' worth of live music, Big Guava boasts 40 food trucks and beer gardens pouring 23 different brews, including craft selections by Cigar City and Florida Avenue, and all attendees enjoy free unlimited access to a “Monster Midway” of thrill rides. Attendees who bring five non-perishable food donations for Metropolitan Ministries get a Big Guava poster created by Miami artist David Lebo; the first 250 people to bring 20 items get numbered original silkscreen prints of the same work. Shaded chill zones with hammocks and ping-pong tables, gigantic inflatable art installations, live mural painting by David “DaveL” Lavernia, a Foto Box… the possibilities for fun are endless.
Still, it’s the music that matters to everyone most. If you’re uncertain about what acts to prioritize, here are 10 you shouldn’t miss.
DAY 1: FRIDAY, MAY 2
(4:30-5:15 p.m.) Sweden has exported yet another indie-pop trio with a sticky whistle-fueled hit, the springy synth-dance ode “Pumpin Blood,” frontwoman Stina Wäppling delivering vocals in coy murmuring tones or higher piping calls.
(8-8:45 p.m.) A frequent collaborator with Chance the Rapper, 20-year-old Mensa hails from Chicago and is among the uncommon breed of hip-hop artists who can sing in a sweet R&B-velvety croon with falsetto range, but can also flow rhymes like a pro. His soulful groove and penchant for addressing heady topics comes out in “Orange Soda,” ostensibly about packing the bong with that carbonated drink, but really more an examination of his career that references the Black Is Beautiful movement, Bach, knickerbockers, origami and Manny Pacquiao.
(9-10:30 p.m.) My one big wish for 2014 was granted when the funky soulful hip-hop duo added Big Guava to their festival itinerary. Big Boi and Andre 3000 made their official return to the stage at Coachella last month, and though the first performance was a bit iffy, the second proved Outkast’s comeback was in earnest and that they could throw a party ATL-style, with hits like “B.O.B.,” “Rosa Parks,” “Miss Jackson” and “Hey Ya!”. If you aren’t shakin’ it like a Polaroid picture during this set, watch out for the rest of us who are, especially the ones whose level of flailed-arm enthusiasm matches the number of craft beers he or she has imbibed.
Also on Friday:
Cake, Sleigh Bells, Twenty One Pilots, Jake Miller, Smallpools, Unlikely Candidates, Betty Who.
DAY 2: SATURDAY, MAY 3
(2-2:45 p.m.) You know that banjo-picked folk-pop track playing everywhere, with all the “hoo-hoo-ooo-oooh”’s and that chorus, “This is gonna be the best day of my life / My li-ii-ii-ii-ii-ii-ii-ife”? Yeah, that’s American Authors, the song is (yep) “Best Day of My Life,” and the NYC-based quartet has a bright, delightful sound and infectious vocal quality of the sort that arouses merry shout-alongs.
(3:30-4:30 p.m.) The critical buzz about this LA-spawned all-grrl, all-sisters trio (Este, Danielle and Alana Haim) has been overwhelming; their 2013 debut Days Are Gone
made it onto no less than 17 major end-of-the-year lists, peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard
200 and earned gold-selling status in both the UK and Australia. HAIM’s retro-flavored pop rock stylings have been likened to Fleetwood Mac, but their New Wave Katrina & The Waves/Pretenders appeal comes out in singles like “Falling” and “Forever,” the latter tapped for a Target ad.
(8-8:45 p.m.) Before you write off the SoCal-based psych-blues rock quintet because you don’t get the name reference (the Robert Johnson cut, “Terraplane Blues,” I assume?), take a listen to “Get Me Golden,” a buoyant ditty with pop-catchy three-part coos, hoots and eruptions, lightly driving organ and horn power, rhythms augmented by washes of tambourine, and effusive hand-clapping, a common component of Terraplane Sun’s sound, based on other tracks from forthcoming album Generation Blues
Alex John Beck
(9-11 p.m.) You know that moment you hear a song on the radio, and you’re like, "Man, this is too good for FM, wonder what it is?" And then you realize it’s “Unbelievers” by Vampire Weekend, and you’re like, “Well, I guess I’ll have to go back and listen to Modern Vampires of the City
again” (because you initially brushed it off, not realizing the erudite foursome had matured to such a fine sonic state). And later, when you hear the delicately lovely harpsichord melodies of “Step” and the doo-wop horn-bop stomp of “Diane Young,” all of a sudden you’re a believer and have reserved your weekend pass to Big Guava ’cause you just can’t miss their closing set on Saturday night.
Also on Saturday:
Slightly Stoopid, Tegan and Sara, Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience, Blue October, Band of Skulls, Hoodie Allen, Bear Hands, Kitten, Jacuzzi Boys, Civil Twilight, Hunter Hunted, Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas.
DAY 3: SUNDAY, MAY 4
Chance the Rapper
(4:15-5:15 p.m.) Choosing between Earl Sweatshirt and Chance the Rapper proved tough, because the two have always been a little interchangeable in my mind, when it comes to youthful, on-the-rise alt hip-hop emcees that the hipster kids dig. I prefer Chance the Rapper’s psychedelic edginess (see: Acid Rap
), as well as his husky timbred flow — which can be laid-back and conversational or fast, lyrical and precise — and his soulfully eclectic sample palette.
(6:30-7:30 p.m.) Ethan Hawke (as Troy) gets credit for introducing me to Violent Femmes via his fake band’s cover of “Add It Up” in Reality Bites. I must’ve listened to the Femmes’ 1983 self-titled debut at least 200 times before I finally snagged a copy, and though I discovered the album more than a decade after its release, the jangly, off-kilter folk-and-punk-informed alt rock still felt so fresh to me, as did Gordon Gano’s nasal high-toned warble. Their reunion last year came as a pleasant surprise and I imagine their performance (especially “Blister in the Sun”) will arouse all manner of jerky, unabashed dancing.
(7:30-8:15 p.m.) Foster the People doesn’t carry nearly enough weight to close out Big Guava — not in light of the other two headliners — so my suggestion is to stick around long enough to get serenaded into the sunset by the sparkling and spirited mix of roots, pop and blues rock from Oregon-based multi-instrumentalist songstress ZZ Ward, and then high tail it to your car...
Also on Sunday:
Foster the People, Girl Talk, Grouplove, Walk the Moon, Earl Sweatshirt, Ms Mr, Timeflies, St. Lucia, Morning Parade, Magic Man, Gringo Star, Fly Union.
Spotify Playlist of CL's must-sees below.