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Sunday, Jul 23, 2017
Arts & Music

Gasparilla Music Festival offers big names and indie heroes

There are a myriad of music festivals throughout the country. Some are massive. Nothing is bigger than South By Southwest. The music portion of that mega fest, which also includes film and interactive, commences Wednesday. And then there are smaller, more manageable fests, such as the fifth annual Gasparilla Music Festival, which is slated for Saturday and Sunday at Curtis Hixon Park.

There are big names, such as Erykah Badu and Stephen Marley. There are indie heroes such as Blitzen Trapper. Eric Early, who fronts the latter act, prefers the more laid-back festivals.

“I like the festivals like Gasparilla more than the big events,” Early said during a phone call from Portland. “The big festivals are cool, but for me personally, it’s kind of a mess for me. I get full of anxiety. For some reason, for me and maybe for people like me, whether they’re in bands or are fans, it just feels better to be on the smaller scale. It’s just more mellow.”

The laid-back vibe also appeals to the aforementioned Marley, who will make the trip across the Sunshine state to headline Sunday. “I like playing festivals like that (Gasparilla),” Marley said during a phone call from his Miami home. “We’re going to bring some good vibes and good music and just have a good time out under the sun.”

Marley will preview a number of tracks from his forthcoming album, “Revelation Part 2: The Fruit of Life,” the follow-up to “Revelation Part 1: The Root of Life.” “Part 2” will drop in early summer. Give Marley credit for being an anomaly, a recording artist who will play songs live before the album drops. Many of his peers won’t advance songs due to YouTube.

“I don’t care about that,” Marley said. “These songs are bursting out of me. I’m ready for the world to hear what I’ve recently been inspired by. My view is let’s jam it. It’s time to present it.”

The member of the royal reggae family will serve up the familiar. “The new songs are roots reggae,” Marley said. “There are some influences that are beyond reggae and some surprises.”

Marley has some guests on the album. Nina Simone and Rick Ross lent their voices to the project. “There are some different flavors on the album because of people like Nina and Rick,” Marley said. “I can’t wait for people to hear these songs. The people of Tampa will hear these songs before most do.”

Blitzen Trapper, who will perform Saturday, should be lauded for not following trends and evolving. Each of their eight albums is different since the group has morphed. What was once a quirky rock band in the vein of Pavement and/or Guided By Voices is now an alt-country act with deep, moving songs. The band’s collection of Americana is nostalgic and rousing.

“We just do what we want,” Early said. “We’re not about being a brand, which seems to be the way to go for some bands. We’re about the music.”

There is something for everyone at the Gasparilla Music Festival. Neo-soul singer Erykah Badu will headline Saturday night. Badu is an uncompromising vocalist, who delivers her own style of R&B.

Other notable acts hitting stages at Curtis Hixon Park Saturday include Antibalas, which has their own Afrobeat sound; Lucero, which delivers a mix of Americana and punk; Louisville’s emerging Americana band Houndmouth; chillwave duo MS MR; and veteran MC Talib Kweli.

Notables performing Sunday include Greensky Bluegrass, which is, you guessed it, a bluegrass act, soul singer Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires and Cuban singer Carlos Varela.

“We believe we have a really dynamic lineup,” David Cox, executive director of the Gasparilla Music Foundation, said. “We try to maintain a positive vibe. It’s always fun, and there’s something for everyone.”

That includes food and beverages. The Rooster and the Till, which is one of the top rated restaurants in Tampa, will have its tasty, crispy Mangalitsa pork belly with squares of cornbread and pickled apple.

Those who love southern comfort fare should check out Fodder and Shine’s cornmeal fried eggplant biscuit and the cornmeal fried chicken biscuit. How do you pass on the latter with house-made jam and mahonesa?

There will be 22 food vendors presenting exotic and indigenous fare, such as Cuban sandwiches, deviled crab and fried grouper sandwiches.

There will be plenty of beer from the southeast. Sweetwater out of Atlanta, and local brewhouses, such as Coppertail Brewing Co. and Cigar City Brewing will showcase regional beers.

We think we have it all here,” Cox said. “You have to experience it to believe it.”

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