Friday, January 23, 2015

Ask The Locals: Monica Varner

Posted By on Fri, Jan 23, 2015 at 3:13 PM

  • Heidi Kurpiela

The owner of Elan Event Studio and a partner at Big City Events, NJ native Monica Varner arrived in Tampa 15 years ago and the city’s social scene has not been the same since. A 40-year-old South Tampa resident and mother of two, Varner is the organizing muscle behind the Tampa Bay Margarita Festival, Bourbon and Brew Festival, Spring Beer Fling, Summer of Rum Festival and the Gasparilla International Film Festival (GIFF), for which she serves as executive director. “When I moved here in 2000, there was not much to do downtown,” she says. “That’s changing now thanks to some of these events.” She still delights in pulling off small, unexpected “pop-up events" — on May 2 she’ll organize a carnival on the Riverwalk. “It’s so exciting to see us finally utilizing the waterfront,” she says. “It’s been a long time coming.”

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Poet's Notebook: Hawaiian sigh

Posted By on Thu, Jan 22, 2015 at 11:22 AM

  • Jeanne Meinke
I Kaka’ako m?kou
‘Al ana I ka pipi stew
He mea ma’a mau ia
For you and I

That ungrammatical “For you and I” always grated when we heard Israel Kamakawiwa’ole (sensibly called “Iz” in Hawaii) sing it repeatedly in one of his hit songs. But that guy could sing. When we first saw him, in a huge auditorium in Honolulu, he had to be fork-lifted onto the stage while the crowd cheered as if the machine were hoisting Michelangelo’s David to the podium. At his biggest, Iz weighed in at 767 pounds, but the tones that flowed out of that body were sheer gold. Literally, he was a Hawaiian treasure.

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Spring Arts Preview: April & May

Posted By on Thu, Jan 22, 2015 at 4:19 AM

  • Swans.



Since re-assembling in 2010, both of this experimental rock outfit’s full-lengths have earned spots on Pitchfork’s “Top 100 Albums of the Decade So Far 2010-2014,” including the critically acclaimed To Be Kind. State Theatre.


The latest high-quality act to require an O-town road trip is the project of New England-bred songstress Merrill Garbus, who, with help from fellow collaborator Nate Brenner, fuses worldbeat, experimental pop, R&B and freaky folk-tronica into a multi-tracked brew of ukuleles, bass grooves and idiosyncratic vocals. Beacham Theatre, Orlando.

The Baseball Project

The super-sideman/indie-superhero sluggerfest boasts Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows), Steve Wynn (The Dream Syndicate), drummer Linda Pitmon (ZuZu’s Petals) and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck and Mike Mills. Crowbar.

From Kirk Ke Wang's "Yes-No."
  • From Kirk Ke Wang's "Yes-No."
“My answers to this world are often misunderstood between yes and no,” says acclaimed Tampa Bay artist Kirk Ke Wang. His multimedia exhibition at CASS Contemporary will consist of an installation of paintings, sculptures, photography and video, with many puzzles and hidden messages for viewers to decipher. Feb. 20-April 4, Contemporary Art Space & Studio.

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Spring Arts Preview: January & February

Posted By on Thu, Jan 22, 2015 at 4:05 AM

The cast of "Radio Golf" at American Stage. - CHAD JACOBS
  • Chad Jacobs
  • The cast of "Radio Golf" at American Stage.


Radio Golf

In August Wilson’s final play, an African-American developer wants to replace historic properties with a bright commercial complex. Should the past be obliterated — or treasured? Jan. 21-Feb. 22, American Stage.

Electronics Alive VIII

UT’s electronic arts biennial features digital animations, interactive programs and virtual spaces by artists from around the globe. Jan. 27-March 6, University of Tampa Scarfone/Hartley Gallery.

These Places Actually Exist

Students from Tampa’s Pyramid Inc., an arts/educational facility for mentally challenged adults. explore where we dwell, both figuratively and literally. Venture Compound.

The album cover for Merchandise's "After the End."
  • The album cover for Merchandise's "After the End."

Merchandise w/Parquet Courts

After an overseas tour to support their release, After the End, Tampa’s hometown non-heroes Merchandise are joined by hard-buzzing indie garage rockers Parquet Courts. American Legion Hall, Tampa.

Galactic w/Monophonics
The New Orleans funk-jazz institution returns with San Francisco psych-soul up-and-comers Monophonics. State Theatre.

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Spring Arts Preview: March

Posted By on Thu, Jan 22, 2015 at 4:00 AM

That connoisseur of metamorphoses Sarah Ruhl has adapted for the stage Virginia Woolf’s gender-bending novel about a person who lives for hundreds of years, changing sexes and carrying out romances with the likes of Queen Elizabeth I, the Russian princess Sasha, and Marmaduke, the longed-for pinnacle of Victorian manhood. Woolf wrote the novel as a tribute to her lover, Vita Sackville-West, and Ruhl preserves much of the original’s language and humor. March 4-29, Shimberg Playhouse at the Straz Center.
Macbeth/Romeo and Juliet

Two of the Bard’s most famous works will be presented free to the public on alternate days by the new Tampa Shakespeare Festival in Water Works Park. Jack Holloway will play Macbeth, Regan Moore will play Juliet, and since outdoor Shakespeare has been absent from area arts offerings for quite a while, the possibilities are dizzying — especially as Shakespeare in the Park has been noticeably absent from area arts offerings ever since American Stage dropped its longtime series at Demens Landing. Will TSF create a new, beloved tradition for Bay area Bardolaters? Will local kids come to be inculcated with love of sweet William? Or will the complexities of the plays, the difficulties of being heard on a windy day, the problem of finding capable actors on a shoestring, subvert the series? There’s more at stake here than most startups face, many reasons to hope, just as many to fear. . March 5-22.

Loretta Lynn

Everyone’s favorite coal miner’s daughter graces Plant City during the Florida Strawberry Festival. The trailblazer was one of the first female artists to talk openly about birth control and female empowerment. Expect to hear great stories from her six-decade career. Florida Strawberry Festival Grounds, Plant City.

Contain It!/Trashy Treasures/Brew It!
Pods transform into storytelling art installations curated by Denis Gaston. On Friday night, the Trashy Treasures art auction sets up shop again with food trucks, craft brews and live music. March 6-7, Dunedin Fine Art Center.

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Ask The Locals: Dynasty, hip-hop and soul artist

Posted By on Fri, Jan 16, 2015 at 11:15 AM

  • Chip Weiner

Diana “Dynasty” Hardy was born and raised in New York City, but she relocated to Tampa seven years ago, drawn by the weather but planting roots for love. By the time that relationship came to an end, the music scene had taken hold and her career had taken off. “I couldn’t go back. I was doing better here than I was in New York.”

Establishing herself in the tight-knit local hip-hop scene, she went on to secure warm-up slots with the likes of Erykah Badu, Mos Def and Talib Kweli. After success with a mixtape and an EP, she released her full-length A Star in Life’s Clothing on German-based Jakarta Records in 2013, and in December, when we spoke, was about to leave for a month-long European tour. (Now back in town, she’s performing in the Black Heritage Music Fest this Saturday at 1:45 p.m. in Tampa’s Curtis Hixon Park.) Dynasty has also done her part to give back to the community, developing a youth advocate outreach program, the PUSH Project, to channel her passion for music and inspire young people to pursue their dreams.

Favorite place to get a drink: KALEISIA TEA LOUNGE. “Everything is always fresh, and they make these awesome smoothies in addition to the teas.” 

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Poet's Notebook: Out of troubles, solidarity

Posted By on Thu, Jan 15, 2015 at 11:12 AM

  • Jeanne Meinke
Tomorrow is Thursday.
If the world meets its obligations
the following day will be Friday…

When we lived in Poland during 1978-79, its citizens were still under Russian control. Nothing worked. Everyone, except the Communist leaders, was underpaid, resulting in massive inequality. Bribes, fraud, and corruption were normal. No one believed the papers. No one believed anything, even what day it was. Would the supersam (supermarket) be open today? If it was, would there be any bananas? Or sugar? No one had the slightest idea.

But when I look back on that year, I feel twinges of optimism, because it felt remarkably like America today. If a divided Poland can recover from such dire straits, why shouldn’t a divided America?

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Dark & Sinful: Dammit, Janet

Posted By on Thu, Jan 15, 2015 at 10:38 AM

Like many people, my New Year’s resolutions involve my body. It started young. Terminator 2: Judgment Day came out in the summer of 1991. On New Year’s Day 1992, I decided I’d lift weights until I had Linda Hamilton’s arms. A 12-year-old girl with guns. Diesel.

In July of 1993, I saw Janet Jackson’s “If” on MTV for the first time. On January 1, 1994, I resolved to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis my way to Janet’s abs: an all-dance, all-crunch workout. I was going to get ripped.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

EPIC collaboration — Best of the Bay-winning trainer, Joe and Jaye Maddon open new boxing gym

Posted By on Tue, Jan 13, 2015 at 10:48 AM

THE GLOVES ARE OFF! From left, Joe and Jaye Maddon, Esther Solano and Newschannel 8's Gayle Guyardo.
  • THE GLOVES ARE OFF! From left, Joe and Jaye Maddon, Esther Solano and Newschannel 8's Gayle Guyardo.

Two years ago I was fortunate to participate in a personalized workout session with Esther Solano, 2011 and 2012 Best of the Bay Best Trainer-Readers Pick. The Puerto Rican-born trainer had lost a whopping 160 pounds by incorporating boxing into her exercise regimen and began to share similar customized routines with others as a personal trainer.

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Health & Fitness Issue: Pimp my ride

Music Editor Leilani Polk makes the best of a free bicycle.

Posted By on Thu, Jan 8, 2015 at 12:13 PM

Leilani sawing — that is to say, liberating — her bike. - CHIP WEINER
  • Chip Weiner
  • Leilani sawing — that is to say, liberating — her bike.
Over the years, I’ve acquired lots of random stuff from my dad’s rental properties, abandoned by former tenants for convenience’s sake or in evicted haste. Most recently, dad dropped off a clunky, lightly battered, black-and-yellow bicycle I nicknamed Bugly.

When my roommate first beheld the Bugly beast, he insisted I scrap it and start over. “That thing is heavier than you are and it’s made for scaling mountains,” he said, indicating his own sleek, lightweight Sirrus as a more suitable alternative.
But a free bike is a free bike and I know me; if I didn’t use the one I had right here, I likely wouldn’t end up biking at all. Hell, Bugly sat in my living room for months before this story finally prompted me to try and put it to use.

First I needed the proper power tool to break off the U-lock that had made it impossible to ride. After about 15 minutes of buzz-sawing through the thick metal shackle amid high-pitched, sparking shrieks, the bike was officially liberated, with a satisfying snap.

Now it was time to make it ride-ready.

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