2011's best and brightest
No need to fly to New York for professionalism when the spectacularly talented Fanni Green is on stage in Tampa. A member of USF’s theater faculty with extensive stage, film and TV credits (and great stories about working with the likes of Vanessa Redgrave and Joe Papp), she made her area professional debut this season in Jobsite’s Yellowman. In a wrenchingly authentic performance, she showed us how a girl becomes a woman, a country mouse becomes a city mouse, and a self-hating Southerner becomes a self-confident Northerner. Here’s hoping this teacher gets lots more opportunities to teach us what good acting’s all about. (She’s also a writer and director; see Best Dance Performance on p. 50.)
Jobsite Theater’s production of Dael Orlandersmith’s play was so honest, it hurt. As directed by the prodigiously talented Karla Hartley, Fanni Green and Jim Wicker were dark-skinned Alma and “high yellow” Eugene, African Americans trying to navigate intra-racial prejudice in late 20th-century South Carolina. Can theater really be cathartic? Yes — and luminous.
The Odd Couple (staged last February at Jobsite) would hardly seem a vehicle for outstanding acting, but Paul Potenza brought the character of Felix Unger to a level of existential despair that was both hilarious and deeply authentic. This cleanliness-obsessed sad sack had been to the edge of the abyss and wasn’t the better for it. But we in the audience surely were. (And he just keeps turning in memorable performances; in Jobsite’s current production of The Guys, he is utterly convincing as a NYC fire captain trying to come to terms with the loss of his comrades in 9/11.)
As director of all freeFall Theatre’s shows since the move to its new venue, Eric Davis has shown a remarkably versatile talent. He gave us the silliness of The Frogs, the dead-seriousness of Miss Julie, the magic of Midsummer Night’s Dream and the melancholy bravado of Man of La Mancha. Is there any kind of show he can’t direct?
American Stage and freeFall (tie)
How could you pass up either of these terrific theaters this year? American Stage brought us a scorching Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, an intense Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and a wonderfully intelligent Opus. FreeFall offered a brilliant Midsummer Night’s Dream, a rare chance to see Strindberg’s Miss Julie, and an audience-immersing, perfectly cast Man of La Mancha. Bravo to them both.
BEST ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
You’ve got to be grateful for what Olson’s done at American Stage. Not only does his mainstage continues to offer first-class work. Beyond that, he’s added the Cabaret, the Sunday Improvs featuring the brilliant Hawk and Wayne, the After Hours series of eccentric theater pieces, and the staged reading series “Hot Off The Press.” And he directs!
into its new home
After years of preparation, many missed deadlines and even more fundraising speeches, Anna Brennen’s new Stageworks venue in Tampa’s Channel district finally opened its doors in August with David Friedman’s Listen to My Heart. For those of us who have followed this theater from the Falk to HCC to the Shimberg, this was truly a night to remember.
freeFall Theatre’s new campus
Hard as it was to believe, Eric Davis and Kevin Lane actually bought a city block on Central Avenue, opened one versatile theater space within it and prepared to open another, even larger one. If they get everything on their wish list, we Bay area theater lovers will eventually have a major repertory company in our midst. Go for it!
The Bard returns to area stages
So what if there’s no more Shakespeare in the Park? Last year area theatergoers saw A Midsummer Night’s Dream at freeFall, Twelfth Night (with the wonderful Brian Shea) at the Eckerd Theater Company, and The Taming of the Shrew at Jobsite. With The Comedy of Errors coming up at freeFall, and Love’s Labours Lost at the St. Petersburg Shakespeare Company, the Bard is definitely back.
Somehow the lighting designer for Jobsite Theater’s Einstein’s Dreams had to convince us that five female and four male actors dressed in white were illustrating how time turns in circles, freezes, becomes “sticky,” becomes visible, comes to an end, and runs backwards. With the help of Brian Smallheer’s fine lighting, even the most bizarre possibilities were treated with impressionistic, almost hypnotic lyricism. Beautiful work.
Steven K. Mitchell
There was a lot to like about Eckerd Theater Company’s under-publicized version of Twelfth Night, not least the waterfront-of-yore environment by Steven K. Mitchell. On Mitchell’s busy set, one could almost smell the salt air and feel the wind in the sails that brought poor Viola to the shores of Illyria. Gasparilla should look this good.
Mike and Kathy Buck Designs
FreeFall Theatre’s Midsummer Night’s Dream was a visual fantasy of postmodern juxtapositions. There were the 1950s dresses for Hermia and Hermione; up-to-date workmen’s togs for the rude mechanicals; a tuxedo and evening gown for Theseus and Hippolyta; silly pajamas for Pyramus and Thisby; and even a brick headpiece for the Wall. Mike and Kathy Buck: Great work!
What the Heart Remembers: The Women and Children of Darfur
This multimedia piece, staged in November 2010 at USF Theatre Two, movingly portrayed the atrocities inflicted on the residents of the Darfur refugee camps. (both USF professors) transformed the challenging subject matter into a vivid portrait. Choreographer Jeanne Travers’ modern dance conveyed the tumult, chaos — and at times joy — of the refugees, and Fanni Green’s direction and heartrending script did the refugees justice.
The University of South Florida’s theater department impressed us with skill and imagination this past year, stretching beyond the confines of the stage to show us different viewpoints and disciplines in new combinations. Its opening production of The Waiting Room by Lisa Loomer dealt with the pursuit of feminine beauty through the ages, and later in the season, Frantic Assembly, one of England’s premier physical theater companies, worked with USF actors and dancers to create a mixed-media piece based on Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello, integrating an American sensibility into the work. Coming up, watch out for TheatreUSF’s Life of Galileo, which runs Sept. 29-Oct. 1. www.arts.usf.edu.
Best reason not to go
down the rabbit hole
TBPAC’s disastrous Wonderland run on Broadway
In its first incarnation, Frank Wildhorn’s Wonderland at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center (now the Straz) had a few problems, mostly to do with the hackneyed career-vs.-marriage subplot that framed the journey of the central character, a contemporary grown-up Alice. But a number of the supporting characters were a kick — the White Knight as head of a boy band, a neurotic White Rabbit, an imperious Red Queen with a killer solo number — and the production values were topnotch. But something happened in the subsequent rewrites and re-re-rewrites. By the time of its pre-Broadway run at the Straz several months later, the subplot had been reduced to no plot at all, so Alice now just seemed like, well, a whiner. When the show finally got to Broadway, critics were unkind (to put it kindly).
BEST (ONLY?) TRASHTASTIC CABARET
Coco & Homo
Cabaret and burlesque have been all the rage this year, but no locals tickled our fancy with their showgirl feathers — until now. Along comes the cutie-pie miscreants in Coco & Homo, a “dynamic duo of trash and hedonism” who have created a “post-modern religious experience for the 21st Century.” The local performance artists present their first full-length cabaret, “Coco & Homo’s Super Fierce Slumber Party: a Trashtastic Cabaret,” at the Roosevelt 2.0 on Sept. 29 and 30 at 9 p.m. Coco, the female half, belts out with pipes that rival the late, great Amy Winehouse, whom she covers, and together the duo performs an eclectic mix, from Kurt Weill to Tom Waits to Ke$ha. Their act includes interactive, playful and “sometimes naughty” games. cocoandhomo.com.
Walter “Wally B” Jennings
Tampa native Jennings performs with a towering presence, dispensing turbo-charged rhymes that combine acrobatic wordplay and real-world wisdom. The 34-year-old is also an advocate for youth, helping organize the annual Heard ’Em Say Teen Poetry Slam and other community outreach events that steer at-risk children toward a brighter future. Jennings has won several awards, and a little more than a decade ago he founded one of Tampa’s largest and longest-running poetry shows, Black on Black Rhyme-Tampa, modeled after the original that started in Tallahassee in 1998. The Florida A&M grad co-presents the weekly poetry night with the likewise charismatic Malcolm “L.I.F.E.” Turner at Club Nouveau in Tampa. If you can’t get around to seeing him live, listen to Wally B on WMNF-88.5, hosting the Poetry Is … show 11 p.m. on Saturday nights. myspace.com/wallybsomebody, blackonblackrhyme.com.
Best Poetry in Motion
Honors are long overdue to a writer who’s worked long and hard to call attention to her peers in Tampa Bay’s poetry scene. Russo has brought prestige to the local poetry scene through her publishing collective, Yellowjacket Press, which also graces us with the luminous verse of local Poets Laureate Peter Meinke and James Tokley. Russo is a great poetess in her own right, whose words have a sensuality and movement unencumbered by flowery description. Remember when your writing teachers said show, don’t tell? Read Russo’s latest collection, Moonflower, to see precisely what they were talking about. yellowjacketpress.org.
BEST VISUAL ART COLLABORATION
Neil Bender and John Byrd
Among the wonderful exhibitions associated with NCECA — a yearly national conference celebrating the ceramic arts that alighted in Tampa in March — was a gem at Bleu Acier titled simply, Collaborations: Neil Bender, John Byrd, Andy Nasisse. Georgia-based Nasisse deserves a nod, but it’s our Tampa-based boys, Bender and Byrd, whom we salute with this prize. Taking ceramics to a new low of trashy, scatological humor wrought in clay, the pair riffed irreverently on functional form, producing (among other fantastical perversions) a slouching beer stein bearing a toothless, drunken grin.
Hair — his own, dyed in brilliant colors and styled into elaborate braids and baroque curls — is the stuff of Jono Vaughan’s drawings, painstakingly rendered in wispy tendrils of colored pencil. An April solo exhibition, Exquisite Self: Fabricated Boundaries at Collective Tattoo and Gallery in St. Pete, showcased Vaughan’s talents and his penchant for self-styling in a particularly fitting venue. Check out fineartvaughan.com.
Last fall Dan Lasata told CL contributor Brad Tilbe that he began painting at 8 as “a way to escape into my own little world.” The 32-year-old transplant from Peyton Place, N.H., put on a memorable first solo show at Kahwa South in St. Pete, using found objects rather than canvas. His warped beings are animated, disturbing and breathtakingly detailed, with a stunning use of color. It’s no wonder Lasata’s work on skateboard decks has gotten him exposure nationwide. With influences as varied as Shel Silverstein, M.C. Escher and Thomas Campbell, he appreciates the different muses artists share, and explored this curiosity in May by curating Sanity Through Creativity at Studio@620, a great show that pooled an unlikely group together. danlasata.blogspot.com.
Paul Pavlovich, Brandon Dunlap and Cristina Garcia at The Collective
Brandishing technique and twisted imagination, the trio of Paul Pavlovich, Brandon Dunlap and Christina Garcia took us to the dark side with Celebrations of Uncertainty, a uniquely unsettling show that included new work by Tampa-based and nationally recognized artist Dunlap, photo manipulations by St. Pete artist Pavlovich and tattoo-esque, Day-of-the-Dead-reminiscent paintings by Garcia. collectivetattoo.com.
Best Alphabet Book
In his new alphabet of creatures, Alphabhetto, Tampa artist Josh Pearson ingeniously uses humor and urban street rhymes to explore how limited we can be in our perceptions of everyday things. Akin to the A-B-C books we read to children, the book shows us a zebra with parking meters for legs, a hippo with a mouth outstretched by a shopping cart and other cool creature oddities. myspace.com/joshuatpearsonart, alphabhetto.com.
Longtime head of exhibitions at the Morean Arts Center, Vidal’s latest projects find him collaborating with institutions around St. Pete. A summer show at Florida Craftsmen Gallery — the deftly organized Pattern Play, which featured artists working in painting, clay, fabric sculpture, glass and other media — served as a reminder (as if we needed one) of the curator’s importance to arts in the Bay area.
Salvador Dalí Museum
Hank Hine and Yann Weymouth, as director and architect, respectively, helmed this year’s most memorable art happening: the January debut of the stunning new Dalí Museum on St. Pete’s waterfront. With the support of many colleagues and collaborators, Hine and Weymouth realized the museum’s dream: a secure home for its priceless collection of art by famed surrealist Salvador Dalí and an extraordinary building that would make its namesake proud. the dali.org.
Tampa Museum of Art
Since its reopening in February 2010, TMA’s offerings have included a series of noteworthy contemporary art showcases — from films and videos by Jesper Just (a traveling show from Brooklyn) to the museum’s latest offering: Syntax, an exhibition of witty and playful artwork incorporating text and symbols, on view through Sept. 25. Three years into his tenure, director Todd Smith isn’t exactly new to the scene, but under his leadership the museum has settled into a new direction — one that we like a lot. tampamuseum.org.
BEST ALTERNATIVE SPACE
Funded on a shoestring and housed in a converted garage in Seminole Heights, Tempus Projects remains unflagging in its commitment to art by contemporary artists from Tampa Bay and beyond. Opening receptions are a magnet for hipsters, artists and arts community movers-and-shakers, who head around the corner to The Independent to keep the party going. tempus-projects.com.
Best Everything-Under-One-Roof Arts Venue
West Tampa Center for the Arts
Housed in the old A. Santaella Cigar Factory, WTCA has transformed this run-down space into an artistic mecca for Tampa Bay headed by director Maida Millan. WTCA seems to offer everything: classes, studio space for local artists, a venue for famously innovative and fun art parties, as well as Gallery 209 — an intimate gallery dedicated to carefully curated exhibitions. 1906 N. Armenia Ave., Tampa, 813-453-4381, wtca.philrules.com, arts.usf.edu.
USF’s Contemporary Art Museum
USFCAM manages to stay impressively ahead of the curve in charting current trends in the visual arts, hosting shows by such of-the-moment artists as Trenton Doyle Hancock. But it’s CAM’s affiliation with USF that keeps it on the cutting edge. The annual shows by graduating Masters of Fine Arts students are possibly the most anticipated of the year, allowing visitors to view works that these students have been developing for years. 3821 USF Holly Drive, Tampa, 813-974-4133, arts.usf.edu.
Established in 1984, USF’s Centre Gallery is the only fully student-run, non-profit exhibition space in the state of Florida. Recently, however, Centre has opened its doors to artists beyond USF’s campus. One of their most popular and anticipated annual shows has been So You Think You Can Paint?, in which the gallery invites paintings from the public on any subject, in any size or format. And in an engaging show called Play, recreation met an array of artistic disciplines in fun and surprising ways, including a musical petting zoo. Marshall Center of the University of South Florida’s Tampa campus, 4202 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa, 813-974-2011.arts.usf.edu.
Best Arts Multitaskers
With enormous breadth and relatively limited resources, Studio@620 has brought to Tampa Bay’s arts scene topnotch theatrical performance, visual arts, spoken word, modern and ethnic folk dance, community-building workshops, cabaret shows, celebrity speaking engagements (Dick Gregory, people!) along with other crazy-random what-have-you almost every single week, even during the slow summer months. In addition to managing the studio’s stellar programming, Artistic Director Bob Devin Jones took time out to perform his own Uncle Bends: A Home Cooked Negro Narrative. 620 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg, firstname.lastname@example.org.
HCC-Ybor Visual and Performing Arts Series
HCC-Ybor's thoughtfully curated performing arts series has hosted the likes of modern dance collective cakeface and jazz great Ira Sullivan, as well as championing local arts and music through such events as the amazing first Ybor Jazz Festival, the annual Festival of the Moving Image, the Cuban Sandwich Art Show, Four Days of Dance and the Pre-Heat Music Showcase. Follow the season on Facebook at Theatre Ybor. Palm Avenue and Republica de Cuba Avenue, 813-253-6490.
T. Hampton Dohrman
In last year’s BOTB, we gave Hampton Dohrman the “Best Imitation of Zelig” award because of his seeming ability to be everywhere at once. Now his omnipresence has become a boon for local struggling artists. He highlights local arts through his group Philanthropic Young Tampa Bay; he organizes microgrants for small-scale arts projects; and his latest endeavor, FEAST, capitalizes on the foodie’s jones for a good nosh by providing a dinner and participation in grants selection in exchange for the cost of a meal. hamptonartsmanagement.org.
Michael Novilla's Nova 535 has been home to a variety of St. Pete art shows and jazz concerts — most notably its loungey jazz nights with the Helios Orchestra. Its exposed brick walls, great acoustics, sleek decor and roomy-comfy digs make it a pleasure to visit for just about any reason. 535 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, St. Petersburg, 727-821-6682, nova535.com.
Best Art Parties
The Bricks of Ybor
The Bricks' art parties curated by Kick Start My Art give up-and-coming artists, many of them college students, the opportunity to display and sell their all-original works at reasonable prices — often less than $300. The contemporary and often playful themes have offered fun twists on pop culture such as its popular Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. 1327 E. Seventh Ave., Ybor City, 813 247 1785, thebricksofybor.com.
Dunedin Fine Art Center’s seventh annual Wearable Art party and fashion show on Aug. 13 featured fashions derived from the unlikeliest sources, from car parts to latex gloves outfits. Rogerio Martins wrapped up the show with a fabulous set inspired by the seven deadly sins, with an intriguing focus on envy.
Gasparilla Arts Festival
In its recent years, the premier juried arts event appeared to lose its edge, forcing out local up-and-coming artists with hefty submission fees. This year, however, signs of life returned to the upscale décor sale, er, we mean art festival, with pieces that were thought-provoking along with those you could color-coordinate with your living room. In addition, the festival’s Emerging Artist Program offered opportunities for eight non-competing artists to apply without paying the fee. gasparilla-arts.com.
Polk Museum of Art
With exhibits by big-name photographers Annie Liebowitz and Jessica Lange (yes, that Jessica Lange), the multifaceted museum consistently challenges and intrigues. For instance, its Visual Unity 2 show teamed up prominent regional artists, providing fascinating peeks at serendipitous chemistry. 800 E. Palmetto St., Lakeland, 863-688-7743, PolkMuseumofArt.org.
Old Polk Theatre
First of all, Elvis left this building. On Aug. 6, 1956, the King performed at the historic Polk Theatre. Besides that, it’s a historic landmark, a charming ’20s-built Mediterranean movie palace that screens limited-release movies and imports, often ones that don’t screen elsewhere in Tampa Bay. 139 S. Florida Ave., Lakeland, 863-682.7553, polktheatre.org.
Frank Lloyd Wright
For architecture aficionados, particularly those in the thrall of seminal modernist Frank Lloyd Wright, a pilgrimage to Lakeland’s Florida Southern College is mandatory. The campus is home to the largest concentration of Wright-designed structures anywhere in the world. franklloydwrightatfsc.com.
The local/regional contingent of Pabst Blue Ribbon has offered fun alternatives to the stale barfly experience. From the monthly PBR Pub Bike Ride in Tampa to its art shows in St. Pete and Tampa to a Dude-tastic Bowl-a-Roma, the beery merrymakers have fostered no lack of recreational good times this past year. Who knew a can of beer could inspire such a loyal hipster following? Here’s to you, guys. facebook.com/pabsttampaorlando.
Jeff Dowd at Lebowski Fest
As most Achievers know, the unabashed idolatry surrounding 1998’s The Big Lebowski spawned the pop-culture phenomenon Lebowski Fest, a nationwide circuit of fan events that arrived for the first time in Tampa Feb. 25-26. Appearing at the fest was Jeff Dowd, the real-life dude who inspired the Coen Brothers’ Dude. The affable fella visited the Bay area for the first time, greeting fans and toasting White Russians. Have Gun, Will Travel and The Lambasters rocked the opening festivities at the Ritz, and Saturday’s shindig took place in appropriate fashion at University Lanes.
Tampa Two Stroke
Last fall in Seminole Heights and this past spring in Downtown Tampa and Ybor, Tampa Two Stroke Vintage Scooter Club hosted fun, affordable scavenger hunts that took riders on all sorts of two-wheeled vehicles to local landmarks with a list of sneaky and hilarious clues. It was inspiring and memorable to see a small club gather a big crowd without the tie-in of a big brand name or corporate sponsorship. tampa2stroke.com.
A horde of revelers found their inner Italian Stallion in the streets of Ybor at Festa Italiana April 14-17. The 14th annual celebration was bigger and better this year with a wine fest, Italian cinema and street fests Saturday and Sunday. The film screening featured Foccacia Blues, the true story of two bakers who put a local McDonald’s out of business. Headliner Sonny Geraci took the stage performing hits from his bands from back in the day (The Outsiders “Time Won’t Let Me” and Climax’s “Precious and Few”), folks competed in a grape-stomping competition Lucy-style and played bocce. festaitalianatampa.com.
Casa Tina’s Day of the Dead
Dios Mio! Casa Tina’s Dia De Los Muertos Festival at Pioneer Park in Dunedin was a grande, free, outdoor, weekend-long fiesta that included live mariachi music, kids’ crafts, piñatas, 18-foot-tall mojigangas (puppets) and a performance by Ballet Folklorico. Attendees sampled Casa Tina’s loaded rice and beans and tamales, browsed candy skulls and visual art, and competed for best ofrendas (offering altars) and Frida Kahlo-look-alike. casatinas.com.
Underground Comedy Fest
On April 30, Gene May and his cohorts in Damage Control gave exposure to some of the region’s most underexposed and offbeat talent. The event at The Heights trolley barn space provided yuks aplenty with stand-up comedians, sketch groups, musicians, rappers and oddball acts who fall between the cracks of tradition and avant-garde. Gavin Hawk and Ricky Wayne of American Stage and comedy Rapper Big Cheese were the standouts of the night. The owners of Car Credit were in the crowd (Damage Control does their TV spots), and they dug the Cheese-man so much they had him rap to their next commercial. The spot went on to win IFC’s Rhett and Link LOCO commercial challenge (more below). Despite a couple of technical glitches, the event was a success and pretty darn admirable for a local homegrown launch. TampaComedyFest.com.
Best Funny Rhymer
Jakeem “Big Cheese” Johnson
Hot off the heels of winning Best Original Song or Jingle in IFC’s LoCo TV commercial awards, Big Cheese released another sure-to-be viral classic — a fun birthday greeting for Krispy Kreme, which turned 74 in July. In his new video, the local jokester and rapping parody master Big Cheese waxes rapariffic to his “fetish for the glaze,” to the tune of “Just a Dream” by Nelly. As usual, the production value is better than your average slap-dash humor vid. In 2009, Big Cheese, from Tampa, went viral nationwide with his parody of Plies’ “Becky,” “Gimme Dat Bacon.” With more than 750,000 views on YouTube, the ode to breakfast pork product has been featured on G4 TV’s Attack of The Show, G4 TV’s Web Soup and Comedy Central’s Tosh.0.
The Club at Treasure Island
Out among the super-rich and tacky worlds of our gulfside beach communities, you’ll find the majestic, Mediterranean-inspired Club at Treasure Island, the sort of place where you’d expect retired millionaires to cavort and compare annuities over a round of Tom Collins. To our surprise, the splashy-swanky venue has emerged as one of the linchpins in the Bay area’s entertainment scene. The Club's Gotham Comedy Series brought in big-name stand-up icons like Colin Quinn, Wayne Brady and Robert Klein. Lou Gramm from Foreigner and Plain White T’s have headlined. Future attractions include Richard Lewis, Chef Emeril Lagasse, Three Dog Night and Chita Rivera. 400 Treasure Island Causeway, Treasure Island, 727-367-4511, theclubti.com.
Glazer Children’s Museum
Tampa Bay’s ginormous and stylish romper room started way back in the day in 1965 as the kitschtastic Safety Village at the Lowry Park Zoo. That attraction evolved into Kids City, a mini-version of Tampa. Now, you gotta go deep inside the Glazer Children’s Museum, past the giant netted labyrinth called Water’s Journey and numerous eye-catching exhibits, to experience a newer, bigger, corporate-sponsored community with a miniature Publix, Carrabba’s, Outback and St. Joseph’s Hospital. Everywhere you look inside the museum, you see brand names and logos; it’s kinda like The Fifth Element meets Sesame Street. The biggest name of all — its namesake — reflects the museum’s single largest donation, $5 million from the family that owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The museum celebrates its first birthday with a big bash this weekend. See Do This for details. 10 W. Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa, glazermuseum.org.
Tampa Bay History Center
This is embarrassing. We count ourselves as hip, cultured citizens who know what’s up in the Bay area, but all we really know about local history is that the town was founded by a pirate and the local football franchise won the Super Bowl in — wait, when was that again? Helping us shed our ignoramus status is the Tampa Bay History Center, a one-stop shop for learning all about the rich history and tradition of the Tampa Bay area, from the early exploration of the region, to Jose Gaspar’s fateful landing, the ’20s cigar boom and the massive growth of the late 1900s that created the rich urban landscape we enjoy today. 801 Old Water St., Tampa, 813-228-0097, tampabayhistorycenter.org.
The Patel Conservatory realizes the dream of benefactor and namesake Pallavi Patel, wife of world-renowned philanthropist Kiran C. Patel, by giving arts education a prominent place in Tampa Bay’s cultural community. Through its camps, ballet programming and Rock School, the conservatory has offered a slew of enriching activities for kids, but adults at all levels can learn to dance, perform stand-up comedy, sing, act in front of the camera and so much more. Wendy Leigh and her intrepid staff have worked around the clock to make the Conservatory accessible to all. patelconservatory.org.
Fleming, a registered music therapist, has designed and implemented fine arts programs in the Tampa Bay area since 1977. Most recently, she’s been turning children on to culture and the arts through her summertime Fleming Fine Arts Camp at Berkeley Preparatory School. In Fleming’s camps, kids are not only exposed to creative movement, visual arts, computer animation and how to produce original works of art, they also get to visit Bay area museums and gain an appreciation for the arts. berkeleyprep.org/summer.
Venue Actors Studio
Acting classes are a dime a dozen, but Venue Actors Studio leader Corinne Broskette brings to the craft decades of compassion, patience and training with Lee Strasberg himself. She’s an invaluable source for authentic in-the-moment method study. In addition, Broskette and her staff at Venue offer on-camera classes and a host of valuable how-to’s on breaking into Florida’s TV and film industry. 9125 U.S. 19 N, Pinellas Park, 727-822-6194, venueactorstudio.org.
Sometimes it’s better to escape the stale interiors of the multiplex and check out a flick under the stars. That’s the idea behind Sunset at Pier 60’s Friday and Saturday night family movies, and the Tampa Theatre’s Sunset Cinema series, which showed flicks like Megamind and The Karate Kid at Al Lopez Park and Legends Field. Let’s hope this trend continues into the winter months.
The Tampa Theatre’s stellar film series usually clean up in this category, but this year we wanted to spread a little love across the Bay to Clearwater’s beautiful Capitol Theatre, which has been knocking us out with their Classics Film Festival. The spring saw the Cap not only unspool common classics like Grease and 1954’s subtextually-rapey-yet-beloved musical Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, but also all-star classics like High Society and Swing Time that don’t often see the projector-light of day anymore. The Capitol screened both Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Moonstruck in early September and have Julie Andrews in Victor Victoria set to roll on Sept. 27. We can’t wait to see what they have in the can for next year. 405 Cleveland St., Clearwater, 727-442-6152, rutheckerdhall.com/events/at-the-capitol.
Tampa Bay Jewish Film Festival
Hey film geeks, can we get an oy vey! In February, The Tampa Bay Jewish Film Festival brought to Tampa Theatre (and other local screens) films that were thought-provoking, funny and international in scope. Offerings included The Matchmaker, nominated for seven Israeli Academy Awards, and director Evgeny Afineevsky introduced the screening of Oy Vey! My Son is Gay! starring Lainie Kazan and Carmen Electra. Hasidic reggae musician Matisyahu appeared at a screening of Gut Shabbes Vietnam, and discussion forums on caring for people with special needs corresponded with the touching film Anita. tbjff.org.
The Plight and Promise of Africa, Eckerd College
Celebrating the greatness and diversity of the continent and calling attention to its issues via free and informative lectures, Eckerd College helped bring us the UN refugee exhibit Invisible in the City: The Lives of Urban Refugees at The Studio@620; Rev. Desmond Tutu’s daughter Mpho Tutu; and Dave Eggers, the author of the bestseller What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng, who gave a lecture at the college’s McArthur Gymnasium with Sudanese war survivor Deng. The whole series was nothing short of amazing. Eckerd College, 4200 54th Ave. S, St. Petersburg. 727-864-7979.
Tampa Natives Show
Hosts Steve Cannella, Mario Núñez and the 15-Minute Girl take you down Tampa’s memory lane to old Buffalo Avenue, past the downtown Maas Brothers with a stopover at the Rowdies game. Each week a different topic is discussed and viewers send in photographs and call into the show. It’s a fun nostalgia fest for anyone who’s spent more than the past decade in Tampa, or a great source of info for people curious about the city’s cultural history. The new season begins Oct. 5 with local broadcasting vet Arch Deal talking about television in Tampa. Wednesday evenings at 8 p.m., tampanativesshow.com.
Interviewed on stage by CL Editor David Warner earlier this year as part of the opening festivities for the Dali, Susan Sarandon was as menschy, sexy and smart in person as she is on film. And now we might see more of her; partnering with her brother, Terry Tomalin, the outdoors editor at St. Pete Times, she’s opening a downtown St. Pete branch of SPiN, the popular table-tennis emporium she co-founded in New York City that has branched out to Hollywood, Toronto and Milwaukee. SPiN is slated to open its newest location in the former Tamiami Bar at 242 1st Ave. N. sometime this fall. Get your paddles ready.
Lady Gaga at The Kennedy
Not only does it hold the rank of swankiest night club in town with its stylishly plush boudoir feel and VIP areas that, with the right amount of cash, make you feel like a celeb, the “boutique” dance lounge has also upped its game as a premier destination for the high-profilers passing through town, with a checklist of appearances over the past year by guests like Three 6 Mafia, Pete Wentz, and, most crucial, Lady Gaga herself. That buzzed-about night happened in April when Gaga dropped in unannounced following her show in Tampa earlier that night. Before she staged an impromptu performance of “Judas” for the lucky throng in attendance, she declared, “I just wanted to stop by on my way out of town. I heard somebody needed to be spanked, so I’m here to spank you.” 2408 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, 813-844-1385, thekennedysoho.com.
Skatepark of Tampa
You’d have to be living under a rock not to know that our headquarters for skateboarding is a world-class venue. Further adding to its imprimatur, hip-hop’s mini-tycoon Lil’ Wayne, Jackass’s Steve-O and comedian Tom Green popped in and dropped in at the SPoT’s ramps while headlining gigs in town. Let’s also not forget that skateboarding superstar Tony Hawk stopped off at the complex during his Birdhouse Tour. Mayor Bob Buckhorn also came by to shake his hand. 4215 E. Columbus Drive, Tampa, 813-621-6793, skateparkoftampa.com.
MOSI Sky Trail Ropes Course
Make like Spiderman and pretend you’re not in a perilous Broadway preview, ascending netted platforms outdoors. First, you will have to be in somewhat good shape and get over your fear of heights. The new Sky Trail Ropes Course, which opened in summer 2011 as a permanent attraction at MOSI, offers a great new way to get high (literally) and get physical in the outdoors. 4801 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa; 813-987-6000, MOSI.org.
Ol’ Dirty Sundays at Crowbar
A veritable block party is held every Sunday evening within the friendly confines of Crowbar’s Biergarten, hosted by four of the Bay area’s most reputable DJs — Blenda, Casper, Lesage and Mega, who spin old-school hip-hop, soul and reggae until well after the sun goes down. Venue owner/GM Tom DeGeorge slings Ybor’s finest free BBQ, but throwing live art into the mix with no cover makes ODS a no-brainer. 4-10 p.m. Sundays, Crowbar, Ybor City, $5, facebook.com/oldirtysundays.
The young (less-than-a-year-old) website was created by Joel Cook (former publisher of the now-defunct REAX) for people in the music and art community to write and dictate its content. While the art part hasn’t taken off quite yet, the site’s coverage of the local music scene is already proving itself a valuable resource. The site features the talents of such well-known area folks as photographer Kelley Jackson (Lucy Pearl Photography), Nicole Kibert, aka elawgrrl, a hobbyist shutterbug and professional music lover who also shoots for CL on occasion, and Ray Roa, the driving force behind SubAp and a writer CL tapped several months ago to become part of our own team of music contributors. Hey, what can we say — we have good taste. Besides, apart from cltampa.com/music, there are few, if any, other sites in town that cover the Bay area music scene so thoroughly. suburbanapologist.com.
This collective of music enthusiasts, DJs, promoters and artists posts a few songs from their favorite new releases every week on their blog. Checking in regularly ensures you’ll be in the know on the best acts coming to town long before the bands are booked, and often before anyone else has heard of them. Their taste runs toward the eclectic, the obscure, the downright catchy, and the stuff that’ll get you shakin’ your ass in no time flat — in other words, anything they feel people should be listening to, as opposed to what they actually are. They also throw one hell of a party, regularly spinning at Crowbar and the Orpheum. liquidjesusmusic.blogspot.com.
Czar’s Filthy Richard Night
If you can get past the barely legals wrapping around the block as you wait in the sad, short 21-and-up line, the music offerings are uber-hipsterish and eclectic. In the main room, aka the Imperial Theatre, resident VJ and DJ Monk spins party rock, indie, electro and “custom-underground dance music” videos on four screens. In the Bela-Rus Ballroom, you get resident DJ Nick James, and in the Cyberia Vodka Bar, The 500 Wolves spin a “healing mix of hip-hop, rock, electro, metal, dub, R&B, IDM, funk, psych, disco, ghetto-tech, reggae, noise, techno, jazz, pop, crunk, dub-step, DnB, afro beat, ambient, indie-tronica, rock, throwback, punk, post punk and emotronic all night.” Whew! 1420 E. Seventh Ave., Ybor City. 813-247-2664. filthyparty.com.
Earlier this year, we bade a fond farewell to the old Orpheum at 1902 Republica de Cuba Ave., Ybor, and gave warm welcomes to the club’s bigger, splashier digs on the east end of the Seventh Avenue strip — near Empire. The new venue offers a larger room, with comfy and discreet seating, cool flatscreen TVs, a great sound system, and an, um, really high stage. Punk bands have wisely opted to play on the floor. Can you imagine if they didn’t? Stage dive! Splat! 1915 Seventh Ave., Tampa, 813-248-9500, theorpheum.com.
St. Petersburg Nights
It’s a Russian restaurant, a haven for belly dancers and a discotheque — and, mother of God, they’ve got dancing bears! This world-class haven of kitsch and awesomeness on St. Pete Beach features ’70s-’80s decor, mirrors galore and big private booths, where you’d swear KGB agents and Muscovite mobsters are lurking. On some nights, a hookah-smoking DJ spins hits from the ’80s. On others, you can watch va-va-voom burlesque. Whatever’s going on, you can count on St. Petersburg Nights being a total hoot. 6800 Sunset Way, St. Pete Beach,727-363-3832, stpetersburgnights.com.
Club Prana’s rooftop skybar
Cant take that trip to the Bahamas? No problem; just relax and listen to the cool Caribbean beats every Friday and Saturday at Club Prana in Ybor City. The club offers five different floors and five different types of music, but if you’re a fan of reggae and soca, grab your drink, head for the roof and dance all night long. 1619 E. Seventh Ave., Tampa, 813-241-4139, clubprana.com.
The Fox Jazz Cafe
If you like jazz, great food and lots of fun, then The Fox is for you. Located near West Shore Plaza, this snazzy jazz club has a 1920s feel that will make you want to put on those flappers and dance. Whether you want to listen to the live band or chill to the smooth tunes in the piano room, you’ll find an option to suit you at The Fox. 5401 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, 813-289-8446.
Vinyl Fever Closing
It appeared Vinyl Fever was holding steady amid a volatile indie music retail market; hell, we even wrote a story about how the venerable 30-year-old indie record store was successfully maintaining its viability. But in January, barely a month after our story ran, owner Lee Wolfson announced he was closing Vinyl Fever for good, as he was unable to rationalize the expense. While those of us who loved the place will always wonder why Wolfson didn’t try to sell it to some eager local music enthusiast, we will certainly remember Vinyl Fever fondly.
Mojo Books & Music
While Vinyl Fever was in the midst of liquidating all its inventory, Mojo Books & Music was preparing to move to much bigger digs. The store’s new, tastefully appointed 4,200-square-foot space is located in the same USF-area plaza a few doors down from the old storefront, and not only has Mojo expanded upon its stock to fill up all the additional racks and shelves, but the store now includes a beverage bar with a selection of Kahwa coffees and Rishi teas. If that wasn’t enough, Mojo has beefed up its live music offerings, with live music events that have featured the likes of beloved alt folk singer-songwriter, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy. 2540 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa, 813-971-9717, mojotampa.com.
Rock & Roll Swap Meet
For eight years now, Roger Peterson (Pretty Voices, Crippled Masters) has organized the annual Rock and Roll Swap meet — a kind of hipster flea market where artists, craftspeople, musicians, off-duty bartenders and more can buy a table, hawk their wares and nurse a bloody Mary or a PBR from behind a good pair of shades. The event consistently features two (yes, two) stages of solid local musical talent and has moved to new (and sometimes strange) locations every year, including Jannus, The ACL Club, Shackleton’s Folly and the St. Pete Shuffleboard Courts.
The winners of last year’s “Best Prog Fusion” award have earned another BOTB for their self-titled sophomore LP and first album in their current lineup. Auto!Automatic!! (Brokenmold Records) is a consistent, seamlessly produced, well-mixed album that captures each individual musician’s instrumental prowess, tight interplay, and expert fusion of post, prog, math and experimental rock. facebook.com/autoautomatic.
Rise of Saturn
Bay area quintet Rise of Saturn staged a successful Kickstart.com campaign to raise money to record, issued a sonically adventurous, well-arranged and overall cohesive debut LP this year, Sex, Drugs and Comic Books, and hosted a well-attended CD release show at Gasoline Alley that proved their style of fusion — which effortlessly incorporates elements of prog, funk, alt metal, hip hop, ska-reggae, and Latin jazz — could be a vibrant and stimulating sound packed with substance and flavorful appeal. riseofsaturn.bandcamp.com.
Over the past year, several bands ran successful Kickstarter.com campaigns to drum up funds for their respective projects — Marksmen, Sleepy Vikings, Auto!Automatic!!, Alexander and the Grapes, A Play on Words and The Broken reached or exceeded their intended goals. But Sleepy Vikings rallied hardest, produced an endearing plea video and offered just the right incentives to entice their loyal fans to donate the most — a whopping $2,100 over the band’s $3,000 goal. (See “Best Bay Area Break-out.” sleepyvikings.com.
Tampa shoegaze/alt roots sextet Sleepy Vikings experienced significant national exposure this year and deserve props for really putting themselves out there. The buzz began with a performance at Paste Magazine’s Atlanta studio for its “Live at Paste.com” series last August, and has only snowballed following the May release of their brooding nine-track debut, They Will Find You Here (New Granada Records). They hired a well-connected PR firm to help get the word out, earned glowing record reviews from reputable online music rags, prompted a wave of positive live reviews after their first-ever (19-date) tour, and even caught the attention of high-profile musician Marc Bianchi aka Her Space Holiday, who whipped up a remix of their song “Calm” and posted it to the super indie popular My Old Kentucky Blog in August. The break-out band is poised to bring even more attention to the Tampa Bay music scene when they set out on their second national tour in October. sleepyvikings.com.
The Living Arches
The duo featuring Jensen Kistler (Florida Night Heat) and Micheal Hooker (formerly of Dear Old Liar) produce unadorned (guitar and light keys) anti-folk with charming pop tendencies, the centerpiece of the songwriting their winding boy-girl vocal harmonies, his gentle tenor a lovely foil to her husky dulcet tone. facebook.com/thelivingarchesmusic.
Tampa’s Marksmen alt-rocks with a Southern charm on their debut full-length Sister Of Mine. Few bands can successfully merge powerful lyrics delivered by a unique voice and accompanied by emotive music without sounding heavy-handed. For that, the band was awarded a four-star review in February — and every live performance we catch only cements our opinion of them as one of Tampa’s best. facebook.com/MarksmenBand.
Sons of Hippies
Not only do Sons of Hippies produce tones and textures that sound like they come straight from the psychedelic future, their sonics man and unofficial fourth member Dave Byrd can run the band’s front-of-house and monitor mixes from anywhere in the room via an app on his iPad. Sons of Hippies may call Sarasota home, but we like to claim them as our own, if only because they make Tampa Bay seem so cutting edge. sonsofhippies.net.
New Granada Records
New Granada owner Keith Ulrey and wife Susie have not only cultivated an artist roster that features some of the area’s most promising break-out talent, they've extended their label’s reach beyond our town to encompass high-quality regional and national talent as well. This past year has seen one notable triumph after another: the label signed Seattle-based singer-songwriter Jen Wood and played a critical role in the nationwide release of her 2010 album, Finds You In Love; produced two excellent 2011 albums, A Cautionary Tale by The Pauses and Sleepy Vikings’ They Will Find You Here, and organized support tours for both; hosted its second official showcase at SXSW; and most recently, added two more artists to the talent pool, Jacksonville psyche-pop outfit Sunbears! and local roots-pop act, Alexander & the Grapes.
Junip at Crowbar, June 1, 2011
Let’s not get into the endless argument over who is a hipster and who isn’t — what we can agree upon is that a sizable number counted among Tampa Bay’s savvier music sect came out in full force for the Junip show. White-collar, blue-collar and no-collar fans shared space as the alt rock group fronted by Swedish singer-songwriter José González chilled out Ybor’s Crowbar with laid-back atmospherics, rainy-day ambience, intricate picking and post-coital purrs.
Bonobo Live Band,
Crowbar, Nov. 14, 2010
Following his set at the Bear Creek Festival in Live Oak, British DJ/producer Bonobo (aka Simon Green) brought his full band to Tampa for his only other show in Florida. And though it was his first time in town, he packed Crowbar comfortably full and had the whole room swaying to an ambient mix of jazz, electronica and trip-hop. He’ll be back at Crowbar in October for a straightforward DJ set. Don’t miss it.
Primus at Ruth
Eckerd Hall, June 6, 2011
Everyone wondered whether the distinguished, seated hall was appropriate for Primus’ brand of heavy thrash-funk and progressive alt metal. All worries were laid to rest when the band took the stage, and while they kicked off with a refreshing lack of ceremony, nothing about the show disappointed. Primus rocked the hall to its foundations without breaking anything — the three musicians getting dark and loud and heavy and weird, their chemistry apparent as they expanded songs into menacing, chunky jams — and they managed to get their fans home before midnight.
Bright Light Social Hour at The Hub, January 20 and July 31, 2011
Few bands have ever been so perfectly matched to a venue as when The Bright Light Social Hour packed The Hub on their visits this year, the first time in January, the last in July. These Austin boys are a little like the bar itself; a bit grimy, somewhat funky, full of energy, and ready to get down. Sandwiching their pounding drums, fierce guitar, and electric energy onto the tiny standing-room stage made it feel like the band was playing right in the middle of the dancing bodies packing the place. Add a typically mixed-bag crowd fueled by kerosene-strength cocktails, and you’ve got a perfect storm of awesome.
30th Annual Tropical Heatwave
“Been to one Heatwave, been to ‘em all” was the running inside joke — that is, before the 2011 edition of WMNF’s largest and most well-attended fundraiser of the year. For the 30th annual edition, organizers shrugged off complacency and brought on Brokenmold Entertainment to help with booking talent. The result was a refreshed bill (Bright Light Social Hour, Holy Ghost Tent Revival, Carolina Chocolate Drops) that drew a big eclectic crowd to match.
Ruth Eckerd Hall
While the Clearwater venue still caters to its season pass-holding patrons with a schedule of acts you’d expect to see there — Natalie Cole, Tom Jones and the like — Ruth Eckerd is clearly reaching out to a younger, hipper and more musically selective audience. Wilco, MGMT, Avett Brothers, Primus, and even Levon Helm Band with Ray LaMontagne and The Pariah Dogs all drew a diverse assortment of people, and this season is looking up with scheduled performances by Joe Jonas and Jay Sean, Duran Duran and The Script. Ruth Eckerd has also been booking talent at Capitol Theatre, and Norwegian indie pop singer-songwriter Sondre Lerche as well as Grammy-winning country songstress Shelby Lynne are both scheduled to drop in this fall. 1111 N. McMullen Booth Road, Clearwater, 727-791-7400, rutheckerdhall.com.
Scrog brought back its rock tempest on Dec. 18 when its circa ’94 lineup played a special New Granada show at New World Brewery Saturday in honor of the recent marriage of longtime pal/ex-Reversal of Man and Light Yourself on Fire frontman Matt Coplon to Ariel Gunn. Coplon, whose LYoF bandmates make up three-quarters of Scrog, handpicked the bands playing the show: Guiltmaker and Zillionaire. myspace.com/scrogtampa.
The Hazies, Deloris Telescope, Freaks Rule, Deeforce and Men From Earth @ Jannus Live, Friday, November 26, 2010
What began as a Deloris Telescope tribute “with special guests” quickly turned into an all-out DT reunion show when bandleader KC Ross agreed to make the trip down from NYC, and people came in droves. While Deeforce may have technically stolen the show, none of the bands disappointed, and the event served as a kind of late-’80s/early-’90s class reunion for the music scene at now-defunct venues like Killian’s Rock Cafe, Club More and Voodoo Lounge. Ah, the memories.
Antiwarpt Music Festival
The Warped Tour alternative co-hosted by Daddy Kool and Brokenmold Entertainment returned with a bang, expanding to include pre- and post-parties, doubling the number of participating venues, and more than tripling the bill of talent with shows by upwards of 60 local, regional and national performers. While it was virtually impossible to see everything, the fest proved itself worthy of all the hype and drew a few thousand locals to downtown St. Pete. Here’s hoping for a third go-round next year. antiwarpt.com.
Love him or hate him, you have to give eclectic local pop singer-songwriter Jeremy Gloff credit; he’s been working the Tampa scene for 13 years and despite his outspoken unhappiness with it, hasn’t moved on like so many other disgruntled musicians. He’s relentlessly creative, and in addition to being a prolific recording artist with 17 albums to his credit (the most recent this year’s terrific THIS), he’s an openly gay artist who’s also an active blogger and columnist in the LGBT community. He has the confidence, impudent humor and take-no-prisoners attitude you’d expect from a pop star, and his efforts deserve recognition. jeremygloff.com.
When Tampa’s B.C. (Bryan Clardy), formerly of Red Tide, announced that his long-awaited solo debut would be the first installment in a trilogy about time travel, set in a dystopian underground and populated with grimy manga-influenced protagonists — named “Time Pieces” — eyes inevitably began to roll. Soon, though, we discovered the joke was on us. The first album, Time Capsule, dropped in late 2010, and the follow-up, Surface, was released this year. The production is pristine, combining the best elements of hip-hop, industrial and dub step; the lyrics are near-flawless and expertly dispatched. The third disc, The Sky, will be released Fall 2012. thepopworld.com.
You can’t go three blocks in St. Pete without being handed a flyer for the next Homegrown Hip Hop show (the annual showcase that Infinite Skillz promotes and organizes). If you’re a fan on Facebook, you will be asked for your opinion about his new demo or mixtape. Don’t want to go to the ticket outlet? Too lazy to order online? Not to worry, Skillz will come to your home or place of work to deliver tickets to the show — simply hit him up on Twitter when he’s making his “rounds.” He does jingles, theme songs and parties, and is a staple at festivals like Antiwarpt or on the sidewalk at Record Store Day. There is no person on the scene who grinds harder or more often than Infinite Skillz. We’re still trying to figure out what makes him tick, because watching him is making us really tired.
Easybreezy, who’s working on its first full-length, busts out a random triptych of styles. It’s impossible to capture all the snippets of genres coming at you when they play. Their music is like a soundtrack to your waking dreams — a subconscious repository of the last three decades, from metal to indie to demento stuff to garage rock. Josh Greenberg (guitar and vocals), Chase Leonard (drums) and Charlie Curtis (bass) package the madness quite nicely. myspace.com/easybreezymusic.
...Y Los Dos Pistoles
Too bad many of the venues they play don’t serve liquor. Cough. Flask. Cough. The woozy and waltzy and uniquely named … Y Los Dos Pistoles is one of the most intriguing and insinuating purveyors of pop, folk and country, etc., a stunning standout in a scene overwrought with roots music. Led by sexy no-nonsense chanteuse Shae Krispinsky, the Tampa-based band serves up the perfect blend to chase down that mean drunk you get from a bottle of Jack. myspace.com/ylosdospistoles.
In this day and age of digital media, getting a press package in the mail is always a welcome surprise. The best and frankly most fun one of this year’s dwindling bunch was a press kit from garage-punk outfit Feral Babies, which included two cassette tape copies of their self-titled five-song EP and a limited edition Feral Babies sugar cookie duo, the standard round cookie paired with one shaped like a music note and both covered in a thick layer of icing. A burned CD copy of the album was thrown into the box as a seeming afterthought. facebook.com/feralbabies.
When he's not laying out heavy bass grooves in his three-piece power-grime rock trio, Florida Night Heat, you can pretty much put money on the presence of Andre Jones aka "Black Viking God" at a high-quality local show near you. Whether he's right up front, showing his appreciation with full-body fist pumps, on stage serving as impromptu emcee, or knocking back a few at the bar and mingling with other local musicians and scensters, he's become the Bay area's informal local music scene representative – our own personal mascot, cheerleader and player all rolled into one handsome package.