Tropical Heatwave can be an exhausting endeavor. The stages are spread out enough that you spend as much time walking or scurrying or flat-out dashing from one place to another as you do enjoying the music. All that hoofing it in the humidity for several hours means lots of sweating, and to avoid being totally gross by the end of the night in addition to being totally wasted (no one likes a stinky drunk), you have to plan for a few fresh-up detours (at your car, hotel room or in my case, the friendly CL offices), so you can change your shirt and switch from sneakers to flip-flops and back to sneakers again as your feet demand. Gotta jam some food in there somewhere, maybe a beer or two, bottled water for those of us want to be standing at the end of the night, and don't forget all the stretching and prepping in between venues, dancing while watching bands at said venues, keeping yourself moving and maneuvering amid the ever-shifting mass of bodies entering and exiting the venues continuously, none of them lingering too long because there's always something else happening that you could be missing… [Photos by Phil and Tracy.]
Then again, maybe other folks see it and do differently, with less exhausted results. What follows is a record of my own meanderings through the 2012 fest (including my pre-Heat Demo Listening Session appearance), and those of Shae Krispinsky, a local musician and CL contributor who helped me cover the 2012 fest and offered her unique perspective on it as both a first time performer and attendee. In her own words:
“Even though this will be my fifth summer in Florida, this year was my first time attending Tropical Heatwave. Ybor is often too crowded for me on an average weekend night, so I tend to avoid it during special events that take up entire days and glut the streets with revelers. But since my band was asked to participate this year, I braved the mob of attendees, security guards, food stands and other musicians, and over the course of the night, became a Tropical Heatwave convert.
When WMNF announced the acts set to play awhile back, there were two bands that I really wanted to see – Wet Nurse and Jane Jane Pollock. Unfortunately, when the schedule came out, I saw that their set-times overlapped with my band’s, so my goal when I set out on Saturday, then, became to catch as many bands as possible, if only staying in one venue for a few songs before moving on to the next.”
Our schedules converged but we never actually crossed paths, and experienced similar disappointments, missing or only catching the tail end of bands we really wanted to see due to being otherwise detained. I ended up catching a little of a lot of different things, a lot of a few different things, and overall came out feeling all right about it because I knew that, for the most part, any good act I missed would be brought back to town by WMNF or some another enterprising local promoter...
Check in: 1 p.m. I've lent a helping ear to several Demo Listening Sessions over the years, and the formula goes something like this: local artists in various stages of the recording process submit a song, the song is played for a panel of industry folks and the room at large (whoever shows up), and after getting the backstory on the song/album/goal of the artist, the panelists offer input and feedback on production quality, song content, style, delivery, presentation and anything else that we think matters.
I'm the moderator for my third time participating in CL's Pre-Heat Music Industry Workshop session, probably best since I can't seem to juggle working both the unfamiliar laptop (which is muted, duh) and my own iPod without killing everyone's ears with the abrasive static-scratch of the hot plug. The rest of my fellow comrades-in-music-biz-arms do official panelist duty: Craig Adams aka Lovers-Lament Craig, of Lovers Lament Entertainment, a promoter who stages shows in downtown St. Pete; Ed Lowery, vet local musician and vocalist of ska staple Magadog; and Alastair St. Hill, musician in Gentleman Please and host of WMNF's Grand National Championships, who uses haikus to express his point-of-view (and they are quite lovely, too). I throw in my CL Music Editor’s two cents where I see fit as we cycle through six demos ranging from raw punk with a cheeky blues spin (The Stereotypes), to heavy but well-polished pop-punk (Neglected Superhero) to weirdo-fun experimental hip hop (MC Radiance). I always enjoy myself more than I expect to at these things. You never want to make someone feel like something they created isn't meaningful, so it's nice to be able to offer constructive advice or criticism without tearing anyone down. After hanging around for some of the “Scenebuilding 101: Putting Tampa Bay on the Map” panel, I head home to take care of some business and rest up before heading back to Ybor to tackle the main event: Tropical Heatwave. –Leilani
Check-in: 5:20 p.m. Just arriving at Heatwave. Checking out the Plaza – big stage, pretty crowded, but not packed. Wasn’t expecting the food tents for some reason, but makes sense that they’re here. Frozen Key Lime pie? Mental note to come back for that later. –Shae
5:30 p.m. Pausing at Centro Ybor. Small stage set up, a few people milling around. Danny Freeman on acoustic guitar and vocals, another guy on acoustic bass, didn’t catch his name. They were okay; Danny sounded like John Mayer, and I could see him one day in a video being played on Vh1's Top Twenty Countdown, but this isn't my cup of tea. –Shae
5:45 p.m. Centennial Park for the Mud Flappers. This is much more my style – an old-timey six-piece with four vocalists, mandolin, trumpet, banjo, kazoo, and girls wearing jewel-toned, fringed flapper dresses and jingle-bell ankle bracelets. People around me murmur approval while one guy sets up an easel to sketch the band as they play. A few couples begin to dance. –Shae
6:10 p.m. New World is packed. Playing a cigar-box guitar is Lauris Vidal, filling in for the Roadkill Ghost Choir, who couldn’t make it. Lauris reminds me of a less rootsy Josh Small – he has the same intensity in his singing and playing. –Shae
6:40 p.m. Nice and cool in the Cuban Club Cantina. There's a pretty big crowd swaying and swirling around to Jubal's Kin. The music is simple and folksy. The audience is singing along, but then, this song seems to only have one lyric. –Shae
7 p.m. Hunter & Avery at the CL Space. Piano and guitar from two girls who could have stepped out of an Urban Outfitter’s catalog. They seem too weary for being so young. Unless it’s ennui – come on, girls, it’s a festival; have some fun! The music is slow with a feeling of heavy poignancy. Jessica Lea Mayfield meets Cat Power. –Shae
Tyler- I can't believe how talented of a writer you are. This article was beautifully…
Great interview! Give the interviewer a full time job! He's great!
The DJ was actually The Castle's very own DJ Tom Gold :)
Fabulous review Gabe! Too bad I missed it.