Pulling into Ybor City a little before 8:30 p.m. on Saturday night, it was hard to tell that a district-wide Halloween party had already been occurring for the past few hours. Guavaween was experiencing the first year of its transformation from out-of-control shitshow-in-the-streets to a music-oriented festival, and as a consequence, the traffic getting in was nonexistent (at least when we arrived), parking was a piece of cake, and most noticeable of all, we weren't faced with vendors hawking alcohol every block or bombarded by masses of costumed locals sloppy and stumbling in the closed-down streets, because the fence was gone and the wet zoning laws along with it. [Photos by Phil, text by Leilani and Andrew where noted; click here a photo overview of the event by Chip Weiner.]
There were still plenty of stumbling drunkards (Ybor attracts them like flies) and the Guavaween regulars were still ready for some outrageous revelry, fence or no. The crowds grew much thicker and the atmosphere a great deal rowdier as the night wore on, but what was happening on the sidewalks outside didn't reflect what was happening inside the venues. Maybe these people were clueless about the indoor live music aspect of the fest, or they didn't want to pay the admission, or they just didn't care, but whatever their reasons, they milled about on the sidewalks and made getting from venue to venue take twice as long as it should have. Here's a brief breakdown of my evening, with a few check-ins by Andrew Silverstein…
Beach Day, The Ritz Ybor, 8:30ish We started our evening at the Ritz Ybor's Royal Room stage with Beach Day, a Hollywood, Fla. trio (two girls and a guy) signed to Kanine Records in June and enjoying a hard buzz over the past few months that has included write-ups by Brooklyn Vegan and Elle magazine. Their music is '60s surf-sprayed garage pop of the sort that's oversaturating the indie airwaves these days, marked by retro girl group vocals as delivered by honey-toned singer and guitarist Kimmy Drake with light back-up harmonies by bassist Natalie Smallish. They were quite darling and I wish I would say I was dazzled but I just wasn't that into it. —LP
Saskatchewan, Crowbar, 8:55 p.m. My reasoning for seeing the Orlando dream pop band, again, was that there really wasn't much else happening right at that particular moment, I hadn't quite gotten into my stage-to-stage groove yet, the wig I was wearing was squeezing my brain, and Crowbar is like my venue-away-from-home, so we hit the venue as much for a respite as to see a band we really like. Sadly, it was rather empty — there were maybe 40 people there at that point — so we had a drink and figured out our next stop, which ended up being Centro Ybor for a rather long and tedious Guavaween Costume Contest. Despite there being some real winners, the losers ultimately drove me away to New World, where I stopped to catch a few minutes of a band that's been blowing up in the past six weeks — King Tuff. —LP
King Tuff, New World Brewery, 9:45 p.m. Guavaween at New World Brewery was hardly discernable from any random show night at the venue. Aside from a slew of tame costumes and thick orange wristbands, you'd be hard pressed to guess that the fest was actually happening. Not that it really mattered to King Tuff, the moniker of Vermont songwriter Kyle Thomas and his scuzzed out (and heavily moustached) four-man band. Tuff's deliberately low-grade garage rock blasted through New World's P.A. at an eardrum-shredding level as they played through a handful of tracks from Tuff's eponymous debut. They run the gamut from breezy sha-na-na-type numbers to arena crushing rock and, as a first time witness, it was beautiful. —Andrew Silverstein
Burger Break, Tampa Bay Brewing Company, 10:10 p.m. Yes, I'll admit, I was ravenous and my base urges overrode my need to see music, so I only made it through a few songs of Kind Tuff before I could no longer ignore the gnawing pain in my belly or the feeling that I might fall over if I didn't get some fuel, stat. Burgers were dancing behind my eyes, so we headed towards Tampa Bay Brewing Company, passed by Distinguished Gentlemen of Brass performing their choreographed horn-fused funk hop pop, and after realizing all the tables outside were taken, grabbed a snug booth indoors. Though there weren't a huge amount of people there and certainly not approaching what the restaurant would get on a normal Saturday night as our waitress pointed out, but she also mentioned there were far more diners here than the place had ever gotten at past Guavaweens, which before this year stood at zero. —LP
Thanks for "audioing" this and "fighting the power" wise words :)
Thanks for giving the Fest a shout-out, Leilani!! Hope to see you there!
Excellent review! Will be downloading it tonite.