Every year on a Saturday in mid-May, WMNF descends upon Ybor and packs the city's venues with an eclectic range of live music for its biggest event of the year, Tropical Heatwave.
I've spent the past few years perfecting a strategy to take best gluttonous advantage of everything the Ybor-wide music feast has to offer. See, Heatwave is all about sampling — it's a grand genre-crossing musical buffet of local, national and international talent. Try a band here, try a band there, linger longer for the ones you like best, and then it's off to the next and next and next. The trick is to treat the experience casually — don't fight the temptation to stop and check out a band that might not be on your schedule, don't scurry to get to the bands that are, and don't worry if you miss most or all of a band you'd intended on seeing. Chances are, 'MNF or some enterprising local promoter will bring back the good ones, so it's more a matter of catching the acts long enough to decide whether they're worth investing your time in again when they return.
For the 30th edition, Heatwave has expanded to include nine stages with more than 50 bands spread out across the city. For those who need some help navigating through it, check out a tentatively-planned adventure below that should appeal to whatever sonic wavelength you're riding that day.
First stop: Have Gun, Will Travel at the Cuban Club Patio Bandshell (4:30-5:30 p.m.), because you have to enjoy at least a song or two by the fierce Americana ensemble, or else suffer the consequences of a Heatwave scandal. Mosey over to the adjacent El Pasaje Plaza for some tasty world-fused funk-jazz grooves by The Hip Abduction (5-5:55 p.m.) — until you catch sight of the Mobile Itinerant Funk Unit (5:35-5:55 p.m.), a roving ensemble comprised of some of the area's best jazz musicians playing funky NOLA-flavored brass. The parade eventually lands on the patio and performs an unplugged set leading into a performance of avant garde big band jazz by Belgium's 15-piece Flat Earth Society on the patio stage (5:55-7:10 p.m.).
Take a break in the cool confines of the Cuban Club Cantina with the Sons of Hippies' propulsive punk-informed psyche rock (6:05-7 p.m.) before making a quick stop around the block at Orpheum for a taste of the wash-of-sound Southern alt roots of Sleepy Vikings (7:15-8:15 p.m.).
Beeline back to the Cantina for some laughs courtesy of NYC's Tin Pan Alley/hot jazz/Western swing neo-revivalist duo, Two Man Gentlemen Band (7:20-8:25 p.m.), who bring a heavy-handed dose of humor to their string band music. Return to the patio for "pioneers of gypsy deathcore" Barons of Tang (7:35-8:50), an outrageously energetic Australian ensemble that turns gypsy music on its head with heavy ska, punk and metalcore influences, and songs with titles like "Even if You're Missing Fingers, You Can Still Make a Fist" and "Blood Wedding."
Next up, it's back to the Plaza to see Carolina Chocolate Drops (8:25-9:50 p.m.). The multicultural N.C. string band's 2010 Nonesuch Records debut, Genuine Negro Jig, not only nabbed them a Grammy win for "Best Traditional Folk Album," but has spent some quality time at the top of the Billboard Folk and Bluegrass charts.
Tie your shoes before making your way to the far side of Heatwave to the Play Courtyard for some rowdy folk-punk by road-warrior husband-and-wife duo Hymn For Her (8:50-9:50 p.m.), then catch a few minutes of Georgian Americana singer-songwriter Young Goodman Brown (9:35-10:30 p.m.) on Play's Acoustic Stage.
Then it's a race back to the Cantina for a set of intoxicating world-class reggae-dancehall-cumbia by Miami ensemble, Bachaco (10:15-11:25 p.m.), a quick stop by New World Brewery for The Pauses' electrifying indietronic pop (10:15-11 p.m.), back to the Patio for some eclectic Latin-African-funktronica by Chico Mann (10:55 p.m.-12:10 a.m.).
If you're still upright and raging by this time (i.e., you're able to walk and talk without assistance), haven't yet made an utter fool of yourself, aren't totally weighted down with cheap beer and fried foods, and are prepared to face a final run of music, return to Crowbar to enjoy the lush-stomping good time of Holy Ghost Tent Revival (10:45-11:45 p.m.), with a quick sojourn to the Play Courtyard for some vintage swing and folk by Miss Tess and the Bon Ton Parade (11:20 p.m.-12:20 a.m.). Before you depart, you absolutely must close your night with The Bright Light Social Hour (12:10-1:15 a.m.). No ifs, ands, or buts about it. The four-piece is one of the best new bands to come out of Austin in the past year, and knows how to put on a blues-sweat soaked, electro-psychedelic, My Morning Jacket-style Southern rawkin' and rollin' live show. You'll thank me tomorrow, even as your head pounds from all the whiskey their music forced you to drink.
More CL approved acts:
Cuban Club Ballroom: Amandla Tunesmith with special guest Baye Kouyate (8:50-9:50 p.m.)
Cuban Club Cantina: Ryan Montbleau Band (8:45-9:55 p.m.)
El Pasaje Plaza: Cracker (10:15-11:45 p.m.)
PLAY Acoustic Stage: Kaleigh Baker (8:35-9 p.m.)
PLAY Courtyard: The Only Sons (7:40-8:40 p.m.)
Click here to check out the complete Tropical Heatwave schedule.
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